A number of ride-sharing companies are feeling the strain from reduced business, with many consumers still reluctant to travel, and especially to travel in surroundings that might increase the risk of spreading or catching the novel coronavirus. But today, one of the startups in the space is announcing a significant round of funding to continue growing in its target sector of corporate travel, underscoring where there may still be some existing and growing opportunities.
Gett, the London and Israel-based ride-sharing company that competes with the likes of Uber and many others to provide private car rides on-demand, has raised $ 100 million. Gett’s CEO and founder Dave Waiser told TechCrunch that it is all primary equity capital, and the company says it plans to use it to continue investing in its B2B business, which has been growing — not shrinking or staying flat — in the midst of the global health pandemic.
“The way people move around in cities is changing dramatically as a result of COVID-19 and businesses are seeking to optimise costs and to put in place efficient and safe ground travel solutions for their employees,” said Waiser, in a statement. “Our mobility software is helping businesses thrive by empowering people to be their best on the go. Being fully funded and reaching a key milestone in our profitability journey is an important step for the Company. The proceeds will help us grow our unique corporate SaaS platform internationally, while we consider an IPO in the future, to further accelerate our expansion.”
The company turned operationally profitable in December 2019 and had said it planned to go public in 2020, but it sounds like that timeline, if it happens, has now been pushed back to 2021. Gett says it has met its “original financial targets that were set pre-COVID-19.” It also reached profitability in each of its core markets in June, and is on target now to be cashflow positive in 2021, ahead of a “potential” IPO.
“It’s a luxury, enabling flexibility for the company to go public when it’s best, rather than from the cash needs reasoning as many (money losing) companies have to do nowadays,” Waiser said.
Gett is not disclosing the names of any of its investors in this round except to note that it’s a mix of new and existing backers, nor is it disclosing its valuation.
Waiser said the reason for that is that the round is still open and oversubscribed, so it plans to announce a list of investors after it closes.
For some context, though, Gett has now raised $ 750 million with investors including VW, Access and its founder Len Blavatnik, Kreos, MCI and more, and its last valuation was $ 1.5 billion, pegged to a $ 200 million fundraise in May 2019.
Gett started operations years ago serving both consumers and corporate users but in recent years has honed its focus specifically on business accounts. No surprise, when you think about it, considering the capital intensiveness, competitiveness, and subsequent poor unit economics of scaling a consumer-focused ridesharing business (a confluence of factors we’ve seen played out at Uber, Lyft, Grab and many others).
Gett’s turn to B2B has seen it pick up some 15,000 corporate customers, including one-third of the Fortune 500. What has been interesting too is the approach Gett has taken to scale: today, it provides rides in some 1,500 cities, but a part of that footprint is served not directly by Gett but in a partnership with Lyft — the result of a deal Gett inked with the company in November 2019 after the former shut down its Juno operations in New York City. It’s been expanding that list to include other third-party partnerships in the mix.
While partnerships may not yield margins as strong as those Gett has in direct operations, it provides a plethora of analytics and invoicing services around the actual ride, and secures the corporate accounts, which provides other revenue streams to offset that. It claims that its services ultimately undercut other ground transportation options for corporates by about 25%.
While a lot of consumers may have curtailed their Uber rides in recent months, the business market has had seen a turn to ensuring that the travel that its users are taking is well-controlled when it has to be done, specifically to meet specific safety standards. That has been the sweet spot for Gett, with its very specific B2B approach.
“The completion of the fundraising during the pandemic is a clear expression of confidence by our shareholders and new investors in Gett’s vision to focus on the corporate market and its plan to expand globally, as well as in the Company’s strong operational and financial performance,” said Amos Genish, Gett chairman, in a statement.
Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.
This week was full of news of all sorts, but as we recorded both Danny and Natasha “not Tash” Mascarenhas were still locked out of their Twitter accounts after a proletariat revolution on the social platform saw the ruling Blue Checkmark Class forced into silence. That’s not really what happened, but it sounds better than actually went down at Big Social.
Anyway, Twitter accounts or not, the three of us gathered to parse through a wave of news:
- The new TechCrunch List that Danny spent a very long time compiling has arrived! It’s live! You can find it here. It is good.
- And, if you want to know which VCs were even more fêted by founders, head here. (If you are irked that you did not make either list, please email Danny, not the show!)
- Moving on, Google is putting billions into Reliance Jio after every other company in the world did the same. Google is buying a bit less of the Indian telecom than the search giant, but between the two of them it’s been more than $ 10 billion in dealmaking. Perhaps Reliance Jio is done raising money? At last?
- Udemy is hunting up more capital at a higher valuation, reports say, providing Natasha with the perfect moment to let us know what is going with edtech.
- Turning to funding rounds, I was hype about the Macro round that TechCrunch covered this week, Danny wanted to chat about The Browser Company’s similarly-sized $ 5 million round, and Natasha talked us through LiteBoxer’s combined $ 6 million in new capital.
- Closing, we talked about IPOs for a hot second. The IPO window is open, and now that nCino and GoHealth have gone public, we want to know who is next.
It was a lovely time and there is a bit of show news. Namely that Equity is coming back to YouTube either this week or the next. So if you want to see us talk, soon you will be able to! Again!
Oh, and follow the show on Twitter. If you can, that is.
Restaurants, hotels and other public venues where we spend leisure and business time have started to reopen in many parts of the world after a period of going dark to try to slow down the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, a startup called SevenRooms, which builds software to help those venues with their guest management, is announcing a growth round of $ 50 million — to double down on providing tools for venues that now have to handle a whole new layer of management to implement social distancing and more.
The funding, a Series B, is coming from a single investor, Providence Strategic Growth, the company tells me. SevenRooms has some notable backers on its cap table already: Amazon (which invested via its Alexa Fund and directly), Comcast (via Comcast Ventures) and BoxGroup, along with a number of individuals.
The company has now raised about $ 75 million in total and it’s not disclosing its valuation, but CEO Joel Montaniel (who co-founded the company with Allison Page, CPO; and Kinesh Patel, CTO) said in an interview that it’s a significant up round. (PitchBook estimates that its previous valuation was a modest $ 28 million.)
SevenRooms serves restaurants, hotels and other venues, although food service establishments account for about 95% of its business in terms of customers and revenues. Another new opportunity has emerged out of the need for a lot of other in-person venues, like shops, needing to consider how to implement reservations to help with social distancing.
Today, it counts a number of large chains, including 70% of the restaurants along the Las Vegas Strip (because MGM is a customer), among its users. In all some 500 million bookings globally have been made through its software since it was founded in 2011, and other customers include Bloomin’ Brands, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Wolfgang Puck, Michael Mina, D&D London, Corbin & King, Jumeirah Group, Black Sheep Restaurants, Zuma and Topgolf.
Montaniel described the last three months of business as something like a “tale of two cities” — a reference to the Charles Dickens novel, which starts out with the famous line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
In the context of SevenRooms, that has played out as a big drop in its mainstay business, which was focused around reservations, customer loyalty and other services sold as white-label services directly to the venues (or the operators, as Montaniel calls them), which in turn customised them for their customers, and created experiences across multiple platforms, including their own sites and apps, as well as Google Maps.
“It’s been really tough to see the industry go through the pandemic,” he said. “A lot of operators closed doors overnight. It created a lot of challenges for businesses.”
On the other side of the issue, necessity has been the mother of invention for SevenRooms and its customers. The company has built out a new tool for letting its customers take online orders for delivery — something it had been planning to launch later in the year but decided to launch earlier, given the state of things. It’s sold with a licensing fee, with no commission to SevenRooms, and links in with SevenRooms’ marketing and loyalty tools; it has done well, so much so that Montaniel said it and the longer-term customer relationships it’s building offset the drop in its other business.
“Delivery and pickup grew like crazy,” Montaniel said. And like some of the other “digital transformation” we’ve seen where retailers have accelerated their e-commerce strategies simply to stay in business, he believes that the switches and packages generated tens of thousands per month of savings.
There are a lot of companies that have built out tools to serve the hospitality industry, and specifically to help with bookings, with some of the bigger names including OpenTable and Yelp. Montaniel believes that SevenRooms stands out because of its focus primarily on its operators, rather than providing a business in being the interface between operators and their customers, and on how it views its role in not just helping perform functions but expanding the wider business, by way of data that it can use to help grow customer loyalty and help people who are regulars feel like it.
There remain a lot of potential competitors who are also sometimes partners. Google, and Google Maps, is perhaps the most obvious, although these days Montaniel says Google Maps and the entry point it gives to discovering restaurants is a great boost to its business.
“Google is a company that every company in the world thinks about and talks about in their strategy sessions,” he said. “But there are others too. Big companies always can be competition: they do so many things so well, and they are a team away and a cash infusion away from competing with you, and those who don’t think they are are rivals are not thinking big enough.”
All the same, there are also two potential allies in SevenRooms’ corner that make this bet a little more interesting.
Amazon’s Alexa Fund is about strategic investments: SevenRooms used the backing to build out an Alexa integration into its white-label tools. But there are other ways in which that connection might potentially develop. The company has dabbled in travel services (including bookings) in the past, via Amazon Destinations, and although that was short-lived, the company continues to serve a number of hospitality and travel businesses via AWS, and frankly you can’t really count Amazon out of any vertical with an online component, which is to say, you can’t really count Amazon out of any vertical at all.
Meanwhile, Comcast has been making a number of investments into the kinds of services that it could potentially resell as part of larger business connectivity packages, which includes a focus on local businesses, spelling out another opportunity for how SevenRooms might expand.
Interestingly, SevenRooms is already close to profitability, and it didn’t need this funding — in contrast to a lot of other startups that have found it hard to make ends meet in these difficult months. Montaniel said that it raised because it had a list of “seven things we wanted to do, and without the extra cash we could only do three of them,” without elaborating on what those product features will be.
It’s a big area, though, and now that so much activity has been cut off for so many of us, we’re only now starting to realise how critical it can be, one reason why investors were interested.
“SevenRooms is a category-defining company that provides a vital solution to hospitality operators worldwide,” said Adam Marcus, managing director at PSG. “Joel and the talented SevenRooms management team have built the only vertically integrated solution in the hospitality industry, which has enabled them to scale into a global powerhouse. SevenRooms is uniquely positioned, and we are excited to partner with the team to support their next phase of growth.”
DroneBase, a Los Angeles-based provider of drone pilots for industrial services companies, has raised $ 7.5 million during the pandemic to double down on its work with renewable energy companies.
While chief executive Dan Burton acknowledged that the company was fundraising prior to the pandemic, the industrial lockdown actually accelerated demand for the company’s services.
Even with the increased demand, the company had to make some changes. It laid off six employees and refocused its business.
“In the past three months it’s become clear that this is a moment for drones as an industry,” Burton said. “We were really pushing hard as a company, certainly on revenue growth and harvesting all the investments we made in technology and having a clear, near-term view to profitability.”
The new round, which closed in May, was a slight down round, according to people familiar with the company’s business.
“We see raising a growth round later this year,” Burton said.
In all, DroneBase has raised nearly $ 32 million in financing, according to a company statement.
The new round will enable the company to focus on its data and analytics services that it has been developing around its core drone pilot provisioning technology — and gives DroneBase more financial wherewithal to expand its European operations under DroneBase Europe, which operates out of Germany.
“DroneBase’s expansion into renewable energy reflects our belief in the growth potential of wind and solar energy industries,” said Burton in a statement. “Since many energy companies have both wind and solar assets, we are well positioned to leverage our DroneBase Insights platform to grow our global market share in renewable energy.”
The key application for DroneBase has been allowing wind power companies to monitor and manage their turbines, improving uptimes and spotting problems before they effect operations, the company said.
For solar power companies, DroneBase offers a network of pilots trained in infrared imaging to detect anomalies like defects or hot spots on solar panels, the company said.
“DroneBase has established themselves as the drone leader in the commercial market, and its new work in renewables will have a lasting impact on the future of energy by keeping infrastructure operational for generations,” says Sam Teller, partner at Valor Equity Partners, in a statement. “We believe DroneBase will continue to be a valuable partner in drone operations and data analysis across a multitude of industries globally.”
Podcasting continues to see a strong trajectory in the world of streamed audio content, and today comes the latest development on that front. SiriusXM, owner of Pandora and backer of Soundcloud, said that it is acquiring Simplecast, a podcast management platform used by creators to publish and distribute podcasts, and subsequently analyse how they are consumed. SiriusXM plans to integrate Simplecast with AdsWizz, a digital audio advertising company that it acquired in 2018 for $ 66.3 million in cash plus shares to power ads on Pandora .
The company is not disclosing any of the financial terms for the Simplecast acquisition but we have asked and will update if we learn more. As a startup, New York-based Simplecast, which will continue to be led by its founder and CEO Brad Smith, had raised a modest $ 7.87 million in funding from investors since launching in 2013, per PitchBook data.
The deal is interesting because it is bringing one of the more popular independent platforms and set of tools used by streamers under the wing of a platform. Simpleccast’s many podcasts and users today include Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard, Netflix, Maximum Fun, Cloud10, QCODE, Anna Faris is Unqualified, Blue Wire, and Revision Path, who use it to distribute content over multiple, and sometimes competing, networks, including Apple, Spotify, Google and Overcast. (Business plans currently range in price and start at $ 15/month and go up to $ 85/month or more depending on podcast size, number of users, and features that you need.)
Pandora (with help from SiriusXM, which has a large and popular stable of talk radio shows on its channels) has been building up its own spoken-word content, of course, so there is a direct opportunity to push more on-demand podcasts to that platform in particular, as well as offer more interesting terms for doing so, as well as bring in a much wider spectrum of podcasts to run AdsWizz’s inventory, which currently is seen by more than 100 million people each month across the US and Canada (SiriusXM’s and Pandora’s footprint in vehicles, online and more).
We have asked SiriusXM if the plan will be to keep all of Simplecast’s services as-is after the deal closes.
What’s clearer is that, with SiriusXM also making a key investment in Soundcloud last year, the company is — like Spotify (which acquired a Simplecast competitor, Anchor, last year) — building up its music-business tools to complement its position as a content provider: this is a key role to play in the brave new world of digital music, where monetisation remains a challenge for most, and the tools to distribute, analyse and (yes) monetise one’s creative content continue to get more sophisticated, so much so that getting that part of the equation right can make or break an artist or wider creative or media endeavour.
“Our goal is to provide audio publishers with state-of-the-art platforms and give them everything they need to be successful,” said Alexis van de Wyer, CEO of AdsWizz, in a statement. “Empowering podcasters of any size to create, distribute, analyze, and monetize their work is the next natural step in pursuing our vision.”
“From the beginning, Simplecast’s mantra and mission was to remain laser-focused on podcast creators – building the best tools for publishing and insights,” said Brad Smith, the Founder & CEO of Simplecast, in a statement of his own. “The opportunity and alignment with AdsWizz allows our product — and our customers — access to a powerful monetization platform. Two best-in-class platforms are now able to align with the shared mission of helping publishers succeed, while each team continues to focus on their respective areas of expertise.”
How in the world do they do it?
Day after day, they write monstrous posts that are extremely useful and easy to read.
You know the people I’m talking about—you might even consider me to be one of them.
Here’s what a typical week looks like for me in terms of blog content alone:
- 2 posts on Quick Sprout (1,000-5,000 words each) plus an infographic
- 2 posts on the NeilPatel.com blog (about 5,000 words each)
- 2 guest posts on other popular blogs (about 1,500 words each)
- 0.5-1 blog post for the Crazy Egg blog (about 2 per month at about 2,000 words each)
Total that up, and you get around 17,000 words per week or 3,400 words per weekday.
And I’ve been able to sustain this type of volume for years.
I’m the first to admit that in technical terms, I’m not the best writer. I certainly didn’t go to college to get a degree in English or creative writing. Yet, I have thousands of awesome readers who really enjoy what I write.
There’s a reason I spent much time learning first how to write quality blog posts and then how to write them fast.
Although time is my most valuable resource, I spend a significant chunk of it every week writing. That’s because I know how effective content marketing can be for a business.
But I’m far from the only one.
Contently found that 41% of businesses struggle with creating enough content.
Wouldn’t it be easier to create more content if you could write faster?
If you need to learn how to write a great post, start by checking out my guide to writing high quality data-driven articles.
If you already write high quality posts but it takes you a long time to do it, then this article is for you. I’m going to show you 11 key concepts that you can start using today to start writing faster.
Imagine being able to write posts in half the time you currently do now! That would free up a lot of time to either write more posts or work on other parts of your business.
An extra few posts a week can greatly speed up your business’ growth, possibly by years.
1. Get your typing up to speed
No matter how well you can remain focused for long period of times and how fast you can think of what to say, if you can’t type at a decent speed, you’ll never write quickly.
If you’re still pecking at letters, one finger at a time, it’s not going to cut it.
You don’t have to be a master typist, but you should be able to type at least 60 words per minute (60 WPM). If you could type at that speed for an hour straight, that would be 3,600 words per hour. Obviously that’s unrealistic, but you can achieve a decent fraction of that production rate.
I’d like you to take a minute to test your typing speed. Head to Key Hero, and do a quick typing test:
If you’d like to repeat it a few times to get a more accurate result, go ahead.
If your speed is under 60 WPM, you’ll have to fix that before you can worry about any of the other concepts in this article. I know it’s not the most fun thing in the world, but you’ll be grateful you did it in the long run.
Step 1: Use the proper hand placement
To type properly, you should be resting the four fingers of each hand on the keys of the middle row, with your thumbs hovering over the space bar.
If you don’t already do this, it will take a bit of practice for it to feel natural.
Step 2: Don’t look at the keyboard
You should be able to type with your eyes closed—literally. If you can’t, it means you need to practice to get you to the point when typing no longer requires an active focus (the unconscious takes care of it).
Part of this can be your posture. If you’re hunched over while sitting, it’s possible that you’re looking at the keyboard just because that’s where your line of sight is. Do your best to sit up straight when writing.
Step 3: Practice, practice, practice
Kids these days practice typing from a young age, but you might not have been so lucky. The good news is that you can find online tools to help you practice and learn. One example is the Key Hero practice tools. If you need more instruction from the beginning, use a typing tutor tool:
Alternative: Try speech-to-text software
You have a number of speech-to-text tools you can use, e.g., TalkTyper (free), Ivona (paid), and Dragon Naturally Speaking (paid). These tools allow you to simply talk to your computer while it records your words and whatever punctuation you indicate.
While you can obviously talk faster than you can type, there are some downsides to this method. The free or cheap tools aren’t always accurate, and it can take a lot of time to fix the mistakes those programs make. Even the expensive ones aren’t perfect, and they also have a steep learning curve at first.
It’s not the first option I’d recommend, but if for some reason you aren’t able to type, or type quickly, it’s a decent backup.
2. Don’t forget your ideas: make a list
How much time do you waste trying to come up with a good idea for a blog post?
It’s hard enough if you’re just writing a couple of them a week, but if I had to come up with ideas for all the posts I write one at a time, I don’t know if I could do it.
The good news is: there’s a better way. It’s called an idea list.
Coming up with ideas on demand can be difficult because it’s a creative task. Creativity comes and goes as we observe and experience different things in our lives. It’s why book writers often take years to write their novels.
You can’t just sit down and say to yourself, “Okay brain, start coming up with great ideas.”
Instead, you need to develop your idea muscle so that you can spontaneously come up with many ideas throughout the day.
The concept of an idea muscle was coined by James Altucher, who says that as you practice coming up with ideas, you get better at it.
“Every situation you are in, you will have a ton of ideas. Any question you are asked, you will know the response. Every meeting you are at, you will take the meeting so far out of the box you’ll be on another planet, if you are stuck on a desert highway – you will figure the way out, if you need to make money you’ll come up with 50 ideas to make money, and so on.” — James Altucher
He advises to start by trying to come up with at least 10 ideas throughout the day.
Here’s the second part: record them. Not all of these ideas will be good, but some will be, and others may lead you to good ideas.
You can use a simple notepad from the dollar store, or you can do what the team at Buffer does and record ideas in Trello:
An alternative: create a repeatable strategy
I’ve already shown you how to steal ideas for your next post. This is a strategy that you can use over and over again to get inspiration for post ideas.
It’s still not a good idea to come up with post ideas as you need them—it’s inefficient. Instead, schedule a block of time, maybe an hour, every week or month (depending on your post volume). Use this time to use your strategy to come up with as many ideas as you can.
Instead of coming up with a single idea in 10 minutes every time you need one, you can come up with five times the number of ideas in the same time frame once you get some momentum going.
Either way, you’ll be able to cut down on time coming up with ideas and focus more time and energy on the actual writing.
3. Get rid of distractions
Distractions are everywhere, especially on the computer.
The urge to check email, visit social media sites, or just click a bookmark to go to your favorite site to kill time is strong.
Maybe you’d rather check your search engine rankings again or website traffic instead of writing a post, which seems way less fun.
If you give into these urges, your productivity is going to go way down. But even if you don’t, those urges in the back of your head are going to distract you and prevent you from being as productive as possible.
In real life, there are even more distractions, especially if you work from home. Kids running around, people talking on the phone or watching TV, and temptation to take a break and grab a snack.
Distractions are everywhere.
You’ll never get rid of them all, but you can get rid of many, which will greatly boost your writing speed.
Distraction elimination #1: Work in an office or quiet space
Noise kills writing productivity. You need to be able to hear your thoughts uninterrupted. If you work from home, designate a room as your office, and make sure that no one disturbs you while the door is closed.
If you’re working at an office or co-working space, keep your door closed while writing. Tell any friends or coworkers to not disturb you while the door is closed unless there is an emergency.
If neither of those are realistic, head to a library. Libraries are quiet, and some even have dedicated rooms for silent work.
Distraction elimination #2: Turn off the tunes
Who doesn’t like music? Wouldn’t it be more fun to write while listening to Taylor Swift?
Well, sure, it will be more fun, but it will slow you down when you are writing.
Studies have shown that music is a distraction that slows down complex thought processes. So while music might help you with simple, straight-forward tasks such as lifting more in the gym, it’s going to slow down your writing.
But that’s not the full story. Those studies looked typical lyrical music.
A 2012 study showed that low to moderate levels of ambient noise can actually lead to slightly higher creative output.
Similarly, another study showed that baroque classical music can increase mood and productivity. Note that classical music rarely has any lyrics. It is soft and consistent.
So you have two options: work with no music or work with low to medium volume ambient noise or classical music.
Distraction elimination #3: Lock-down distracting websites
If you have trouble staying on task, you can block certain trouble websites for a designated time period. There are many plugins that can do this, e.g., Strict Workflow for Chrome.
You simply tell the plugin which sites you’d like blocked and for how long, and you won’t be able to access them until the time period is up.
In addition, you can hide your bookmarks bar if you’re working inside a web text application such as Google Docs. Just right-click any empty space in the bookmarks bar and uncheck “show bookmarks bar.”
Distraction elimination #4: Write offline
If blocking distracting sites doesn’t work, you can take it to the next level and disconnect your Internet altogether. Writing offline will eliminate all online distractions.
Distraction elimination #5: Finish all important tasks before writing
Sometimes it’s hard to focus because there’s something else important that you need to do during the day. If you’re thinking about this in the back of your head, your writing speed will go down.
Instead, think about doing any distracting tasks upfront, and then come back to writing later.
4. Outline your post beforehand
Before I write any post, I always outline it.
When you outline a post, you get a really clear idea of how you will be making the point you’re trying to make as well as any research or resources you’ll need to make the article as strong as possible.
You’ll notice that all of my posts have an introduction section (like everyone else’s posts would have) and also a conclusion section.
The headlines of the other sections will depend on the type of post I’m writing. There are 12 main types of posts, and I have general outlines for all of them.
The outlines don’t need to take very long to put together. Their main point is to make sure you’re not missing any important pieces of the puzzle.
I write out all the subheadlines (H2s) in the article as well as a few main bullet points below each to remind me what I should cover.
When I get to each section while writing, I don’t have to remember what I had in mind for this section before—it’s already there.
5. Research comes first
What do you think is easier to write about for me: how to ride a horse or how to write a good blog post?
Of course, how to write a good blog post is a simpler topic for me because it’s a topic that I have a lot of experience and expertise in.
The first step is to become an expert on the topic you’re writing about. It’s easy to talk/write about something you know well but difficult if you’re trying to put the pieces together as you go.
Take my nutrition blog case study. I’m not a nutrition expert, and I didn’t have the time to invest in becoming well-versed in the subject so that I could write about it credibly. That’s why I had Mike take over content creation.
This doesn’t mean you need to be an expert from day one, but you need at the very least to learn about the specific topic you’re writing about before starting.
Otherwise, task switching is going to kill your writing speed.
What’s task switching? It’s a concept that refers to having to switch between different activities. For example, having to switch from writing mode to research mode because you don’t understand a concept you need for a particular article.
While some may multitask better than others, we all are more productive when we focus on a single task.
Dr. David Meyer and colleagues conducted a study in 2001 to quantify the effects of task switching. He had subjects try to switch between different tasks such as solving math problems and naming geometric objects.
When both problems were simple, subjects didn’t lose much time going back and forth. But as the tasks became complex, the subjects lost more and more time with each switch.
It’s hard to pin down the exact cost of switching, but Meyer estimated that it could cost someone up to 40% of their productivity for complex tasks. Make no mistake, writing and researching are complex tasks.
Every time you have to switch, it not only takes a bit of time (up to a few seconds) to get into the right mindset, but it also fatigues you. Just thinking about having to switch back and forth several times an hour makes me tired.
Here’s the takeaway: learn everything you need to know about the topic you are writing about before you write a single word. This means that you should note down any relevant statistics, resources, or findings from studies beforehand.
6. Write first, edit later
Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is garbage.”
I’m not sure how much fiction you read, but Hemingway was one of the most influential authors of the 20th century.
He won a Nobel Prize in Literature and a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction before he died. Even now, we remember his writing genius.
If Hemingway thought his first drafts were garbage, imagine what he’d think of mine or yours.
So, you basically have two options if you want to write a post that doesn’t suck.
First, you can continually edit each sentence and paragraph as you go. Or you can write your first draft like most prolific writers do, and then edit later.
Both can produce a good article, but I’ll tell you why the second option is by far the best choice.
If you continually switch between writing and editing, you have the same problem that we looked at before: task switching. You’re asking your brain to switch from trying to write to trying to edit. This kills any writing momentum you have and makes you start from scratch every sentence or paragraph.
When you write—just write—you can focus on writing only. This allows your mind to focus on what you should write now and what should come next. Similarly, when you’re editing, all your focus can be on “how can I make this better?” instead of also trying to think of what needs to be said next.
In my experience, Meyer’s guess of about a 40% decrease in productivity from task switching is probably about right.
Write first, edit second.
7. Take (smart) breaks
Unless you’re a robot, you need breaks. All people get tired.
Sure, you can get stronger over time, but you’ll still need breaks.
Everyone’s different in this aspect. Some need frequent breaks, while others only need breaks after a few hours. It depends on how much you enjoy writing, your writing ability, and a few personal factors.
If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend the Pomodoro Technique. Yes, pomodoro means “tomato” in Italian, so essentially it’s a tomato technique. It’s named after the timer that the creator used:
It was designed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. Even though it’s not new, it hasn’t been until the last decade or so that it really became popular as a productivity technique.
Here’s how it works:
- You set a timer for 25 minutes
- You work until the timer finishes
- You take a 5 minute break
- All of that is one Pomodoro
Now you repeat that process four times. After the 4th 30-minute period, you take a 15-20 minute break.
You can either buy a pomodoro timer or just use this online tomato timer.
This procedure is supposed to keep you focused and fresh while working.
For accountability purposes, you are supposed to start the day by making a to-do list of what you’d like to accomplish.
You put an “X” beside each item to indicate how many pomodoro periods (25 minutes of work) it took to finish.
“You will probably begin to notice a difference in your work or study process within a day or two. True mastery of the technique takes from seven to twenty days of constant use.”
The final piece of the system is dealing with interruptions. There are two types of interruptions: internal and external.
Internal interruptions are thoughts that are distracting you from working. With this system, if they are important tasks, you are supposed to write them down on your to-do sheet so that you can be sure they will get done later.
External interruptions are from other people and things (phones, emails, etc.). The pomodoro system suggests to deal with such interruptions as quickly as possible. Tell the people who want your attention now to come back later or promise them you’ll call them back as soon as you can (on a break). In the meantime, get back to work.
8. Give yourself a deadline
Parkinson’s law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.
This means if you give yourself too much time to finish something, or that you don’t think it matters when you finish it, it will take longer to do. Either you’ll procrastinate because you know you can do it quickly, or it’ll become increasingly complex, which will result in accomplishing something other than what you set out to do.
Think about how most people study for a test. They put it off as long as possible and then cram everything in at the last possible minute.
While it’s not optimal from a learning point of view, it illustrates that people are capable of working extremely quickly when there’s a firm deadline that must be met.
The problem many professional writers have is that they give themselves a day to write a post, even if they may not need it. They say that if they finish early, they’ll start working on something else—but they never do finish early because the work expands to fill the available time.
When you start writing a post, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to include in the post, nothing more. Then, give yourself a deadline for writing the post, which is equal to the minimum amount of time you think you might need.
Remember that this is just for writing the post, which you want to do as quickly as possible. The quality really comes from the editing. You should still have a deadline, but don’t make it strict since you will need your creativity and careful thought.
Don’t limit deadlines to your writing only. You can also set a deadline for checking emails in the morning. Most people spend over 2 hours on email a day, when they could probably reduce it to two 10-minute periods, in the morning and at night, if they set a hard deadline.
9. Write during your most productive time
You’ve heard that some people work better in the morning and some at night, right?
Morning people are called “early birds,” while people who prefer the night are called “night owls.”
It turns out that there’s a significant amount of science backing up this phenomenon. German scientists found that night owls had a different brain composition than early risers.
This affects your circadian rhythm, which is responsible for controlling your sleep schedule and alertness throughout your day. Dr. Katherine Sharkey says that night owls have longer circadian rhythms than early risers.
We don’t need to know exactly how it works to see how it affects how we write.
If you find that you’re much more productive in the morning, write in the morning.
If you find that you’re much more productive in the evening, write in the evening.
You will accomplish more in one really productive hour of writing than you would with more time but struggling to focus.
10. Use simple words
Do you ever pause while writing in order to think of the perfect word?
If so, you’re wasting time.
When it comes to blog posts, or any type of web content, your writing should be simple.
People have very limited attention spans and like to skim. Jakob Nielson collected data that shows an average visitor reads just 20-28% of the words in a post. If they can’t skim it, they usually skip it. That means your perfect word won’t even be read by most.
When you read complex words, it takes longer to understand them. It’s partly because they are complex words, but it’s also because we don’t see them often.
So not only do complicated words and sentences confuse and deter your readers but they also slow down your writing. Instead of just stopping and thinking about which word to use, write the simplest alternative that comes to mind.
Instead of “convoluted,” write “complex”.
Instead of “disastrous,” write “poor”.
Instead of “proficiency,” write “skill.”
Get what I’m saying? Here are 24 more examples.
If you want to see how you’re doing, put one of your blog posts into this readability score calculator.
Here are the Flesch-Kincaid grade level scores of a few popular writers. I write at about a 4th-grade level. If you use complex words often, your score will be much higher.
11. The one factor behind all great writers
I’ve given you 10 concepts so far that can help you write faster without rushing and sacrificing quality.
Even if you apply all of these overnight, you still won’t write as quickly as I do by tomorrow.
Writing quickly takes practice, a lot of practice.
Malcolm Gladwell estimates that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. If you write five hours a day, five days a week, that’s about eight years.
I’m probably getting pretty close to that number.
But even if you’re not close, you will get better every step of the way there. So, don’t get discouraged if you can only write 300 words per hour right now. Over time, if you’re truly working on writing faster, it will creep up to 310, then 320, then 350, and so on…
In just a year or two, you might be writing 1,000 words per hour—sooner if you’re a quick learner.
Imagine that for a second: you could effectively double or triple the value of your time. That’s huge.
If you apply just one concept in this article, you can probably increase your writing speed by over 10% within a few days.
If you currently write for 20 hours a week at a rate of 500 words per hour, a 10% improvement alone will give you an extra 1,000 words per week. This is about an article a week for most blogs or 52 extra articles per year without spending any extra time.
If you really take the concepts I’ve laid out here to heart and apply more than one, you could see an even bigger improvement.