For 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.
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?’
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.
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.