Too Slow? Here’s How to Freelance Faster (and Get Paid More)

I write, on average, between 6,000 and 8,000 words per day. A 1,000 word article or blog post typically takes around an hour, while something between 500 and 700 is around a half hour’s worth of work.

That, of course, depends on a few factors. The amount of research that goes into a piece is a huge consideration. Technical writing and even press releases require more time than an article or a blog post. Editing (which sometimes consists of completely rewriting what a client has written) takes less time.

I do type relatively quickly. At last “test” I was around 85 words per minute. But even if you type half that, there are ways you can increase your writing speed and, as a result, be more productive during any given work day.

Stick with what you know.

Over the past few years, my clients have tended toward a few specific niches. Because of that, I already have a knowledge base I can pull from as I write. Of course, there’s a lot I still don’t know, and I’m often required to research. That, though, is also pretty simple. After all, I already know where to look for the answers.

As you progress in your career, you’ll probably find yourself “specializing” in one or two topics. Whether you’re writing about personal injury law or natural cosmetics, you’ll find that you work more quickly as you learn more about the topic.

Just getting started? It’s never too soon to specialize yourself. Choose something that interests you and pitch clients in related industries.

Know thy Google.

I once had a client ask me, “How do you find .edu sources so easily?” As you already know, many clients ask that you link only to high authority sites like .gov, .edu and similar.

Knowing how to use Google goes a very long way toward making your research faster. After all, it would be dumb to pull your information from a source you’re not going to cite. Why not do it all in one go by searching “search term site:.edu?”

Make a day of it.

I’ve said it before and it warrants repetition: freelancing won’t bring a full time income if you don’t make it a full time job.

Freelancing won’t bring a full time income if you don’t make it a full time job.

Sit down in the morning and start your day. Treat it like a work day. Take a scheduled lunch break, work in a designated area and act like a professional. Just getting rid of distractions can double your productivity.

Write first, edit later.

Many writers lose their momentum when they edit “along the way.” Don’t fall into that trap. Write now, worry about those typos later. Write the whole deliverable. Only when you’re finished should you go back and read what you’ve written.

You know what? There’s a damn good chance it’s just fine! You may find you overuse a word, or that you’ve got a few errors autocorrect didn’t catch. Those are easily fixed, and they won’t take much time at all. Nine times out of ten, it’ll take you about three minutes to change “sould” to “soul” and take away those commas you errantly added. That’s much easier than hitting backspace fourteen thousand times as you type.

Yeah. About that autocorrect.

I hate the autocorrect that comes with Word. It fixes things that shouldn’t be “fixed” and it misses everything that should. I often find myself shouting at my laptop, “Come ON, Word. You know what I meant!”

Get a good correction tool like Grammarly to help you along the way. There are tools out there that offer contextual correction, and while they’re not all free they certainly do save a lot of frustration.

Write it in your head.

Not everyone can do this, but if you can it’ll increase your writing speed exponentially.

Rather than beginning with an outline, just begin with an introduction. Before you write your deliverable, you should have an idea of what it’s about, right? Well, write that down.

Then keep writing. If you’re a linear thinker, you’ll be able to put the rest of the deliverable in order in a logical way. This post is a perfect example. I knew what I wanted to tell you about, so I wrote an intro. Then, I thought of these points as I went along. Easy, right? I’m now at 735 words and I began 30 minutes ago.

Aaaaand I’m watching Battlefish on Netflix while I do it.

Section out your work day.

Switching from client to client during the day kills your momentum and your productivity.

If you’re juggling more than one client, you’re probably juggling more than one topic and writing style. Plan accordingly.

Write all of Ned’s press releases in the morning while your brain is fresh. Then, after lunch, move on to Thomas’s blog posts about construction and renovation. Then, if you’ve still got time, move on to Katie’s articles about pregnancy and childbirth.

It may seem like switching from client to client gives your day a little variety. But, in fact, it does nothing but kill your momentum and your productivity.

Don’t stress unless you have to.

Listen. You got the job. And there’s a good chance you got the job because you’re a better writer than 90% of other writers out there. There’s another chance you got the job because you “clicked” with the client. In some cases, your writing may be terrible but your client just doesn’t know any better.

Regardless of your circumstances, you got the job. Your client isn’t your English teacher, he’s your client. He hired you because he liked your style and your ideas, and because you pitched him well.

You don’t have to stress perfection. Do your best, yes. Deliver quality work to your client. But don’t underestimate yourself. You’re good at what you do, so unless your client actually is your grammar instructor, don’t stress yourself out. It’s distracting and discouraging, and it’ll show in your deliverable.

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