What does it look like to be a full time freelance writer? I documented the ins and outs of my last week of work for this post – and it’s less 4-hour work week and more 40-hour work week (minus a few hours). But despite the seemingly regular ‘office hours’, freelancing is anything but regular.
A week in the life of a freelance writer
Similar to the question regularly posed to new mothers, I’ve been getting asked: “What do you do all day?” so I thought I’d write a post about how I spent last week, which is fairly typical of how I spend most of my weeks as a freelance writer.
Because it’s dull, I’ve left out most of my social media activity, but I probably spend around 30 minutes to 1 hour each day ping-ponging between Twitter and Facebook. And I also spend way too much time checking email, rather than processing it.
On Sunday evening I tend to plan out my week. I use Kelly Exeter’s grid to allocate my tasks for the week into four squares. I tend to have tasks that sit under ‘projects’, ‘blog’, ‘writing’ and ‘bits and pieces’.
This lets me neatly section off all the things I have to do in a week according to what category they fit into.
Kelly takes it one step further and does a daily schedule, but I found that when I did that I went way over time on some tasks and under on others.
What I tend to do is pick three tasks for each day from my grid and work on those. If I have a daily to-do list any longer than three I tend to lose focus.
8.30am – 4.45pm
It’s my first day back at work after last week, where I felt like I was a 90 year old woman with a head cold, conjunctivitis and varying other aches and pains. I’m still not feeling 100 per cent, but I have deadlines this week so have rallied and pulled myself together to get dressed and out of the house.
Checked and replied to emails until 9am and then called the doctor for appointment (I want to make sure I’m not dying of some ghastly disease).
Planned out an article I’m writing for a trade magazine – I’ve started planning each of the longer articles that I write, and I’ve found that working out where I’m going to introduce case studies and what transitions I’m going to use always saves times in the writing stage.
Had an hour-long telephone interview for a research project I’m doing, and then emailed the research manager an update on the project.
Worked on a new blog post for the week, replied to a new potential editor and emailed a new editor who was looking for writers (I saw the callout on one of the Facebook groups I’m part of).
Went to the doctors (it’s not a tumour – just a virus).
Starting writing the article I planned out this morning. Followed up about invoices (I started this week with $3,000 in overdue invoices) – I’ve been paid twice for one invoice and not paid for another with one publishing house.
I followed up with a case study about an interview, then called it a day at 4.45pm.
9am – 4pm
Working from home today. On the days I work from home, I try to give my partner at least an hour in the morning to exercise or study before I start work for the day.
While he’s studying, my kids watch 20 minutes of Octonauts and I spend 15 minutes working on a ‘best of’ article that’s due tomorrow for a food publication.
Start work in earnest at 9am.
Work on the trade magazine article that I started yesterday (it’s due on Thursday), and wrote approximately 1,000 words.
Finished off another article due on Friday – wrote approximately 400 words.
Followed up with an editor of a food magazine who said she’d give me a brief last week about an article due next Monday. She got back to me with a full brief, so I emailed interview requests to 5 – 6 chefs.
Got a proof (this is a PDF version of an article soon to be published) from a magazine – I read through for any mistakes and answered two queries the sub editors had. I emailed the four case studies to let them know when the article is scheduled to run.
Started and finished writing a 400-word press release as the first piece of four pieces of content about trauma for an insurance company I am working with.
Finished up at 4pm.
I did half an hour or so of work after dinner of emailing people to confirm interviews for the next day as well as compiling file of images for the ‘best of’ story I’m writing.
9.30am – 4pm
Working from the co-working space today. Cookies going down well – less than one third left in the jar. People are appreciating the wholemeal, low-sugar offering of this week’s cookies (last week I made double caramel cookies and I think I may have contributed to some serious tooth decay and heart palpitations)
Filed the ‘best of’ story (plus images). Even in the last 6 months I’m noticing that more and more editors are requesting that I also source images to accompany articles.
Worked my way through 29 new emails.
Received one new commission from an editor reaching out to me (article due COB tomorrow).
Invoiced for six articles.
Put a callout for case studies on various Facebook groups I’m part of for a blog post I’m writing about writing for inflight magazines – spent a fair bit of time responding to answers and emailing follow up questions.
Re-read this week’s blog post before it goes live.
Finished off trade magazine story – emailed to my partner to read through and check.
Phone interviews x 3 (sent off for transcribing via Rev)
Sent off questions to 3 interviewees via email
Started and finished 800 word article for the insurance company about trauma
Received my second request of the week about offering mentoring for freelance writers. Started developing an intake form for mentoring clients (let me know if there are any freelance writers out there who are also keen!)
Started working on the commission I got this morning and that’s due tomorrow.
Internet down in the town where I live so chaos ensues. Read my partner’s uni essay, which is due on Friday and fixed up his comments on my trade magazine article that’s due tomorrow.
8.30am – 4.30pm
Working from home today.
Read through the trade magazine article that’s due today and sent it to the editor.
Read through another article that’s due tomorrow and sent it to editor. Editor replied to say they are now asking writers to do meta descriptions, abstracts and heading variations for all their articles, and requested me to do this for this article too.
Completed the food article that was assigned yesterday and submitted it.
Went for a 1 hour walk (this is a rare occurrence, but I’m trying to get some fresh air during the day)
Invoiced for 2 articles.
1 hour Skype call with three other freelance writers – one of my favourite parts of being a freelancer!
Back and forth with an editor about a new story for an inflight mag (that got commissioned – hooray!)
Working on extra information for a pitch for another editor.
Followed up with an editor about another pitch.
Sent two requests to case studies for interviews.
Tried to think of pitches for a regular editor I write for but after half an hour of reading different websites, I came up absolutely blank and gave up.
30 mins spent reading an ebook on freelance writing.
9am – 12pm
I work a half day each Friday and my partner has the other half to study.
Checked bank account – got paid the overdue $3K.
30 minutes phone interview with case study.
Back and forth with an interviewee about where and when content will be published
Emailed questions to another interviewee.
Invoiced for one article.
Reviewed proof of food article scheduled for publication in a few weeks.
Editor asked for more information and an outline on a particular pitch – I did that (fair bit of research involved).
Emailed editor to check appropriateness of case studies for an article I’m writing for her.
Started writing feature article (wrote 600 words).
9am – 11.30am
While my partner takes the kids swimming, I use Saturday mornings to do a little bit of catch up work.
I wrote a 500 word article for the insurance company and started on another article for them.
Scheduled my Twitter for the coming week.
That’s it! That was my week. Does your freelancing week look similar or different from mine?