Freelance Writers: Yes, You CAN Have It All

    Recently I decided to reduce my writing schedule from 20 hours per week to one and a half days per week.

    The reason? So that I can spend more time homeschooling our 4-year-old. He’s at an awesome age, and I want to spend as much time with him as possible!

    My first thought was, “I predict my income will go down by half, but I think we can make it work.”

    I set about signing up for coupon sites and asking my husband if he might be able to get hired full-time at the company where he freelances. I was always the main breadwinner of the family, but I expected that would change.

    But then I thought: Why do I always have to choose either /or: Either have time OR have money?

    Soon after, I read in the newsletter of Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick:

    Multitrack your options.

    […] Always try to think AND not OR. Can you avoid choosing among your options and try several at once?

    For instance, if you’re deciding whether to invest time in Spanish lessons or ballroom dancing classes, do both for a while until one of them ‘wins’.

    Or, rather than hire one employee out of three candidates, could you give all three a 2-week consulting project so that you can compare their work on a real-world assignment?


    Wanting more than OR, I set up a meeting with a life coach for writers, who showed me ways to keep up my income while working fewer hours.

    I’ve been on my new schedule since March 1 — and that month I invoiced $6,288.07.

    As a freelancer, are you stuck deciding between two options when it might be better to try both? Here’s what I mean:


    Work Less OR Make More → Work Less AND Make More


    I read an inspiring article in the current issue of Yoga Journal about the yoga of work, and the author pointed out that we need to let go of the results of our work.

    Don’t fixate on the gigs, the kudos, your name in the bylines. When we let go of the results, we let go of energy-draining desperation and stress. This gives us the energy to focus intently on our writing.

    That’s when we get this great combination of productivity and ease — and that’s what makes it possible for us to work less while actually earning more.


    Copywriting OR Magazine Writing → Copywriting AND Magazine Writing


    One of the top questions I get from new writers is whether they should choose copywriting or magazine writing.

    Copywriting pays more, but magazine writing is more fun, right? And you certainly can’t do both, can you? Because maybe magazine editors won’t trust you if they know you do copywriting?

    Not so. I started out my career doing copywriting and magazine writing, and even wrote an article about it way back when I worked for Writer’s Digest.

    I interviewed editors for their input on the question, and the upshot was that as long as you keep the two separate and are absolutely sure not to use your copywriting clients as sources in your editorial writing, you’re fine.

    The bonus to doing both? You get the money and the fun. You also avoid the burnout that comes from doing the same thing day after day.


    Stay At Home with the Kids OR Make a Living Writing → Stay At Home with the Kids AND Make a Living Writing


    Believe it or not, lots of people make a living writing while staying at home with their young kids. It takes supreme organization and sometimes you need to call in support, but it can be done.

    A friend of mine told me that you’re never more productive than when you have kids. That’s because you know you have only two hours while Junior naps, and if you don’t get that query or web copy done before he wakes up, you’ll never get it done.

    You’ve heard the expression that a task expands to fill the available time? That’s what we’re talking about here. If you have less time, the assignment takes less time.

    I arranged things so I can continue earning a living writing while homeschooling our son. I homeschool — by which I mean go on day trips, attend homeschooling co-ops, and do experiments — on Monday, Tuesday, half of Wednesday, and Friday.

    On Thursday and the other half of Wednesday, and in whatever other hours I can steal — like if my hubby takes the kiddo for a hike — I work. If I absolutely have to take a phone call on a day I’m not working, I schedule it for 9 am or 5 pm so it doesn’t interrupt the day.

    And if I’m swamped with work, my mom is happy to take over childcare duties for the day.

    It’s flexible, and it works. It can work for you too, if you consider all your options and set up the support you need.


    9-5 Job OR Writer → 9-5 Job AND Writer


    The same goes for those of you with 9-5 jobs who dream of writing on the side. If you want it to work, you can make it work.

    Have an hour for a break? That’s when you’re in your car doing an interview by cell phone. Want to watch Project Runway? Tivo it and write instead.

    In her book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, author Laura Vanderkam stresses that we all have the same 168 hours per week — and even if we work 40 hours per week and sleep 8 hours a night, we still have 88 hours left.

    Time-use studies show that we don’t do as much housework, cooking, or childcare as we think we do, so realistically, most of us can fit in a thriving writing career around the edges.


    Work OR Freedom → Work AND Freedom


    So many of us dream of retiring or becoming independently wealthy so we can finally have time to travel the world, relax, and take care of ourselves.

    Guess what? You don’t have to wait until you’re 65 to live a life of freedom. Thanks to technology, you can now freelance from anywhere, as evidenced by the many people who freelance while on round-the-world boat trips, extended trips overseas, and more.

    And as for finding the time to take care of yourself — you don’t find time, you make it.

    You don’t need to wait until retirement to do that, and the flexible schedule of freelancing makes it possible for you to fit in exercise, nature hikes, journaling, healthy cooking, and other forms of self care.

    For example, in the past couple of months my family has gone on road trips to New England, Atlanta and Wisconsin. I checked email and responded to questions in the Freelance Writers Den via cell phone, and even conducted a webinar from my hotel room in Madison.

    I had an e-course starting while I was on the road, so I set up the first lesson email before our trip using Boomerang for Gmail.

    I also make it a point to get frequent massages, do yoga, and meditate — all those things we know we should do, if only we had the time.

    Again, I don’t wait until time magically appears in my schedule — I arrange my writing schedule to make the time. Now that’s what I call work AND freedom! And you can have it too.

    As a writer, you really can have AND instead of OR. Have you ever decided to try out multiple options in your career? Do you have any advice for other writers who want to do it? Let me know in the comments below!

    About the author

      Linda Formichelli

      Linda Formichelli is the author of The Renegade WriterShe has written for more than 130 magazines and is the co-author of The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success. She is also the author ofHow to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life - While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out With a Sharpie.

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    • Sharon Kay says:

      Thanks for shaking me out of that silly “or” space!

    • mickholt says:

      Very inspiring ideas. Makes so much sense. Brilliance in it’s simplicity.

    • Anne says:

      Wow! What a post! I always thought that if a person wanted to have a successful freelance writing career then they HAD to make a choice between one path or the other. I have been sharpening my writing skills and dreaming of seeing my byline in online and print publications. I believe that come summer my efforts will pay off.

      • I don’t mean to say it’s easy, but it definitely can be done…friends of mine and I are the proof! Wishing you the best in your writing career!

    • Anael says:

      Hi Linda,
      I run a community of non-english speaking writers who would highly profit from your article. Do you mind if I translate it to share with them?

      • Hi, Anael! I’m flattered you would want to do that, but you’ll need to ask the owner of this site if it’s okay with her.

    • You have one lucky 4 year old. He gets to learn AND spend time with mom.

      I homeschooled for a little while. My son loved to “work” at the same time I did. So we would both sit at the dining room table and I would write and he would color or do worksheets for whatever. He thought he was big stuff.

      You are so right about assignments taking less time when you have less time. You are far more focused on what you’re doing, because you can’t put it off.

      • I WISH Traver would spend time on workbooks. He’s so active that we do learning on the run. But even so, it’s amazing to see how much he learns and what he picks up.

    • Barbara says:

      I enjoyed your article. When young, I always tried to do it all, and felt successful enough, but I was a teacher rather than a writer. I finished college while carrying an overloaded schedule plus a student job, and had a husband and child at home to cook for, do laundry, housework, etc. My mother cared for my daughter so I felt my child didn’t suffer, she got so much love and attention. Over the years, I continued teaching and doing other activities along with having three more daughters that my mother was happy to care for until they started school. I left my writing on the back burner during those years as my love of teaching was greater than the desire to write. Now in my retirement years, I dabble in writing, do volunteer work at local schools, and work with children at church. Last year while working with four year olds, I found them so delightful that I began regretting that I was always working and missed so many of the cute things they do at that age.
      I hope you’ll enjoy your child to the fullest. It’s shocking how quickly they grow and want to spend all their time with their friends. I’ve enjoyed my grandchildren, but now they have all outgrown me. Just enjoy those precious young years while you can!

      • Thank you so much. My son is 4 and I’m trying to enjoy every moment I can…even when he’s having a tantrum! 🙂

    • This post came at the most appropriate time.

      I want to stay home with my two young boys AND have a freelance writing career. You’ve inspired me and helped me believe it can happen.

      Further, I completely agree about utilizing all hours of the day. When do I get most of my work done? 5:00-6:00 am (little ones sleeping), 1:00-2:30 pm (little ones sleeping), 8:00pm-until (little ones sleeping). See the pattern here!?

      I may be working anytime I’m not mommying, but it’s completely worth it!

      Thanks again for a great post, Linda.

    • Jarm says:

      Good for you, Linda! We are at the other end of home education. Our two teens are Juniors this year. In a little over 12 months, I’ll have much more time to write, but, as it is, I’m amazed at how much I can get done. I do believe though, I am not giving my all to my kids. Hopefully, that will change in the fall, when I attempt to balance my schedule.

      • I think we ALL feel like we’re not giving our all to our kids, even if we are full-time stay-at-home parents! Heck I work less than two days per week and I STILL feel guilty about it. 🙂

    • Linda, thanks for your inspiring post.

      It’s wonderful to know there are other like-minded writers who really know they can have it all too. I’m in a phase of life that may seem ludicrous to some people: full-time marketing job, part-time flight attendant gig, and freelance writer and blogger. Not to mention I’m half way through grad school!

      I’ve always been a go-go-go kind of person, but I’m learning that I can accomplish more than I even thought I could.

      Although I make sacrifices of sleep and down time – I’m going after my dreams.

      And I’d much rather be LIVING my own life than watching others live scripted ones on TV.

      Cheers from your new fan,


    • Hi Linda — awesome post about how you make your amazing work/life balance happen!

      I consider “the writing expands to fill all the available time” one of the Newtonian laws of freelancing. Nobody takes longer to write a feature than a writer who’s got a 6-week deadline and no other clients!

      Where when my youngest would take that 3-hour afternoon nap as a baby, I could crank out a whole days work AFTER taking a half-hour nap myself to recharge.

      And I’m so with you on TV. Try turning it off for a month and see what happens to your creativity!

      • Exactly! And on TV…we watch one show regularly: Project Runway, which is on 16 weeks of the year. We buy it on Amazon so we can watch it late at night or on the weekend. And sometimes during dinner we watch Phineas and Ferb on Netflix just to get the kid to sit down and eat. (Great show!) But TV NEVER takes up my writing/working/kid time.

    • This is the best quote of the day for me – “Don’t fixate on the gigs, the kudos, your name in the bylines. When we let go of the results, we let go of energy-draining desperation and stress. This gives us the energy to focus intently on our writing.”

      Writing it down on an index card to post on the wall next o my computer desk.

      Thanks for writing and posting this.

    • Excellent, excellent article. I love the fact that you included specifics, like asking grandma to help or the actual amount of income you invoiced. Those are the specifics that make turn an opinion into an “expert opinion.”

      Thanks, keep writing!!

      • Thank you! I LOVE sharing nitty gritty details and wish more people would share!

    • Elke Feuer says:

      Great articile! I used to have an OR attitude, especially about writing and having a full-time job and kids. I changed my attitude and became a published author. I want to be a freelance writing and I’ve been saying OR. Thanks for the reminder that it can be AND.

    • Linda, this is now one of my favourite posts anywhere on the web.

      I love that you’re cutting your work hours without cutting your pay, and the AND not OR approach is brilliantly simple. Thanks for all the examples and ideas – I feel equipped to grab all my opportunities and make life even more fun!

      • Wow, I’m honored to be your favorite post! And happy to have inspired you. Let us know how it goes!

    • Kim says:

      Thanks for the inspiration! I have been guilty of the “either/or” and am grateful to be pried loose to see a fresh and inviting perspective.

    • Melanie says:

      Thank you for all the tips and ideas.

      It helps a lot.

      All of the best.

    • I enjoyed this article AND was inspired!

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