A day in the life of a freelance writer

I think there’s a lot of mystery and intrigue around the life of a freelance remote writer. If you, yourself are a freelance writer, you’ll laugh at this. It isn’t exactly glamorous.

Regardless, I thought it might be fun to show you guys what my life actually looks like on any given weekday, from morning to night.

Here’s what it’s NOT:

I wake up and levitate to my nutribullet and a green smoothie inserts itself into my mouth.

I achieve inbox zero and spend the rest of the day strolling on the beach, checking payment notifications on my phone.

Then, my phone is ringing. It’s Oprah. She just wants to tell me I’m the coolest person on the internet. Thanks, O.

I just, of course. Here’s a snapshot of my routine this May:

6:45/7:00 AM: I wake up, check any notifications that popped up on my phone throughout the night (but I don’t answer them yet).

I toss my phone aside and head to the kitchen to prepare my french press.

While coffee is brewing, I do a quick 5-minute stretch routine to wake up my body.

This is essential. I’m about to do a lot of sitting.

 

7:30 AM: I sip my coffee on the front porch or in my room while I pet my dog.

I hop in the shower and get ready for the day. On weekdays, I help see my nephew off to school. His little smile in the morning makes my whole day better.

I might lay on the hammock for a while if it’s nice out, after my coffee, just to soak in the day.

While this sounds relaxing, it’s also a perfect time for stress to creep in and my brain to spiral, since there aren’t any distractions.

I actively redirect my brain to more soothing thoughts.

 

8:00 AM: For breakfast, I have a fruit smoothie or granola with soy milk.

Sometimes I skip breakfast. I know! You’re not supposed to… but I get hungry later in the day.

Often I just crack open a cold can of seltzer or use our soda stream. Carbonation really wakes me up.

Whenever I have my first meal, I take my vitamins. I have a complex bundle o’ supplements I take for energy, improved vision, and other stuff.

Turmeric is one of the most important herbs I take in pill form (I don’t cook much in the summer).

It reduces inflammation, which in my case, is caused by stress, acidity, and other factors.

 

8:30/9:00 AM: Before I get into client work for the day, I visit the Wi-Fi Writers Club and see what everyone is up to.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t continuously visit our Facebook group all day. I do! I’m kind of obsessed with it.

 

9:30/10:00 AM: Around 9:30/10AM, I usually have a second cup of coffee and settle into my inbox and calendar.

By 10AM the Chicago team I work currently has arrived in their office, so I usually field some emails from them.

I delete/unsubscribe/deal with emails and make my list for the day.

I try to figure out what needs to be done that day and what can be added to my “this week” list, according to urgency.

 

10:30 AM: This is where I really dig into work. There are definitely days where I’m on deadline and I start working the second I wake up—as in, roll out of bed, into my computer chair, and scream over my shoulder for someone to bring my coffee. But typically, I have a morning routine before I start working.

Productivity while working from home is a science you have to experiment with repeatedly.

I often work with this lo-fi hip-hop station playing in the background. It’s good focus music. Sometimes I put a moody show on in the background, like Bloodline, so low that dialogue is inaudible. For whatever reason, this helps me glide into productivity easier than total silence.

If I am feeling particularly scattered or stressed (I am prone to anxiety and panic), I’ll put Rainy Mood on in the background instead. There are few sounds more soothing in the world than a summer rainstorm.

I do most of my work in Google Docs. I try to close all irrelevant tabs while I’m working on something. About half my clients are on Upwork, and others are through agencies or independent clients. The approach to working with each is a bit different, so I try to organize my workflow accordingly.

During long hours of work, I have several Chrome extensions that remind me to sit up straight, take breaks to walk around and to periodically look away from the screen.

If I feel my eyes getting tired, I do eye exercises (things like rolling your eyes in a circle, focusing on one thing–then the thing behind it, etc). I’ve been having some eye issues lately, which is not good for a writer (but also not surprising). Because of this, taking those breaks from staring at the screen is a must.

I used to use the Fabulous app to track all of the tasks I want to do in a day, but I found myself getting frustrated with the pop-up schedules and feeling bad about not following through. (This is still a GREAT app if you’re able to keep up with it.)

Now, I have a shorter list of daily tasks at the top of my to-do list, and I just try to get to each of them each day.

I try to knock out all of my conference calls before lunch. I like my afternoons to be uninterrupted if possible.

 

12:30/1:00 PM: During my lunch break, if it’s nice out I’ll go back outside and lay in the hammock or take a dip in the pool.

I will also undoubtedly begin harassing Krystal via Gchat about hopes, dreams, writing, and DJO.

Sometimes lunch is just some bell peppers and hummus, other times I am ravenous from using all of that brain power and I make a full blown meal.

For whatever reason, the afternoon is peak anxiety time for me. I am prone to freaking out, having existential dread, and crumbling into myself rather than finishing the work day strong. Fun, right?

This is when I try to calm my mind, watch some feel-good anime (I love Sailor Moon, Paradise Kiss, and anything from Studio Ghibli), talk to Krystal, do some stretches or free weight lifting, and practice some of my stress relief techniques.

Sometimes finishing a task gives me a bust of feel-good vibes, too, so I try to power through and get the next thing done on my list.

After lunch, I have to refocus, shove my anxious vibes aside, and get back to work.

 

4:00 PM: By late afternoon, I’m typically done with client work and I’ll begin working on DJO.

Right now we’re pre-launch, so this will likely change soon, but I dedicate around 2 hours per day writing blog posts and working on our online course.

As you can see, I spend a LOT of time on the computer.

 

6:00/6:30 PM: To achieve some balance, by evening I’ll hop off the computer and do some sketching for my art blog, Pink Moon Cafe.

I used to sketch like my life depended on it, and as an adult, that habit has fizzled. Sketching definitely gets me out of the writing head space and thinking more creatively.

If I’m not sketching, I might be playing with fabric, making patterns, and sewing clothes in the evening.

My yet-to-launch indie clothing line is a slow-going project that’s 100% for fun, and I’m not rushing it. Two of my degrees are actually in fashion design!

Dinner falls somewhere around here, too.

Usually a veggie burger with a salad or chicken stir-fry. About every other day, I fit a trip to the gym somewhere in the evening as well.

 

8:00 PM: At this point, I’m usually trying to unwind and resisting the urge to spend more time on the computer.

My brain might be fried, but I still get inspired to write a new post or work on something for DJO.

I get a lot of brilliant ideas when I am actually too exhausted to work, so I might just write them down, organize my inbox, and then rip myself away from the computer.

Again, there are nights where I’m on deadline or have a major project, and I sit there until well into the night working on something.

The good thing about freelancing? I have that option!

If I am really into it, I can even tack on twice the workload and just rev myself up for an intense week. The downside is, this can be addicting. You have to know where to draw the line so you don’t end up burnt out.

If I still have some brain power left at night, I’ll sometimes write fiction. I’ve always loved writing stories, and I don’t know if I’ll ever publish them, but it’s certainly fun to use my imagination and create characters, plots, etc.

Other nights, I’ll pack my bag for the city (I’m in the city 3-4 days per week, usually, for meetings and seeing my boyfriend).

If I have nowhere to be the next day, I’ll chill out with a glass of wine and hang out with my family. In the summer, they grill outside, have little wood fires, and eat dinner on the picnic table.

 

As you might have gathered, I’m taking a break from city living right now and kicking back in the Hudson Valley with my family.

It’s a blissful time and I’m grateful for it, even though I spent a lot of time in front of the computer.

In Brooklyn, my routine looks a little different, but not that much. I don’t have a pool there, that’s for sure! 😉 When I move back to the city in the fall, I know I’ll be aching for this time…

Maybe that’s why it felt like the right time to jot down my routine.

 

Anyway, I hope this gives you a little bit of insight into one freelance writer’s day. If you want to share yours, drop a comment below!

Here’s to a productive week ahead (and plenty of hammock time).

Michelle Christina Larsen is the Co-founder of Day Job Optional. Strong coffee, strong wi-fi, and absurd inside jokes are some of her favorite things. While a self-proclaimed side project addict, writing remains the ultimate focus of her life. After a decade of freelance writing in the fashion industry, she's teaching fellow freelancers how to dominate their niches and make full-time incomes online.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *