Especially when you start freelancing, one of the hardest things to do is measure your time. How do you know in advance how much time it will take to complete a blog post for example, or 10 articles about a topic you’ve never written about before?
While a good time estimate is important for your schedule, it’s doubly important for your bid – ensuring you get paid enough for your time. Here are some things to consider when plotting out a new project – whether for yourself or a client.

The Raw Writing Time

The first thing most writers do is calculate raw writing time. How many words can you write in an hour and how many words are there in this project?
In some instances, this is important. In others, it is incredibly misleading. There are dozens of other factors involve: editing, formatting, research, preparation and discussion with the client.
If you focus only on the physical task of writing, you’ll underestimate your time investment significantly. When it comes to what you bid, that is fine if you adjust your per-word rate. But if you bid based on time or simply don’t schedule enough time for the project, you will have problems.

Other Factors to Consider

Time commitment for a writing project will vary depending on the project and your writing skills and speed. If you have been writing for 10 years as a freelancer, get a project on a topic you know inside and out, and don’t need to acquire any outside references to write it, the raw writing time might be a fairly accurate number, but for MOST projects, there are other factors, including;

  • Project Setup Time – How much time is needed discussing the project with your client, interviewing them for details, getting the raw information they say they will provide, etc? Keep all of these factors in mind before starting.
  • Research Time – In many cases, the time spent researching and taking notes for a project can far outweigh raw writing time. Often the volume of writing will determine how much of a percentage research plays. If you are writing a single 1,000 word article, research will be a large chunk of time. If you are writing 50-1,000 word articles on the same topic, writing may overtake research.
  • Editing Time – I go back through everything I write at least twice and then have a third party read it once. This is the internal editing process before it goes to a client and often takes about 80% of the time spent writing it in the first place.
  • Revision Time – This will depend entirely on your client, how precise their instructions are, and whether they like your initial draft or not.
  • Delay in Payment Time – Take into account how long it will take to get paid when preparing a bid. Waiting an extra 30-60 days for payment costs you money and productive time (especially in trying to collect that money).

And don’t get me started if you’re writing for a corporation that has its own collection of additional processes and quality checks that can drag out a project.

How to Calculate Time Needed Accurately

These numbers will be different for everyone, but here is how I calculate the time I need and ensure my schedule and budget are properly balanced for any new writing project I undertake.

  1. Have You Written This Before?
  2. What Outside Resources Do You Need?
  3. Was Your Client Specific?
  4. How Long To Write and Edit?

Once I have this information in hand, I calculate how much time I think it will take to complete the project. I have been doing this for some time so I am often quite accurate. In the end, I always add about 15% on top of my estimate, just to be safe.
In my case, most content is copy for landing pages and product/service pages. So the lion’s share of the extra time needed is to learn about the company I’m writing for and their customers. Understand who you are writing for and what you need to know to write something effective.