A Day in the Life of a Freelance Writer: Part I

What’s it really like to be a fulltime freelancer? Well…no day is exactly the same, there’s plenty of flexibility, but the deadlines (and the hustle) are real. The number of hours you work each day and how you allot your time depend on you, but it also affects your bottom line. No day is the same, though, and for me, working around my kids’ schedules is key.

6:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. I get up, get dressed, and spend a couple of hours getting my kids up and out the door (when they’re on break, I get up and start working and let them sleep in until 9 a.m. to be able to take afternoons off with them). During this time, I check email and Facebook, drink coffee, have breakfast and start planning my day.

9:00 a.m. My To-Do List: 

I organize my day a few different ways: one is that I know that to reach my financial goals each month (and be able to pay my bills as a single mother of two) I have to make a certain amount of money each day. You can set that goal, too, say, $300. That may be made up with a combination of things, like paid contract public relations work, an article or two, or part of an article if I can’t finish it in one day. 

I also base my daily schedule on deadlines. If possible, you should be turning in your work ahead of schedule. It takes a load off of your editor to not have to chase down late work and then scramble on their end to get work edited and into design (especially true for print). I work on whatever deadline is coming up soonest.

My to-do list includes the article I need to submit for the day, plus one other (the next one in line) that I can at least do a little outline or start a document for. Also includes things I have to get done related to blog posts or website updates, reaching out to sources, and some personal stuff (like picking up prescriptions, signing my kids up for activities, etc.)

Interviews: I try to schedule my interviews in the early afternoon if possible because that’s when I feel like I’ve made enough progress with tasks that need to happen at the beginning of the day. I’m also clear-headed enough to talk to people and ask questions that make sense. I try to schedule any interviews on one day during the week, Thursday, so I know that is my ‘interview day’ and all my interviews will get done in one day. This helps me block out time to write instead of being scattered and all over the place.

Pitches: I have a running list (I use notebooks, a spreadsheet, and Trello) of story ideas and outlets to pitch. I schedule one day a week for pitches and follow-ups (Tuesday), though some people prefer to send a couple of pitches per day out instead. It depends on whatever meets your financial goals, pitch goals, and story placement goals. 

Emails: I start my day with answering and sending any emails that are in my inbox. 

10:00 a.m. Exercise. 

I find a walk and/or working up a sweat helps me focus, clears my head, organizes my thoughts, and crosses a (very important) task off my list that I would otherwise procrastinate and not get done.

11:00 a.m. Write:

I’ll sit down and write for a solid hour or more, usually finishing a shorter article (400-600 words) while I’m on a roll.

1:00 p.m. Lunch.

I’ll make myself stop, make something real to eat, throw in a load of laundry and tidy up one area (kitchen, workspace, bathroom).

1:30 p.m. Back to work:

Finish any article I’m working on or work on a second article. I’ll send/read any emails, check in on social media. I send invoices the day I submit my articles. I try to send an invoice for something every day to keep money coming in. I will work a solid block for the afternoon, until about 2:30. I take a short break when my son gets home. At 4:00 p.m., my daughter gets home. This is when I start winding down my day. I’ll check emails, submit work, and do any other final tasks that need to be done.

I try to work ‘regular’ hours and not be answering emails at night or working on stories past 5:00 or 6:00pm unless there’s some unusual deadline. I treat writing like a job (otherwise, especially with something that has so much crossover into real life) I’d always be working. I also take time on the weekend to really step away from work and give my brain a chance to relax.

Part II of A Day in the Life of a Freelance Writer will document a play-by-play of my day, so stay tuned!