September 1st this year will mark 7 years that I’ve been freelancing full-time. It’s crazy to think that, and freelancing has definitely had its ups and downs. However, I’m so grateful to be able to do this type of work and have more freedom over my schedule.
When the global shutdown happened in 2020, I was also reminded of how thankful I am. Not lucky, but thankful. There is nothing “lucky” about freelancing, and it’s a lot of hard work. But I’ve finally been able to make a full-time freelance income while only working part-time hours.
Right now, I typically work Monday – Thursday on my freelance client work for about 20 to 25 hours per week. Next year, I want to reduce my freelance hours even more and only work Monday – Wednesday from 10 am to 3 pm. So this would be just 15 hours per week.
If you’re thinking about freelancing too or have already started, you can also earn a full-time income by only working part-time.
What Life Looked Like 5 Years Ago…
Several years ago, when I was just getting started, my schedule looked a lot different. I remember when I first quit my job and started being self-employed. My first official day was September 1st, 2016. I was so excited and had so much client work I actually worked every single day that month.
As a freelance writer, I wanted to eat up as much work as possible, and I would write 9 – 10+ articles per week. I soon ran out of steam and burned out. I felt trapped by this new lifestyle and career I had taken on.
Freelance writing was supposed to help me experience more freedom and flexibility. But I was feeling the exact opposite. I was stuck working all day, including evenings and weekends. My inbox was always full, I couldn’t stop overcommitting myself and was constantly playing catchup.
Bills were flooding in, taxes needed to be paid each quarter, and during my “spare” time, I’d actually look for full-time jobs.
So what changed?
I learned and embraced a new way of working. I figured I could still make my freelancing dreams come true and live a more balanced, peaceful life. Unfortunately, it took me almost 7 years to figure it out, but I narrowed down some key steps to help others achieve better results in much less time.
How to Earn a Full-Time Freelance Income as a Part-Time Freelance Writer
Choose a High-Value Service and Niche
While I chose to become a freelance writer, I believe these steps will also help people who offer other types of freelance services too. Choosing to offer a high-value service and niche down is important.
I chose writing because I love it, but it’s also very in-demand and profitable. Look at how many websites and digital publications there are. All of them need content. Many of these sites compete to have the best and highest-quality content.
This means they constantly need to find and pay writers. In the past 7 years, I’ve never been completely without work for a month. Clients do come and go, but it’s a pretty solid and secure industry.
Whether you decide to offer graphic design services, work as a Pinterest VA, or social media manager, it’s important to make sure your clients are willing and able to pay a competitive wage for your services. Then, niche down so you specialize in a specific service that has high demand.
My writing niches are personal finance, small business, and travel. These topics are very lucrative and provide plenty of range, so I don’t run out of topics or get bored with what I’m writing.
Establish Yourself as an Expert
Next, it’s important to establish yourself as an expert in your field. This will take time, but be committed to learning everything about your industry. Follow news stories and updates. Respond to feedback from clients and improve your craft.
I can no longer manage to write 10+ articles per week. I usually write a maximum of 5 now. But that time I spent writing 40 – 50 articles per month helped me become a better and more efficient writer overall.
Choosing a specific niche has also helped me become more of an expert that my clients can rely on for quality content. Think about it. If you want to try some of the best BBQs, you probably wouldn’t call up a sandwich shop and try to order it there. You’d go to the experts – a restaurant that specializes in that type of food and prepares it every day.
It’s the same thing with freelancing. As you become an expert in your field, it adds value to your service, and you can charge more. I’m glad I didn’t listen to all the people who said I couldn’t make any more as a writer. Freelance writers who are experts in their niche can make anywhere from $400 to $1,000+ per article.
Charge What You’re Worth
Speaking of positioning yourself to earn more money for your time, it’s so important to charge what you’re worth. I know plenty of people who don’t charge enough for their freelance services. I still struggle with this, so I understand. But with inflation and the cost of living going up, people really can’t afford to sell themselves short.
As a freelance writer, it’s awesome that I can determine my own pay rates, but it also comes with the responsibility not to sell myself short.
I consider several factors when pricing my services, including:
- Whether I need to do prep work such as researching or outlining (making data tables, etc.)
- The desired length of the article (I wouldn’t charge the same for a 3,000-word article as I would for a 1,000-word article)
- How long the writing assignment will take from start to finish, including self-editing
- Whether I need to optimize the content for SEO or do interviews
- Sourcing requirements
- Desired deadline (I had one client who would allow me to charge double the normal fee for an article due during the same week it was assigned)
Not to mention, freelancers also have expenses and taxes to pay. We don’t get any PTO or benefits like health insurance so this has also motivated me to up my rates over time.
Finally, I like to look at how my clients are making money, whether it’s through ads on their website, affiliate partnerships, or by selling an actual product. My content is often used as part of their marketing strategy to generate leads and sales. so it’s a vital part of the entire operation.
Get Organized and Avoid Distractions
One of the best things I’ve done to earn a full-time freelance income by working part-time hours is getting organized. I like to plan out my day or even my week in advance so I know exactly what I need to do. Instead of wondering what to do with some free time around 1 pm, I have a to-do list ready to go that aligns with my goals.
I use a written planner and Google Calendar to stay organized. Some of my clients use task management systems like Asana. Asana sends reminders when comments are made under a task or when you have an upcoming due date which is nice.
My ideal way of planning out my work day is using block scheduling. I take a block of time, like 9 am to 11 am, and determine exactly what I want to accomplish. It took some time to figure out what was realistic and learn how to avoid distractions.
I used to have a schedule that was all over the place. I’d talk to one of my family members on the phone in the morning when I was technically supposed to be working. Sometimes, I’d say yes to someone who asked me to run an errand during the daytime. Or, I’d just get stuck scrolling on social media or start watching too many YouTube videos.
Those distractions always caused me to fall severely behind and end up working well into the evening or weekend. Now, I like to turn notifications off on my phone or even take a social media break when I have a busy work week. I only take phone calls when I have free time, but otherwise, I guard my work hours strictly so I can get things done during my time block.
Get Well Connected
Don’t underestimate the power of networking and getting connected. Many people ask me how I got started with freelance writing and turned it into a full-time career. I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t reach out to other people and connect with them.
As an introvert, I thought this would be hard, but it’s really not. I started by talking to other bloggers and emailing back and forth. Then, I went to conferences and met new clients each time. While the conference was an upfront investment, I always made a great return on that investment by landing two to three clients from that event.
A few years ago, I joined a Facebook group with other freelance writers, and it’s been crucial in growing my business and helping me increase my rates. Instead of viewing each other as competition, the writers in the group all support each other. We share tips, work leads, and answer questions. We even started meeting once a year for a retreat where we hang out and discuss what is and isn’t working in our business.
I can honestly say that several of my clients over the past two years have come from referrals and leads from my freelance writing group. I’m grateful that I haven’t had to cold pitch anyone for writing work in a long time. That’s why it’s so important to find or create a support system when you’re a freelancer. You never know who knows other people or can refer you for work. And there’s plenty of work to go around for everyone.
Outsource, If It Helps You Earn a Full-Time Freelance Income
Right now, I don’t really outsource much. But I know many people who do in order to make a full-time freelance income. It’s really up to you. Time management skills aside, there are just some things that you may not always have the time or energy to do.
I know plenty of people who outsource tasks like:
- Fact-checking information for articles
- Checking and responding to emails
- Sending invoices
- Promoting their work and recent projects on social media
- Researching clients to pitch
I struggle with wanting to do everything myself, but I do see the benefit in outsourcing some tasks if you can afford to.
Earning a full-time freelance income while working only part-time hours is possible. You just have to plan everything out so you’re offering a high-value service, high-demand niche. Then, you need to assess your pricing and be able to manage your time well.
I actually spent years writing about efficiency for a client and decided not to do more than 1 meeting per week most weeks. The great thing about being a freelancer is that you can build things out however you like and learn and grow at your own pace.
To learn more about how I make a living writing, you can check out the content I have on ChonceMaddox.com. I also have a free webinar that shows you how to earn your first $1,000 as a freelance writer.
Do you have any questions about working as a freelance writer or getting started in this field? Do you want to learn about other flexible jobs that pay well but only require a few hours per week? Let me know in the comments below!
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