By Mridu Khullar Relph-
A couple of years ago, after I’d returned form maternity leave and decided that I quite enjoyed spending time with my son, I went part-time as a writer. Yet, despite having cut down my hours, I was able to maintain my yearly income. Wait, that’s not true. I increased it.
If you’re a writer with a day job or a work-at-home parent in charge of noisy kids looking to make a nice income on part-time hours, you need to maximize the work you can do in those limited hours. How? Read on.
1. Take on only high-paying work.
I only worked 20 hours a week during that first year as a writing parent, and so I knew that I no longer had time for $50 blog posts or articles that paid $100 for 1,000 words. Instead, I focused exclusively on $1-a-word markets and $100-per-hour projects. That meant that even if I did actual write for only 10 hours a week (the rest of the time devoted to marketing and admin), I could, in the weeks that I filled up those hours, be making $1,000 a week. Not bad!
2. Take on easier work.
Before motherhood, my biggest joy was being a journalist, going out and finding untold stories from places no one had ever looked. I wrote about the environment, women’s issues, politics, and business from my home in India. I won awards for my work. But this was difficult, time-consuming work, and once the baby arrived, I wasn’t really too keen on spending my time in garbage dumps and falling-apart hospitals. So I wrote about health and parenting instead. And I wrote for trade magazines and reported for newspapers on assignments that weren’t dangerous. It was easier work, and it was better paying, too.
3. Make the most of every bit of research.
I have a rule for myself: Every interview I do should lead to at least two more ideas for stories. So when I interviewed a well-known food scientist for a story about genetic modification, I ended our conversation by asking him the two things he was most worried about going forward in terms of food security. He told me, in detail, and not only did I have two new story ideas, but I also already had quotes for when the story sold.
4. Come up with ideas in multiples of three.
I rarely come up with a single idea. I come up with the idea in multiples of three. That’s because I take the initial spark of an idea and try to transform it into something that would fit into a number of different publications. So my query on how busy women can keep fit won’t just be sent to a woman’s magazine but a magazine for working women (The Five-Minute Fitness Program for Executives), a parenting magazine (Fitness Tips for the Time-Crunched Mummy) and maybe even a general interest publication (Fitness on a Stopwatch).
5. Have a goal for every hour.
It’s so easy to open up your computer in the morning and waste two hours on Twitter. This happens when you don’t have a plan of action. Make a to-do list for the week and then each day before bed, take the top three things you know you must do tomorrow and put them on a separate list. When you sit down to work in the morning (or during afternoon nap time), you know exactly what you need to get done. The more productive you are in the hours that you’re actually working, the more you’ll be able to earn.
Finally, remember, when people work 80 hours a week, they’re not actually working those 80 hours. They’re working a productive 20, a not-so-productive 20, and a completely wasteful 40. So maximize your own productivity for your first 20 hours and you’ll be earning a full-time income in no time.
Mridu Khullar Relph is an award-winning freelance journalist who has written for The New York Times, TIME, CNN, ABC News, and more. She runs The International Freelancer (http://www.TheInternationalFreelancer.com) and will happily share 21 of her best query letters with anyone who signs up for her free weekly newsletter.