Home > Blog > Freelancing > 3 Ways to Be More Productive When You Sit Down to Write

3 Ways to Be More Productive When You Sit Down to Write

by | Jun 8, 2016

When I started freelancing back in 2010, all I knew was that making money online as a writer and editor was possible, and I’d be able to figure it out along the way.

While I certainly had my share of challenges (and a few awesome resources like The Write Life to help me out), I did have one thing going for me: A journalism degree. Because of my journalism coursework, I knew how to write well and quickly.

Knowing how to “write fast” makes a huge difference in your ability to earn more income. As a writer, you don’t get paid for your ideas; you get paid for the content you produce.

If you can become more efficient at the actual craft of writing, you’ll be able to produce more in the same amount of time, which means you’ve got the potential to earn more.

So how can you become the blazing-fast writer with the healthier bottom line?

1. Learn to touch type

The average person can type 36 words per minute (WPM) on a regular keyboard. The average person who can touch type — type without looking at the letters on the keyboard — can do an average 58 WPM. That’s nearly twice as fast!

Here’s the thing: It’s not unthinkable that you could double the touch-type average. On a slow day, my typing speed is 112 WPM. Getting words from my head through my fingers and onto the screen is no longer a limiting factor in my productivity.

In fact, it’s not that uncommon for me to write 1,000 words in 20 minutes or less when I’m familiar with the subject matter.

Just think about what your effective hourly rate would be if you could charge a flat fee for each of two or three 1,000-word posts that took you an hour in total to write.

Take the free typing test at TypingTest.com and find out how you stack up. Then, look for opportunities to increase your typing speed. Free training is available online, including at the test website.

When you’re away from your keyboard, use any mental down-time — like when you’re sitting at a traffic light, waiting in line, or stuck in a meeting — to practice typing. Song lyrics, snippets of conversations (real or imagined), even your mental to-do list can be discretely tapped out on an imaginary keyboard, or invisibly “typed” in your mind.

2. Use outlines

Outlines are hands-down one of my most important productivity tools. They’re taught in English class for a reason: Developing an outline is a tremendously efficient way to write.

Even though it might seem like it’s a waste of time, making an outline sets you up to write incredibly more quickly when the time comes.

Even if you’re just jotting down three bullet points on a topic you know well, having an outline will save you all kinds of time when you’re doing the actual writing.

Think about it: How long would it take you to come up with a 900-word blog post if you had to sit down and type it from the beginning, without making any notes to yourself? Maybe an hour?

Now imagine how long it would take you to sit down and write 900 words if you already had a two-sentence overview and three bullet points with one or two sentences to explain or expand each one. Much faster, right?

Once you’ve drafted an outline, you already know what you’re going to write about and you’re already pretty familiar with the subject matter because you’ve already researched it (or you specialize in that niche).

You’ve effectively set yourself up to blaze through the assignment.

The time it takes to sketch out an outline plus the time it takes to write it up is almost always less time than if you’d sat down and written the whole thing from scratch.

3. Leave clues for yourself

Many of us go into freelancing for the flexibility. Flexibility is great — it’s one of the biggest perks of being a freelance writer — but it also comes with the understanding that you won’t necessarily have six to eight uninterrupted hours for working each day.

The trouble is, interruptions and irregular working hours can completely kill your productivity if you don’t handle them properly.

The way I deal with my on-again, off-again work schedule is to leave myself clues when I leave my keyboard.

If I’m wrapping up for the day, I jot down the first two or three things I need to do when I get back to work. If I’m leaving an outline unfinished, I’ll make notes at the bottom of the document about what I need to research next. If I’m in the middle of typing up an article, I don’t need to do anything because I’ve got my outline to tell me where to pick up.

Whether it’s a comment in a Google Doc, a short “do this next” list, or highlights on the scratch pad where you brainstorm, plan your next steps before stepping away from any task.

Do it while you’re already in the thick of the project, while the next steps are pretty obvious.

Then, when you come back to work, you won’t waste time getting reacquainted and then figuring out what to do next. You already figured it out for yourself!

What’s your favorite strategy for being more efficient as a writer?