Welcome to the first Monday in March. I pulled a muscle in my side, which made me think I hurt my kidney somehow. It’s still painful after about a week, but I can still roll out of bed, so I have that going for me.
Here are a few things I’d like to share from The Editor’s Desk.
Learning to write faster
If you are a freelance writer and get paid by the hour, you probably don’t want to write faster than you already do. You actually lose money being a faster writer. However, for most other situations (especially when facing deadlines), it can pay to learn how to write your content more quickly. To follow are some quick tips on increasing your writing speed:
- Write a bad first draft. There’s no need to be perfect with your first draft. Get the words on the page.
- Walk away from the writing. Taking a break can re-energize you and make you faster when you return to the keyboard.
- Write in your head. Think about what you want to say, how you want to say, how you want to organize your sections, etc. before putting the words down.
- Find the best time of day to write the first draft. Some people are great in the morning, others work best at the end of the day or after lunch. You’ll know when you’re most productive.
- Write to the quality of the project and the client’s needs. Some projects require more effort and quality than others. Don’t spend the time to write a thesis when you’re writing a blog post on the top 10 best pizza places in your city.
- Outsource some of your tasks. Hire a virtual assistant to handle the administrative work while you spend time on writing.
- Write about familiar topics. If you’ve written a few articles on one topic, you’ll be able to write more quickly on related topics because you already know the terminology and main issues.
- Write blog posts in batches. If you have a calendar of assignments, or a plan to write blog posts on similar topics, bang them all out one after another when the words are flowing.
- Reduce revisions. Don’t edit or revise when you’re writing. Limit the number of revisions that clients can make – charge more for each one.
- Write longer pieces. Having to start a new project takes time. Writing long pieces keeps you immersed in the writing, and you’ll work at getting it done more quickly than starting something new.
PS. I wrote a blog post about being a faster writer here.
Turning away potential clients
As a freelance writer – or any self-employed person – there will be times when you need to turn clients away. It’s actually a way to grow your business. When you turn away the wrong clients, you make room for the right clients. It can be scary to turn down paying gigs, but there are a number of reasons why you should turn away potential clients:
- The (hourly) rate is too low. It might be a “good” project rate, but the amount of work involved could reduce the hourly rate below minimum wage.
- It’s a one-off assignment. If you have to choose between regular work and a one-off, it usually makes sense to turn down the one-off assignment because regular work just keeps bringing in money and opportunities. Of course, some one-off assignments are worth it, especially if they give you experience in a new industry.
- The work is not in your niche. Again, if it’s a market you want to be in, it’s good experience for the portfolio. But if you don’t plan to work in this niche, pass it along to someone else.
- Your writing style does not match the brand voice. Yes, you can learn to write in a new style or voice, but if it’s very different from you usual style, it will be challenging for you and a bad fit for the client.
- The client is likely to be difficult. Stay away – the pay is rarely worth the grief.
- The client’s desired strengths and requirements are different from yours. Don’t try to fit your square peg into their round hole.
- There’s a mismatch of personalities. You work with people, not just words, so you need to be able to get along. If it’s not a fit, everyone will be unhappy, especially you.
- You have a bad “feeling”. Trust your gut. If it does not feel like it’s right, walk away.
How to write compelling introductions
People will often decide to read an article or blog post based on the heading. However, a strong introduction will keep them reading. Kayleigh Moore wrote a great blog post on how to write compelling introductions. She breaks it down to three steps:
- Step 1: Distill the point of your content into a single, concise sentence.
- Step 2: Tease out the most interesting aspect of your sentence.
- Step 3: Write three to four short, conversational sentences based on the first two steps.
Here’s a great quote: ... the short, abbreviated intro gives the reader a chance to warm up to you, your writing voice, and what you’re about to share with them. It doesn’t make any assumptions about the readers’ problems or concerns—and it’s conversational and light.
Editing mistakes to avoid
I know some writers hate editors because they don’t like other people changing what they wrote or commenting on their perfect words. (I’ve been there, and have developed an objective approach to writing for clients.) Unfortunately, too many writers will take to editing their own work, which can actually make it worse than before. Sola Kehinde at Craft Your Content wrote an article on six editing mistakes to avoid as a professional writer:
- Depending on self-editing alone (we never see our own mistakes)
- Asking family and friends to edit your work (I hate showing them the finished work!)
- Not understanding the different types of editing (there are BIG differences between them)
- Doing different edits in the wrong order (that can cause so many problems)
- Hiring one editor for different types of editing (not always an issue)
- Thinking of beta readers as editors (they have a specific role, and it’s not editing)
Here’s a great, self-serving quote: To ensure you get objective and honest feedback about your writing so you can achieve your writing goals, always choose a professional editor or an editing agency instead of family and friends who may only tell you what they think you want to hear.
How to read more
Finding time to read can be a challenge. How much I read from year to year will vary, but I have been trying to make time to read – keeping books by my bed, turning off the TV to read, bringing a book with me during appointments, etc. Elaine Meyer at Doist wrote a blog post on how to read more. There is a lot of great information in this post, including how to build a reading habit:
- Make it easy to start
- Start small (this goes for everything you want to do)
- Read at a certain time of day
- Multi-task with audiobooks
- Make time
- Create a distraction-free environment
- Try visual cues
- Take notes (I’ve started keeping a notebook where I wrote two pages about the book I read)
- Write reviews
- Put down a book you’re not enjoying (YES!)
- Make reading an enjoyment, not an obligation
Here’s a great quote: One of the most effective ways to spend less time on habits like social media, online shopping, or playing video games, is to build “friction” into how you access them. You can also use the friction principle the opposite way for reading. Reduce your reading friction by making it as easy as possible to read books. Plan how you’ll buy or borrow books and the tools you’ll use to read, like e-readers and audiobook apps.
Resource: How to create a profitable eBook and course
If you want to create your own eBook or mini-course, check out Felicia Sullivan‘s step-by-step guide I Created a 201-Page Profitable eBook & Mini Course in One Month. It is published on Medium so you might need a membership to read it (I have three free views per month, as should you, so choose wisely). The guide covers:
- Selecting a topic
- Building an outline
- Pre-selling the book
- Writing the book
- Publishing the book
What I wrote
What I read
I just finished reading How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa. It’s a collection of short stories on different people, mostly Laotian immigrants, occupying the same world. It was a great read, as the stories flowed and the characters were interesting and real.
What I watched
My daughter and I watched the movie Finding ‘Ohana. It’s about two siblings from Brooklyn who go to Oahu with their mom to help take care of their grandfather, where they learn about their heritage and seek a mysterious treasure. It’s a fun family movie.
What I listened to
The Build Your Copywriting Business podcast, episode #15, described the 11 traits of the most successful copywriters. It’s an informative episode, so check it out.
Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.