Diana Kelly Levey

How I Scale My Freelance Business Working 10 Hours a Week

A woman working on her laptop on a coffee table

October 6, 2021

I’ve been a six-figure freelancer freelancer for a few years now and this year, I’m on track to make about one half of that freelance salary. While you might think the coronavirus pandemic is to blame for a lack of freelance work, the main reason I’ll earn less is because I’m working about half the hours I normally do.

A freelancer saw a post on a Facebook group where I answered a question about earning a certain income and working “part-time” and reached out to ask how I scale my business. (Hi, Chloe‘!)

The reason I work about 10 to 15 hours a week right now is that I have an infant and my babysitting time is limited. Sure, I could wake up earlier…and sometimes I do, but frankly, after being a sleep-deprived mom for about five months, I’m trying to catch up on some rest in the mornings. Get more details on how I work at home with an infant.

I also know that I’m not great at working in the evenings unless I absolutely have to. So, I crank out as much work as I can when I can during the week when my baby sleeps or I have hired help. (FYI, he only naps for about two or so hours a day, usually broken up into four naptimes. Yep, they’re short.)

I answered the freelancer FAQ writing question of “How have you been able to scale your freelance business working 10 or so hours a week?” via email and thought it would be a good blog to elaborate on for other working parents and freelancers who are freelance writing as a side hustle or those who just don’t want to work more than 10 or so hours a week. (Curious about how to write stellar pitches? Check out these article pitch examples.)

How to Scale Your Business to Earn a Good Income Without Working a Ton of Hours

As I replied to Chloe in my email, I scaled back to freelancing about 10 to 15 hours a week in 2020 because I had a baby. That’s really all I could accomplish while addressing his needs and yes, he interrupts work…like writing this blog by taking short naps throughout the day. (Bye for a few minutes!) But seriously, here’s how I’m on track to earn around $50,000 while working about 10 hours a week.

I also took off two months for maternity leave so this income is based on about 10 months of work this year and taking off two weeks throughout the year for vacation.

1. I write quickly.

My fingers have smoke coming off them this year. It seems that every new parent wonders what they were doing will all of their free time before their kids because, man, am I efficient as a freelance writer mom! I force myself to FOCUS immensely when he’s down for a nap. Sometimes that’s a 5-minute nap and other times it’s 20 to 25 mins. (the usual) or occasionally a blessed 45 minutes to an hour. I never know how much time I’m getting with this nap roulette game so I turn on my time tracking software Togg.l’s free version and start writing in a block of time. (Here’s how you can become a faster writer in 20 minutes.)

2. I spend money on services I don’t need to do.

While I was typing that email response to the freelancer who sought out my advice, I was waiting for a recording to be transcribed. I hate transcribing interviews and try to avoid doing it. I’ll pay a freelance friend or use a service like TranscribeMe, Rev, or even Otter.ai if it’s a quick and easy call that isn’t too technical and I don’t need a verbatim interview. I also use a virtual assistant to help me with social posts and some research tasks. This frees up my time for client work, phone calls, and pitching. (Here’s how to drum up business when freelance work is slow.)

3. I figure out what work I need to do while the baby sleeps.

If it’s morning and I slept well and the coffee is kicking in, I try to tackle writing before the day takes a turn for the worse and I can’t find quiet moments to write. Afternoons are better for responding to emails or light research which I can occasionally do while the baby jumps in his bouncer or plays on the floor. I try to plan work phone calls during the six hours a week when I have a babysitter but if it doesn’t work out and my husband isn’t around to watch the baby, I’ll just do the call with the baby in a safe space and let the caller know who’s responsible for all of those funny noises in the background.

4. I’m pickier with clients.

The secret to still being on track to earn about $50,000 or so this year with this limited time is making sure I take on better-paying clients that make the time I’m working ‘worth it.’ I started sending out a ‘client intake form’ when I’m contacted by new clients to make sure we’re a good fit and they have a budget that aligns with my goals. This way, I’m not spending much time emailing and hopping on calls with prospects that won’t work out.

5. I’m looking for a certain freelance writing rate.

I’m aiming for at least a three-digit per hour rates for a writing assignment. Sometimes that means I’m taking on work that’s a $300 assignment for about 500 words or so but I can get it done in an hour. (Sign up for my e-newsletter on the right side of this freelance blog post and get a FREE PDF to learn how I earn $600 an hour for one content marketing client.)

Obviously, I’m not working 40 hours a week at that rate. The faster I work, the higher my hourly rate.  Of course, it has to be quality work I’m turning in during this focused time or I’ll lose clients. If you’re wondering if you should lower your rates during the pandemic, check out this blog post.

6. I’m strategic with my pitches.

When I’m working with existing clients, I don’t spend a ton of time on pitches if we have a strong (often casual) relationship where I can send them a few lines of an idea and they’ll let me know if they like it. (Learn how I sold 20+ freelance pitches and earned tens of thousands of dollars of work.)

When I’m writing a pitch, I factor that research time into the assignment. If I spend the right amount of time on the pitch and it gets accepted, I’m probably one-third to half way done the writing in a sense.

7. I pay for childcare so I can do ‘deep work’ or high-level freelance tasks.

Having a sitter six hours a week has helped me concentrate on freelance writing work that only I can do. I schedule calls for that time as well as write feature articles during that time. I often jot down a list of important things I want to get done while the sitter is here so I don’t drift off reading articles online or wind up down a social media rabbit hole. (Learn the 10 habits I adopted to make six figures a year freelancing.)

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Diana can help with:

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Email Diana about opportunities: Diana(at)DianaKelly.com.