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.