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Clever Content Club Blog

The Average Research Time

By Tom Salvat 22 March, 2016 0 Comments

If you’ve ever looked at the online job sites, you might notice something annoying about some of the jobs. They have an insanely short turnaround time. Some of these jobs have been from high-level enterprise content marketers, too! It’s as if they believe that a writer can just sit at the keyboard and push a polished piece of content out on the first draft.

If you are one of these magical first-draft content writers, who can produce quality work without a second draft and research, we at Concured salute you. If, however, you’re like most of the writing population, you know that the length of time it takes to produce a quality piece depends on a lot of factors. We’ll be exploring some of those factors today.

Raw speed and the Reality

The average person types around 40 words per minute. Professional typists can almost double that at around 75 words per minute. Writers usually charge for their work by-the-word. Here's a small chart that shows how fast it takes to type different lengths at different speeds:

Word length                40 WPM                     75 WPM

300                              7.5 minutes                 4 minutes

500                              12.5 minutes               6.67 minutes

750                              18.75 minutes             10 minutes

1000                            25 minutes                  13.34 minutes

2000                            50 minutes                  26.67 minutes

So by raw typing speed, it should be no problem for even the average writer to churn out three, 2000 word articles in a day right? It's just 2.5 hours out of the day. But while the actual fingers-on-keyboard time may be that, there's a lot more that goes into it.

Hubspot released a report last October that asked marketers how long it took to develop a 500 word blog post for their content. The answer was 1-2 hours, and depending on where you hired your worker the time could take even longer. Even in North America, 38% of writers took 1-2 hours, 29% spent 2-3, and 29 percent over four hours. Only a tiny percentage could do the work in under an hour, and these are either very specialised writers that know their niche completely (so they don't have to do research), or poor writers in general.

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Why so long?

Writing may seem like a pedestrian task in today's world of texting, but writing for content requires time to think. It also requires time to research current thoughts about whatever topic is being discussed, and it requires knowledge about the audience that the piece is meant to target. These don't come overnight. While you can get faster at writing about a niche over time due to familiarity, there's always something that needs to be tweaked. New statistics, a change in audience, or another thought leader that must be acknowledged are just some examples.

If the writer isn't given enough time to think about what they're writing about, the results are clear. You get bad writing that doesn't perform. Even if the content is grammatically correct and has a logical flow, it won't be as strong as it could be. Anyone who hires a writer has to factor this research time into their costs and their expectations for deliverables.

The total time for writing a content piece can be divided up into several stages that you probably remember from doing book reports in school:

  • Researching
  • First draft
  • Second draft
  • Ask for feedback
  • Post-feedback drafts
  • Layout and final draft


Each of these stages takes time, and marketers that hire writers must allow sufficient time for each step.     The 1-2 hour average timeframe for a 500 word piece is the amount of time for the first three steps. The amount of time for research varies depending on the complexity of the subject and how much the writer knows about the topic in advance, but around an hour of googling around for source material to cite and to think about how to frame the message is not uncommon.

The actual writing takes around 15-30 minutes for the first draft. The second draft can take just as long. Why? Editing a first draft is often rewriting. New thoughts arise as the writer does their work that can make them reframe the piece, or they may suddenly remember a piece of research that would be perfect. Plus, a first draft almost always has a typo or a clunky word choice somewhere!

We're guessing here, but we bet that some of the Content Marketers who spend more than two hours on a 500 word article have a process where they send their drafts to an editor to receive feedback, then the drafts get polished even more. And if the writer is also responsible for photo sourcing, layout, and uploading into a CMS, that's more time that gets tacked on.

When you're writing long content, these times get blown up even more. The main writer for the Buffer.com blog, Kevan Lee, wrote out a breakdown of how long it takes him to write a 1500-2000 word post three times a week. His average was around three hours per post with a range of about a half hour on either side.

On average, writing and editing (including writing an outline and several headlines) took 95 minutes, research took 40 minutes, and creating images took 30 (note for marketers that ask writers for images!) A few more minutes were also devoted to SEO and promotion of the article. The article above gives a wonderful breakdown on how a pro writer delivers content-rich material three times a week.

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Speeding up the process

That's not to say there aren’t some things a marketing team can do to help the writer. For instance, writers love it when you give them research material to work with. In some cases, letting them interview you for a while about the topic can yield a better product (and you can get your name in print!) Clarity in what is needed, like the word count range of the piece, the intended audience, and so on, helps these writers focus. Answering the writer's question's promptly will also speed up the process.

If the writer is just given a topic and told to get on with it, then they have to spend extra time figuring out these things. Ultimately, you could get a great piece of work that doesn’t fit with your company because you weren’t clear enough with your expectations and you'll have to pay the writer extra for their time spent researching.

Good writing is a skill that takes more than just public schooling, or even college, to master. It takes time to learn new things, process that information into something valuable, and craft that information into a piece that the audience will find compelling. If you are pushing your writers to write as fast as they can, you're doing them and your business a huge disservice. Give them the time they need to write quality content.

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