Most freelance writers get paid by the word. Whatever your rates are, the math remains simple – the more you write, the more money you get. The problem is, most of us aren’t word pumping machines. There’s a limit to how much work you can do before you burn out. This is where improving your efficiency comes in.
The more efficient you are as a writer, the more doors will open up to you. Clients will be happy, you’ll be able to take on more or less work as needed, and you’ll build a good reputation.
Of course, becoming a better, more efficient writer is easier said than done. In this article, I’ll help you approach the problem from the perspective of a freelance writer, so let’s get to it!
1. Research and Outline Before You Get to Writing
Every writer has a different process. However, preparation plays a huge role in the way you tackle any type of assignment. For me, I try to outline every single piece I write, including all the relevant research I want to include within it.
In the past, I’ve shown you some examples of how I outline my articles. However, you should feel free to add more or less detail to your own outlines as you see fit.
When I’m writing, I like to split up my screen, keeping my outline on one side and my text editor on the other. That way, I don’t have to miss a beat since my outlines tell me every point I want to hit and in which order.
Usually, what happens is I’ll end up making a lot of small changes on the fly. After all, it’s an entirely different thing to flesh out an article than it is to imagine it in your head. However, those outlines still save me a lot of time in the long run, even if they can feel like a bit of a chore sometimes.
2. Write First, Edit Later
When I first dove into freelance writing, it wasn’t uncommon for a single post to take up hours of my time. Considering I was working for low rates, that meant I wasn’t making anything close to decent money.
My main problem was I was too concerned with getting each post perfect the first time around. However, if there’s one thing most writers can agree on it’s that the vast majority of first drafts are crap.
What matters more is that you get the thing done. For me, that means sitting down, putting on my Pomodoro timer, some background music, and writing until a break hits or I finish what I set out to do. Then, I’ll upload the article to WordPress and edit it there:
The way I do it, I’ll give the whole thing a few passes for grammar, then read it again to see if there’s anything I can cut, move around, or improve on. When I’m happy with the results, I submit that piece and get to work on whatever I’ve got going on next.
In practice, your process will probably look very different from mine, but the initial point remains – write first then fret later.
3. Break Down Every Assignment into Smaller Tasks
It’s an entirely different thing to say “I’m going to write a book” than it is to tell yourself “I’m going to get X pages done today.” That first phrase is enough to make most people break out into a sweat, but the second – now that’s something anyone can manage. Some pages here today, a few more tomorrow, and so on until the whole thing comes together.
I like to think about freelance writing in the same terms – even though I haven’t gotten to write a full book yet. If I imagine every job I get in terms of having to write X articles by a specific date, it can be a bit intimidating.
What I do is take every single piece I have to work on and break it into smaller tasks. Usually, that looks something like this:
- Pitch ideas or get them from a client.
- Write a rough outline using all the information that client has given me.
- Schedule the work.
- Start writing my first draft.
- Edit and format that article.
- Give it one last look to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
- Submit it!
For me, that approach has two benefits. First, it enables me to tackle every assignment methodically, so I know exactly what I have to do and in which order. Secondly, the more you refine your own process and get better at it, the more efficient you realize you’ll become as a writer. It starts out small, but once you perfect your own writing steps, you’ll notice a huge difference.
Plus, having a step-by-step approach (with small steps) gives me a chance to cross tasks off my to-do list often. If that’s not one of the best feelings in the world, then I don’t know what is!
4. Know When to Cut Back
Nowadays, we’re all so obsessed with being more efficient, but it bears reminding that we’re not machines. Some days, I’ll be in the zone and I can write thousands of words without breaking a sweat, knowing they’re good. However, it’s important to understand you can’t push yourself like that every day.
As freelance writers, we’re often conditioned to take on as much work as possible and get it done fast. In my experience, that leads to a lot of talented people burning out and then going back to regular jobs because they find them to be less stressful.
Let’s be honest – most of us got into freelancing because we wanted more freedom in our professional lives. For me, I also love to write and I don’t like conventional offices, so it was an easy decision. However, I’ve also run into times where freelancing stressed me out much more than a normal job ever did, and that’s saying a lot.
Becoming a more efficient writer is a fantastic thing, but it’s also important you learn when to give yourself a little slack. That means, if you can, taking a day off every now and then. It also means not working around the clock, and knowing when to really take your time while writing instead of worrying about your metrics.
How to be a better writer is a question millions of people struggle with. Ultimately, we all have our own styles, but one thing we can all try to improve is our efficiency as writers. More importantly, efficiency is something you can measure, so when you make progress, you’ll know it.
When I started freelance writing, even the shortest article could take me hours. I’d fret over every word and go in circles while researching. In the end, what I wrote wasn’t that good. It took me years to reach the point where I can consider myself efficient in what I do. If you want to get there as well, now’s the time to get started.
What do you think is the most important factor when it comes to being a great freelance writer? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!
Image credit: Pixabay.
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