Is Writing Fast Really a Good Idea?

Pen and watch on notebook with room for text

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Recently, I’ve seen another flurry of posts and even eBooks that claim to teach writers how to write more quickly. (Out of respect for the authors, who are some of my most admired professional colleagues, I’ve decided not to link to those posts and resources here.)

I have to ask myself, is speedier writing really what we need? I’ve discussed this topic before in my post WritingThoughts versus The Five Minute Article Writers. While the latest advocates for speed writing may not be claiming you can write an article or blog post in five minutes, some of the reasons behind the need for speed are the same.

In this post, I take a fresh look at the idea of quick writing. I’ll look at what’s wrong with the idea of focusing on speed when writing. I’ll also explain when writing faster is a good idea.

Why Do We Want to Write Faster?

The main reason writers want to write more quickly is because they aren’t charging enough for their work. There, I said it.

If you’re writing for blog posts and articles for low pay, you’re going to have to do an awful lot of writing if you want to have a decent standard of living. I recently noticed a comment on a LinkedIn group from someone who had employed writers to write 500 word blog posts for $30 each. So let’s use that figure as an example.

According to the latest facts from the U.S. Census Bureau for the years 2008 through 2012, the median household income in the United States was $53,046. Let’s use that as a baseline figure for a decent standard of living.

Now, let’s figure out how many $30 blog posts or articles a writer would need to write to earn $53,046. Did you do the math?

It’s 1,768.2 articles a year. If you divide that figure by the 365 days a year, our $30 article writer would need to write 4.84 articles a day–that’s assuming they don’t take off even a single day for a holiday, sick day, or vacation.

No wonder some writers want to learn how to write faster!

Why Faster Writing Usually Isn’t a Good Idea

Writing faster isn’t the way to a better income. Instead, charging more reasonable rates for your writing services is.

The sad fact is that when we write faster, we are more likely to make mistakes or produce poor quality writing. Ultimately, that doesn’t help us as writers and it doesn’t help our clients–especially with Google’s continuing efforts to crack down on websites that publish poor content.

Unfortunately, the easiest way to write faster is to skip steps in the writing process. Here are the steps that usually get skipped:

  1. Research. It’s important for blog posts and especially articles to be well-researched and balanced. Unfortunately, most speed writers have little time to do thorough research on their topic.
  2. Proofreading and editing. Another way to save time on writing is to skip the step of editing your work. While this may save you time, it can also lead to some embarrassing mistakes.
  3. Originality. Sadly, some freelance writers take the easy way out and borrow content from other writers, either through outright plagiarism or by “spinning” articles to make them seem new.

None of these speedy writing solutions is acceptable. Sadly, however, those writers who hold fast to their high standards and to charging low prices are likely to be the writers whose freelance writing business fails. Most writers simply can’t sustain their writing business on extremely low prices.

How to Write Faster without Compromising Quality

So, do you want to write faster? There are some legitimate ways to do it, but you won’t ever be able to write fast enough to justify charging unprofessional rates.

Here are some legitimate ways to increase your writing speed:

  1. Stop wasting time. Most of us spend time on tasks that simply don’t need to be done. We are surrounded by distractions. Learn to manage some of those distractions and you will get more done. Put strict limits on necessary tasks like social media that can easily get out of hand.
  2. Use an editorial calendar. Choosing a good topic to write about takes time. Here’s where an editorial calendar can be a huge help. Once a month, sit down and come up with the ideas you will write about in the coming month.
  3. Focus on several writing niches. One of the advantages of becoming an expert on a topic is that you will spend less time on research as you learn more about that topic. You will be able to rely more on your own knowledge, which will save you time.

So, How Long Does Good Writing Take?

I really distrust bloggers who put a concrete figure (such as an hour) on how long it should take to write an article or blog post. Writing time really does vary, depending on the topic and how much the writer already knows about the subject. There are also variations in writing style and technique between writers that can account for time differences.

If you’re planning to hire a writer, try to give them enough time to do a good job. Avoid assigning an article or blog post and asking for it on the same day. If you know the subject is complex or if you are requesting that the article include an interview, you should consider allowing the writer about a week.

It’s better to allow the writer too much time, than to force them to rush through the job and perhaps accidentally compromise quality. Also, remember that the writer may have other projects on his or her plate.

Your Turn

What are your feelings about quick writing? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. says

    Wonderful post, Laura! As writers, a lot of what we earn is completely tied to our time so working efficiently AND charging a fair (to us as well as our clients!) rate is very important.

    You shared some great tips for better managing our writing time. Another thing I do for my blog ghostwriting clients who want to keep their costs as manageable as possible is to ask them to provide the key talking points and specific details they want included in the post. It significantly cuts down on my research time. They still wouldn’t get that work from me for $30, but it does help keep the client’s costs down.

    • says

      Dawn,

      Great tip! If they provide the main points, they are also more likely to get an article or post that they want.

      Unfortunately, too many people think writing is easy and that there’s not much to it.

  2. says

    I’m pretty much on the same page as you on this one. It’s certainly a problem if you don’t charge enough. You can’t fix that by writing faster. You can’t write at ridiculous speeds on a consistent and sustainable basis. I’ve watched writers claim they can for years. And most, if not all, of those writers seem to have dropped off the face of the earth now. If your goal is to constantly crank out more content in an hour because you work for low-budget clients and it’s the only way to make ends meet, you will eventually burn out and you will probably quit freelancing. This is a sad, and all too frequent, scenario.

    I think a lot of the talk about this issue lately is more on the “legitimate” side, with an emphasis on productivity and better time management. It doesn’t matter how much you charge on that front. Working smarter will always be better than working harder for the same results, whether you make $10 per article or $1000 per article.

    I always look for ways to write faster, but not in the sense of cramming more content or copy into my billable hours. I just love finding new ways to save time by trying different organizational tactics, timing tricks, to-do lists, etc. I’ve gotten things down to a pretty good system over the years, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop trying new things to get more productive with my time. For me it’s less about making more time for client work, and instead making more time for the things I really want to spend time on, whether that’s writing a novel or taking a nap. :)

    Good post Laura, and a great topic. It’s something to think about!

    • says

      Jenn,

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment. Working smarter is always the best way to work I think.

      Yes, not charging enough is definitely a ticket to burnout. I too have seen writers come and go.. Sadly, new writers who don’t charge enough seem to pop up when the old ones disappear.

      I think that the new emphasis on quality, driven partly by the Google algorithm updates, is one reason we don’t see as many “bargain” writers as we used to. But the example of the client hiring $30 writers on LinkedIn was current and several writers indicated an interest.

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