How I Found 70 Extra Hours a Month to Boost My Freelance Writing Career

Editor

Boost your freelance writing career with these productivity tips. This spring, I set a goal to double my freelance income over the next year.

I immediately ran smack into my first challenge: finding time to market to new clients while still delivering great work for my current clients.

I had to take a hard look at how I spend my time and decide what I could postpone or farm out over the next three to six months, in order to ramp up my marketing and grow my freelance writing career.

It wasn’t going to be easy — I’m a single, self-employed mom to a homeschooled teen and tween. I was doubtful I would find much time to free up. But I did — a whopping 70 hours per month.

Here’s how I got more productive:

 

Did I even have any extra time?

I’d already kept a time log, as recommended by productivity author Laura Vanderkam, and I’d made time-saving tweaks like having groceries delivered rather than burning up 4 hours a week shopping. (Did I mention the teen and the tween? They eat everything.)

And I’d identified my most productive times of day for serious writing, which helped speed up my workflow.

Those changes were big improvements. But they still didn’t give me the marketing time I needed to reach this goal. So I revisited my time log and also considered other time savers:

  • Carpool? Already done. Saves me 12 hours a month.
  • Hire an errand person? Already done for groceries. Saves me another 12 hours a month.
  • Ask a partner to do more child care? My kids are old enough that it’s not an issue.
  • Drop a hobby or class for a while? I thought about it, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger on my favorite long-term fitness and social activity.
  • Watch less TV? I’m not a big TV watcher.
  • Spend less time on social media? Here, I struck gold. I took a closer look and found, to my embarrassment, that I was piddling away more than an hour a day on Facebook – 7 hours a week. Almost a full work day. Good grief.

I also considered hiring out chores. I’m not opposed to paying someone to clean my house or mow my yard, but part of the reason I want to earn more is because kids require a surprising amount of cash as they get older. Still, it was an idea worth considering.

How I made extra time

After looking over my time log and doing a little creative thinking, here’s what I came up with:

  • Limit social media time to 15 minutes a day. Time saved: about an hour a day.
  • Hire housecleaners to do one deep cleaning each month. Time saved: 8 hours a month.
  • Have younger son do two more daily chores, so I don’t have to. Time saved: 1 hour per week.
  • Get teen to drive. I told my 16-year old that this summer, I expect him to either get his driver’s license or help cover cab fare for his rides to his college classes ($30 each way, 4 rides per week). That lit a motivational fire under him and will save me about 4 hours a week.

Will I save all of these hours every month? Probably not. Sometimes kids forget to do chores, cat memes on Facebook are hypnotic, and I don’t want my teen driving to classes that end late at night.

But if I put even half of the potential freed-up time toward my marketing initiative, it’s a huge boost in productivity — almost an extra work week per month.

Where will you find more time?

The steps I’m taking are particular to my situation. But the process can work for any writer who needs more time to work.

Keep a time log. Look for potential time savers.

And remember, changes in how you use your time don’t have to be permanent. They just have to last long enough for you to get your career where you want it to be.

What are your biggest time savers? Tell us in the comments below.

Casey Kelly-Barton writes B2C and B2B copy for companies in the eldercare, higher education, global payments, digital security, investor news, and travel industries.

41 Comments

  1. Katherine Swarts

    For me, more of a problem than Facebook (not that I’m immune to wasting time there) are articles mailed directly to my inbox: feels more like someone is counting on me to read them! I solved part of that problem by creating a new e-mail folder and saving all articles for the end of each week–now I just have to crack down harder on which ones to delete altogether unread (which can actually be MORE of a problem when I’m definitely going to be doing the reading “later”).

    • Carol Tice

      Yes — embrace email bankruptcy! Or better yet, unsubscribe altogether, if you find you’re not reading those week after week. Once we *have* them, then we feel obligated to look at them, hm?

  2. Laura Ryding-Becker

    These are great ideas, Casey – thanks! I totally agree on the suggestion to check out RescueTime.com – it is very thorough, you can print reports, and you can even add categories of where you spend your computer time on the free version.I do not have the money to hire out cleaning and chores, but I desperately need to. Not only would it help my writing, it would help my mental health! As a side note, one other thing that helps with my productivity is leaving the house and spending a few hours at the library, where it\’s quiet and peaceful and conducive to getting work done.

  3. Rob S

    Facebook could be the world’s NUMBER ONE time waster. After I installed it on my phone, I found I was spending an hour and a half or more at the cafe I go to for my afternoon cappuccino. When I uninstalled it, I went back to a half hour break. I also make it a point not to look at it until I’ve finished my work.

    • Carol Tice

      Soooo true, Rob. What I hate is that the only way to avoid having it give me a million notices is if I uninstall Messenger, which is the only thing my grown son wants to talk to me on. ;-(

  4. Shauna

    I love the idea of keeping a time log. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that myself. I spend far too much time reading blogs and attending webinars that only give enough information to tease.

    That time should be spent on building my business.

    Thank you for this wake-up call, Casey!

    • Casey

      Shauna, I will admit that when I first looked at Laura Vanderkam’s time log template, I thought, “but it’s so simple!” You’re far from the only one of us who needed a nudge to track time. I’m hoping that it will become automatic as I keep doing it.

  5. Vicky Cox

    Since I’m just starting out, I needed to save time, but didn’t have much money to pay for others to do my work. Fortunately, I have two teen daughters who like to eat AND shop. I hire them to clean the house weekly and pay them well. But, I don’t but them treats out, makeup, extra (mostly optional) school supplies for those end of the year projects, or the extra clothes they want, so I am saving money and time.

    I also try to make a simple menu weekly and keep the shopping to one store a week.

    • Casey

      Vicky, that’s a great approach, especially if your teens are willing to help out and you can pay them enough to keep it appealing. Creativity and cooperation can solve a lot of time-crunch problems.

    • Carol Tice

      Right on — if they need to save up and pay for some things, then they have to work and earn some money. Win-win!

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