Productivity hack for writers

Easy Productivity Hack for Freelance Writers

We were down at my family’s beach house last week with my sister, who also happens to be a freelancer. Naturally, we were both working while on vacation. The beauty of self-employment and freelancing!

So we’re sitting at the table, laptops out, hoping to wrap up some work before hitting the beach. I was telling her about the assignment that I had to finish, and she asked me how much it paid.

When I told her the amount, she said, “that shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes.” I thought about it for a second and realized that she was right.

I didn’t need to drag this assignment out any longer than it needed to be. After all, we had to get the beach at some point! But in all seriousness, time is money and the time that it takes to do a job for the rate that you’re receiving has to be a part of the calculation.

So how could I get it done in just 15 minutes without being distracted by thoughts of warm sand between my toes? Keep on reading…

Your hourly rate matters

When it comes to freelancing, your hourly rate is something that you have to stay on top of. You get to decide how much (or how little) you’re willing to work for, and then you need to find those clients who recognize your value.

Let’s be honest, you can easily screw yourself over by accepting assignments that require a lot of research and thought, but that pay a pitiful hourly rate. I’ve been there, especially when I was just getting started.

Related: How I Started Freelance Writing, and how you can, too!

You have to determine your hourly rate and figure out how much time an assignment should take before you accept, and then stick to that time.

Unsure if you’re charging enough? Here’s a great post for freelancers detailing how to calculate your hourly rate.

Managing time by avoiding distractions

I tend to drag out simple assignments, just because I am so easily distracted. Something that would take me 15-20 minutes can turn into an hour or more.  I’ll keep stopping to go off and do something else, open new tabs in my browser, check Twitter, etc.

It’s incredibly unproductive, I know! Distraction and procrastination can kill my hourly rate if I let them.

Are you a procrastinator too?

Good time management skills are critical when freelancing and working from home.

Here’s where we get to the good stuff. My one super simple trick that helps keep me on track so I can write faster and get more done.

How to Stop Procrastinating

As I gave it some more thought, that afternoon I realized that I could stick to a self-imposed time limit and increase my productivity simply by…

Setting a timer.

Seriously! Why didn’t I think of this before?!

So I simply set the stopwatch on my smartphone and get busy writing.

That first time that I tried this super simple productivity, I set the timer for 15 minutes. I closed all other tabs and got to work on an easy, short blog post assignment. I put the phone aside so that I wouldn’t be tempted to look and see how many minutes I had left.

In just 15 minutes, I had produced a brief post that I was happy with. I spell checked it and proofread it. I made the tweaks and corrections where needed.

I hit “send” on the file, and was ready to hit the beach!

Mission accomplished, and without distractions.

If you struggle to stay focused like me, I recommend giving this freelancing productivity hack a try. Writing online can be especially tough because the internet offers so many distractions. You can still produce quality work and cut down on the time that it takes by simply holding yourself accountable.

Quick and easy hack for freelancers


Do you have a productivity hack that helps you to stay focused?

22 thoughts on “Easy Productivity Hack for Freelance Writers”

  1. Mona (aka Moxie-Dude)

    Ha! Thanks for sharing your experience. You totally sound like me. I’m the QUEEN OF DISTRACTIONS. I read somewhere that our “normal” attention span should be around the 50 minute mark. For that reason, I set the timer on my iPhone to 50 minute chunks. It seems to work because as soon as I think, “Gee. I wonder what’s happening on Facebook …” I immediately counter that thought with, “I’ll check when the timer goes off.” So far, so good 🙂

  2. I have started to try to track my productivity as I’ve been a little bit disorganized in that respect. I’ll have to try it out!

  3. I love this. Just started dipping my toes into the freelance world and I’ll have to keep in mind what I think my time is worth and give this hack a try. Thank you for sharing.

  4. The timer saved my life on the hourly rate. I was spending WAY too much time on client work. Giving myself 30-minute increments to complete things and turning off internet is a wonder.

  5. I’ve definitely dragged out tasks that shouldn’t take long. I drive myself crazy but sometimes it can be so hard to focus! I think I may try this tomorrow at work. I will give myself a time limit to complete a task. Sounds like a great way to keep focused and motivated. Thanks for the tip Lauren!

  6. I freelance write once a week and have contracted freelance writers for my blog and the one thing that worries me is writers trying to get posts done faster and faster to bring up their hourly rate. Having only one freelance writing client has allowed me to put more energy into my posts and create (what I think) are very high quality posts. I could see myself getting in the habit of going for speed over quality if I had more and more clients. It’s a tough balance.

    1. I can understand the concern when hiring freelancers. I think it really depends on the writer and the content. I’ve been writing web content for so long now, I feel very confident in my ability to produce a quality post in a short amount of time, especially since I get positive feedback from clients.

    2. I tend to agree. Actually I find myself rushing the short less enjoyable assignments to up my rate, and then taking ages to polish assignments like magazine features – I really enjoy those and to be honest don’t think too much about my hourly rate on those. But then again I don’t freelance fulltime so I don’t have that pressure! I know I’d really be miserable if I did it fulltime and writing became a total chore. It’s different as a staffer.

      1. I do that too, on assignments that I’m really trying to make a great impression with. I’ll go over it again and again, but at some point, I know I have to stop over-analyzing it.

  7. I’ve never used a timer, that’s a good idea! Usually I need to turn everything around me off and work in silence to really be productive.

  8. I’m not a freelancer, but I use a stopwatch as well. I’m a bit of a procrastinator so I was usually writing post on the last minute, but now I tell myself to write 20 minutes each day and that way I keep my writing going. Sometimes I reset the timer when I’m on a roll, but for the most part I’m either done or I stop and continue another time. The stopwatch idea has worked pretty good for me.

  9. Shannon @ Financially Blonde

    When I get into my writing mode, I literally remove all distractions. I have nothing but Word up on my computer (unless I need to research something, but that is the only site that will be up), I put on noise canceling headphones and hide my cell phone. If I commit to this for a few hours, I can generate a TON of content. It has taken me months to figure this out though. I think we all have to find the best productivity for us and there is no one sized fits all solution.

  10. I use the stopwatch idea and I also book slots of time in my calendar to complete tasks. It really does increase productivity. Now I just need to slot some breaks…

  11. That’s so smart keeping in mind your hourly rate. I work a normal full-time job so even though I’m salaried, I basically have a dollar-per-hour tied to my time. When I freelance, I shouldn’t go too much lower than I can get paid at work. But then again, I’m new so I can take an appropriate drop for my noobness.

    That’s cool you’re both freelancers. I have yet to meet one in real life…!

  12. I’ve tried the stopwatch app trick too and it works great! Having that clock ticking away really makes me stay focused and block out distractions.

  13. Toby @ One Six Zeros

    So many different distractions these days. I too find it hard to keep focused. I find that so long as I am writing something that I am enjoyed, my focus is much better. If not, or if there is some sport of writers block I have, I am usually onto youtube being distracted. Argh! its too easy! stupid internet. hehehe

  14. Brandy @ Busted Budget

    Loving the timer idea. I haven’t broken into the freelance game, yet, but this would also work for other things like cleaning. That’s where I tend to be distracted.

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