I took most of this week off from client projects to devote time to my own, and I'd like to talk today about why you should consider it too - investing in your freelance writing future. We're not talking about investing money (at least not much). We're just talking about time - your most valuable asset as a service provider.
Why should you reserve some time each week for yourself? How is that going to help you keep food on the table and get bills paid? What exactly should you be doing with that "invested" time?
What it Means to "Invest" in Your Writing Career
You'll spend a lot of time marketing, networking, and dealing with client projects. But you need to do more. You need to think about additional revenue streams - things that don't rely on using your billable hours (which are a finite resource). Wouldn't some residual income be nice? Even if you don't feel like you need additional income streams, you eventually might - you may lose a huge client and need backup income, you may want to take a few weeks or months off from client work to travel, or you may become ill or incapacitated for a while. By investing time now into these residual revenue streams, you'll keep earning money even when you're not billing directly for your time.
Examples of Residual Income Streams
There are several things you can invest some of your time in to bring in non-service income. Here are some examples:
- Write a book (to be published either traditionally or self-published)
- Write an e-book or report (or series), and then sell it
- Create a series of paid email courses around your expertise (or online courses)
- Create a blog or website that will bring in advertising or other income (or serve as a vehicle to sell your books, e-books, or reports).
Why Invest Time in New Revenue Streams?
We've already mentioned some situations where a residual income stream might be nice (when you can't work or just don't want to).
But think about it in a more general sense as well. This is often money you "forget" is coming or that you simply don't expect to come. For example, I'm always surprised when I get payments from one ad network in particular, because I don't spend much time monitoring those ads. So when I get a direct deposit for a few hundred dollars, it's like "found money." I don't have to do anything for that money. I put ads on my sites months ago, and I keep on collecting. Nice, right?
When I was selling my press release writing e-book, it was similar. It was my first, and I didn't know what to expect. So I never assumed I would earn something in particular. Instead, every time a payment came through, it was just "extra" - something earned beyond my budgeting.
Is it Worth the Time?
It can be difficult for some folks to willingly invest time in a project that doesn't guarantee earnings, while client work will. However, it's an "investment" for a reason. You get to earn over and over again for one "payment" (of your time). Let's look at a hypothethical example.
Bob is a freelance writer. His billable hours usually equate to about $50 per hour through client projects.
Bob decides to write and sell a short e-book or report. He spends about five hours writing a 15-page report (I wrote my first 18-page e-book in five hours, so I know it can be done). He then spends another three hours setting up a quick sales page and getting the e-book setup with a payment processor. Let's say he spends two more hours building a few links, sending out some review copies, and announcing the e-book on related forums and communities to kick-start the marketing.
He's invested 10 total hours into this e-book without a cent of income guaranteed.
But then let's say he sells just 50 copies during that first year for $10 each (50 copies isn't terribly hard to do if you've picked a niche with an actual audience and have a decent product). He's earned $500 already - the same he would have earned if he spent those ten hours on client work.
It gets better. Those buyers loved Bob's e-book, and now it's spreading via word-of-mouth. There's a "buzz" around the e-book, and Bob sells another 100 copies that following year. That's another $1000.
In the third year, sales start to simmer down - just another 50 copies. Another $500.
In the fourth year, he sells a little less - 30 copies, for another $300.
In the fifth year, the topic might be getting a little stale, the market's a bit saturated for this niche info, and he only sells 20 copies for $200.
Over the course of five years, Bob has earned $2500. Even if we assume he spent another $500 of that on some simple marketing, he would have earned the equivalent of at least $200 per hour for those 10 hours put into launching the e-book. Not too shabby.
And that's what "investing in your writing career" is all about - spending time now for continued income later.
I'm such a big supporter of this model that I'm actually working to replace my client work by the end of 2009 on a full-time basis with the sales of my informational products and the income from my websites and blogs.
It isn't necessary to do what I'm doing this week - taking time "off" to work on these things. I'm doing that, because the first e-book in my new series for Web writers desperately needed to be finished, and I kept putting it off. By taking this route, it should all be finished by the end of this week (wrote 18 pages yesterday, have about the same to do today, and then I just need to finish a few addenda pieces and clean it up a bit).
If you don't want to take time away from other work, consider spending one extra hour a day writing "for yourself" with one of these types of projects in addition to your normal work. It may feel like a chore when you're not earning directly in the beginning, but believe me, when you do start earning it feels great (there isn't much better than earning decent money doing something that you enjoy - writing - on your own terms). 🙂