Let’s talk about writing stress—the feeling when you look at the week’s to-do list and realize you need to figure out how to write faster for your …
1 long-form blog
1 email newsletter
7 Instagram captions for the week
… all on TOP of your client work and emails to type.
You feel like you’ll type so much you’ll erase your fingerprints, right?
Productivity hacks are my side hobby—I may have missed my calling as a supply chain manager, but found it here as a copywriter and calligrapher … where I DEFINITELY need productivity tips.
I counted up last week’s words, and realized I wrote 3,296 words JUST for my business’s marketing last week (1 blog, YouTube video script, copy for Instagram captions, and email newsletter copy).
That’s a lot, but I’m guessing you’re not too far behind.
“Every 2 days, we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003.”
WOW, right? That’s a lot of content for our noisy globe to handle.
It’s a big responsibility, too: it’s our job as creative small business owners to put out GOOD, worthy, and relevant content … content that is thought-provoking and worth the time it takes to read.
Because I don’t know about you, but a lot of that content is v.e.r.y. noisy.
And sometimes not worth the click-through on Pinterest. 😡
Here are 6 tips that I use to write content and copy faster, so you can create BETTER content and produce less noise.
1. Hack Your Time
Write during the best time of day for YOU.
Want to write faster? Opt for—typically—the first 4 hours of the day.
If possible, Gary Keller writes in my favorite business book, The One Thing, “select 4 hours first thing in the morning, when you have the most willpower.”
Want to write more creatively? Write whenever you’re groggiest (likely the wee hours or late at night).
WIRED Magazine referenced an Albion College study that tapped into college students to see when their most creative answers came.
“The larger lesson is that sleepy students … benefit from the inability to focus. Their minds are drowsy and disorganized, humming with associations that they’d normally ignore.”
So interesting, right?
I’ve TOTALLY done this before—if I have a huge client project that I’m intimidated to write (it happens!) or my own content for a launch, I’ll shake off my nerves by popping up at 5 a.m. or pulling a late night with a glass of wine beside me. It definitely makes me put less pressure on myself when I’m sleepyish!
(You’ll need to edit anything, sleepy or not—click here for a blog I wrote about how to DIY edit your work, and go ahead and install Grammar.ly for free to catch 99% of typos/edits you’ll make.)
Use The Pomodoro Technique
I’ve blogged about this before, but pretty much no matter what, if there’s a task I need to do, I whip out my phone and open the Focus Keeper app.
Parkinson’s Law states that work expands so as to fit the time available for its completion.
Basically, just ask me how I can stretch out a Netflix date with random British documentaries about castles if I don’t cap it. 💁
A Pomodoro sprint helps you stay on track during the task at hand: 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off.
Rinse and repeat.
Basically, just sprint out 25 minutes of grinding (no snack time, no IG!) before a 5-minute break. It works, I promise!
Want to scoop up a few more productivity tips? Here are 3 mindset-shifts I made in year one that grew my business quickly.
Embrace the Sh**ty First Draft
My second-grade self would be horrified to see that, because back then, we called them “sloppy copies.”
Writer Anne Lamont calls them shi**ty first drafts (gotta clean that up for spam filters!) in her book Bird by Bird, and somehow that sticks more in my head. 😉
This probably doesn’t seem like a task at ALL, but it’s a mindset shift you have to make to write faster.
Before you write, own that this will NOT be published today. It will take editing.
Back in agency days, my boss never let us send anything to our clients at Delta Air Lines without looking at it with “fresh eyes” the next day, so think about doing that.
Write messy, don’t pause to edit, and just get it out.
Get the draft going.
Sometimes, it’s not until your second, third, or even fourth round where the piece is where you want it to be.
Bonus tip? Create your own little code for things you’ll need to fill in later: I pop in placeholders constantly while I write a draft so I can move faster without having to stop to look something up.
For example, I use “NAME” when I can’t remember someone/something’s name, “TK” if there’s info that I don’t have yet (journalist-speak for “to come”), and “RSFF” for research/fact-finding I need to do.
Here’s what that would look like in action in a draft of caption copy:
Camellia bushes and azaleas from NAME cozied up on my porch this weekend—we’ll find a home for them [RSFF about when I need to plant them for seasons], but for now, I don’t mind their plastic containers one bit. 😉 Want more tips about first time gardening? Grab my free guide at TK!
So, that’s it. Accept that when you sit down to write this, it’s gonna be a sh**ty first draft.
Keep writing, and use placeholders, TK, etc. as needed.
Start with a Structure & with the End in Mind
Pretty sure even the most talented writers wouldn’t salivate over the great white page: it’s super intimidating and stressful.
The best way to beat the pause that happens when you stare at a blinking cursor is to start with a structure or template ready to roll.
“Copywriting should be approached the same way an engineer approaches the building of a bridge.” – John Caples
You can use templates for:
- Blog post outlines (I’ll show you mine below)
- Canned email responses (We’ve got some in the shop for stationer/calligraphers & entrepreneurs here! >> )
- Captions (Grab The AW Shop Instagram Party-Starters templates here!)
- Video scripts
- Subject lines
- Client magazines (Get your free copy swipe here >> )
- Sales pages
- Website page copy
- Headlines (Get the swipe of 27 website headline copy templates for $29)
Starting with a formula rocks for 2 reasons: First, you have a roadmap or recipe to follow, and secondly, it helps you keep the call-to-action top of mind.
Your call-to-action is that bite-size snippet of copy that encourages someone to take action—and by pulling together your outline FIRST, you’ll already know your destination.
For a few examples, I try to write all my Instagram captions in one day with this little outline:
Story: [story I’ll use to illustrate it]
CTA: [call-to-action I’ll use]
Image: [what image?]
One more example—here’s my blog post outline. When I start with this guy, I’m less terrified.
Give me a template and I’ll love you forever.
Pool Your Research
I wanted to call this “pool your tools.” 🙂
Writing will be SO much faster if you treat it like an art project or cooking show, and gather all your materials first. Like a chef’s mise en place, you want everything at your fingertips.
Writing an in-depth blog on something? Pull facts, stats, studies, and notes together.
Writing in your brand voice and still not super comfortable DIY’ing your copy? Have your brand voice style guide on hand to check yourself as you write.
Writing anything? SAVE IT! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a blog or Instagram caption, decided not to publish it, and just filed it … later, I’ll be able to salvage a bit of it for another post!
The other thing I like to have on hand is what my Copywriting for Creatives students know I call a “Copy Bank”—it’s basically a swipe file, but it’s more than just example email copy or headlines I like. Quotes, quips from magazines that made me laugh, one-liners I read on a BuzzFeed article at 2 a.m. when I couldn’t sleep … The Copy Bank system keeps me creatively charged.
Here’s a peek:
To note, I don’t reference my Copy Bank until AFTER I write most of the content … I just peek at it afterward, and if there’s a phrase that fits perfectly, I pop it in.
Peppering in phrases for “voice” post-writing can come across terribly cheesy, so just make sure it’s cohesive.
Write Somewhere Enjoyable
To most entrepreneurs this may be a *duh* comment, but I’m BIG on creating lovely spaces that make me want to work! I’m very affected by my sense of place, so making whatever writing spot I’m tapping the keys at work for me is important.
I usually have a few of the following nearby:
Essential oil diffuser (I like YoungLiving oils)
Plant or flowers
Mug of hot tea, kombucha, glass of wine, or water with essential oils in it
Art or vision board within eye-shot
I blogged about 18 ways that I stay creatively inspired over here, because getting in the mood to write is sometimes half the battle. Writer’s block isn’t a thing when you’ve got all your tools at the ready.
Okay, I want to hear from YOU! Comment below—what takes you forever to write? Could any of these tips speed up your flow?
And if you’re fleshing out your own copy bank for the first time without a clue how to describe your brand voice, I’ve got you: take my 11 question quiz to find your online voice vibe. I’ll hand over a swipe file of adjectives that describe your voice in 60 seconds! 👇