Anyone can tell you how to raise your freelance income by putting in MORE time and effort. But maybe you don’t have the time or energy to improve your skills or burn the midnight oil right now. That’s OK! In fact, it’s actually a good thing.
It’s easy to get lost in the idea that “the hustle is king.” But the reality is, we all have a limited amount of time to devote to work. So I want to show you a way to increase your income while doing LESS work.
How? By working faster, so you get more done.
If you’re a writer and you double your writing speed, you can accomplish twice as much — and earn twice as much — as you did before. Or you can make the same amount of money in half the hours, so you can work less and spend more time doing things you love.
Clients will love it too because you’ll offer more value than your competitors. (My first client nicknamed me “The Machine” — and I wasn’t even that fast of a writer back then.)
Here are 3 techniques I’ve personally used to double my output and then some.
1. Let your thoughts percolate before you write a single word
Before you sit down to start writing, start by just thinking about how to tackle the project. Spend a few minutes thinking deeply about the end result you’re working toward … then forget it.
Your subconscious mind is a powerful creative force that’s more than capable of solving difficult problems, figuring things out, and generating amazing ideas. But you need to let it do its job.
You’d be surprised at how often relaxing in a warm shower, taking a walk and breathing in some fresh air, or even eating a cookie can be more productive — and more fun — than staring at a blank screen for 45 minutes straight in sheer frustration.
The less you try, the better it works. When you remove yourself for a day or two (or even longer) after that initial thought session, you’ll find that clear ideas will naturally flow faster and easier.
For example, a couple of months ago I knew I wanted to write a blog post about how to confidently charge what you’re worth.
It’s such a big topic, I knew if I just sat down and pounded the keyboard I’d quickly get caught up in the weeds. But after letting my thoughts settle over a weekend, I realized I didn’t need a long, “epic” post to explain what I was trying to say — in fact, I immediately saw that a simple story would work best.
This resulted in one of my most successful posts this year (notice the 80+ comments).
2. Use an emotional compass
The best work comes from your emotional side, not just your rational brain. This isn’t just true for writers and designers — even a trial lawyer performs best when they’re “in the zone.”
Before I start working on a project or task, I like to write down a few emotional words related to the thing I’m working on. These are usually what I want people to feel when they read what I’m writing.
For example, when I wrote one of my most popular posts, How To Become A Copywriter Quickly Using My “Crystal Ball Technique”, I wanted people to feel empowered, hopeful, energetic, inspired, and optimistic.
Like a compass, this helps your subconscious mind do its job by giving it a direction to go in. It also helps you infuse your work with emotion so it will produce a bigger impact.
3. Write a “burn draft”
Once you’ve given your thoughts time to percolate, you can then force yourself to write out an entire first draft. I like to force myself to do it in one sitting, even if it’s rough — this is known as a burn draft.
The reason this works so well is because you’ll usually have to edit your first draft whether you spend 30 minutes on it — or 30 days. So you may as well get it out of the way as quickly as possible.
This tactic alone has helped me shave weeks if not MONTHS of work off my plate every year.
The trick is to not get hung up on the details. When writing a burn draft I’m mainly focused on getting good thoughts and ideas onto the page. I’m not nearly as concerned with whether it’s complete, whether it sounds good, or even whether or not it makes sense at this point. That part comes later.
For example, my burn draft for this post contained all 3 of the tactics I wanted to show you, with some half-assed explanations that didn’t make nearly as much sense as what you’re reading now.
But I managed to get the bones of the post down on paper in that first sitting, then I refined it later. My typical routine is to let the burn draft sit for at least 24 hours before looking at it again. That way, when I come back to it, my mind is totally fresh and I see new ways to edit and refine it into something solid.
Bonus Tactic: Work with the intention of being fast
Last year a friend called and asked me how he could write faster. He’d been doing freelance copywriting for a while but felt he could do much better if he added some speed to his game. I told him I could probably help him write twice as fast, but I couldn’t talk just then so I had to call him back the next day.
When we finally connected 24 hours later he surprised me by telling me he’d ALREADY managed to write about 25% quicker — overnight! I congratulated him and asked him how he’d done it. His answer: “Just having the intention of writing faster, and knowing it was possible, helped me do it.”
Do you have any tricks for working faster?
I’d love to hear them and I know other FTW readers would be grateful if you shared them too. Can you take a minute to share your favorite one in the comments? (Creative work is a very personal thing, so don’t be afraid to get weird on these.)