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!