30 Days Of Writing Tips – Day 3 – Time Your Writing Work

by Anne Wayman

One of the keys to successful freelance writing might be called time management. Ugh! I know – it sounds both awful and impossible. Today, time your writinghowever, I’m talking about the need to time your work.

If you don’t know, at least in a general way, how long it takes you to do a piece of writing you have no idea how to manage your time or what to charge.

Our perception of time is wonderfully fluid. When I’m writing something I’m really interested in, time flies. I can easily think I only spent an hour when in fact it took me two or even three. On the other hand, if the writing I’m working on is boring, 15 minutes can seem like half a day. The only way you can know for sure is to time yourself.

Online Stopwatch is a dirt simple tool – you can time yourself there starting, pausing and stopping. You can also set it to count down – great for timing eggs or bookending an hour or two of writing.

You don’t have to time every piece of writing every time, although that wouldn’t hurt. I time the kind of writing I do most often every couple of months just to double check myself.


I also time any work I start that I’m billing by the hour.

And if I take on a new kind of writing I time that too so I know how to plan for it.

I also time other stuff too. For example, I’m blown away by how much time I actually spend on email and wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t timed it.

We’ve all got 24 hours a day. As freelancers we have real control over how we spend those hours. Tracking our time is one way to be sure we’re spending it the way we want to.

You may also want to read: Carving Out Writing Time

How do you keep track of the hours you spend writing?

Do you have a writing tip to share? Leave it in comments.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Eden May 11, 2011 at 3:26 pm

I have start using the stopwatch feature on my iPod touch to see how long I spend on researching and writing each articles. It helps me figure out if I am spending too much time on something I do not need to be doing.

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annew May 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Eden, I’ve started to use my ipad that way once and awhile.

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Elizabeth West May 6, 2011 at 10:49 pm

I’ve been trying to do that on my content stuff, so I don’t spend so much time doing each article that I blow the price of the thing. As I get used to the site’s guidelines, I find I can spend most of the time on the research and then get the article written very fast. I do them all and then go back later and edit. Some of the topics, though, are hard going!

As far as my fiction is concerned, there’s no money coming in for that (yet!) and it’s not really “timed” work. I just write until I feel like stopping, or until my lunch hour is up.

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annew May 8, 2011 at 10:57 am

sounds like you’re on the right track.

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Deirdre Reid April 30, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I’ve been using SlimTimer combined with Egg Timer. I set Egg Timer to 30 minutes so I’ll take breaks to get up and walk around or do a small chore. Otherwise I get dull, plus all that sitting is bad for our bodies. In SlimTimer you can set up categories by client or type of work to keep track of the time you spend on each project. It’s amazing how many hours I would read a day if I didn’t take charge of my time like this.
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annew May 2, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Rats, slimtimer doesn’t support chrome… sigh

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Lori April 29, 2011 at 8:55 am

Great idea, Anne! I usually psyche myself into writing fiction by saying “I’ll give it 15 minutes.” Luckily, it’s almost always longer. Love the idea of the timer. I use one similar called Project Timer. Aren’t these tools great?
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annew April 29, 2011 at 11:34 am

I’ll have to try project timer… I’ve been using grindstone, and it is a real tyrant! What kind of fiction?

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jorgekafkazar April 28, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Oooh! Nifty.

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annew April 29, 2011 at 11:37 am

Nifty? Okay ;)

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L.C. Gant April 28, 2011 at 1:28 pm

This is a fantastic idea. I never thought to do it before. It’s one of those fundamental tools of freelance writing that everyone should utilize. Thanks for posting! I really needed this information :)
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annew April 29, 2011 at 11:43 am

You’re welcome. I’m sure someone suggested it to me way back when.

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