A year ago, I would’ve said that 10,000 words per week wasn’t possible for me. As a marketing copywriter averaging 3,000 words a week, I thought I was hovering near my limit.

I had no idea what I was capable of. But over this last year I’ve made some big changes to the way I approach writing.

I don’t know what you’re capable of writing each week, and odds are you probably don’t either. Until you’ve done everything you can to set yourself up for success, you simply won’t know what you can do.

As my colleague Jayson D. Bradley puts it, “Think of writing content like weight lifting. There is ultimately a bench-press capacity that you’ll never be able to go beyond, but you’re probably nowhere near hitting it.”

We’re going to talk about tangible things you can do to increase your max weekly word count.

I was a professional marketing copywriter for years before I saw how these tactics could help me write better and faster:

When we’re done talking about me, we’ll get into why most content marketing teams struggle to maximize their output.

Ironically, when writing is your job, it can be hard to justify spending time on tasks that make you a better writer. My hope is that I can help you see just how much these tactics can pay off—so you can triple your output, too.

Let’s get started.

Break every piece of content into “blogging units”

At my old job, I had no concept of how much work a tweet or an email required compared to a blog post. So when a new sequential email campaign fell on my plate, it was hard to say how that would affect my upcoming blog posts or daily social media posts.

Before you can start writing more, you need to quantify how much “work” a piece of writing takes in relation to others. Otherwise, are you really getting more done, or just doing easier tasks?

Enter: blogging units. Since blogging was my primary job at Overthink Group, it made the most sense to think of everything in terms of blog posts. The problem is that not all blog posts are created equal. It doesn’t take nearly as much time or effort to write 300 words about a topic as it does to write 3,000.

Setting a quota based on the number of posts you write only makes sense if every blog post you write is roughly the same length, and requires roughly the same amount of research.

So Overthink cofounder Adrien Converse invented “blogging units,” a goofy term for a 500–1,000 word piece of content. Every day, I’d aim to complete two blogging units, whether that was two short posts, one big post, or something else. It sounds silly, but measuring everything in blogging units did two things for me:

  1. It quantified each piece of writing.
  2. It let us create writing quotas that made sense.

Those two things were absolutely essential to increasing my weekly word count. By using blogging units, we were able to incrementally add to my quota until I reached 10,000 words per week.

You might be wondering, “But is that really different than saying you’ll write X number of blog posts per week?” Absolutely. It ensured that whether I needed to write several short posts or a couple of long ones, I would always have a somewhat consistent work load.

Imagine if one week you did a workout routine that pushed you to your breaking point, where afterwards you were so sore you could barely walk or move your arms. Then for the next three weeks you did an easier routine and barely broke a sweat. Then you went back to the hard routine. It would kick your butt just as bad as the first time!

If you stick with a routine that pushes you to your upper limits, your upper limits eventually increase, and that routine gets easier. But if you’re inconsistent, your progress slows—or worse, stops.

Now imagine trying to design a workout program without knowing how much anything weighed. Or without the concept of reps and sets. That’s what you’re doing with your writing if you don’t have a unit of measurement that applies to every task.

“Blogging units” might not be the right way to quantify your work, but there are other ways to create quotas that make sense.

It could be as simple as using a weekly word count. Maybe you just need to think of your tasks in relationship to each other, with something like this: two emails equals one blog post, three social media posts equals one email, etc.

Or maybe you feel more comfortable sticking with the plain old “hour.” (If you do use hours though, keep in mind that to get faster, you’ll need to incrementally reduce the amount of time you give yourself for each task.)

However you have to do it, quantify your work. Then you can push yourself to “add weight” and increase your workload in a way that makes sense.

Find a measuring stick

When you want to get stronger or faster, you find someone who’s stronger or faster than you, and do what they do. Maybe it’s your workout partner. Maybe it’s somebody you’ve never met, but you follow online.

If you want to get better or faster at writing, find someone who’s better or faster than you, and do what they do.

This might be a coworker, or another writer in your industry. The more comparable their role is to yours, the better, but ultimately, you just need to find someone—anyone—who writes regularly and peels back the curtain enough for you to see what they do and how they do it.

Before we worked together at Overthink Group, I followed Jayson as a writer because he used to be my team lead at my previous job. I learned a lot from him as a marketer, and I also enjoyed his personal writing.  A couple years ago, I learned that he was writing 10,000 words a week. (And he was writing some dang good content.) I was baffled, and I remember thinking that I might never be able to get there.

At my old job, there were other writers who I felt were better than me. A couple of them probably wrote more than me, too. But none of them came close to the sheer volume of words Jayson produced every week, so I knew that he had to be doing something different. And I was determined to find out what that was.

In his book, Before You Write Another Blog Post, Jeffrey Kranz (now my boss) laid out the structure that allowed Jayson to write so much so fast. I devoured that book, and as I learned what Jayson was doing differently, I started approaching my work more like he approached his.

(Spoiler: the two biggest factors were research and good ol’ fashioned outlining.)

Using Jayson as a model challenged me to find out what I was really capable of. He was living proof that I could write more without sacrificing the quality of what I wrote. If you want to write faster or better, find yourself a Jayson.

Pick a lane, and clear the roadway

At my previous job, I was juggling two product blogs, three Facebook pages, three Twitter handles, multiple groups for another social media channel, writing emails, writing landing pages, and dropping everything when one of my bosses asked me to work on something else.

I was a “writer,” and that meant anything writing-related fell on my plate.

Writing long form content takes a lot of concentration and a steady, unbroken rhythm. But being responsible for social media and so many different channels meant I was constantly task switching to keep up with posts and tweets and comments and messages.

Trying to increase my writing output was like trying to accelerate in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I didn’t have time to build up speed before new tasks got in the way, and then I had to change lanes. If I was ever going to find out how fast I could go, I needed to clear the roadway and stay in one lane.

I needed to focus on one type of writing.

Note: Not everyone has the luxury of dropping tasks to focus on writing more. But if you manage a team, it’s in your best interest to allow your team members to focus on particular kinds of tasks. They may be able to double—or even triple—their output, and then they can start taking on those other tasks again with a higher output. (More on that later.)

Focus on one type of writing

When I started at Overthink Group, being a writer meant one thing: I write blog posts. Whatever the topic and whoever the client, that was my job. I didn’t have to think about how to coordinate blogging with my other tasks because there were no other tasks.

At first, this even went beyond focusing on blogging. I specialized in writing blog posts.

While I was still picking up speed, I wasn’t even part of the ideation, research, or outlining phases of content creation. My team gave me a boost by creating detailed briefs that outlined the direction of each piece, major points I needed to hit, the length of the post, and anything else I needed to get going.

That was a huge crutch, but I didn’t need it for forever. After seeing how my team approached the research phase to create time-saving outlines, I eventually got fast enough at writing that I could handle both pieces.

But even though our writers typically do both the research and the writing for each post, we treat them as separate pieces of the process—meaning we designate a time to outline and a time to write.

“Research shouldn’t happen at the same time writing does,” Jayson says. “My capacity has increased as I’ve considered research and outlining to be a sort of first draft. The outline is the bones, the research is the nervous system, and when I sit down to write, I just want to throw the flesh on a post that’s structurally ready.”

Focusing on fewer types of tasks increases the output of your whole team

Being a marketing copywriter often means you have to write many different types of content on a variety of channels. But if you’re serious about maximizing your output (and your boss is, too), then you’ve got to focus your craft on fewer types of content. You have to limit your definition of “writer” to a specific kind of writing.

Many managers prefer the comfort of knowing that if they ask any of their writers for any type of content, they’ll produce it. But you’ll never be able to reach full speed if you have to keep changing lanes and pumping the breaks. And if you can’t reach full speed, your team can’t, either.

“Managers should also know that every writer has different writing strengths,” Adrien Converse says. “You can stretch a writer to gain strengths in different genres and styles of writing, but you’re going to get better results by maximizing and growing existing strengths.”

If it’s simply not possible for you to focus on one type of project, there are still plenty of other things you can do to increase your writing output. But your team won’t reach your full content marketing potential until everyone has a specific, clearly defined role under the catchall title, “writer.”

At times this might mean that the more experienced writers take on more responsibility—like research or outlining—until the less experienced writers can increase their capacity and learn the value of that research and outlining.

But if someone doesn’t already use outlines, it’s hard to start without a model of what a helpful outline looks like, how it’s made, and what it’s like to write from one.

Outline the heck out of everything

I used to hate outlining. It didn’t feel like work, and I was already so pressed for time that it felt like I couldn’t afford to outline. Now I know that I can’t afford not to—they’re the key to writing long posts about any topic. (I’m still not great at them though.)

Outlining takes time upfront, but saves more time when you sit down to actually write a post.

As Jayson puts it, “Trying to write without an outline is like trying to write a shopping list at the grocery store—you’re going to end up with a lot of crap you don’t need.”

Not to mention, you’re bound to forget something important.

Simply being organized makes your first draft faster (and stronger) than if you just start writing off the top of your head. You don’t waste time trying to figure out how to tie your ideas together or flow from one section to the next, and you won’t get caught having to reorganize your piece after you’ve already put energy into it.

Sitting down to write with a good outline is like following a recipe with all the ingredients on the counter and the food prep already finished. This prep work is so important that at Overthink Group, we set aside specific time for it. If I’m writing a 5,000 word post, I know that’ll probably take me about two days to actually write, and part of a day to thoroughly outline.

Some managers aren’t comfortable letting writers devote time to “thinking.” But if a piece is well thought out, it takes less time to write and results in better content.

“I wrote a 7,023 word post for Jesus Film Project that currently ranks #1 for ‘prophecies about Jesus’ (2,400 monthly searches) and #6 for the word ‘prophecies’ (12,100 monthly searches),” Jayson says.

(That’s a big deal for a religious nonprofit.)

“This is a good example of a post that’s almost all quotes,” Jayson says. “Most of the time was spent in research and thinking through how to put it together as opposed to writing it.”

A good outline isn’t as simple as jotting down ideas from the top of your head or organizing your initial thoughts. Good outlining goes hand-in-hand with good research.

Use research to make your posts more thorough

Blog posts often start with someone saying, “Hey, we should blog about [broad, vague topic],” or “Let’s write a post called [cute title].” This doesn’t give writers much to work with, and without research to back up those ideas, they rarely lead to posts that thoroughly cover a topic and deliver long-term results.

Research does three things. It shows you:

  1. What your audience is actually looking for.
  2. What the competition has already said about your topic.
  3. How you can fill in the gaps.

Find the most valuable way to organize your thoughts

At my old job, I often relied on my own personal experience and inspiration to write blog posts. When I ran out of things to say, the post was done.

With relevant experience, you can often write several hundred words (maybe even a couple thousand) without doing research. But let’s face it: if you’re writing from personal experience alone, you’re basically coasting as a writer. And perhaps more importantly, writing from personal experience alone is rarely enough to write comprehensive content that ranks in search engines.

I spent a lot of time writing great content that most of my target audience will never see.

It’s not that it isn’t valuable. They just won’t find it on Google. I organized those posts based on my assumptions about what people wanted, not keyword research and competitive analysis. With a little research, I could’ve turned many of those same thoughts into comprehensive posts that rank in Google, delivering long-term results.

There’s a lot of great content on the Internet that nobody will ever find—all because of poor research and organization.

Inspiration isn’t enough

It’s easy for writers to get stuck cranking out multiple 500 word posts about a topic instead of taking the time to write one comprehensive piece. This can leave writers (and their managers) frustrated. They’re constantly spinning their wheels, but all that effort isn’t producing long-term results.

Tyrel Tjoelker does a lot of research for Overthink Group, and he sees it as an integral piece of the writing process.

“People often think of content creators as relying on bursts of inspiration to blitz through an amazing piece,” Tyrel says. “Research is the engine that can keep you going when that burst of inspiration isn’t there.”

Solid research takes time, but it helps us get started on each piece, keep going when we run out of ideas, and ultimately produce more helpful content.

“When I’m doing research for someone else, I kind of think about it like surveying territory,” Tyrel says. “I’ll map and sort landmarks and interesting paths that could be followed. I’ll find the must-see viewpoints, the alligator swamps, and the campground that’s already at maximum capacity. I’ll listen in and get a pulse on what places people actually want to get to.”

When I start a piece based on Tyrel’s research, I know he’s already scrounged up the good stuff. Before I type a single word, I’m already seeing the path the piece should take and the landmarks I need to point out along the way.

“Ultimately, I want to hand the writer a map with some of the best hiking trails marked, along with the ones that are inaccessible, and the places that have been overlooked.”

It’s not always possible to have another team member do research for you. At Overthink Group, we used to take a more collaborative approach to research, but now that we’re all on the same page about what it involves and how it affects our content, we typically research, outline, and write our own posts independently.

Look for natural ways to expand on your ideas

I’m not gonna lie. There have been lots of times when I felt like I just didn’t have anything more to say about a topic.

I skimped out on some posts.

I slipped in final drafts that were 200–500 words under the minimum we’d established.

I tried to justify it: “I’d just be adding fluff if I wrote more!”

But the reality is, there were strategies to increase my word count in helpful ways—and I just wasn’t using them.

Here are a couple techniques that helped me stretch posts in natural, helpful ways.

Ask (and answer) all conceivable questions about your topic

Hopefully in the research phase, you’ll discover the key things people need to know about your topic. But what are the questions your competition isn’t asking? Are you defining all your terms? Are there places where someone might wonder, “What do you mean by that?”

If you’re struggling to identify places you can expand, show your post to someone who knows nothing about the topic. They’re bound to have questions, some of which your target audience may have, too.

You can also try circling back to your research. What aspects of the topic does your competition cover? Did they cover them all exhaustively? If your post is going to be better than theirs, it needs to cover your topic even more thoroughly (and/or clearly) than they do.

Use H2s and H3s liberally

H2s and H3s make your post more readable and create opportunities to write more. They break up your ideas and help you shift your focus to a new aspect of your topic. It signals to your reader “here’s another main idea.” And then you have to justify making that idea an H2 or H3 by expanding on it.

Every time you add an H2 or H3, you should have a bare minimum of 50 words to draw out the idea presented in the new heading. (And really, you should aim for more like 100-200.) Nesting H3s under your H2s forces you to expand on all the subtopics that fall under the umbrella of your H2.

If you have a list post, you can also use H2s to introduce your list and elaborate on how the list items connect, or suggest some of the larger categories they fall under. If there are enough larger categories within your list, it may even be helpful to organize your list based on these categories and use H2s to break them up. (And of course, each H2 should include 50–200 words to introduce the category.)

Trust your team to help flesh out weaker parts of a post

If no one else edits your posts or your editorial process is rushed, you’ll never produce your best work.

Some people reduce editing to catching typos and making sure serious errors don’t go public. That’s still helpful, but it’s a pretty simplistic picture of editing. And if that’s all your team does when you edit, you’re missing out.

Editing should be a time to identify areas where your readers will expect or want more, or where your writing naturally leads to subpoints or raises questions you haven’t answered. It’s yet another opportunity for you to expand on your post and make it more helpful.

Early on as a writer at Overthink, there’s one post in particular where I remember that Jayson’s editing felt a lot like rewriting. (This also happened to be a post where I tried to justify a low word count.) Jayson put a ton of work into revising this post and helping me expand on my ideas when I thought I’d reached a dead end. Now that post ranks #1 for a highly relevant term in that client’s niche (“church nursery,” which gets 2,700 monthly searches).

Your team can also identify places where your transitions are rough. H2s are great for pivoting, but it’s easy to accidentally blindside your reader by taking the post in a new direction before they’re ready. Adding transition sentences before and after H2s makes your post more readable and quickly pads your word count.

When it comes down to it though, getting the most out of editing isn’t just about having a good editor. You need to have the right mindset to receive their feedback, too. Remember, part of the reason it’s so hard to edit your own work is because you get attached to it. Your editors might lead you to aha moments you can’t see, but they won’t be able to do that if the slightest criticism sends you into a blind rage.

The more territorial you are about your content, the worse it’s going to be. The more input and feedback you get into your content, the more you learn to absorb the strengths of others. After a while, you’ll probably start to internalize the most common feedback you hear on your writing, and you’ll naturally produce more helpful content.

Let your personal voice come through your writing

The more I let myself write about a topic the way I might talk about it to a colleague, the easier it is to clearly explain it and thoroughly explore it.

If I’m worried about trying to write in a particular voice, it naturally slows me down. I have to filter my thoughts through that voice before I put them on the page. And then I wind up with less words. And the post takes longer.

Save that filter for editing. Focus on getting down your thoughts in their natural form first. Then, use your brand style guide (and ideally another editor) to make it fit your organization’s voice.

When your writing represents an organization, that doesn’t mean your own personal voice can’t come through at all, though. Some professional writers are even encouraged not to let their own voice show. It’s a tough balance, because the way we write shapes how readers perceive the brands we represent.

But the reality is, even when you try to conform your writing to an established brand, your voice is going to come through. That’s why two writers can take the same assignment and the same brand and produce two things that don’t look or sound exactly the same.

When you read enough of the most bland corporate content, you can start to tell which of your coworkers wrote which piece even if it doesn’t have their name on it.

While the words we write represent the companies we write them for, many organizations recognize the value of creating unique voices within their brand. If you write about your industry on behalf of your organization, you’re building brand authority with every post. And you’re establishing not just your company, but yourself, as a subject matter expert.

This is especially true when you write content that incorporates or builds on your own personal experience. But your voice comes through in everything you write. Sometimes it’s more subtle or restrained. Other times it might seem like a real, unique individual is writing your content.

As long as you shape your personal voice to fit your brand (which your team can help with in the editing process), your voice can make your content more interesting and help you increase your word count.

Why content marketing teams struggle with content

Some of these changes were like flipping a switch. Others took a long time to adjust to. Some were permanent changes, and others were temporary. But they all contributed to a dramatic increase in my weekly output.

I’m sure every manager would love to triple the output of their writers, and most writers would love to know how to consistently get more words on the page. But there are a lot of things that hold writers and their teams back from doing more (and better) content marketing.

Here are some of the main ones we see at Overthink Group.

Some writers wear too many hats

Writing takes focus. When writers are stretched between too many roles, the writing suffers. The problem, of course, is that organizations may not have enough staff to designate some people to social media, some to email, and some to blogging, and they often feel like they have to bundle these roles into one position.

The nice thing about these channels is that you can schedule blog posts, emails, and social media posts in advance. If your organization can’t afford to delegate these channels to different people, you may need to plan a week (or a month) to write all your social media posts in advance, then rotate to email, then blog posts. This will free you up to focus on one type of writing at a time.

And yes, this does mean that each of these channels will suffer because they aren’t constantly getting the attention and maintenance they deserve. But if you have one person covering all of these roles, that’s already happening. This is a tactic that could free your writer to improve (or at least have some breathing room).

Ultimately, when writers specialize, they can become more productive. When you only do one type of work, it’s easier to incrementally increase your workload.

Arbitrary content calendars

Content calendars can help writers stay organized, keep accountable, and create expectations for your readers. But they can also get in the way of producing quality content.

Some writers are under so much pressure to publish something that they rarely take the time to publish the best content.

You should use content calendars as a general guideline, but if the editorial process ever reveals that a piece needs more work, or your research reveals that a post should be twice as long as you expected, take the time to write stronger content.

In writing, this will almost always pay off more than simply getting something out the door. (The exception being if your content calendar is not arbitrary, and there are real world events or publicly announced release dates that can’t get pushed back.)

Lack of knowledge

When you don’t know enough about a topic to write thoroughly about it, you need to give yourself time to research it. At the very minimum, you need to read a few of the top articles about it. Ideally, you’d find someone in your organization who knows more about it, too.

But “lack of knowledge” isn’t always a writer’s fault. Sometimes there’s a disconnect between the person producing content and the person coming up with ideas or providing direction.

It’s hard to know how to approach a topic when you aren’t sure how it fits into your organization’s overall strategy or goals.

And sometimes writers wind up executing on bad ideas someone came up with on a whim. After researching a topic, a writer may find that the idea they’re responsible for writing about isn’t actually the best way to approach that topic. Or that they can only write a couple hundred words based on what they were given. (And if you can only write a couple hundred words about something, it probably isn’t worth a blog post. It might, however, make a sub point in a longer post. Or an email.)

If you want your content to actually accomplish something and you want your writers to be the best that they can be, you need to strategically think through every piece. And your writers need to be empowered to suggest alternative ways to accomplish your goals through writing.

Unclear expectations

When writers don’t know basic details about a piece of content, they waste valuable time guessing what you want or waiting for specs. To get maximum value from your writers, every piece of content should come with some sort of brief that defines your expectations.

“You can’t just assume the writer knows what you want,” Adrien says. “These expectations should include things like word count, intended audience, tone, formatting, etc. The more expectations your document can clarify, the better.”

When marketers don’t know how to do research, they do it poorly

Many marketers understand that research is important, but have trouble actually doing it. Maybe they’ll read a couple of posts about the topic they’re writing about. Or they’ll play around in a keyword research tool like SEMRush or Ahrefs. Then they see something intriguing, and inspiration hits, and they start writing.

But that’s not really “research.”

“Research provides direction,” Tyrel says. “Without research, you’re relying on intuition to figure out what should be written. But with research, you can create a map to play within and a tool to destroy creative blocks.”

You can’t just peak at keyword volume or skim a few posts and call it good.

When research gives you ideas, jot them down and keep digging—don’t dive into the post until you’re sure you’ve found everything you need and that you’ve organized it in the most relevant way. Let your curiosity keep leading you to new ideas.

“Curiosity is important because research requires discovery,” Adrien says. “You’re going down rabbit holes, finding knowledge that’s worth sharing. You may start by hunting for a specific piece of information, but a curious researcher doesn’t stop when they discover that information. They take this discovery, and branch it off into a new set of questions. Without curiosity, a piece of information becomes a dead end.”

When inspiration and intuition fizzle out, that doesn’t have to mean your post is finished (and if your post looks flimsy, it shouldn’t be finished). Research lets you lean on the work of others until you find your footing again.

“It can provide a steady stream of validated ideas,” Adrien says. “And it can give unknown writers a chance to shine by providing the best explanation for a problem no one else has solved.”

Similar to speaking from personal experience, drawing from validated ideas shows your audience that you aren’t just making stuff up. This is a great way to complement your personal experience, but it also means you don’t have to have personal experience to have valuable insights. That’s why research is so vital to building brand authority.

“Research is also important for accuracy,” Tyrel says. “When you’re creating content, you have a responsibility to your readers to be accurate—from a moral standpoint, and from a brand trust standpoint. You shouldn’t mislead people, and you don’t want to look stupid. Research ideally prevents both.”

Not enough time spent looking at awesome content creators

Reading doesn’t look like work. But if you want to be a better writer, you have to read the work of better writers. You should probably follow the best writers in your industry, but if you’re trying to get better at utilizing a particular marketing channel, it’s even more important that you keep up with the best brands in your channel. These are the experts in:

This is where you’ll pick up new techniques and find out what’s working for other brands. To be the best you can be, learn how to create content more like the people and brands at the highest level of your craft.

Not enough positive feedback

It’s hard to stay motivated when nobody acknowledges the work you do. Or, just as common for writers, when someone acknowledges it poorly.

“I never find typos in your writing. Good work!” is a lot less meaningful than a question or comment about what you actually said in a piece of writing. Anybody can use a spell check. Writing is a conversation, and if managers want to keep their writers motivated, they need to enter that conversation when they give feedback.

Even just asking where or how someone learned about a topic can affirm the work they’re doing, and it gives them an opportunity to talk about what went into writing a piece.

It’s also important to keep in mind that everyone is different. The way you make one person feel valued may be completely different from how another person feels valued. That should never stop you from giving positive feedback, but as you get to know your writers, the way you give affirmation may change.

Improvement is a process

When I started at Overthink Group, I needed training wheels to get up to speed. People helped me with research. The briefs people gave me included complete outlines. And editing was incredibly thorough.

This support helped me take baby steps towards a goal that previously seemed unattainable. Once I was consistently writing 10,000 words per week, we didn’t keep pushing the word count to see how high I could go—we started removing training wheels.

Now I research, outline, and write most of my posts—in addition to other roles like preparing briefs for clients, interviewing customers on behalf of clients, writing emails, organizing my tasks, etc.—and that word count doesn’t intimidate me like it used to. I often don’t think about word count much unless I’m writing a shorter post—then it becomes a guideline to keep me from being too thorough.

You might have to make some sacrifices to reach your goal. And you might have to support your teammates in ways you’re not used to so that you can all stretch yourselves. But once you get there, you can set a new goal: maintain your new output with additional responsibilities.

And if you’re ever in a pinch with researching or producing content, or you don’t have a team to support you, we’d be happy to chat about how we can help. 😉