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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Full-Time Income in Part-Time Hours? Sure Thing!


If you read my blog regularly, you already know that I'm all about working efficiently, whether you have five hours or forty available to freelance every week. So I was definitely intrigued by Gretchen Roberts' new ebook, Full-time Income in Part-time Hours. Gretchen, a food and wine writer, has been freelancing since May, 2003. Here's her recent Q and A; I think you'll see a lot of parallels in the way we both work--and find some helpful takeaways as well:

Q. When did you start working part-time instead of fulltime hours? tell me a little about how you made that transition and why.

I've actually worked part-time since I began freelancing. When my first daughter was born in March 2003, I was working full-time as the special sections editor at a newspaper group. We were going to be moving to California the following summer for my husband's year-long internship, so there was no time to take a maternity leave and go back to work. I decided to try the stay-at-home mom thing for awhile.

Once I had the baby's routine down, I got bored quickly, and spent way too much time browsing (and buying!) at Target and Babies R Us. When the new editor who took my position at the newspaper called and asked if I wanted to write some stories for $250 apiece, I jumped at the chance. It was grocery money and an opportunity to see if my brain cells still worked post-baby.

That year of my husband's internship is the year I began building my freelance writing business. When we got back to Indiana for his final year of school, Fort Wayne magazine asked me to work 20 hours a week as a staff writer, so I decided to do that in the mornings and freelance in the afternoons. That was a difficult freelance year, because I'm a morning person and my best work went into the magazine while I struggled to build my freelance business. The following year, we moved to Tennessee, and I began freelancing during my daughter's preschool hours.

Part time just made sense for me then, and it still does. I now have three children ages 8, 4, and 1, and my schedule has changed with their births, milestones, schedules, and childcare availability. I truly feel I have the best of both worlds—time to spend with my kids, but time to get away from the craziness that is raising three kids, and devote energy to my professional life. I don't consider myself anything less than a full-fledged professional just because I work part-time and am changing dirty diapers when I'm not tapping at my keyboard.

Q. What kinds of techniques do you use to make the most of your part-time hours?

Most importantly, I treat my working hours as prime-time. I don't waste them checking email, writing blog posts, posting my Facebook status. Well, okay...sometimes I post my Facebook status. But for the most part I try to really focus on paying projects, because if I lose sight of the big picture, it's too easy to fritter away a day, a week, a month...and my income takes a bit hit.

Second, I plan ahead. If I know I'm going to have 45 minutes while the baby naps, I plan a specific task or two for that time. If I didn't, I'd totally end up on Facebook the whole time. If I have a story due, I block out three or four hours to write it. When you have less time, you absolutely have to be efficient about using it.

Third, I try to focus on bigger, well-paying work. Since my hours are limited, I don't want to spend time on piecemeal projects that demand constantly switching focus. It's not efficient, and working part-time is all about efficiency.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

A: I've earned between $40,000 and $70,000 working about 15-20 hours a week for the past five years. (The first few years were a bit leaner as I built up my business.) I think writers have to know that this kind of income is possible, rather than settling for less because they figure part-time hours means part-time income.

For more about how to make more money in the hours you have to freelance, check out Full-Time Income in Part-Time Hours; and be sure to let her (and me) what you think of it! :)

Next up: I announce the winners of my latest giveaway! Stay tuned...