I write three product guides per week, each 2,000 to 4,000 words.
This forms the foundation of my monthly income, and it also takes up more time than just about anything else I do project wise.
1,000 words generally takes me an hour, so simple math says the articles should take me about nine hours per week.
But I’m also responsible for creating graphics, finding YouTube videos, editing, formatting, embedding the media, and creating social media posts for each guide. It’s fair to say this takes at least an additional 90 minutes each. That means the three guides take an average of 13.5 hours per week liberally speaking. 15 hours is probably closer to the mark.
I Thought I Was Optimized to the Hilt Already
I’ve maintained a similar schedule for a long time. In fact, with all my other projects, 5,000-word days are often the norm.
So, I’ve had a lot of time to experiment and look at this problem from different angles. There are many known and predictable factors with something like a product guide (more on this in a moment), and it’s gotten to the point where it’s less of a creative challenge and more a matter of just putting the hours in.
I’d looked at all the angles, spent time outlining, created templates, batch processed, and experimented with other tricks and hacks. So, despite the desire to get this work done more efficiently in my weekly schedule, I was already optimized to the hilt.
Or so I thought.
Here’s What I Realized Today…
An article is made up of different parts. It seems kind of obvious, but how often do you think about it?
A product guide is essentially made up of:
List of individual products (usually five to 15)
Shopping tips / FAQ
The parts that tend to move rather quickly are the introduction, shopping tips and FAQs section, and conclusion. In other words, everything other than the list of products, which is the most research and labor intensive, time-consuming part.
So, the Weird Mental Hack I Discovered Was This:
I started telling myself that I was just writing product descriptions. And if I dedicated myself to that task, for all three guides, without worrying about the other parts, I would have 80% of the work done. The remaining 20% of the articles would basically take care of themselves.
So, that’s what I did today. I focused on writing product descriptions, which basically amounts to summarizing what the developer says about them and inserting some personal thoughts into the equation.
Today, in the time that it usually takes me to barely write one full guide (in other words, about 3,000 words), I was able to write nearly 5,000 words. As result, one guide is nearly 80% complete. Another is about 70% complete. The third is started.
Because, as I said, 80% is not about the word count, but rather a matter of whether the product list has been developed in full. The other 20% takes less time and is much easier to write – so, this part is better left to later, when my creative energies are waning, as opposed to when they’re at their height.
Here’s Your Takeaway:
If you live in a create on demand world like I do, then doing your work more efficiently is the difference between finishing your weekly to-do list and not. It’s the difference between earning an extra $200 to $500 per week and not. It’s the difference between falling behind on your tasks and having a head start on next week.
The takeaway, then, is to identify the different parts of an article and to understand which sections take the greatest effort. These are the parts that you want to tackle first. And, if you can look at them through a new lens, it could boost your productivity too.
In my case, instead of looking at each product guide as a self-contained article, I identified the commonalities and began work on the most challenging parts before worrying about the rest. My lens was transformed from “a list of individual products” to “product descriptions.” That changed the way I thought about the guides.
Basically, the top-down approach to writing articles might not be the most efficient method. We know that we’ll need an introduction of some kind. We know that we’ll need a conclusion too. But starting at A and ending at Z might stifle your creativity instead of unleashing it.
And it’s the same thing with any other type of project you might be working on. Anything you do for a long time, even things you enjoy, can become familiar, and as they say, familiarity breeds contempt. You may be at the point where you’re working on the same things you’ve worked on for years, and you might think there’s no room left for optimization.
If you can reframe how you think about it, though, you might be able to squeeze enough efficiency out of your new approach for it to be worthwhile.
When it comes to writing, there’s a right way of doing things and a wrong way of doing things.
Really? I’d like to challenge that notion.
Because I’m starting to see more and more thinly veiled resentment disguised as constructive criticism on Medium, some of which seems to be aimed directly at me. And I’m about up to here with it.
Have fun with your resentment. Go ahead, be right about everything. You are god incarnate and you must be infallible because you have trillions of disciples who say so.
I beg to differ. And here are just some of the many nonsense tips I’ve recently come across that frankly make we want to gouge my kneecaps out with a dull pickle. Let’s get into it.
Articles Must be a Certain Length to be Valuable
It seems many publications only accept stories that are at least four to five minutes long. And I get it. I’ve run Music Entrepreneur HQ for many years now, and we’ve set certain guidelines in place for our contributors because of the many trolls and opportunity seekers who sometimes don’t even have a firm grasp of the topics we cover let alone the domain where our site is located.
Which leaves us feeling like this:
Now, you can set your own rules and guidelines as you see fit. I see no problem with that.
But I can also tell you that some of my most valuable posts have only been two to three minutes long (which isn’t to say I don’t have some awesome longer pieces).
For instance, Transforming Your Ask is something I couldn’t have even written without completing recent coursework, and it says what needs to be said on the topic without mincing words. All filtered down to the three minutes that matter.
The legendary Derek Sivers would surely echo the sentiment that it’s much harder to whittle down an article to just the words that matter than to keep all the filler in.
Let’s be real – the only reason we need longer articles is because they help us earn more money on Medium. Stop tip toeing around the issue. Fluff is fluff.
If you can write 1,000-, 2,000-, and even 3,000-word articles that are valuable, more power to you. But unless it’s insanely valuable, my response will probably be “cool story, bro” or tl;dr. Which is okay, because I’m probably not your target audience and never will be.
You Shouldn’t Include so Many Links in Your Stories
Look, I wouldn’t advise anyone create a link farm out of their Medium stories. But that doesn’t mean there’s no value in interlinking stories, and even from Medium’s perspective, their goal is to keep their readers on the platform. As a writer, you can support that goal by directing readers to other useful content you’ve written.
But first, I never meter these stories, so anyone can access them. By doing so, I’m acknowledging that they are blatant self-promotion. Second, if these turn you off, they aren’t for you.
I don’t watch CNN because I don’t like it. What I don’t like, I don’t watch. I don’t have endless time and energy to dedicate to tearing them down let alone the patience to watch long enough to offer something more constructive than “this sux0rs.” Which is why I don’t.
Would you care to know why I create weekly digests? Did you even ask? Huh?
For years, I’ve had people tell me that they can’t keep up with everything I create. So, I started making weekly digests as a service to them.
People interested in seeing what I’m up to can quickly see, from a bird’s eye view, whether there’s something they’d like to dive deeper into, get in and get out. It’s valuable to them, as they can pick and choose what matters to them.
If I walked into the service department of a car dealership and had to sit through 20 sales presentations before I could talk to someone who could help me with my maintenance and repairs, I would not go back to that dealership. And yet, that’s exactly how your damn sales funnel treats me.
No, we shouldn’t adopt certain habits just because they are SEO best practice. But we also shouldn’t harbor resentment towards other writers just because we don’t like them or are jelly as the Green Giant (a little controversy, healthy antagonism, or friendly competition never hurt a writer’s stature though).
Never Express Your Challenges or Concerns
Why? Because you’re worried about reputation management?
That must be a limiting life, one based almost exclusively on trying to look good or avoid looking bad. If you can’t say “amen,” say “ouch.”
I wouldn’t want that life.
Challenges, difficulties, obstacles, and frustrations are all part of the human condition and experience. We can all relate to them. They make stories truthful, human, and remove the added barrier of an instant “pretty” Snapchat filter.
I’m about tired of all the microwave success stories, which paint the unrealistic picture that you can get the same results if you just buy the course and do the work. And I see them on Twitter as much as I see them on Medium.
I’m glad for you that you’ve been able to make a bajillion dollars as a writer, become an influencer on every social media platform, invent a time machine, harmonize the universe and save the planet all before breakfast. Congrats!
Again, you’re not facing an ugly truth here, which is that stories related to your Medium earnings are just clickbait you can still get away with.
Try writing on a topic that isn’t just more writing tips or making money online. I dare you. I double dare you.
I haven’t been curated since 2018. I haven’t ever made more than $15 in a month on Medium. After publishing over 470 stories.
So what? It doesn’t mean I haven’t put in the work or that I’m doing everything wrong. It doesn’t mean I’m not worth following or listening to. It doesn’t even mean I’m not following the best strategies and tactics available to me.
I have done quite well for myself as a writer, and if you somehow think my advice is any less valuable than the $6,000 per month guy, you’ve got me all wrong. It’s just that I don’t constantly feel the need to brag about my five books (three best-sellers), lucrative ghostwriting contracts, or regular staff writing duties that more than pay my bills.
Medium, to me, is an experiment to see if more is possible, and if this is the right opportunity.
We need to learn to place the value with the content rather than the personality with a perfectly curated social media presence. Because we can easily make wrong assumptions about who is successful and living the dream life and who isn’t.
I know you like getting photographed every other day, but I don’t feel the need to impress those who can’t see the value in what I’m creating for them.
You can argue that it’s all about presentation, and sure, I know what you mean. I just don’t relate.
I’m just playin’. You know I love you.
But seriously. Let’s put the diarrhea fishbowl behind us and focus on the one thing we’re here to do – writing.
Anyone can be a critic. After all, there’s no school for critics.
But it takes a bronzed hulk to set aside their resentments and jealousy to focus on their craft instead. Now that, is godlike. Not your damn earning statements.
So, respectfully, and cordially… F off, bush league.