I’ve talked many times about how writing faster, coupled with getting paid on a project or assignment basis, is the quickest way to increasing what you earn as a freelance writer.
There are a lot of ways to write faster. The first, of course, is to write shorter length articles. When a client asks for articles of 250 words to 350 words, they don’t care about covering all of the details. In fact, chances are, they deliberately do not want to be too helpful to their readers. After all, readers who have get all of the information they need by reading what is published don’t have any reason to click the ads that make up the majority of publishing income for these websites. In addition, many SEO experts claim that 300 word articles do the best in Google’s search engine results pages, or SERPs.
Whether or not you approve of this business model is beside the point. Either work for these clients or don’t, but whatever you do, don’t give away writing income. Don’t write 500 word articles for pay per article rate established to compensate writers for quick, short, articles. Writing all the way to 350 words too often is giving away money, but for some writers, that will actually prove to be faster and easier than trying to edit down to 250 words from their traditional writing style.
Faster Writing Using Word Processor Features
Every word processor program on the market today has numerous features designed to help writers write faster, better, and easier. Something as simple as the BACKSPACE key is a huge time saver over the old method of either retyping the page or using some form of correction tape or white out.
Of course, some programs have more features than others. Some word processing utilities take pride in being as basic and simple as they can be. Often promoted as “distraction free writing,” these writing programs don’t offer a lot of shortcuts.
On the other hand, some writing software has grown so huge over the years that most users won’t even scratch the surface of its full functionality. Microsoft Word, for example, adds new features with every version. In part, this is because Microsoft feels that additional features induce customers to buy the new version rather than just sticking with the one they already have.
Whether all of the bells and whistles in Microsoft Office 2010 are necessary is open to debate, but there is no excuse to not take advantage of the ones that might improve your writing and increase productivity.
I’ll try and cover some Microsoft Word Tips for freelance writers along the way. The hardest part is remembering them off the cuff. There must be dozens, or maybe hundreds, of little things that I do in MS Word to speed things up, but many have become second nature, so I don’t even notice them. Others, I only recall as I am using them, which is an inopportune time to conceive a new freelance writing blog post.
However, today, I was taking notes by copying and pasting websites and webpages into Word. I don’t recommend this for long-term research or archiving, but for quick and dirty “reading up” on topics, I find it to be fast and powerful. (For real research, use Microsoft OneNote 2010 or Zotero Firefox plug-in.)
One thing that is necessary, however, is being able to distinguish where one source ends and another beings. It is necessary not only to properly attribute sources and credit lines, when necessary, but also for knowing how trustworthy information is. Only a fool believes everything that they read on the Internet. As you read through various information, postings, and reviews, you’ll come across tidbits that make you question the reliability of the source. In this case, it is best to cross that section out and move on. Searching out where one website copy ends and the other begins slows down your research to crawl.
There are many ways to mark such breaks. One popular method is to hit the return key a few times to create a big enough space to make it obvious. This method can fail, however, when one of the copied sources also has large gaps for whatever reason — usually poor translation of the formatting and layout from screen to print. Even when it works, it can add up to a lot of wasted paper if printed out, or a lot of unnecessary scrolling when read on the screen.
A better method that wastes no space and is readily distinguishable from poor printout formatting is to insert a line at the end of each bit of information. You can type a bunch of dashes across the screen, but the resulting line is pretty thin and easy to miss. Worse, it requires extra time spent either banging away at they hyphen key or holding it down and watching it race across the screen before trying to raise you finger at exactly the right moment to not leave the line too short, nor to have it word wrap around onto the next line.
Using a Word shortcut for “special characters” makes this process fast and simple. Just type three # in a row and hit enter. Word will substitute in a full-page width thick, double line as your break. Whether you put a blank line on either side is a matter of preference and viewability, but either way provides an easily identifiable break between sections.
Other special characters that will make Word insert a line across the screen are:
- Asterisks (*)
- Equal sign (=)
- Tilde (~)
- Underline (_)
Each of these make a different style of line, dotted line, double line, wavy line, and single line, respectively.
Of course, these lines have no place in your finished work product whether online or off, but for your own personal use, they are one of many ways to speed up your writing and increase your income as a writer.