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How to earn more -and relax more – as a freelance writer

By Jane

I am sure you have read plenty of those articles that say how great it is being a freelance writer: you can get up when you like, work when you like, and stay in your pyjamas all day if you want to. Sounds like a dream job. Freelance writing is, in fact, my dream job, but it definitely doesn’t pan out like those articles say it should. Writing for a living takes dedication, hard work and putting in the hours.

The nature of the beast means that life often gets in the way of those hours you need to spend writing,unless you have a plan. In today’s writing market, productivity includes a great deal of time spent managing your social networking and creating your own content, as well as getting your clients’ work done. Being creative, within a structure, is a great way to find the balance you need to earn more – and sleep more – as a freelance writer.

The freelance writer’s work/life balance

Freelance writers are creative creatures. Our art is expressed through our words and a lack of creativity can mean no inspiration for the task at hand. However, there is a danger that we allow the creative nature of the job prevail in the face of organisation, and that can have the same effect as no creative juice. To level the odds we also need a smidgen of structure in which to work. So how do we find the balance that we need between the art of writing and the science of running a business? How do we leverage our skill, and make a great living while still having time for the rest of life?

Fitting the creativity of writing into a structured routine, and using the tools at our disposal, has the effect of improving your productivity and keeping you accountable to the time you need to put in. Since every hour counts when it comes to billing, that is a distinct advantage.

Creating your plan

In order to fit in all the extra work you absolutely have to do to keep the work coming in, while still doing the paying work, you need to crunch some numbers.

Time allocation for billable work

The first thing to work out, based on how much you earn per hour (even if you charge per word or per project, you should be able to work out how much you can earn in a hour) is how many hours in a month you need to bill for, to earn the salary you need. If you charge $50 an hour and aim to earn a salary of $60 000 per year, you need to invoice 5 hours of actual writing per day. If you don’t work weekends, that gives you a total of 25 writing hours a week. That means, as a fulltime writer, you have 3 hours a day, or 15 hours a week, for all the admin, marketing and social networking that you have to fit in to keep the clients coming in.

  • $60000/12months = $5000 per month
  • $5000 per month/ 20 working days = $250 per day
  • @ $50 per hour that’s 5 hours of billable work time per day (or 25 per week)
  • In an 8 hour working day 8-5 = 3 hours left per day (or 15 per week)

Time for writing your own content

In order to maintain your own blog, which is your greatest marketing tool, you need to write your own content. You must decide on your publishing frequency and then stick to it. Whether you publish once a week, or daily, you need to ensure you have the time to write rich and engaging content for yourself, and this time must also be allocated and accounted for.

I try to update my personal blog three times a week, and a post takes me about 2 hours, on average, to write, so I need to allocate 6 hours a week to writing for myself. Referring back to our maths above, that allocation leaves us with 9 hours a week in which to tend to everything else.

Social networking – emphasising the social

Social media marketing is an extension of the content marketing tool that we use to sell our skill. It is a necessary evil, as well as a fantastic mine for all the great knowledge there is out there. Even if you use automated software to post to your networks, real social influence comes from interacting on these sites in person. Sharing content is not enough, you need to engage your followers.

Even though I try to limit this to half an hour a day, I very rarely manage fewer than 45 minutes. I include reading relevant articles that have been posted and from which I can learn more about my trade in my social networking time – I can’t share something if I haven’t read it. This means that over a week, I spend around four hours per week – I do more over the weekends – networking in the Cloud. Back to the maths, that leaves a mere five hours left for admin. That’s just an hour a day.

Keeping on top of it all

Running a freelance writing business also includes keeping abreast of plenty of administrative tasks. After all the writing and networking has been done and the time you spent on it tracked, you need to fit in sorting out your email inbox, replying to emails, sending out quotes and invoices and any other general admin that ensures the smooth running of your business. All of this can be better achieved by employing some tools designed for the trade.

Don’t forget that being a great writer requires that you do a lot of reading. For many of us that is easy, it’s not something we have to fit into our working hours as it is, in fact, a great way to wind down. But if you do not fall into that category, make sure you allocate time for reading, both trade articles and fiction, and use it as a tool to help you improve your own writing.

Making the most of the tools at your disposal

Now that you have worked out how many hours you need to write in a day, and how tofit the rest of your life into all your remaining available hours – and still have time to get enough rest – you need to stick to the plan. For me that often means putting in a couple of hours over the weekend since on top of everything else, I have home schooled children to work around. There’s the perk of freelancing within a structure: my time really is my own, even when I have deadlines, because I know exactly where it goes.

Time tracking software

In order to make sure you are getting the billable hours in, as well as leaving enough time for the admin and social networking, you need to keep track of the time you write for clients, as well as the time you spend doing everything else. To do this accurately I use time tracking software. There are a number of these available and they take the guesswork out of how long each job takes you, and whether or not you are working enough billable hours.

Online time tracking tools enable you to measure your time with just one click. Many of them have a desktop app that allows you to keep track of your time even if you are not online. The next time you access the web it syncs with the rest of your data. Thereare plenty of free versions of this type of software to choose from and most of them let you to track numerous clients, print detailed reports and summaries and send you a weekly update of your time allocations.

The most user-friendly one that I have found is Toggl, but you can choose from an almost inexhaustible list of them on Google.

Managing your social media

With a proliferation of social networking platforms, all of which have their advantages and disadvantages for a writer, it is necessary to find balance here too. It would be very easy to spend all day reading and sharing great content and interacting with others doing the same. If we did that instead of writing, the volume of great content would diminish, bearing in mind that we are its creators. While it is vital that you do interact on these platforms in person – it is social networking, after all – there is definitely a place for automated software that manages your social media.

Software such as Hootsuite, Post Planner, Social Oomph, and Dlvr.it enable you to post to each of the different social networking sites. This is just a drop in the ocean of choices you have in automated networking software and each of them seems to come with its own benefits. They can be used to ensure you are sharing all your own content, as well as to store up other content you want to share without info-bombing your followers: you can schedule posts at regular intervals, giving people a chance to engage with it.

If you spend your life working ‘on the fly’ you may well be able to make ends meet, however, you will not be able to grow your business and you will feel constantly frazzled and under pressure. Knowing exactly how much work you have to put in to achieve your goals, and then measuring the time spent on that work – by making the most of the tools available to help you – will allow you to enjoy the writing, the networking, the admin and the life that it all supports. How do you organise your freelance writing life in order to get the balance you need to succeed?

Jane Hendry is Writer-in-Chief for aXent Associates. Her passion for education has led her to home school her children, and she reads voraciously to quench her own insatiable thirst for knowledge. Follow Jane on Twitter or . Visit her blog to read about content marketing and life-long learning.

Category: freelance writing

12 Comments on "How to earn more -and relax more – as a freelance writer"

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for this. I find the most difficult thing is finding a structure. You have outlined this clearly, and it gives me a frame of reference to work with, as I must confess to feeling “constantly frazzled”!

    • Jane Hendry says:

      It really is possibly if you stick to a strict routine – obviously you have to have room for flexibility as life happens around you, but having a plan makes it possibly, of not probable, that you can fit everything in.

  2. Michael Levanduski says:

    Time management is one of the most difficult things for a freelance writer. I’m doing it part time, but it often ends up taking closer to full time hours to get everything done!

    Great tips you’ve got here though, I’ll have to give them a try.

    Michael

    • Jane Hendry says:

      Too true, Michael; it really is a juggling act! Glad you found them useful, and best of luck.

  3. Daryl says:

    I’m going to one up Michael and say time management is THE most difficult things for many freelance writers to do!
    The fact that most people come from an “employee” makes it a lot harder to transition to carefully and effectively managing yourself as your own boss.

    That being said, with some dedication, proper planning and good execution, it’s definitely realistic to achieve a proper work/life balance.

    • Jane Hendry says:

      That’s exactly it, Daryl, going from having your time managed to managing your time is a huge leap. Having an identified structure makes all the difference.

  4. Tophike says:

    Hi jane. Nice article,great outlines. Am quite sure in 3 months from now,i will be earning big. I wrote my first article on blogging on my site @ http://www.tophike.blogspot.com would be promoting it in the next few days. Hope i can feature you anytime soon

    • Jane Hendry says:

      Thanks Tophike! Organisation and dedication will get you there!

  5. Mohit says:

    Great Article.I know that freelance writing is not a easy work sometimes. This article will help out writers in making a proper plan. It will help writers in relaxing and working at proper time…

    • Jane Hendry says:

      Thank you Mohit! I believe that sharing our resources will help us to all make a fantastic industry out of writing, and give it the esteem it deserves.

  6. Edson Hale says:

    the most challenging aspect of freelancing is managing your schedule. While being your own boss sometimes you want to take advantage of this comfort but eventually quality of your work suffers and your client be dissatisfied over it and you lose business. So being freelancer one must religiously stick to his schedule to not let himself take undue advantage of his own comfortable position

    • Jane Hendry says:

      That’s true Edson. We must make the most of our opportunities, rather than expecting that they will continue to be there when we can be bothered with them.

Onibalusi

Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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