Diana Kelly Levey

Become a Faster Writer in 20 Minutes

A woman's hands typing on a laptop keyboard

February 1, 2021

I have to be honest.  My biggest barrier to writing and making more money as a freelance writer is often me. One of the most important lessons of being a successful freelance writer or six-figure freelancer is to just get started. That means I need to sit my butt down and writer faster in order to work past procrastinating tendencies.

And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I often spend more time and energy thinking about writing (read: procrastinating) than actually sitting down and writing the article I have due. I even covered this in a blog post about “my number-one tip for procrastinating writers.”

Do you know what I realize once I sit down and write?

I’m a pretty fast writer.

In fact, I just turned on my Toggl.com time-tracking tool and worked on an article that I thought was going to take an hour.

You guys, I banged out 1,200 words in 30 minutes!

Yes, quite a bit of that was transcribed quotes from my source, and I’m going to clean it up and add more research in a few days. But still, that was faster than I anticipated, and I had put it on my “to-do list” for the past week as an article I should start writing. If I were to earn about $500 or so for a 600-word article, that means I could probably get the writing portion done in less than an hour—depending on how much editing and restructuring I had to do. Not a bad freelance rate! (BTW, here’s how to write a pitch for an article in the first place.)

Why You Need to Become a Faster Writer As a Freelancer

Any freelancer, freelance writer or entrepreneur has a keen sense that time is money. In order to make more money as a freelance writer, it’s important to complete tasks faster. (You can speed up the pitch-writing process by looking at these article pitch examples.)

The question of how to become a faster writer is one I see frequently come up on Reddit threads, so I thought I’d address it here and share other writers’ tips below.

The faster you get with the writing part of your work, the more money you’ll make. (Remember, quality is still extremely important.) Here, get three tips about why it’s important to become a faster writer when freelancing. (P.S. Here are answers to all the other freelancer FAQs.)

1.  You’ll earn a higher hourly freelance rate.

For that article I mentioned above, here’s the breakdown of how long it takes me to write an article so you can better understand why it’s so important to become a faster freelance writer and increase how much you earn daily.

  • 15 minutes researching the topic before pitching it to the editor
  • 15 minutes writing that freelance pitch that worked.
  • 15 minutes of emailing with the editor confirming the assignment direction, due date, rate, and filling out paperwork
  • 15 minutes finding the best contact to interview via a PR source and setting up the scheduled phone interview with the expert
  • 20 minutes on the  phone with the expert, recording the interview for transcription later and paying $20 for the transcription
  • 30 minutes reviewing the interview, gathering research and writing

Let’s say I’m up to about an hour and 50 minutes of work for this freelance article. I’ll spend another 20 minutes or so in the future making sure I have solid research to back up the quotes and advice, and another 20 to 30 minutes editing and making sure the style and tone are consistent with the rest of the content on my client’s website. That might take me to about 2 hours and 40 minutes of work by the time I submit my piece. (P.S. here’s exactly how many hours freelancers work each week.)

Depending on who I’m working with and their needs after they review the article, I may have 10 to 20 minutes of edits and about 10 minutes of getting set up with payment paperwork. I’ll guestimate that it will take me about three hours to write the freelance article and get set up with the paperwork for a new client. My rate for this article was $500 so that would be a freelance hourly rate over $150/hour gross for that assignment. Not a bad freelance rate, huh? (Wait, how much do magazine writers make, anyway?)

If I was a much slower writer or I wasn’t organized when it came down to piecing the freelance article together, it would probably take me about five hours or more. Those two hours I now have from getting faster with my freelance writing gives me time to earn more so I’m on my way to a six-figure freelance income. (How mu

2.  You’ll get more done when you take advantage of small blocks of time.

I recall a time last year where I had a scheduled follow-up call with a source at 11 a.m. I didn’t hear from them until about 1 p.m. and then they scheduled our call for 2:30 p.m. At this point,  I was a bit antsy to get out of the house and run some errands after this call. At 2:30, I found out the call was bumped to 3 p.m. Frustrating! (Yes, this is one of the downsides of being a freelance writer.) I could have just spent those 30 minutes browsing the Internet, getting caught up in news headlines and social media. Instead, I told myself I would work on a freelance article I had due soon.

Many freelance writers (myself included) tend to think we need to block out an hour or more in order to “start” writing an assignment, but the truth is, I can get a lot done in if I break it up into shorter block, like 15-minute writing sprints or even 20- or 25-minutes. (Learn more about how freelancers get work.)

I was surprised that I made quite a bit of headway on that article in less than 20 minutes. I think it was because I was focused, gave myself one task to do, and had a set amount of time that I was writing.

Many of us think that we don’t have time to write for ourselves or to work on our freelance writing careers, and we don’t have time to pitch editors new story ideas. But, I think you can get a lot more done in 20 minutes than you think.

3. You’ll become an expert in blocking out time.

I share this advice with freelance writing clients: Wake up early at least two to three days a week and commit to working on your freelance writing pitches before going to work at your full-time job. Give yourself 20 to 30 minutes. You’ll probably be motivated to spend more time on it. (Here’s more advice on how to freelance when you have a full-time job.)

Lately, I’ve found that I have better concentration by writing on Sundays. I’m not getting hundreds of emails in my inbox of things I have to respond to and I’ve given my brain a rest since Friday afternoon, so I’m approaching my assignments feeling more refreshed.

How to Actually Become a Faster Writer

In my opinion, checking one small thing off of your to-do list makes you feel good, that’s because your brain gets a hit of that chemical dopamine, which is thought to regulate feelings of pleasure, but it also regulates motivation. The more tasks you get done, the better you feel and more motivated to keep going.

Here’s my tip: Set a timer for 20 minutes and work on a freelance writing project you’ve put off. I promise you’ll feel better than if you put it off until you had more time in your schedule. (I just wrote this blog post in 20 minutes!)

For more pointers, turn to this article from the International Journalists Network on how to become a faster writer and some of the advice I found on the Reddit message board threads when people ask about becoming faster writers. (Pssst. Here are ways freelancers can build their business in 15 minutes.)

  • “Are you editing while writing? That’s one mistake people make which slows them down. Basically, just do it. Fill up the document with words —do not edit while writing. Even if the grammar is off or the sentence sounds weird, don’t stop. Once you’re done you can go back and edit.”—Yutsuke
  • “Make sure you pre-write before you write. Have all of your major points and ideas/sources laid out and organized BEFORE you begin writing. The actual drafting process will go much quicker.”—MandaPanda18
  • “It depends on how you work. Do you do your research and plan it out then bang out a piece? Or do you write and research at the same time? Are you writing about a subject you know deeply? Knowing your content can help crank them out quicker by reducing research. Have you tried other methods, like dictation or pen and paper?”—Totally_Not_Woke
  • “If it’s a typing problem, I highly recommend typing.com for improving your typing speed. Otherwise, it’s a mental problem and you can work past it by getting more focused. The more focused, I think, the faster you go.”—DrewDrop26

Like these freelance writing tips? Learn how you can make money as a freelance writer in my ‘Get Paid to Write’ e-course. Enroll today!

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