Every now and again I think about what it must be like to have all day to work on the writing career. How much more could I do in a day? How much more could I make? If only I’d started all of this writing before kids! But here I am, just like so many of you, a freelance mom working from home. I’ve done this for six going on seven years now and my schedule has been roughly the same during that time – I only work two hours per day.
Growing up it’s ingrained that 40 hours is the norm for work. 9 to 5, right? Of course, I’ve tried those cubicle jobs a few times and they were never really 40 hours, especially not when you factor in the commute. Then, once you dip into self employment you learn that 40 hours is nothing – when you start a business you’re working constantly to get it going and keep it going. Or at least most people are. I couldn’t, and most parents at home with kids can’t work insane hours either.
This can give you a whiplash effect as you get adjusted. First you have to adjust to working the off times when you “should” be relaxing. I worked virtually every evening for years – seven days a week – and had almost no downtime to speak of. Now I’m down to working six day a week, which means I’m working a grand total of 12 hours per week. Not too bad if you look at it income wise, but as most of us know, time is money. The more you’re able to work the more money you make. My 12 hours has to include writing, marketing and networking as well. It’s a tough gig working within tight constraints.
This takes getting used to, not only because I’ve lost my free time without kids, but also because, at times, I feel like I’m not living up to my self-employed potential. While other writers are cranking out ebooks and building new platforms, I’m just chugging along finding ways to maximize my two hours per day. I can’t invest more time in my current set-up, so I have to work smarter. Even as I do this, however, I worry that I’m not as “serious” as the full-time writers or that I’m cheating myself out of more money. In this regard freelancing is like motherhood – there’s guilt and mental anguish associated with every choice you make.
So if I’m not a full-time writer, I have to be content to be a savvy part-time writer. If we were to take a poll, I’d wager that a fair number of the professional writers with children at home are also part-time writers, but they don’t usually advertise it. That’s because you’re not taken as seriously if you’re just “part-time.” Many people view part-time writers as hobby writers. Since you’re not working all the time, you can’t be serious about it. In my case, at least, these assumptions can’t be more wrong.
I’ve just built my constraints into my marketing. I’m upfront about my full-time job (teacher, if you didn’t know) and then I market my part-time writing not as something I do for extra money, but as an exclusive service. Part-time makes me selective and when I convey that message it actually makes the whole package more attractive to clients. Many of them seem to respect me even more when I tell them I’ll complete their project in a few weeks due to time constraints.
Lessons for the WAHM
Don’t be afraid to set your own hours. I might only work twelve hours or so a week, but those hours are billing out at a minimum of $60 - $75 each. Usually I make more than $100 per hour. I might not be a six-figure writer, but I’ll settle for being half of that working less than half the amount of time. The trick is to simply make the schedule, the time constraints and the constant guilt and pressure work for you.