5 Timesaving Tips for Freelance Writers

I started work at noon today and finished just before 22:00. I didn’t put in a solid 10 hours, but I spent at least half of that time working very hard. I’m exhausted from the effort and proud of the work I produced.

But, after I submitted my article, I realized I spent all day working for $50. Admittedly, I wasted time this afternoon because I knew I was going to finish well ahead of deadline. And truthfully, I feel like I was fairly compensated for my work. I accepted this particular project for reasons other than money, and it wouldn’t be appropriate to ask for a raise in this situation. But, it’s not possible to support our life and loans on $50 per day in Connecticut.

With that in mind, I’ve been tweaking my work habits over the past couple of weeks, and I’ve come up with a number of ways to write blog posts and articles as fast as possible. I’m not talking content mill speed here, but fast enough that I can earn a living even on days I’m only writing $50 blog posts. I hope my tips will help you maximize your earnings, too. Let’s get started…

1.  Use split screen (or dual monitors) as much as possible.

My life changed for the better when Apple introduced the split-screen function to OS X. Now, even on my 15” laptop, I rarely have just one full-screen active window. Everything is so much simpler when I can work on two programs side-by-side.

It always was possible to do split-screen, sort of, even with just one monitor. Simply arranging your most-used windows next to each other can make you more productive. But split screens make work so much faster, particularly on a laptop.

No longer do I continually click the wrong window and lose my place. And, I can take advantage of the full screen without the dock getting in the way. Sometimes, I have two versions of the same document open, particularly when I’m trying to edit and change formatting at the same time. More often, though, I have Word or Safari open on one side of the screen, and my note-taking app on the other. And that brings me to my next tip…

2.  Use software designed to make note-taking easy

Forget flash cards and notebooks. Forget trying to keep bookmark folders organized. Research is so much easier with a dedicated program. It makes organizing a breeze. And even more importantly, you will be able to access information so much faster. Each of the programs I use is worth a full post, but for now, I’ll just touch on the highlights. These are my favorites:

OneNote – I keep one notebook going, and have several different tabs, including one for blog post ideas, one for each current writing project, and one catch-all tab for completed writing projects. Everything is all in once place, and all my research is accessible. I can reorganize it as much as I need.

I prefer to highlight text in Safari and send it to OneNote with my browser extension. If I choose to send the entire page this way, the program takes a screenshot. If necessary, I can then extract the text from that screenshot. But, it’s not perfect, and it doesn’t preserve links.

If I want to preserve the links within the text, the only way is to copy the text and images and paste them directly into OneNote. This usually takes 10 or 15 seconds more, but it means that I have an almost-full webpage in OneNote. When I go back to review research, I can click on links which take me back to the source, or on towards new information.

Evernote – I used to use this program regularly. But I got lazy, and now my notes are a mess. Instead of trying to organize years worth of junk, I opened a new account. The browser extension is robust, and it works faster than the one for OneNote. Articles format nicely, but if I don’t want the entire page, it’s easy to highlight a selection instead.

I have nothing bad to say about Evernote, but for some reason, I have never taken to this program. Last week I used it for a research project and was pleased with the results, but I usually click on OneNote instead. My biggest gripe is the small limit on data transfers. Even with infrequent use, I regularly get “locked out” until my data resets the following month.

Pocket – last but not least is my all-time favorite program, Pocket. Last year, I was in their top 1% of users and read the equivalent of some enormous number of books; right now, I have 1,349 unread articles.

By sending links to Pocket, I don’t lose them when I close tabs and windows, or when the email drops out of sight in my inbox. Pocket is not the best for research, but I use it to read everything else. It’s simple to make notes, add tags and share articles, all without opening the program. It’s always easy to find what I’m looking for, even with a free account, because the search function is excellent.

3.  Summarize articles as you read them

When I read an article that’s worth saving into OneNote, I always add a quick one-sentence or paragraph summary at the top of the page. This allows me to find critical information and helps jog my memory without having to scroll through the page. Frequently, my summaries end up verbatim in the final article.

If you work on tight deadlines, you know research for blog posts is nothing like researching a college paper. Summarizing the articles allows me to save time without cutting corners.

4.  Don’t forget to use outlines!

My 20th high school reunion is coming up in May, and until recently, it had been almost that long since I made an outline. But when I began freelancing, I picked up the habit again. As I research, I make a rough outline in Word of all the topics I need to address. If I happen to come up with a good line, I type that into the proper section of the outline, too.

I rarely write from beginning to end. Instead, I can jump back and forth between sections of the outline. The other day, I was working on a painfully boring story. I outlined it from start to finish, then went back and started writing the section that most appealed to me. When one paragraph was complete, I looked for another section that I could stand to write. Soon, I had tricked myself into drafting the whole piece, one paragraph at a time.

Take plenty of breaks – do something else at least once an hour

This final tip seems counterintuitive, but it works. Writing is tough. It may not look that way to an observer, but I find myself drained if I write more than 8 hours in a day. To keep myself focused, I stop once an hour. Sometimes I just run to the kitchen for a glass of water, but usually, I take a quick walk around the block.

I find I get more done with regular breaks than if I try to work in one large block. After a couple of hours without a break, I find myself frequently staring off into space, or staring blankly at my screen. Getting away for even a minute is refreshing. I don’t get so tired, and I’m able to get more done.

I hope these tips help you increase the speed of your writing. Don’t get me wrong – speed isn’t everything. But, working fast allows you to earn more and have more free time. What ways do you pick up the pace? Let me know in the comments.

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5 Timesaving Tips for Freelance Writers

A few housekeeping updates

I’ve been honored to have readers since the very first day this blog went live. The traffic has been consistent, and it means a lot to me that so many of you are interested in what I have to say. So, with that in mind, it’s time to make a few announcements.

  1. This blog will no longer be anonymous. Initially, I didn’t want any connection to my former career. I never enjoyed the practice of law, and I planned to build a new life from the ground up. Since starting as a freelancer, though, I’ve discovered it’s a good thing to advertise. Clients feel better knowing my former profession because they then know I’m intelligent, driven and well-educated. Soon, I’ll be putting my full name on the site, too, as a form of advertising for my freelance work. But, I don’t plan to do any marketing which includes my maiden name or any significant references to my old practice. I want my freelancing to stand on its own reputation.
  2. The name and appearance of this blog will be changing. I have a new name which reflects the lack of anonymity here. I have also hired a web designer, and over the next few weeks he will be helping me transfer my data over to a self-hosted setup. Downtime should be minimal.
  3. There will be a posting schedule. Starting April 1, 2016, the official post schedule will be weekly. Every Friday, come back for a new post about freelance writing. Friday posts will be filled with useful tips and helpful information. Personal posts will be less frequent, and may appear any day except Friday. Personal posts will be about my feelings and experiences as a freelancer. I am not, however, going to share my weekly or monthly income reports. It’s helpful to know what other freelancers charge, but I’m not comfortable discussing my actual salary.
  4. This will not be like other writing blogs. I’m not going to shy away from earning money, but I’m also not going to use this as a place to sell goods and services to my readers. I am not opposed to affiliate links, and they will show up here and there. But I don’t plan to sell useless e-books, coaching, or any other service that is just as likely to be a scam as it is to be helpful. I’m still smarting after being ripped off by another blogger and his $37 “ebook” filled with typo-ridden blog posts. Yep. That’s not gonna happen here. (And please note that I don’t feel all bloggers are scam artists. In fact, last night I purchased five different ebooks from two different freelance writing bloggers. Not everyone is a con artist, but it can be hard to tell who is and who isn’t without first spending the money.)

My freelance career has been going well, and it’s time to make this blog a priority. Don’t be surprised by the changes over the coming weeks. I’m so excited to share everything with all of you. Guest posts will also feature here from time to time. If you have something you want to write about, drop me a note or leave a comment.

In the meantime, let me know what questions you have about freelance writing. I already have some great Friday posts scheduled for April, but I plan to also address as many of your questions as possible.

A few housekeeping updates

Welcome!

Welcome to The Anonymous Blog. My name is Kris. I’m not trying to be anonymous for any mysterious reason. It’s simply part of an experiment. You see, I’ve had some bad luck in the job market, despite an excellent education and excellent qualifications. Right now, I live in poverty. Not the kind of poverty where I can only buy two pairs of pants instead of three, but real, stomach-growling, shivering, terrifying poverty. I didn’t grow up poor, and I never expected I would be. It has been rough for a long time. But, at the beginning of the year, something changed…

I decided to work from home.

You’ve probably seen all those “Work from Home” ads, where you can make $3,000 a week doing apparently nothing. I’ve seen hundreds, and never followed a single link. I still have no idea what they are about. They sound too good to be true, and I don’t want to end up on a mailing list that never lets me go. Any job requiring me to spam Facebook is a job I want nothing to do with. And, even if I wanted to put money into selling something like Tupperware, I wouldn’t have the money to get started.

But, I know it can be done. Even before “the internet”, my aunt made her way as a successful freelance journalist. I’ve watched her career over the years with mild interest. I never thought it was the job for me, but she has a lot of freedom, and she seems financially secure. Friends I’ve made here and there, too, have established, successful online careers. Some work for themselves, some don’t. Acquaintances without half the qualifications I have are killing it in their chosen online fields. So clearly it can be done.

But how?

I’ve decided to become a blogger and a writer. My background is in liberal arts, I have a few style guides on hand, and that’s about it. Beyond that, I’m going to learn as I go. I’m not going to pay anyone $37 for a scummy ebook. I’ve done that before, and will not make the same mistake again. I’m not signing up for survey sites, or sites guaranteeing leads, followers and fame, or even a temp service. Instead, I am going to stumble around and make mistakes. I’m going to talk to people. I plan to utilize plenty of free resources in this undertaking. And of course I will share it all with you.

Right now, I’m overwhelmed, intimidated and scared. I’m reading, writing, and absolutely devouring all the information I can find. Already, I know writing and blogging is not a job for everyone. It can be mysterious and frightening and overwhelming and stressful. Fortunately, I know it’s the right job for me. I’m a strong writer, and I’ve honed my skills through years of education and practice, both personally and professionally. I’ve been online and building websites since 1995.

I’ve already spent some time working from home, especially as a product tester. I haven’t earned any money yet, but it’s been satisfying. Today, though, I got my first paying gig through a site called Upwork. I created a profile there about 24 hours ago, so I know very little about it. But, getting that contract was a sign that it’s time to start documenting to journey.

I want to take you on this journey with me.

I’m going to share my thoughts, hopes, and fears with you as I become a writer. I’m going to tell you all the tips and tricks I’ve learned. I’m going to share my successes and failures with you. I’m going to post everything. Not because I love sharing everything about my life, but because I’m skeptical.

Yes, I’m skeptical. I still feel like working from home is too good to be true. And that’s where my anonymity comes in. I don’t want this blog linked to my other writing projects, or my Amazon profile, or my former career. Instead, I’m going to build it organically. No advertising, no paying for followers, no ghostwriters. Everything you see here will be built through reading, writing and commenting on other blogs and social media sites.

If you’re reading this, I’ve already been successful.

You found my little place on the internet, and you want to know what it’s all about. I hope you’ll stick around to find out. Over the coming weeks, months and years, this site will become a valuable resource for others who want to start careers as bloggers or writers. This site is starting from scratch, as a free WordPress site with no budget. My career is starting from scratch, too. I have $8 in my bank account, so there’s really nowhere to go but up. Wherever my career goes from here, it’s going to develop naturally, without me taking a single masterclass or paying for any information.

Thanks for joining me. I look forward to seeing you soon.

Welcome!