Most freelance writers realize the value of research-without it, where would we get out information? Almost all writing projects require at least some research, if only to check out a fact on the Internet, but paper-based research takes a little bit of extra finesse. When you’re using books and paper-based resources for your writing, you’ll need a system for keeping track of it all.
Organization is important with any writing project, from a 500-word article to a 90,000-word book. If you can’t keep track of your paper-based research, then how can you hope to keep your writing organized? When you’re working on a freelance writing project, it’s best to have an organizational system.
First, you’ll need an area in which to keep track of all of your paper-based research. Simply using your entire office as an “area” won’t work; you need a section devoted entirely to your freelance writing project. There are a number of ways in which this can be accomplished.
Some freelance writers prefer to keep track of their paper-based research in a filing cabinet. They label their file folders with different types of research and stow all of their articles, books and printed materials there. The downside to filing everything is that some books won’t fit in regular hanging files, and you’ll wind up with piles of overflowing research.
The second option for keeping track of paper-based research is to purchase a rolling cart. You can find them at Wal-Mart or Target in plastic for less than $25, or a nicer wooden cart for less than $100. The best rolling carts have three or four drawers as well as a flat surface on top.
You can either label your rolling cart drawers or use them as the need arises, but they’re far more practical than hanging files. You can store large books, hefty files or even office supplies and the drawers provide easy grab-and-go access.
Once you’ve established an area for keeping track of your paper-based research, you’ll need a way to find important documents quickly. There’s nothing worse than coming to a point in your work where you need to reference a book or print-out and having to search through piles of paper-based research to find it.
First, small black binder clips work great for separating papers in a file folder or even pages in a book. You can easily flip to the most important sections, and binder clips are not easily lost or bent like paper clips.
You’ll probably also want to invest in a set of multi-colored highlighters as well as several pads of Post-It notes. These allow you to carefully mark pages in a book or stack of papers.
And finally, when freelance writers use paper-based research, they usually have to cite their sources at the end of the piece. Since you’ll have all of your paper-based research organized in your hanging files or rolling cart, you can easily mark down the resources you need to site. Keep a yellow legal pad or a small spiral notebook in your drawers so you can jot down the source as you’re moving along. That way, you don’t have to pause in the middle of your freelance writing project to type up a bibliography.
Once you come up with a way to effectively keep track of your paper-based research, your freelance writing career will become far less of a hassle.