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More Productivity or More Money?

fast writingElance recently sent out an email with links to an article by Ed Gandia, co-author of The Wealthy Freelancer called 6 Painless Ways to Boost Your Productivity as a Freelancer.

It’s a decent article with six workable ideas. I disagree with how he sets his business hours because he includes things like the gym and shopping while I do those outside my much shorter day – but I take his meaning. I also tend to focus for something like 30 minutes before taking a couple of minute break – again, the gist of the idea is a good one; how we each work it out is likely to be individual.

I’m not sure, however, that I agree with the premise – that writers tend to allow distractions and that productivity is the key to a successful writing career.

Most of the writers I know, once they got the hang of it, are highly disciplined about their work. They write regularly, have become good at editing their own work and are generally doing most of what they need to do to be successful.

What’s missing is not productivity but self-worth

What’s missing for many, I think, is not productivity, but a real recognition of the worth of their work. This is, for most of us, measured by the money we earn.

The question becomes then not how to be more productive but how to earn more money with the writing they’re already producing.

Maybe this is on my mind because a new writer I know was recently doubting she had the talent to even write for a content mill. When I went to her blog she was writing intelligently and well about business communications. I could only conclude that she had no idea how good and valuable her writing is.

So how are we to know if our writing is worth anything at all? There are several ways:

  • Start submitting to magazines and other places that pay decently – Writer’s Market is still the best source for these efforts. For a new writer I’d actually suggest sending articles out on spec – that is, over the transom, paying particular attention to markets that say they like having new writers. Yes, there will be rejection, but that’s part of the process, but if you’re a decent writer and smart about where you start submitting you’ll find yourself making some sales, which is where it starts.
  • Work inside for awhile. I learned how good my writing was when I took a magazine job and began to watch other writers. It turned out I was faster then most of them and most of the time my copy needed less editing. I don’t know why, but it was good to know.  You can create a similar instructive environment by joining or starting a writing group.
  • Compare your writing with other’s. There are plenty of blogs around. Read a post on several of your favorites and ask yourself honestly how your writing compares. This requires you to step back away from your fears but you can learn a lot about your own writing from this exercise.



If, as I suspect, you find you can write reasonably well, it’s likely that you don’t need to be more productive in your writing but more aggressive in your marketing. Do it well and you’ll find you can increase your income – perhaps to the point you can actually work part time, productively of course.

How do work to increase your income?

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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Thanks, Anne, for this. I’ve come to the conclusion that I CAN write well; now I just need to get over the awkwardness of marketing. Writing makes me feel competent but marketing does not!
    Elizabeth West recently posted..Vocabulary: Kickin’ Letter KMy Profile

    • Marketing is like writing… it’s a practice… thanks for sparking the idea for a post!

  • I go for money! Well, no, sometimes I go for productivity. Then I’m back to money. It’s a see saw, but at the end of the day, it always comes down to value for the client.

    • Well said Helen, value and service for the client.

  • Pam

    I’m just starting to do more freelance (have sold a few articles in the past). Just wondering… When you say to “send the articles out on spec (over the transom),” do you mean to circumvent queries and just send the article manuscript on spec? Don’t most top-paying magazines require query first?

    • Pam, I’ll answer in more detail later, but over the transom isn’t intended to circumvent queries – new writers are more apt to make a sale when they submit a completed article to magazines. Once you’ve got even a couple of credits queries are the name of the game mostly.

    • Pam – here’s the post I promised.

      • Pam

        I’m not sure where to find “the post you promised.” Where do I click?

  • It might have been the fear of going solo more than the writing and that bled over to my writing where I struggled. When my confidence was boosted, the writing began to flow again.

    We miss you over at CCC! 🙂
    Cathy Miller recently posted..How to Keep Your Business Writing SimpleMy Profile

  • Anne:

    I agree with you that the lack of productivity is probably not the reason for writers not being successful. But, your confidence can be the key to productivity.

    I am very grateful that when I first started freelancing that your blog was one of the first ones I discovered. YourWrite well and often really resonated with me. In the beginning, I struggled with writing a 500-word article, as I continually self-edited while writing.

    I found when I was struggling, I allowed myself to be distracted-anything to take me away from the pain of insecurity. The answer, as you often say, write, write, then write some more.

    Find some creative distractions, A big one for me was (and is) Creative Copy Challenge. And if you have the big Catholic guilt pang, like I do, do it on the weekend. Creative Copy Challenge did more for my confidence than anything else I’ve tried. The community is so supportive, the words challenging. It brought the fun back into writing. This is why I became a writer! It showed me that I really can write.

    So, thank you to you, Anne, for your inspiration and support, and thanks to Shane over at CCC. This writer is extremely grateful.
    Cathy Miller recently posted..How to Keep Your Business Writing SimpleMy Profile

    • I love Creative Copy Challenge even tho’ I haven’t been doing it lately… would never have guessed you needed a confidence booster… thanks for sharing that with us.

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