How to Increase the Value of Your Time
In 2019, the Society of Authors claimed that the average salary of a full-time British author was just £10,497 ($14,479), a figure that hasn’t changed significantly according to more recent media articles. Headlines tell a similar story in other countries, too. And while you may stipulate that some authors – particularly indies – earn a small fortune and aren’t included in many industry surveys, there is no denying that wealth inequality exists in the author profession.
A minority earn above six figures while most struggle to get off the ground. So why do a few authors earn so much more than their peers? Is it genre? That certainly has a part to play. Romance and crime authors typically take up the top spots in author earnings reports. What about the number of hours worked? Also true. Written Word Media frequently publishes reports that correlate extra hours worked per week with higher royalty cheques. So yes, you can earn a bigger income by switching genres or working around the clock. But are they the only options?
Not at all! As you will discover in today’s blog post, you don’t need to write in a genre you hate or risk burnout to earn a good living. You simply need to learn how to increase the value of your time to earn more money per hour. Doing so may require some adjustment at first but changing the way you work is a small price to pay for the reward of being able to work fewer hours, stress less and pull in bigger royalty figures. If you find yourself overworked and under rewarded, read on to learn how to increase the value of your time.
Calculate Your Hourly Rate
Modern authors can earn money in lots of ways; ebooks, paperbacks, audiobooks, affiliate income, freelance writing, traditional advances – there are hundreds of potential income streams. Keeping track can be a challenge, especially when different platforms stagger payments over various timescales. As a result, working out exactly how long you’ve worked to generate a particular revenue figure can sometimes leave you scratching your head. But if you want to improve the value of your time, it’s important to track the cash passing through your business and the time you spend earning it.
Once you know exactly how many hours you’ve worked and how much it’s earned you, calculating your hourly rate is easy. Sometimes the most accurate way to do it is by using averages:
Your Average Monthly Income ÷ Average Number of Hours Worked = Your Average Hourly Rate
$2,000 ÷ 100 hours = $20 per hour
At first glance, you may believe that working out your current hourly rate is a waste of time, but knowing what it is can help you make more informed business decisions. Measuring how much your time is currently worth will enable you to eradicate tasks that fall below your current baseline and focus on those that stand above it.
Partition Work and Play
How much time do you spend working? It’s difficult to tell as an author because it depends on how you define work. Do only writing and editing count? What about talking to your readers on social media or going for a walk to work out the kinks in your plot? Think carefully because defining work is fundamental to increasing the value of your time. Once you’ve identified what counts, you can more easily spot procrastination, partition work from play, and focus more of your energy on what generates results.
Many authors write in short, timed bursts with 100% focus to draw a hard line between work and rest periods. However, you don’t have to limit “sprints” to writing. You can apply the same strategy when tackling emails or responding to social media notifications to contain those tasks in defined blocks. Setting a timer and striving to work efficiently will help you achieve more productive work in less time and minimise time-wasting activities that have no definitive end goal. Without a quantifiable goal, this is the best way to limit the time-suck of tasks that are necessary but often distract you for too long without producing value in your business.
Document Your Process
Sometimes it’s difficult to spot your inefficient habits until you document how you actually spend your time. After doing that, issues present themselves. Did you really need take two hours changing your prices on Amazon? What caused the holdup? Could you create a system that speeds it up in the future? Yesterday, you claimed you wrote for three hours. So why did you only produce 400 words? Is it because you spent two of those hours researching how to use a semi-colon… again?
If you spend more time doing a task than you think you should, writing down what you’ve done will highlight what stalled you. Then, once you’ve identified problems, you can test ways to work more efficiently. Perhaps that means creating a folder of common keywords that work well in your genre so you’re prepared the next time you need to create AMS ads for a book launch, or creating a business journal (as described in this post) to cut down the time you spend re-learning tasks you do infrequently. You could even create checklists to ensure you make fewer mistakes and save time you would otherwise normally spend fixing them, thereby creating more value in a shorter time space.
Use the Pareto Principle
The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Rule, states that 20% of a person’s work accounts for 80% of their results. In theory, if you can find the 20% of your work that provides the bulk of your income, you can cut out 80% of your workload and still get 80% of the money. To return to our previous example for comparison, using this method, your before and after results will look like this:
$2,000 ÷ 100 hours = $20 per hour
100 hours × 20% = 20 hours
$2,000 × 80% = $1,600
$1,600 ÷ 20 hours = $80 per hour
That’s a 300% pay rise per hour! It’s hard to believe this is possible, but look at most businesses and you’ll notice the Pareto Principle at work. As an author, you could use it to turn a 40-hour work week into an eight-hour one, cutting out all low-yield admin, social media, advertising, networking and procrastination tasks, and still get a similar result. What’s left will be your most productive 20%, which for most authors is writing and releasing books. Cut out whatever work doesn’t give you a good return and you can quadruple your income per hour using the Pareto Principle.
You can outsource publishing tasks to increase the value of your time, no matter your genre. Why labour for hours doing admin when a specialist VA can do it better and faster? You may suggest hiring one is a waste of money when you can do the job yourself, but it makes mathematical sense if you can spend your time better elsewhere. For example, if you earn $30 an hour writing a book but spend four hours writing and two doing admin that makes you no money, you’ve earned $120. Pay a virtual assistant $15 an hour to do your admin and you can use those extra two hours for writing.
$30 × 4 hours = $120
Total income for six hours of work = $120
$30 × 6 hours =$180
$15 × 2 hours = $30 VA Costs
Total income for six hours of work = $180 – $30 = $150
You don’t even have to spend much time training a VA if you find one with relevant experience. Remember those process documents mentioned two points ago? You can repurpose those as teaching aids to help a VA check they’re doing your work the way you want it done without pestering you with too many questions. Just be careful not to outsource busywork because, while that saves you time, it’s best to cut that needless effort from your business altogether and give them something to do that makes money on top of your efforts. The Pareto Principle should apply to their work just as much as yours.
Say No and Be Firm
Opportunities are everywhere for authors, but turning down long-shot offers that will likely yield little return is an effective way to grow the value of your time. Doing so enables you to build a reliable income rather than jump on every time sink that heads your way in the hope of scoring jackpot returns. Admittedly, saying no can be a challenge, particularly if you’re a people pleaser or suffer from FOMO, but being firm is vital. You might disappoint some people and miss opportunities that strike oil, but it’s unlikely. In reality, few potential collaborators will care, and you’ll probably save time you can spend on projects with more reliable earning potential.
In fact, while you’re passing on new opportunities, also consider the projects you’re already doing. Aim to cut out any task you do that will likely pay lower than your current average hourly rate. If you work with clients as a copywriter, editor or consultant, let them know that you’re increasing your prices by 10, 20 or 50%. Some will stop working with you, but the ones who stick around will accept the increase, fill that gap in your income and leave you earning the same or more while working fewer hours.
Finding ways to increase your time can be tricky at first, but you’ll get better at it when you deconstruct your business, make changes and analyse your results. Put a few of these processes into place and you’ll find yourself working less and spending more time focusing on high-impact activities that leave you richer, calmer and happier than ever.
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