7 Ways Freelance Writers Can Write More Efficiently

by Anne Wayman

writing efficencyFreelance writer Lawrence Ineno, who blogs at Mighty Prose, asked for some tips on writing efficiently.

Freelance writers need to write efficiently if they are to earn well.

These days I’m a pretty efficient writer – I should be, I’ve been practicing for years! More than I care to admit, actually.

Practice is certainly one of the secrets to writing productivity – the more you write the better you’ll get at it.

Here are some other ways you can get lots of writing done:

Create a writing schedule. I suspect creating and sticking to a writing schedule actually helps your brain switch into writing mode more easily. Sure, when, for example, I write at some other time and place, that can also spark creativity, but my brain and body know they will start writing about 7 am every morning.


Eliminate distractions. Turn off the radio, stop reading email, ignore youtube and the television. Shut the door on your family and friends, explaining you’re working – yes, really working. In coffee shops, wear ear phones that block the distraction of everyone talking and eating. I know I write more efficiently when I’m really paying attention and it’s easiest for me to pay real attention in silence.

Develop a niche or two. The advantage of having a niche is you don’t have to reinvent yourself and your writing with every assignment. For example, I’ve been writing about freelance writing for many years. Although I still do research about writing, I don’t have to do as much as I did in the beginning. I’m more efficient or productive writing about writing than any other subject I can think of.

Learn to type. Seriously, if you’re trying to write efficiently using just a couple of fingers, it’s worth learning how to type with all 10. There are a ton of sites that will help you learn for free. Just google learn to type.

Be willing for your draft to be really rough. Don’t get stuck editing before you’ve created a rough draft. Get those thoughts down first, then edit them ruthlessly. Your first draft isn’t supposed to be perfect.


Work for cleaner drafts. Once you get good at getting rough drafts down, you can begin to work at making those drafts cleaner. I think the best way to do that is to slow down just a bit. Be really present with your writing, letter by letter, word by word, sentence by sentence. This skill comes with practice, which is where we started.

No matter what kind of writing you’re doing, from creative through corporate, learning to be efficient is a matter of patience, practice and willingness.

How have you learned to write more efficiently?

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Diana Schneidman August 22, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Anne, not only does it help to know how to type well, but I find it best to use an ergonomic keyboard. This means I do my serious work at the desk in my office.

It’s much faster, plus it’s better for the wrists.

-Diana

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annew August 23, 2012 at 8:08 am

Yes, I use an ergonomic keyboard too.

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Amandah August 4, 2012 at 5:17 am

Great post!

I use Windows Calendar for my writing schedule. It works for me. I also have to eliminate distractions such as email and social media. I’ll listen to the radio if I fee I need an energy boost to finish my writing. Or, I’ll take a break and go for a walk.
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annew August 6, 2012 at 10:46 am

Windows calendar… sigh there are so many calendars and I’m not happy with any of them it seems.

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Dorothy August 2, 2012 at 8:10 pm

When I write articles, I usually don’t write them on Microsoft Word but on Notepad++ since Word auto corrects my grammar and spelling.

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annew August 6, 2012 at 10:43 am

You mean you don’t want the spell correction etc? I’m confused.

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Johnny August 2, 2012 at 1:50 am

Hi Anne,

Thanks for this post. I’ve just started writing (at the grand ripe age of 62) and this certainly helps improving my efficiency!

Thanks again,

John
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annew August 2, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Johnny, you’re just a child, trust me. Well, maybe a teenager… ;)

And look what you’re writing about… I’d make a comment but I don’t understand it… not your fault.

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Travis Brown August 1, 2012 at 10:14 am

“Be willing for your draft to be really rough.” So guilty on this one. When I write, I want it to be my final draft right then and there. I am fairly impatient with my writing, and I would like to improve upon that. Thinking of it as iterations may help me understand why what I’ve written cannot be the final piece. A software company does not release their product in the alpha or beta versions.

Thanks for the help. I am definitely coming back to read the entirety of the 30 days of writing tips so I can put them into practice.
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annew August 2, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Travis, let me know which tips work best for you.

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jorgekafkazar July 31, 2012 at 1:38 pm

When working with a large m/s, I avoid editing at the wrong level, especially when other parties are involved in the process. First pass is always at the outline level–is everything here that’s supposed to be here, and vice versa? Are things in the right order? Second pass is at the content level–is the material clear? Is the piece coherent? Does it emphasize the right sections? Is it unified, or does it orbit Robin Hood’s barn? Third pass gets into grammar, syntax, style. Fourth pass catches any remaining problems, plus spelling & punctuation, often done from back to front. Heaven help the person who goes back to a previous pass. This saves me hours.

How is everything, Anne?

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annew August 1, 2012 at 9:30 am

Jorge, I’ve rarely written by committee and I don’t like it at all. I generally follow your method, but because I’m working solo there’s more flexibility… I’ll often find I’ve left something out of the original outline or list while I’m writing… as a solo practiontioner it’s easy to add what I need.

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Cindi July 31, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Anne – These are timely reminders with school days and chaos just around the corner. Thank you. I find that writing my headline first helps improve my writing efficiency. After I have the headline, I know what research I need to fill in weak spots and the article or blog post almost writes itself.

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annew August 1, 2012 at 9:28 am

Cindi, I’ll start with a topic which sometimes is my headline, but more often the headline comes later, even last. Love the differences.

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Sharon Hurley Hall July 31, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Learning to touch type was one of the best things I ever did, Anne. It saves me so much time (though I now save even more and dictate some of my work).
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annew August 1, 2012 at 9:24 am

I haven’t tackled dictating yet, but it’s on my list, somewhere.

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