For many people, the dream of the writer’s life is to have more free time and less stress. Yes, they would love to make more money than they are now, but money isn’t their primary motivation.
That’s where I was at the beginning of 2013. I wanted to double my hourly rate — for the sole purpose of having more leisure time.
Throughout the year, I tried different techniques and strategies for working less and earning more. Some worked and some didn’t.
At the end of the year, I more than doubled my hourly rate (from $65 per hour to $160 per hour — before taxes). I also worked less than part-time (or 20 hours per week).
If you’re interested in working fewer hours — or increasing your hourly rate — use these tips to maximize your working hours:
Create new habits.
The biggest leap in my productivity came from changing my habits. I had some really bad ones — like sleeping in, procrastinating, and going weeks without marketing myself. I also committed “the writer’s cardinal sin” — not writing daily.
I quickly realized successful people act successful and if I wanted to join them, I had to create new habits. I had to make it natural to get up early, hit my word count, and network with potential clients.
To read more about creating natural habits, check out this article.
Create a master plan with clear goals.
I started 2013 with what I thought was a clear goal. Turns out, my “goal” had a lot of problems:
- I didn’t know how my yearly goal contributed to my life plan.
- The only motivation to reach my goal was avoiding public humiliation.
- I didn’t know what actions to take to reach my goal. I was basically grasping at straws.
Near the end of the year, I picked up a copy of “The Pledge” by Mark Ford (written under his pen name “Michael Masterson”). And I discovered I didn’t have a clear goal — I had a dream.
To learn more about the difference, and create your master plan, go here.
Break big tasks down into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks.
This is another area where I really missed the mark in 2013. I knew I wanted to double my hourly rate — and I had a vague idea that I would have to work harder when working — but I didn’t have monthly, weekly, or daily tasks.
Planning out my year ahead of time would have prevented a ton of stress. Plus, breaking down client projects into daily tasks would make them seem easier to tackle.
Plan when you’ll work and stick to it.
In 2013, I didn’t stick to a schedule. The year was all about taking as much time off as possible. However, if you want to sit down, get your work done, and get back to the fun, it helps to schedule working hours. This also protects you from procrastinating, resistance, and guilt. Even if you’re just scheduling one hour a day, at least you’ll have that hour for work.
Just remember that browsing Facebook and replying to emails isn’t working. Focus instead on a client project or something that directly brings in income.
Know what to work on before you start.
On days when I knew what had to be done, I sat down and finished my work much faster. On days when I started the day without a to-do list, I wasted the time away answering emails and “networking” on social media.
By deciding what you’ll work on the day before, you can sit down and immediately get to work on the most important thing on your list.
Work when you’re working.
One thing I’m going to change this year is the way I approach my business. This year, I’m getting serious. I’m going to be a stricter boss and remove distractions. I’m going to work when I’m working and enjoy my time off more.
Doing just this one thing will help you work faster and earn more in less time. Ask yourself, “How would I act in a real job to keep from getting fired?” Or better yet, “How would I act if I were trying to get a promotion?”
Track your time.
I really struggle with time tracking, but the fact remains — if you don’t know how much time you’re putting in, how can you make changes?
For example, what if you spend half your time invoicing? Maybe it’s not one of your strong skills. You could hire someone to do it for you or find a program to auto-generate invoices. If you don’t track your time, you’d just have a vague idea of how much time (and money) invoicing really costs you.
Consider getting a time-tracker program or application for your computer, tablet, or smartphone. But, don’t let technology hold you back. You can also use something as simple as a pen and paper.
Remind yourself of your “why.”
When you set your goals, ask yourself:
- “How bad do you want it?”
- “Why do you want it?”
Your primary motivation might be the option to work at home, provide a better future for your family, or travel the world. In any case, you need to know why you’re trying to achieve your goal.
This will keep you motivated during setbacks and help you overcome any fears you might have about writing.
It helps me to remind myself of my why often — as in hourly. That’s why I have pictures of it as my computer background, screensaver, and on my phone. You could also print pictures for your office or create a dream board.
Make your business the top priority.
I really struggled with this in 2013. Some days, I did everything I could to avoid working. This year, I want to change that. I will make advancing my business the number one priority. I’ll also keep distractions — like email — from knocking my business out of number one priority.
If you need help figuring out what your FROG (most important, but sometimes scary task) of the day is, check out this article. Then, kick your income up a notch by tackling that task first.
Assume everything will take twice as long.
When I first started writing for clients, I majorly overestimated how much I could accomplish in an hour. This caused problems from under-charging to over-booking.
I quickly found out that it’s much easier and beneficial to overestimate how long something will take. I usually double my estimate. Often I wind up needing the entire time! But, if I get finished early, I can make additional tweaks, move on to another project, or take a breather.
You’re a Writer, so write!
Remember earlier when I mentioned that not writing every day is the writer’s cardinal sin? Well, I meant it! We are writers and we’ll only get better by practicing. Plus, since our writing skills are what we rely on for income, it makes sense to practice every day.
Early on, if I didn’t have a project for a client then I didn’t know what to write (or maybe that was just an excuse). Here are some ideas of things you can work on if you don’t have a paying project:
– Your freelance website or blog.
– A Money-Making Website (on your favorite hobby).
– Spec assignments for potential clients.
– Rewrites of letters you receive from marketers. (Then you can use these as samples.)
– Pro-bono work for a charity in exchange for testimonials and samples.
– Replies to job board posts for writers.
Some days, I just don’t feel like working. I hope I’m not alone in that. But, if I’m not careful, one day can turn into two … and then three. Before I know it, it’s Wednesday and I haven’t accomplished anything.
Many people would say, “Oh well, I wasted this week. I’ll get serious Monday.” And, then they would have two more unproductive days — leading to stress and guilt. However, it’s okay to recommit at any time — you don’t have to wait for Monday. It’s far better to recommit on a Wednesday afternoon and get something done.
No matter what time you’re reading this — even midnight on a Friday — you can recommit to your goals. Simply make the choice to get started. (And, comment below to let us know if you’re recommitting to your goals right now.)
As you can tell from the 12 tips above, the “secrets” of working less and earning more aren’t really secrets at all. They’re simply work habits that we either choose to follow or ignore. When followed on a regular basis, these habits will help you be more productive and efficient while working so you can enjoy more time away from the computer.
Have I left anything out? What are your tips for working more efficiently? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below …