As a freelance writer or self-employed businessperson, you have likely noticed that some of your writing and marketing activities bring outsized results, while other activities give you a very small return on the investment of your time and energy. There’s a reason for that…
The Pareto Principle = 80-20 Rule
The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto principle, is based on data and observations by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. It holds that, in many instances, 80% of an effect is created by 20% of causes.
Here are 4 examples applied to freelance writers:
- 80% of your writing income comes from 20% of your clients.
- 80% of your published writing comes from 20% of your ideas.
- 80% of your best writing comes from 20% of your writing time.
- 80% of total freelance writing income is earned by 20% of freelance writers.
Note that this is not an ironclad law: it’s a tendency. Sometimes the numbers can be skewed far beyond 80:20. It’s possible to find distributions up to 99:1 and beyond.
It’s Crucial for Time Management
The 80/20 rule applies to most areas of life and business.For example, let’s look at blogging — probably 99% of all blog traffic goes to 1% of the blogs.
For your freelance writing, look at every aspect of what you do for the 20% that accounts for 80% or more of your productivity and income. Then make sure you focus on doing more and more of what’s in that 20%.
Apply the Pareto Principle to Your Business
It’s especially important to apply the 80/20 rule to clients. Focus more on those few clients that give you a lot of work and pay you well.
For example, I’ve made the majority of my freelance income by writing test questions, lecture outlines and the like for college textbooks. I’ve done probably 95% of my over 250 projects for just two textbook publishers, and over the years, I’ve concentrated most of my marketing on these two companies. (For information about this niche, see my e-book Writing College Textbook Supplements: The Definitive Guide to Winning High-Paying Assignments in the College Textbook Publishing Market, second edition.)
What’s your experience with the Pareto principle in your freelance writing and the other activities of your life?