Unlike most “professional writers”, I never wanted to be a writer. At the age of 19, I decided to become an entrepreneur, but I never thought of making money through writing.
Today, I’m 23 years old, published more than 400 articles online, self-published a German book, and make an average of $8k to $10k through my writing business.
On average, I spend 10 to 15 hours per week writing. The rest of my time is dedicated to my personal growth business and to B2B projects from various industries.
When I tell people that I published 20–35 pieces per month in 2020, most of them think that I spend all my time typing words. But the reality is that I figured out how to speed up my writing process so that I can free up enough time for my other projects.
I put myself in jail
Whenever I start a writing session, I put myself in a metaphorical jail.
Even though this might not sound particularly appealing, it turned out to be an effective strategy to get more writing done in a few hours than most people do in a few days.
That’s because of two reasons:
In jail, you have all the time. You don’t need to rush or stress yourself. Instead, you can just tackle one task after the other because you know that you have time. You can slow down, concentrate, and take time to get stuff done with ease.
Even though I use my mental jail mode to work more efficiently, it allows me to have more mental clarity, which is incredibly important as a writer.
If I feel stressed and overwhelmed, my writing slows down. If I feel as if I have lots of time, I can write without any concerns and get much more done.
When in jail mode, you eliminate all distractions. Imagine sitting in a prison cell where you only have items that you really need to get your work done. As a writer, that’s probably only your laptop (or a notebook) and maybe a book, a piece of paper, and a pen. You might add headphones and a bottle of water, but that’s basically it.
The fewer distractions you have, the more productive you’ll be. This applies to everything: Fewer distractions on your desk, on your digital devices, no notifications, and a calm mind.
For me, jail mode is synonymous with highly productive workhours.
When in jail, I experience flow states and easily write the first draft of two or three pieces at one go.
If your mind is focused, you’ll get more done in a few hours than most people accomplish in days — promised.
I Fell in Love With Baby Steps
One of my first coaches always preached taking baby steps. As someone who likes to think big, this approach didn’t really resonate with me.
It took me more than six months until I finally realized what he meant and how this piece of advice could help me be more effective during my working hours: Quite often, we make slow or no progress because we don’t know what to do.
We feel overwhelmed, unmotivated, or even desperate and don’t know how to keep going.
For many writers, the digital blank page leads to such inconvenient feelings. If you sit down to write but don’t know what to write, you might soon feel overwhelmed or unmotivated.
During such times, it’s better to write something than nothing at all.
I measure my productivity by the words I type per day. And during my most unproductive days, I always forced myself to do the minimum amount of work.
Sometimes, your baby step might be a 10-minute writing session. Sometimes, it might mean typing 100 words. And sometimes, it can even mean crafting ten new headlines.
You can’t give 100% every single day. Yet, you need to make writing a habit if you want to get paid for it.
Next time you feel lost or overwhelmed, come up with the smallest action you can take to move your writing career forward. No matter if that means writing 50 words or a new headline — any progress is better than no progress.
My mind is an idea generation machine
I never lack ideas. I manage all my article ideas and all types of information I come across in a project management tool called Trello.
Every day, I add at least two to three new ideas to my idea board. Right now, there are around 1,000 ideas that could one day turn into articles.
Are all of these ideas good? Hell no.
Most of them get straight to the “bad ideas corner”, but that’s not the point. If you have 1,000 ideas, you can be sure that you’ll never run out of things to write about, even if 90% of these ideas suck.
While there are tons of creativity techniques and idea generation methods, the not-so-sexy approach I use is consuming lots of content.
I read a lot, listen to podcasts while cooking, doing the dishes, or doing the laundry, visit dozens of workshops and seminars per year (except in 2020 — thanks, Covid), and constantly talk about the topics I write about.
I don’t write to write, but I write to share my work with the world. Above all, I’m an entrepreneur and a personal growth coach. My writing is a means to an end to reach more people with my products and services, not the end result.
That’s why 90% of my daily life is dedicated to generating and organizing ideas, even when I’m not aware of it.
My mind is wired to come up with new headlines all the time. That’s because I consumed so much content on how to do it correctly in the past years. I never sit down to come up with ideas. I just write down anything that comes to my mind throughout the day.
That’s also why Trello is the only work-related app on my phone so that I can instantly write down anything that comes to my mind.
I plan my articles before going to bed
I don’t write every day, but when I do, that’s how my typical writing schedule looks like:
- I finish writing one or two articles and run them through Grammarly.
- The next morning, I edit, run them through Grammarly again, and use the Hemingway Editor to find additional ways to improve my articles.
- After submitting, I start writing the next article.
I hate getting up in the morning and having to write an entire article. But I love editing as soon as I start working.
I feel like I’m a much better editor in the morning. Additionally, submitting an article in the morning gives me a sense of accomplishment and motivates me to keep writing even more.
I never start my day with a new article. I decide on the headline and outline the content before going to bed so that I can continue to work on that piece the next day.
I never force myself to write
I never write when I don’t feel like writing.
I tried to force myself to write at the beginning of my writing career, but the result was always the same: It took me so much more time to finish an article if I didn’t feel like doing it.
Instead, I write when I feel most writing-productive. For me, that’s in the morning or late in the evening. In between, I mostly do other work.
If you write during your personal biological peak time, you’ll get much more writing done in less time.
Each body is different and your peak time might be totally different from mine. That’s why it’s so important to know your energy levels and work in alignment with your body instead of working against it.
If you’re not aware of your biological peak time yet, you can figure it out by doing the following:
For 7–10 days, set an hourly alarm, and take notes on your energy level each time the alarm rings. By doing that consistently and analyzing your data, you’ll quickly realize certain patterns.
I set goals that I can actually influence
One of the most common mistakes new writers make is that they set goals they can’t even influence.
Medium writers, for instance, set the goal to hit a specific follower count, to get more views, or to make a certain amount of money through their writing.
That’s fair enough, but it’s not effective. As long as you’re exposed to an algorithm, you can’t really influence these numbers.
The only thing you can truly influence is your writing output, aka the number of words you type.
You can aim to write a specified number of articles or pitch a certain amount of companies to write for them, but you can’t really influence the views your articles get. You can hope for more views, but that’s not an effective strategy.
That’s why I always set writing goals related to my personal productive output. E.g., I know that I had a productive day when I typed more than 5,000 words.
I remind myself of why I’m doing it
I know that it sounds cliché, but it’s so important: If you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing, you won’t be good or fast at it.
All the strategies I mentioned are fair enough, but they wouldn’t help if I didn’t know why I’m trying to get so much done.
I have a vision for my future; I know what I want to experience in five, ten, and fifteen years. That’s why I’m happy to put in the work now.
If you don’t have a burning desire to make it work, you won’t do the work.
You can read dozens of books on productivity or creativity, but none of them will help if you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing.