How I Earn $8K+ Per Month While Only Working 15 Hours Per Week

Creating my dream freelancing workweek meant no grind.

Zulie Rane
Apr 11 · 7 min read
Image of the author taken by author’s husband. Source: IG

In September of 2020, I was working around 80 hours a week. In March 2021, I worked 42 hours — in the entire month.

In September, I spent forty hours per week, of course, on my day job. The other forty was my writing business: videos, articles, editing, coaching. In March, I have condensed my freelance work into less than 15 hours per week, while earning $8,500.

Here’s how I created my 15-hour workweek while still making enough for a very comfortable lifestyle.

1. I stopped working at my corporate job.

God, I was so afraid during that first week of being fully freelance. I was afraid I’d cut my income in half. I was afraid I’d run out of time when working freelance. I was afraid I’d overwork myself and burn out.

But you know what I found? That when I wasn’t spending half my brainpower and time on a corporate job I kind of hated, I was actually much more effective at making money. I didn’t need forty hours a week, scraped from the margins of my evenings and weekends, to make a living. I could do it in 3 hours a day.

Image of author sitting outside on a bench reading with a dog at her side.
Image of author sitting outside on a bench reading with a dog at her side.
Image of author and her dog sitting outside and enjoying the sun on a casual Tuesday.

With distance and time, I was able to hone in on the streams that were making me the most money, and streamline the lengthier processes that were costing me time.

Too many people think of leaving their job as a risk, rather than staying. When you leave your 9-to-5, you give up a lot, that’s true. But you also give up opportunities by staying.

For me, even though I worked less, I actually earned more.

2. I tracked my time religiously.

As a freelancer, it’s paramount to track your time to understand how you’re managing your clients, yourself, and your own freelance career.

I use a free tool, Clockify, to track my time. My goal was to have a better idea of where my time went, how much it was worth, and where I should invest more of it.

These were my key takeaways from tracking my time in the month of November 2020.

  • I spent around 60 hours working in November, averaging ~15h/week.
  • My biggest time investment was on YouTube, which also paid the least. ($13/hour)
  • On average, I earned $111.87 per hour.

It helps me know how I’m spending my time, what pursuits are worthwhile, and balance my obligations and commitments. It also lets me know what my time is worth so far, which helps me when I am bargaining with new clients.

In summary, the best way to keep track of your goals, monitor your time, and frankly revel in the freedom of being a freelancer is simply by monitoring your time in and money out.

3. I invested in multiple sources of passive-ish income.

One of the findings I had from tracking my time was that my biggest sources of income were the ones I worked least at. For example, while I have to work at least a couple of hours to produce a blog post I charge clients $250 for, I can make the same on a blogging website that pays in royalties in 45 minutes or less, because that’s where I’ve built my audience for the past three years.

Collage of author with cat, author on a hike, and some pasteis de nata made by author.
Collage of author with cat, author on a hike, and some pasteis de nata made by author.
Collage of author with cat, author on a hike, and some pasteis de nata made by author.

This means a blog post I write today will still be earning money tomorrow. I stopped trying to crank out content articles and focused on the ones I thought would be long-term money makers.

At the same time, I began thinking about a course. Honestly, I hated the thought of doing one because I felt like a massive fraud. Who was I to teach anyone anything, and why did I think they would pay me money?

But I went out on a limb and I created my digital course in about 10 hours, starting from raw recording to marketing it to my email list. So far, I’ve earned over $2200 from it and I’ll earn more without having to do very much work because the bulk of the time-consuming work is already done.

I was scared to create a course, but I did it and it paid off. My colleague Sinem Günel wrote an excellent guide to help you sell your first digital product if you, like me, are paralyzed by a fear that you’re not quite good enough. Honestly, for those who want to work less and earn more, there’s no better way.

4. I hired people who do what I suck at.

I love creating YouTube videos, engaging with my audience, hosting live workshops and more. But when I began to track my freelance time, I learned it was one of my biggest time-sucks and smallest earners — around 25 hours/month, and only averaging $250-$300/month at that point.

YouTube has the potential to become a bigger earner with less work through the ad system. Plus, I use it as a way to grow my mailing list. So I didn’t want to give up on it.

Instead, I identified what was costing me the most time and eliminated it — editing, my nemesis. Today, Martin Evans edits every single one of my videos, saving me about ~20 hours per month and giving my videos a professional polish I couldn't hope to achieve myself. Many of my viewers have noticed and left comments to say they appreciate the increase in quality.

Equally, when I learned my website had an extremely low conversion rate, I realized it was because it wasn't very professional-looking. I hired Jada Dreyfus to redesign it, and my conversion rate roughly tripled overnight.

People who help shore up your weaknesses (like video editing or design for me) will help you spend less time and earn more money.

5. I developed a streamlined weekly to-do list.

Back at my old job, every week was different. Today, I have a pretty similar to-do list I write up at the start of each week.

I have my admin tasks, like updating my profile, answering YouTube comments, and going through my inbox. I have my writing tasks, both for my own blog and for my clients. I have my filming and live YouTube sessions to schedule. And finally, I have my meetings.

Because every week is mostly the same, I don’t have any friction between tasks. I know Mondays are admin, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are my heavy writing days, Thursdays are mostly for meetings and filming, and Fridays for anything else that comes up through the week.

My standardized week is extremely easy to slip into, giving me more money in less time.

6. I stopped pitching clients.

I did at first and realized a) I hated it and b) I was bad at it. It was literally a waste of my time and was costing me money. I’ve never sent a successful pitch, yet I have several very happy and high-paying freelance clients.

Instead, I began to look for ways to gain freelance clients that didn’t depend on pitching. Here are the three ways I save time by gaining clients without pitching.

  1. I advertise myself through my work. Many of my clients come to me because they’ve stumbled across a high-ranking SEO article and want me to create something similar for them. The first time, this happened by accident, but I’ve worked out how to do it intentionally. All I have to do is write very well in topics I enjoy writing in and do my SEO research to ensure it ranks. Then I have to add my contact info and ensure clients know I’m open to freelance work.
  2. I redid my LinkedIn profile. For a long time, I feared, hated and neglected my LinkedIn profile because I just didn’t get it. But after hosting a workshop with a very successful freelancer who has a jazzy LinkedIn profile, I redid mine and now get 1–2 inquiries per week from potential clients through LinkedIn.
  3. I networked. I reached out to friends who I knew had businesses in need of writing, and they provided me with work. My latest client came to me through a referral from a previous client. I know, writing should be a meritocracy! But it’s not. Who you know — and who they know — matters.

How many hours should you work as a freelancer? For me, no more than 15 per week.

I’m bragging here to prove a point: no matter how effective I could ever be at a corporate job, if I worked fifteen hours a week, my boss would complain. As a freelancer, I have the ability and autonomy to design my own workweek that is full of work I love to do — and even more full of the non-work things I love to do, like baking, hanging out with my cats, playing video games, writing my book, and working out.

Image of chocolate eclairs baked and taken by author.
Image of chocolate eclairs baked and taken by author.
Image of chocolate eclairs baked and taken by author.

I developed my 15-hour workweek with these six steps, which happened alongside two and a half years of working at my writing, networking, and audience building.

Today, I work exactly enough time to feel fulfilled, happy, and prosperous with enough time left to have a very full and joyful life outside of work, too. The wildest thing is that I shouldn't be the exception — anyone can do this, including you.

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Zulie Rane

Written by

Biology MSc. Psychology nerd. She/her. Get my FREE 5-day Medium Starter Kit to make money writing about what you love: https://zuliewrites.ck.page/3e3d3a8187

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +791K followers.

Zulie Rane

Written by

Biology MSc. Psychology nerd. She/her. Get my FREE 5-day Medium Starter Kit to make money writing about what you love: https://zuliewrites.ck.page/3e3d3a8187

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +791K followers.

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