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Are you having trouble balancing your project time and pay?
As a freelance writer, I have a horrible tendency to spend way too much time on a single writing project. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I often catch myself still editing long after I should have finished. Simply put, most freelance writing rates simply do not allow room for this extra time. I have to learn how to write faster or be comfortable with my longer pay to time ratio on a given writing task.
Those of you in freelance journalism, and other freelance writing gigs, need to write faster without losing quality. After all, there’s no point in learning how to write faster if you can’t provide the quality of work that real writing jobs require.
The following 10 tips are an expansion of Leo Babauta’s list of ways to crank out articles. Hopefully between Leo and me, you will find which methods work for you in improving both the speed and quality of your writing. It’s time to earn more as freelance writers.
1. Write at Your Most Productive Time
Not everyone’s most productive time of day is first thing in the morning. Your best writing time may be at midnight or right after lunch. It doesn’t matter what time of day you are at your most productive. But what does matter is that you find this time, mark it on your daily calendar, and do nothing but writing during this block of time.
If I start my work day with checking emails and social media, those are usually the only tasks I get done.
I only work in the afternoons and some nights when my kids are in bed, but I have found that within that time frame, I am most productive when I first sit down at the computer.
2. Close Your Internet Browser
If I start my work day with checking emails and social media, those are usually the only tasks I get done. But there are times, too, when I know I may have an urgent writing task waiting for me that trumps the plan I had set for the day. So, I usually quickly scan my emails, but don’t allow myself to open any if they are not urgent. Then I close down my email and social media pages, only leaving open my browser for research when creating my outline.
3. Create a Plan
At the end of your work day, look at what freelance writing gigs you’d like to complete the next day. Don’t assign yourself too much, or you will have trouble motivating yourself to start the next day. I have found that if I order my writing tasks from hardest to easiest, I get started easier but also get my hardest pieces done before my brain gives out for the day. No matter your ideal schedule, planning ahead is key to staying on top of your projects.
4. Create an Outline
An outline gives you an easy guideline to follow. Sometimes, an outline means that your article is already half-done. Other times, you may only be able to come up with a bare-bones outline.
I try to place research links along with notes from each item in my outline. This way, I can just start writing without even needing to keep my browser open (perfect for those days when social media is calling me by name). And what helps even more is if I leave enough time at the end of my day to create outlines for at least one of my articles the next day – I then feel like I have a head start!
5. Set a Timer
A timer can help keep you focused, but it also forces you to take breaks. And breaks keep the mind fresh. Some timers, such as the Focus Booster, provide specified work and break times, such as 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break. Another common workflow is 10 minutes on, 2 minutes break. You will just need to find out which length of time works best for you.
6. Take Advantage of Breaks
So, what should you do on your breaks? If you feel groggy, computer-brained, etc – you may want to get moving. Try doing 1 minute intervals of jumping jacks, running in place, fake jumping rope, push-ups, and sit-ups (or come up with your own routine). Or you may want to reward yourself with 5 minutes of social media or even use it as a chance to get through some looming emails. Just make sure you stick to your timer!
7. Write without Stopping
Avoid this at all costs! Once you’ve created your outline, force yourself to keep writing until you’ve filled in most of the blanks, with the exception of extra research you may need.
If you are like me, then one of your greatest hindrances to writing fast is feeling the need to edit while you go. Avoid this at all costs! Once you’ve created your outline, force yourself to keep writing until you’ve filled in most of the blanks, with the exception of extra research you may need. Reserve these sections needing research until after you’ve laid down a solid foundation.
8. Turn Off Your Monitor
Turning off your monitor may work for you if you type fairly well without looking at the screen. Of course, you may make more typos, but it really cuts down on the temptation to open your browser. Keep in mind this will only work if you write your outline on paper and not in your on-screen document.
But, wait, doesn’t proofreading slow you down? Yes, it does, but it’s also a vital part of making sure you don’t lose the quality needed to continue snagging real writing jobs. So, take the time to proofread, even if you spend less than 5 minutes on this task. Your writing career depends on it.
10. Practice Makes Perfect
Some of these techniques for how to write faster may help improve your speed right away. Others will initially slow you down but improve your speed the more you practice. If a tip does not seem to help, though, you may want to try a different approach. Remember, not everyone will benefit from every speed writing technique available. All of us have our own personal writing flow. The key is finding yours and tweaking until it’s perfect.