When I started getting paid as a freelance blogger in my passion niche, I was making $45 a post.
It wasn’t bad at the time, but now I make literally 10x that after switching to the niche I have employment experience in. If I ever went back, I probably wouldn’t dedicate more than a couple hours a week to that work— full-time dedication would leave me broke, burnt out or both, and that just doesn’t fit my lifestyle design goals.
One of the best things about freelancing is the power to shape your business the way you want. That means if you test a niche for 6 months and find out there isn’t a ton of opportunity, you can make changes. You have options.
I see a lot of us out here, struggling, year-after-year, trying to force a singular-focus freelance career to fit our income or lifestyle goals when in reality, that might not work — at least not without a lifetime of effort and grinding.
That’s why I want to talk about a few ways you can split your business to reach your lifestyle goals while still making sure you get to do the work you want.
When I say “split”, that’s exactly what I mean — setting aside certain percentages of your time and effort based on your goals, instead of dedicating 100% of your eggs to that one, sometimes iffy, basket.
Before we get started, let me just say this is especially important for anyone interested in working in fields where exploitation, underpayment, overwork, late payment, or low-earning is common (think fields like consumer media, journalism, and small business.)
Split by Work Type
You know I’m not a fan of mixing multiple skill sets in a freelance career, but this is a little different. This is more about mixing the application of your skill across different areas.
Let’s use writing as a journalist for example. The field of journalism has been shrinking for a while. That’s why you’ll run across quite a few writers who supplement their journalistic work with other types of writing like content marketing or brand writing that often pay higher (and require less emotional labor and personal risk).
That higher pay means that while they might only dedicate 20% of their effort to non-journalistic work, they can bring in the same, if not more for a lower amount of effort.
Split by Client Type
If you’re interested in working with brand new small businesses, non-profits, or cause-related organizations, this might be work considering.
While the non-profit industry is huge and it’s possible to find higher-paying work that can cover your bills, let’s be real — some of us have a passion to work with people who just don’t have a lot of money. That’s fine, but the one thing that won’t help anybody is if you martyr your business. You can’t pour from an empty cup right?
So if you want to keep a portfolio that involves clients with less ability to pay, make sure you’re taking care of yourself and them by looking into higher-paying niches.
Split by Function
This is one I do personally. It’s partly for career growth and partly to keep challenging myself.
I have two titles — content strategist and freelance writer. I offer both services because while I love writing, I also have a heart for strategy, planning the bigger picture, and bringing marketing leaders some objective support.
If you find production work starts to feel stale after a while, look into using the insight you’ve developed over the years to provide a service at another functional level.
Most importantly though, remember that this is up to you. Play with a few different mixes until you find what makes you comfortable and what helps you shape a freelance business that actually improves your life.