One Writer’s Crazy Quest to Earn Six Figures–Working Part Time

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4 Tips on How Writers can Earn Six Figures Working Part Time. Makealivingwriting.comFor many freelance writers, hitting six figures in income is the brass ring.

I’ve been privileged to grab the ring once in my career, but it can be a grueling effort to earn six figures. I learned I’m too lazy to do that year after year.

I decided to pursue the six-figure quest my own way: working part-time.

So far in 2015, I’m on track to do just that. I’m spending about 18 hours a week at my desk, and I’ve booked an average of $8,500 per month in assignments. Here’s how I’m doing it.

Fish where the fish are

If writing dollars were fish, where would you drop your hook? Where would you find the biggest, fattest fish to catch?

I’m not talking about markets. I’m talking about broad categories. For me, the best fishing hole right now is health-care marketing agencies. They need a ton of content for their clients. For you, it might be trade magazines. Or management firms. You must identify who offers the most lucrative opportunities within your vertical, then fish aggressively.

Work efficiently

I constantly strive to improve my efficiency. Here are a few techniques I use:

  • Streamline business processes. I have client intake forms, proposal templates–even a checklist to walk me through the steps for each type of project I do.
  • Track time zealously. I use OfficeTime to log every minute I spend at my desk, billable and non-billable. I review my time reports weekly to make sure I stay productive in the office.
  • Keep set office hours. I work Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. I do not deal with personal issues during that time. In my mind, I’m in the office to work as fast and as hard as possible.

Finding big rocks

Have you heard the story of the big rocks?

A management guru set a large glass jar on the lectern and filled it with big rocks. He asked his students if the jar was full. When they said yes, the guru proceeded to add gravel, sand and water until the jar was overflowing.

Lesson? You must prioritize how you fill your freelance jar in order to maximize your earning potential.

I always fill my jar first with clients who give me repeat work. They represent the big rocks within my freelance jar.

Where do you find the big rocks for your jar? The two best strategies I’ve used are:

  • Conferences. In order to fish where the fish are, I attend industry conferences. Last year, for example, I went to Content Marketing World, because my best clients are content marketing agencies. I’ve garnered over $10,000 in work from that (so far).
  • LinkedIn. I’m a big, big fan of fishing on LinkedIn. I landed one of my best clients by sending an email that simply said, ‘Hey, I loved that stat sheet on X you published on your website. Do you ever use freelancers?’

Creating rewards

I work roughly 20 hours per week. I use that other 20 hours as a carrot.

Positive reinforcement helps me perform better. When I’m not working, I:

  • Give myself an hour a day of workout time.
  • Spend at least one hour per week in my private den, door closed, reading.
  • Garden.

In other words, I actively pursue interests that help me stay fresh creatively while also giving me downtime. If I didn’t do this, I couldn’t maintain a high level of focus when I’m in the office.

Elizabeth Hanes, RN, is the nurse who knows content. At RN2Writer, she teaches nurses (and other healthcare professionals) how to transition to a second career as a freelance writer.

74 Comments

  1. Jennifer Slater

    Beth, thank you for your kind reply, and for the offer to share your forms, I will be emailing you momentarily. And thank you again for this enlightening article.

    Warmly,

    Jennifer

  2. Jennifer Slater

    Your article was informative as well as motivating — thank you so much!! My initial thought was to ask if you can share tips about the client intake forms, proposal templates and checklists you use — I’m typically an organized person but your use of forms like this fascinates me. Unfortunately I don’t really know where to start.

    But one of the comments above has me wondering, what do you think of sharing your expertise in ebooks rather than articles? I devote so much time coming up with article ideas, submitting proposals, and then playing the waiting game to hear back, yet I’ve never considered ebooks — what do you think?

    Jennifer

    • Carol Tice

      Do you mean ebooks that you pitch to a publisher, or that you self-publish?

      Making sales as a self-publisher requires platform-building — you need to first attract an audience who wants to buy your expertise. It’s a completely different dynamic from trying to get an article assignment from a magazine, where you won’t be ‘sharing your expertise,’ but interviewing experts and quoting them.

      I think if you read through the comments, Elizabeth shared some of her organizational tools.

    • Jennifer Slater

      Hi Carol,

      I was referring to ebooks that you self-publish (probably on Amazon) but your response has already opened my eyes to the answer. If I share my expertise in an ebook to sell on Amazon, I would then have to concentrate on marketing to sell one book at a time, whereas an article would mean being paid by the magazine (or blog) once it’s accepted.

      Thanks for clarifying!

      Jennifer

    • Carol Tice

      Right — it’s a completely different platform-building model where there is no client, and you are trying to earn from your audience.

      Most writers just write the e-book, slap it up on Amazon…and then wonder why there’s no sales.

    • Elizabeth Hanes

      Jennifer, I want to start by apologizing. Between the time I wrote the guest post and the time it was published, I removed the templates and forms I referenced from my website. If you (or anyone else) wants free copies of them, feel free to email me at beth [at] elizabethhanes [dotcom].

      When I was a staff person in various middle-management jobs, I naturally developed routines and administrative forms to make my life easier. The same is true for freelancing. I just note down the common information I need from every client (name, contact person, that person’s phone number, who to invoice, when invoices are due, and so on) and then put this information into a form. That’s all it is.

      In terms of ebooks, Carol is right. First, you need platform. And even then, you may sell a few ebooks…or not. It kind of depends.

      Personally, I do plan to offer ebooks in the future. I think they can be a great marketing tool.

      ~Beth

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