How to write faster (so you can have more free-time in your freelance business)Aug 23, 2021
One of my email subscribers recently asked me this:
“I'm having a hard time best getting started with the actual writing part. Trying to write some articles on spec to make a portfolio. It took me forever just to write 1 article! Lol. Would love some guidance on what tools, if any, you use to edit (grammarly? Or something else?)”
To complete your writing assignments faster, break down the writing process into phases.
This may seem counter-intuitive at first—you may even feel like writing in phases is more work, but trust me this method will cut your writing time down dramatically after you get the hang of it.
By focusing on one phase at a time, your mind gets hyper-focused on just completing that task rather than going back, self-editing, and scrutinizing your work.
This is the main concept you should take from this: what's slowing down your writing is editing while you write.
Here are the stages of my writing process:
Assigned > Outline > First Draft > Edits > Done🎉
Let’s break these stages down...
When you receive the client's assignment, create a document where you can organize all the assigned information. No matter which project management tool you use, the aim is to get all of the materials needed to complete the assignment in one place.
It provides a "home" for your links and research, so everything is easily accessible in a few clicks.
In general, copy will follow a similar structure, especially long-form pieces like blog posts, case studies, and white papers. For example, most blogs have an introduction, supporting points, and a conclusion.
Whenever I outline, I create the title, headings, and conclusions first. Even though everything will be edited by the end, having a structure in place helps. Once you have this skeleton, you can fill in your main points and ideas.
You should type fast and just spew out words onto the page. Remember, this is still just an information-gathering phase. As of now, we are just slapping sentences and links between headings, and it will look cluttered.
No one will ever see this version of the draft. In the end, all that matters is that I understand the sentences so I can go back later and polish them.
Rough first draft
This is where the speed-writing begins.
As of now, you have an outline with some sloppily added points, paragraphs, and links. There will be a mess and our perfectionist brains will not like it. A rough first draft still requires you to restrain your inner perfectionist and write "bad sentences."
At this point in the writing process, my goal is to just get my points across without perfecting my sentences. Your sentences convey complete thoughts but they're not ready to be read by anyone else.
They may sound like a third grader wrote them and be overly explanatory. Write how you speak. The point is to get as many words on the page as possible as quickly as you can.
Keep reminding yourself that no one will ever see this version of the copy. You’ll need this reminder every time you begin to slow down or go back and edit your work.
Once you finish the first rough draft, walk away from the piece. Take a break or go work on something else. Don’t skip the walking away phase. You need to take this space, even if it’s an hour.
You’ve walked away from the piece and you’re ready to look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. Now, you’ll go line by line, making each sentence make sense, polishing it. I use Wordtune, a Chrome extension that automatically refines my sentences.
Once each sentence is polished, I read through the piece again and make sure it sounds good and that the ideas flow together. I often change the font and zoom out from 150% and view the doc in 100% view so I can gauge readability.
At this point, I’m doing final checks and using Grammarly to fix any grammar edits I may have. This phase is all about preparing to send it to the client. I make sure any necessary links and calls to action the client requested are included. I make sure my title and headings are the best they can be.
Editing as you go is a sure way to prolong the writing process. The reason why writing takes you so long could be because you are editing as you write.
By writing in phases, your mind can concentrate on one task at a time, allowing you to write faster.
Copywriting is like sculpting. Clay begins as a lump and is then chiseled away slowly. The finished product will look nothing like that original lump of clay.