I was just a speaker at TBEX Asia and will be attending the North America version this week. I got a lot of feedback on what’s working and what’s not. I also just polled a bunch of travel writers and bloggers this year and got real data on what they’re earning and what’s holding them back.
In general, the two problems most freelance writers and bloggers face can be lumped into two big categories:
“I don’t have enough time to get everything done.”
“I don’t earn enough money for the work I’m doing.”
These two problems are intricately connected, so they’re really two branches of the same issue. If you could earn $100 an hour for the work you were doing, would you really have a time management problem anymore? You could just pass on what’s not supporting that income.
Part of what I spoke about in this blogger productivity presentation last year was the need to raise what you’re earning per hour. If you can do that, then the problem of how you spend your time will probably take care of itself. There’s the “earning plenty of money” bucket and the “not worth it” bucket.
I’m not going to pretend that going from earning $15 per hour worked to $50 per hour is easy, but laying out the steps to get there IS easy. Do these things and you’ll be on the path to higher earnings.
1) Know where you need to be this month, this quarter, and this year.
What are you really trying to accomplish? What will get you there—in real revenue? If what you’re doing is not supporting those goals, then revamp your day, your week, your month. Do what will make a difference, not what is the most fun or the easiest.
2) Have a few clear goals every day.
It’s okay to have a giant long to-do list that covers anything and everything you would like to get done this week. It’s easy to forget something if it’s not written down. But what’s on your “velvet rope to-do list”? What tasks will really move the needle and take you from also-ran to superstar? What will really bring in revenue or contribute to a major breakthrough? Circle or star those things and don’t even look at the rest of the list until those are done.
3) Don’t answer any e-mail until you’ve accomplished something in the morning.
If I can point to one easy hack that has made the most difference in my productivity, this simple one is it. When you open up your e-mail, you are seeing what everyone else wants from you. When you start answering those e-mails, other people have now hijacked your day. Get something done first—a blog post, an invoice sent, an article written, an interview—before you go down the rabbit hole of things that could easily wait.
4) Batch your e-mail so it’s not bugging you constantly.
It’s not unusual for us to get 100, 200, or 300 e-mail messages per day. A lot of them are crap that you can instantly delete, but a lot of others will at least take 10 or 15 seconds of your attention to evaluate what to do with them. But e-mails are not texts: you don’t need to answer them right away! Take three or four times throughout the day to process your e-mails and reply to what needs a response. As freelancers and bloggers there are often opportunities coming through our inbox, so ignoring messages is not an option. Dealing with them in batches, however, allows you to spend the rest of your day doing real work.
5) Limit social media time and have a plan.
If you’re an Instagram superstar that gets paid to post pretty pictures or you make a few grand a month tweeting about laundry detergent, then you can skip this one. Otherwise, look at social media as a marketing channel, not a dose of crack you should be mainlining as soon as the endorphin buzz wears off. Turn off all those buzzing and pinging alerts and get some concentrated writing done.
What are you trying to accomplish on social media? Do you even know? Some platforms create traffic, others don’t. Some build a fan base, others are simply an ego boost. Overall, they’re better as virtual water coolers than business builders if you’re someone running a content site. If you want eyeballs on your blog or articles instead of a platform you don’t own or control, then focus on content and search instead.
I know bloggers that have 100,000 social followers but get less than 10,000 visitors a month to their blog. Don’t be one of those (unless you want to stay broke).
6) Talk to people.
The allure of passive income is that you stick a bit of code on your blog and wait for the money to roll in. You’ll spend a lot of time waiting, however, and not a lot of time withdrawing money coming into your bank account. If you want to earn real money as an artist of any kind, you need to sell your work. Or your influence. Or some service that people value. You can only accomplish this by pitching, proposing…and yes, selling.