How Long Does it REALLY Take You to Write an Article?

hour glass

Credit where it’s due: Just got done reading Laura Spencer’s “Writing Thoughts vs. The Five Minute Article Writer.” It has me thinking a lot about article writing and what goes into writing a good article.

Can you write an article in five minutes? Me either. How about 30 minutes? Yes, sometimes. You see, I used to be a wedding writer. I worked for a wedding publication and wrote over 500 articles (over the course of a few years) for a wedding website. Though I know a little about weddings, I’m not an expert. There have been times when I wrote an “off the top of my head 300 word article” in about thirty minutes.

When people ask me if it’s true someone can really write two articles per hour, I say “yes, but it depends.”

It depends on:

  • The topic
  • The writer’s area of expertise
  • The writer’s experience
  • The amount of research
  • The word count
  • If interviews are needed

I can do a quick “how to choose a wedding veil” piece of web content in about 30 minutes. If I was to write about the wedding veil industry or changes in wedding veil trends including prices and designs, as well as interviews with wedding shop owners and wedding veil designers, this would take more of my time.  Writing an in depth piece would most likely take several days to produce.

As I don’t agree with the “Google and rewrite” method of writing, I might take longer than some people to write a good article. If I’m writing a blog post off the top of my head requiring no research, I can get it done in less than 30 minutes.

Talk to me, writers. How long does it REALLY take you to write an article?

Comments

  1. I confess I am one of those that can kick out articles fast. An off the top of my head article can take as little as ten minutes for me. Adding research takes longer. Interviews will add the most time.

    I would say that on a good day I can do 350 words every 15 to 20 minutes. I’ve wondered if that was a good thing or a bad. And I will be interested to see how fast others write as well.

    Thanks for bringing this up!

  2. A couple of times I have been asked to write groups of very short (250 word) articles, and I will admit to writing them very quickly. Of course, I did the research as I wrote the first few and they weren’t at all in-depth, just a bit of information in each one. It took a weekend to write 35 such articles, although the time to write each one varied.

    For a longer article that needs research and/or interviews, it can take much longer. Depending on my familiarity with the subject, a 1200 word article takes between 5 and 6 hours.

  3. Most of my articles are game reviews, so first there’s time playing the game, making notes, getting screenshots. The writing part usually takes me a few hours, plus a re-write and a final check on game specs the next day. (I need a break before editing, otherwise I make idiotic typos)

    When I do catalog content, I can do my background reading in the morning, and then produce work faster, but it’s still not the promised “5 minutes of easy work” that I keep seeing in CL writing ads.

  4. With three boys interrupting me at every brilliant thought it takes me approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours to write an article, which includes the research.

    If I had my druthers, I could sit on it for a while, revisit, edit and sit on it again but that would be in another life.

  5. It’s been a while since I’ve written on assignment (now I’m writing mainly papers for class and for my blog). Like Kathryn, interviews add time but I find that research is the bigger delay for me: I tend to gather more than needed and then cull. I can punch out a personal essay in a short time but then might spend an equal amount editing and re-writing! Most articles, however, take me about a day or two depending on the length required.

  6. Like you said the time depends on the amount of research that needs to be done. I can write a quick review of a single in about 20 minutes. For an artist profile, it usually takes a couple days. If I have to conduct interviews and pull together a big feature, it could take longer depending on how quickly I get in touch with subjects and how many other commitments I have.

  7. Wow! Thanks for the shout out. That’s a nice surprise to wake up to…

    I actually wrote the post you read several months ago, but it’s getting renewed attention because of another post that examines a writer’s claim to be able write 700 articles in a WEEK. (That’s a week, not a month.) I linked to that post in the comments yesterday.

    That being said, I think there are times when one can write quickly. For example, when you know the topic well or when you are using the same research to write multiple pieces.

    However, five minutes to produce a quality piece of about 500 words — I can’t do it myself and, if we’re honest, I don’t think that there are very many writers who can and especially not consistently and over a long period of time.

    Anyway, it will be interesting to see the comments.

  8. It actually takes me several days to get a article done. I like to mull things over, create a outline, but once this is done it only takes me about 30-60 minutes to write the article.

    If it is an article that requires lots of research or interviews it takes longer.

  9. It really always depends! For biographies I always am trying to find out unique information about the designers, so the research takes much more time than the actual article! Factor in finding photos to add to the article, can be up to two hours for 500 words.

  10. The actual writing usually doesn’t take me that long–it’s the preparations for the article that take up a lot of time. It might take me a week or two to read through a book to review. Might also take me a while to go out to eat for a restaurant review.

  11. I’m so glad you brought this up, Deb. Am I the only one who takes more than 30 minutes to write a 500 word article, even when I know a little bit about the subject?
    I find that I can create a draft in about 15 minutes – which includes the sub headings, the bullet points that will go under each and the outline. But the actual article – including research, writing, proof reading and editing takes closer to an hour, often more. This is why I sometimes find that DS articles( I enjoy writing for them, but often feel that the articles take me longer than the time others claim, so at times, the pay doesn’t justify the time invested. But I still write for them for the satisfaction it gives me.) I wonder, am I just a slow writer or am I approaching it the wrong way? Here’s what I do – I usually look at a topic, if I know a little about it and a confident of finding out more, I claim it, then look up a few different resources( including a google search, but I refer to many sites), assimilate the most important facts, combine it with my own knowledge and then craft the article. Boy, does all of this take time! Even when an article doesn’t need research, just putting together thoughts in a coherent format, and ensuring I don’t miss out anything I want to say and coming up with a good lede and end takes about 30 minutes.
    So, how do those of you who write good articles in under 30 minutes do it? Would appreciate your tips.
    Thanks again!
    http://babylovesbooks.com
    http://rupawrites.com/site/blog/

    • Rupa,

      I also write for DS and I love it… I write health and fitness articles at $25 a pop… Here’s a tip, try and pick headlines that are similar to the articles you have already written for DS…. This will cut down the time on research (since you have the links) and this will cut down on familiarizing yourself with concepts when you already are familiar with them because you already wrote about them…

      Also, you need to set a goal as to how much time and money you want to make writing… For example, my goal is to make at least $100/day writing.. That would take me about 4 hours at the most based on writing for DS… For me $3,000 a month is more than enough to pay the bills and take care of the kids…

  12. I think it’s about one hour for 500 words of good, optimized content. If I get a lower paying job, I can bang them out at a rate of about two 500 word articles per hour. I do find it a bit challenging now, since I’m billing some clients hourly, I always feel like it’s taking me too long, or am I rushing too much? I’m sure I will adjust but it’s nice to read that others are doing about the same.

  13. Takes me about two hours to do research, interviewing a couple of sources, drafting the article, rewrite, edit & proofing for a 400-600 word article.

  14. Off the top of my head articles I can write in as little as 15 minutes… at about the 400 word range. Average is 20-30 minutes, but I rarely just sit and type article after article for hours on end. If I was disciplined enough to do that, I could make so much more than I am… but I don’t need the stress that comes with making myself work non-stop through certain hours of the day. With kids, and as a single mom, I like to stay flexible.

  15. I agree with Chinamatt.

    The writing itself is a snap – I’ll get down 1000 good words in 40 minutes when the Muse has struck – the time is used up in the hours (and more often days) to research a topic, understand it completely, mull it over consciously and subconsciously, decide on an angle and begin to build the article mentally…. This doesn’t include interviews or traveling for on-site research.

    For the churn-and-burn articles (and yes, I do write these, to the scorn of some of my colleagues :-)) 500 words takes about an hour if I am somewhat familiar with the topic.

  16. TOTALLY depends upon the topic, publication, client, research required. I’ve written 500 words in 1/2 hour, or 800 words in two full 8 hour days.

    In the case of the 500 words, it was mostly a matter of “google and rewrite” or “blog what you know.” In the case of the 800 words it was “find and interview five people on an obscure topic, then draft an article and then revise it twice.”

    The 800 words, btw, paid $250 – nowhere NEAR enough, and it was a MAJOR publisher. The 500 words, however, paid $40 – for just a half hour of work.

    Go figure.

    Lisa

  17. Including interviews and research – about 1-2 hours. BUT, once all the interviewing and transcribing is done I can whip out a 400-500 word newspaper article (inverted pyramid style) in about 20-30 minutes. I’m so used to writing in that format now since I do it all the time. When it comes to more feature-y, creative articles it takes me a bit longer and usually a lot of re-writing to do a good article!

  18. For a 500 word article, I usually take about an hour if I don’t get lost in my research (which happens when the topic is especially interesting). Oddly, topics I am extremely knowledgeable about take just as long.

    My problem is, if I know a lot about a topic I tend to write more without realizing it. Then my 500 word article becomes a 1000 word article and I have to find places to cut it back. :( So it takes just as long to write an unfamiliar topic as a familiar one.

  19. 500 words is not an essay, folks. 500 words is a little more than a blurb, but it’s still not going to impart that much information to the reader. Take, for example, writing about a Las Vegas hotel. Pick one. I can Google it and have you a 500 word article back in around 10 minutes that will include all of the relevant information you need on that hotel. It will include contact information, rates of rooms, types of rooms, themes, venues, restaurants, and everything else necessary to “get to know” that Las Vegas hotel…in 500 words that were compiled from at least half a dozen sources on the Internet.

    500 words is not enough word count to be willing to spend more than 10-15 minutes creating it. That’s my take on it. I consider 500 word articles the same as I do 250 word articles…blurbs. They are the “fast food”. Quick, easy, and cheap. I’m not writing Pulitzer prize stuff…I’m writing quick little “about” articles regarding a subject. I’m imparting a little bit of information, but that’s it. There’s not enough room for more than just the “basics”, and as such, I don’t need to be spending hours of time trying to research something that’s nothing more than a skim-through of the product/topic/whatever.

    However, once you cross the 500 word threshold you start getting into more “detailed” territory. If I’m into an 800 word article I’ll probably take 45 minutes to an hour to write it. I’ll probably come back and spend 15 minutes on it a few hours later and give it an edit. Depends on the pay, of course. The more they pay, the more time I’m willing to spend on the article.

    As a general rule of thumb…I don’t spend more than 12-15 minutes on a 500 word article. There’s not enough room to divulge enough information to require more than 15 minutes of time.

    1000 word+ articles are the only ones I spent any real amount of time on. I’ll generally spend an hour or so researching the topic, then rough-draft the article within 45 minutes to an hour, then come back and do 2 to 3 different edits on it. When it’s all said and done, I’ll probably spend 3-4 hours on a good, well-researched, thought-out, and polished 1000 word article. Beyond that, the time only increases.

    However, again…it depends on the topic. I recently wrapped up a project for a client covering Poker, in all its forms. It was around 500 articles. About 50% of them were 250 word articles, and the other 50% were 500 word articles. I spent 3 days prior to starting the writing actually researching poker, because I had no idea regarding the variations, the terms, or the various rules. By the time the whole project ended up completing I averaged 24 USD an hour, including research, for the time invested in doing the project. Right now I’m 2 years into freelancing (will cross the 2 year mark in January). I am extremely comfortable making 25-30 dollars an hour. 90% of my work is 250 and 500 word articles. Website content. Fast food. Content for the 21st century generation of readers who want it now, want it fast, and they want it compiled into quick, easy-to-read blurbs that tell them the basics of what they need to know so they can get on with their day.

    • Perhaps, but a blurb on a hotel is a little different than a how-to type article on, for example, identifying maple trees. Finding pertinent information on a hotel is not only simple to do, it’s easy to write.

      Maybe that’s the difference. A 500 word blurb on something basic doesn’t take more than a few minutes, even if your typing style is hunt-and-peck (not “you” specifically T.W., “you” in a general sense). A 500 (or more) word article that educates and informs is quite different. Which is why it takes longer.

      As a side note, most of my articles end up being well over 500 words. While my primary client prefers an average of 650, most of my articles end up longer. As you say, 500 words isn’t really enough space to provide the necessary info for most subjects. Apparently it’s better for SEO or something. Who knows. I just know I get chastised if my articles exceed 1500–which I think is ridiculous. My goal is to educate and inform. My client’s is to rank high in search engines.

      Still, I average about $27 per hour. I’m pretty happy with that.

      • I find any and all 500 word articles easy. I’ve yet to find a topic that takes longer than 12-15 minutes to write. I’ve done literally thousands of articles in the past 2 years on topics ranging from space exploration, quantum physics, TV shows, movies, remodeling houses, decorating, designing a home, the history of flight, visa regulations for countries around the world, hotels, video games, ceramics, marble, granite, …the list could go on.

        IMO a 500 word article is nothing more than a short little “about”. There is (IMO) no way to convey any real depth of meaning or character about a topic or subject in just 500 words. All you can really do is give “the basics”. Who, where, what, how, why, etc. To take your example on maple trees I can simply Google “how to identify maple trees” and within 2 minutes of scanning websites I can quickly find at least half a dozen “ways” to identify maple trees, at which point I start typing the various “ways” to identify maple trees. Within 10 minutes I have a 500 word article that clearly, concisely, and informatively tells the reader all they need to know about how to identify a maple tree, using half a dozen different methods described by professionals in the field. The article will include sources and references.

        Now, if a client wants a thoroughly detailed “how to identify maple trees” project then that is more than I can convey in 500 words. At that point I would break down the half dozen ways and give each of them their own specific article that explicitly details the hows and whys of each specific method.

        Agree to disagree. I have yet to see any 500 word or less article that is anything more than a “blurb”, or an “about”. Regardless of the topic. There’s just not enough room to convey anything more than they very basics.

        Put it another way…if the average human being speaks 120 words per minute…I can read a 500 word article in just over 4 minutes, assuming I speak 120 words a minute. There is no way, in any language, that you can convey anything other than the briefest of detail regarding a given subject. Anything of substance will be far more than 500 words.

  20. Debbie Ferm says:

    I agree with Kathleen. I tend to get lost in the research if it is interesting. I would much rather take the time to write an article with very tight sentences that is specific and gives a lot of new information, than write the general articles that I can whip out in 20 minutes.

    It’s irritating to me when I am looking for information, and I come up with something like “Tips for what to do when a baby is crying” See if the baby is tired, hungry, or needs a diaper change. Duh, McFly! That’s what I seem to come across often though. Of course I could write those in ten minutes. Anyone could.

    I do believe though that someone who has written hundreds of 500 word articles could do it pretty quickly. You definitely develop a routine, a process, and an eye for the word count without checking.

  21. When I was chief of reporting staff for a local weekly newspaper I used to tell reporters they should get a column inch of copy from every minute they spent on the phone. Columns were narrow so it worked out about 25 words to the inch, so a 500 word item should never take more than 20 minutes on the phone and about the same to write it from their notes.

    Later, as a freelance I got 5 cents an inch from the same paper, so it would only pay if I cc’d the local radio news, and the State dailies plus a rewrite or two for farming newspapers and/or magazines. Isaac

    The killer is the research time, but, as prolific author Isaac Asimov maintained, the key is to do your research once and then write it many times.

    • “Isaac Asimov maintained, the key is to do your research once and then write it many times.”

      This is very true… I try to find projects or articles on topics that I have already written on several times before, because I have a great understanding of the topic… It saves a lot of time…. If i’m writing on topics that I have previously researched and written on, I can do about 500 words in 15 minutes…

  22. I write freelance articles and i have a few sports columns.. If I am writing an opinionated piece for my column then I can churn out 700-1000 word articles in about 10-15 minutes…

    I also write in-depth research articles on topics I have a solid foundation of knowledge on… I typically do 500 words in about 30 minutes….

    So, I stick with the articles and topics that I know I can make good money for the time it takes me… I try and make at least $20/ hour writing articles, otherwise I might as well get a different job…

  23. Agree on this, personally, if I have enough basic knowledge on a topic. I can get it done in 30 minutes. But if it is outside of my scope, well, it is a different story. I need research, read some references and other related materials. I find it hard to dive in an article without basic information about a topic; it is risky to get it done in some few minutes. I think I need 2 hours to feel confident about my finish piece. I really admire those writers who can make an article within few minutes. I guess it comes with years of experience and practice, your scope gets broader once you have done lots of writing project.

  24. It’s a combination of practice and applicable intelligence. That is, knowing when an article needs to be richly detailed as a “steak dinner” or when it’s nothing more than a blurb, or a “fast food” article.

    Sticking to your niche is just common sense. That’s why writers who specialize make significantly more money in their niche than they do out of it. They know the topic, they are qualified to write about, and it doesn’t require research. I had someone quiz me recently on how I was able to make 75+ dollars an hour on Demand Studios writing home improvement articles and it came down to this: I was a third generation contractor who grew up in a 750+ million dollar family industry. I was on job sites from the time I was 5 years old. I was running 25 man crews by the time I was 19, and I had started my own company when I was 22. My dad made me serve an actual apprenticeship 7 year apprenticeship. I spent 15 years in the field as a working professional. I know the industry intimately, and believe me when I say that when it comes down to writing about ceramic tile and natural stone installations, design, procedures, and etc., there is no one more qualified than myself. I can go to DS, pull 5 articles, and knock them out in an hour, making 15 bucks a pop, without even batting an eye. My record is actually 7 articles in an hour. Why? Because it’s my niche. It’s something I know better than anyone else, because I have a hands-on experience with the subject that you can’t get from reading a Wikipedia article or something on DIY.com or from a Home Depot manual.

    Why don’t I do that regularly? Because I choose not to. I’d rather write travel articles based upon my extensive travels throughout Europe. I’d rather write about food, wine, green-thinking, and work on my fiction.

    If someone asks me to write an article about wine and it’s 500 words….I’m sorry. The topic of “wine” in general could be broken down into several BOOKS, not just one article. To write a 500 word article on wine you are really only going to be able to give the absolute basics…where it comes from, how it’s made, an example of different kinds of wine, and that’s about it. You are giving a brief, 500 word “about” wine article. Now if someone wants to really know about wine, they’ll read a book, which contains dozens, if not hundreds, of articles dedicated to wine, going into the process behind each different vintage, cabernet vs shiraz vs merlot vs chianti vs melnik vs chardonnay vs muskat vs misket vs pinot noir vs the types of grapes used in each, the different processes used to age each particular wine, whether or not you should do steel vats or age it in a barrel, why you leave the skins on, why you remove the skins, the proper time in the holding tank for each different grape, how to blend the different vintages together, why you need to bottle it in a cool, controlled climate, which types of grapes grow best in which types of regions, and so on and so forth.

    That’s why I comment on 500 word articles being “blurbs”. Taking just the example above, there is no way under the sun you could write anything more than a brief “about” article regarding wine, or ANY other topic. If you want more detailed information you need more articles, longer articles, more research, and more time. In 500 words I can tell you ABOUT anything you want, but if you really want to KNOW the object/person/subject/whatever, then it takes far more than 500 words can ever convey.

  25. Tania Mara says:

    Last month I put myself to the test: I picked three topics I’m very familiar with and spent a few minutes outlining the articles I wanted to write. Then I made use of a time tracker to see how long it would take me to finish each article.

    On average, it took me around 10 minutes to write 300 words. Then I’d spend 10 additional minutes editing the articles.

    As I needed quick money, this little experiment proved to be profitable: in a few hours I had an article pack ready for sale. The client who bought it not only loved the articles but also gave me a testimonial. What else could I ask for?

    While I understand some writers do need more time even when they’re familiar with the subjects they’re writing about, the truth is that many of us can write pretty fast if we know a topic thouroughly.

  26. Yesterday, I worked for three hours total. Of that, I did 40 blurbs (30 to 40 words each) and twelve articles on bedding, generic articles that were 500 words each. During this time, I admit to chatting with my brother too. Given that, I really don’t exactly how long I worked compared to chatted, but if the material is basic and doesn’t require research, I can push out 500 word articles in little time.

    Typing speeds help. I type 80wpm so I can work at double the speed of someone who types at 40wpm.

  27. If I know the subject- pretty darn quickly. That article I sent you the other day, Deb? 30 or 45 minutes, 891 words, with interruptions. I’d been researching the subject for weeks before I mentioned it and have a healthcare background, so stands to reason it can move faster.

    It all depends on how well I know the subject, but I don’t like to write on something I have no interest in learning about, anyway. The article would read like a technical manual.

  28. Laurie Tam says:

    It all depends if I know about the subject or not.
    I do tend to do some research which I do with writing at Demand Studios articles since I don’t know way too much about it but it doesn’t hurt so that takes me about an hour to write the article. It just depends.

    But for the ones without research, I can write them within 30 minutes or less. I have three very young girls and I don’t get to write as often as I should for income. I would love to make more money with my writing. That’s for sure. For the past year or so, my income for writing is pretty laughable. Hopefully one of these days I would be able to surpass my monthly income goal.

  29. I detest these things but its what I’m left to do at the moment. My best ( and I’ve just starting doing this last month but I’ve been writing for a while), is about 1 hour for each at 400/500 words. I did receive a job in which the client wanted 16 articles within 5 days I do believe I did in less ( its just too bad after I delivered, he/she/it disappeared and I never got paid for it!).

    It is true. When your talking about a real article of quality that will go into the 1200 words ratio, then you’ll want to treat that thing like a college course paper. Interviews. Notes. Getting your research and sources correct. That’s real article writing in my opinion. Depending on what it is — I think the time limit is up to you. 700 articles in a week? I’ d like to see that writer’s topics and what was exactly in those articles. I mean you can write 300 word blurbs all day, and it may just be concocted info you grabbed from a light search or two on the net. That’s filler for hire stuff. I don’t think it matters how long someone can complete something, its what the product is and the quality of the content. I’d prefer someone that can write 5 good articles that takes them 4 days then someone who pumps out 50 in 2 days, but their all generic and not really attention grabbing.

  30. For me, it’s realistically 250 an hour. But that includes interviewing and research time. It’s probably a conservative estimate, but that means 2,000 words a day, which I find is very realistic for an day. More than that means no time to continue to work on items that may not be able to be written that day (critical interview not available until a future day).

    But I receive 25 cents to $1 a word depending on the type of writing. I’m not just churning out copy that requires little legwork — not to say there’s anything wrong with that. I’m just not that type of writer, which requires better typing skills than I possess.

    Dragon Naturally Speaking might be an option for some and I would consider it if carpal tunnel was an issue (not yet), but I “think with my fingers” as I write/type.

  31. I wrote a 750-word article today on a health care industry topic. The actual writing took me about two hours, interrupted by my occasionally having to bellow “Go back to your room! Naptime is NOT over yet!”

    That said, it took me a lot longer to pin down my interview sources and then actually interview them. If I was just counting the writing time, it wouldn’t have been a big deal at all, but unfortunately, the story required quite a bit more than that.

    • Pinning down sources can take days or even weeks. I have written a 1,000-word article in an hour, but I know that was a rare exception. It was on a Rudy Guiliani speech on leadership and everything just flowed. But too often I’m dealing with a subject that I may not be an expert in and need to make sure I understand it well enough to even further simplify it for the reader and still ensuring good copy flow.

      • Exactly.

        Another example of why it might take you longer to write an article: numbers.

        I used to cover education for a newspaper, and I would write these huge 2-3,000 word stories on test scores several times each year. But a major part of putting those stories together included going over stats and data with a fine-tooth comb. Even now as a freelancer, there are many instances when I have to go back and carefully check numbers. For example, I did a freelance piece recently about physicians and medical errors; I had to interview sources, read journal articles, and then doublecheck numbers. I worked as quickly as was reasonable, of course, but I wasn’t about to sacrifice quality at the altar of “hey, look how I fast I wrote that!”

  32. Laurie Tam says:

    lol Jennifer L, lol

    I thought it was funny about the naptime not being over. I’m expecting a fourth girl in early February and I currently have three young girls. The first two go to school while I am usually stuck at home with our third daughter.
    In my case, I need to do better time management but so far notice the time I can work is when they are playing with each other or if the first two are in school and the youngest is napping would be perfect for me to work.
    I need to work on DEmand Studios articles so then I can get paid. I got only $15 from them so far.
    I am also looking for more writing jobs as well.

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