Every industry has special tools which make the tasks within those jobs easier, and they are generally specifically tailored to that profession. By using these tools you increase your proficiency and remain relevant in your particular niche, whatever that might be. Plumbers have special pipe wrenches that allow them to quickly and easily change your pipes out, while if you worked the project by yourself it would likely turn into an all-day mess. Mechanics have special tools to change your oil filters and your tires, while you would be stuck with what you have in your garage, not to mention dealing with disposing of the oil and dealing with requirement for space. Crab fishermen have boats. Dentists have…nasty metal things that they stick in your mouth.
Being a writer is no different. There are certain tools which should be in every writer’s arsenal as “must have” resources. The one I’d like to talk about briefly today is speech-to-text programs.
Speech to text programs are unique software programs that allow you to speak into a microphone and have that speech rendered into text on your screen, either in your chosen word processor or in a blog post or any other form. The better programs even have built-in utilities that allow you to manipulate your Internet browser without ever lifting a finger. While they are extremely useful for handicapped individuals, and were primarily developed as a result of that field of study, they are also one of those hidden secrets that writers should really be using if they want to increase their productivity.
I use Dragon Naturally Speaking, from Nuance. It is rated as the number 1 dictation software in the industry. It has a 99% accuracy rating once you have trained the program, which is generally higher than most people’s accuracy while typing. The beauty of the software? According to their website, the average person types 40 words per minute, but speaks 120 wpm. Now, as a freelance writer, you probably type far faster than that, but as a general rule of thumb no matter who you are you will never type faster than you can speak. By using a program that translates your speech into text you will increase your word count, which really helps in terms of how much work you can get done in a given day. The more content you can get done the more money you make, which means less time spent physically working at the computer and more time enjoying the rewards.
DNS is a really fun program to train, as well, because you can literally “see” it learning your speech patterns and nuances. Every single person speaks differently, and if the program is trained to your voice it likely won’t recognize someone with, say, an Australian accent, or a German accent (assuming you are neither). For example, Evy’s version doesn’t always recognize my speech patterns, and vice versa for mine, and we talk fairly similarly. It’s just the nuances of the speech patterns that the software recognizes and fine-tunes depending on the user. The program learns every time you use it, plus there are special dialogues you can read through (like excerpts from novels) that help you train it. It is a constantly evolving program that grows as you continue using it over time.
I am not affiliated with Nuance in any way, for the record. In my personal case it has doubled my performance numbers, allowing me to pick up jobs that might otherwise have been not-so-profitable and turn them into thousand-dollar projects, or more. Using dictation software not only drastically increases your performance, but it saves your wrists and it allows you to be 100% hands-free.
Every industry has tools of the trade. Freelance writing is no different. It’s not just about having a keyboard and a mouse. Using a program like DNS allows you the freedom to walk around the house while you work, talking into your headset wherever you are. Rather than needing to tab back and forth between your research and word processor you can simply work right off of the page, taking “notes” as it were without ever needing to look away from your research. Be smart, and use the tools that were provided. You will definitely see positive results.