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What a freelancer’s day really looks like

Emily Belden's Layout avatar

In 2007, I was living in Omaha, Nebraska and had just been laid off from my associate copywriter position because of the recession. Not one to give up in the name of economic defeat, I started offering my copywriting skills on a freelance basis to multiple agencies across the midwest as a way to keep their costs low and keep my electricity turned on. Who knew that a short-term solution would morph into a full-fledged lifestyle!

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Ironically, making the shift toward being a full-time freelancer mystified what I did for a living more than if I were to tell people I had started working in aerospace dynamics. What time do you get up? What do you “wear to work”? When and how much do you get paid? These were just a sample of the questions that everyone wanted answers to. If you’re going through the same thing, feel free to refer to this guide featuring my take on what a freelancer’s day really looks like.

8 a.m.

Check e-mail for any fire alarms while still in bed. Once I have a grip on my morning, I’ll get up, change into comfortable clothing (usually a t-shirt and jeans or workout gear), and go for a long walk with my dogs.

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9:30 a.m.

Switch into work mode. I prefer working while standing up since I don’t have to be stationed in a cubicle at a desk. This improves circulation and focus. Being on the West Coast now, I make sure to reach out to my East Coast clients first since they are already well into their day. I also do any accounting/invoicing tasks in the morning as well.

11 a.m.

Fix myself a light breakfast/lunch and work while I nosh. At this point, I have caught up with my email responses and am cruising on projects while I wait for replies. If there’s a pertinent webinar or podcast, I will tune in now.

1 p.m.

Take a “lunch” break, which means another walk around the neighborhood with my dogs. If I have a doctor’s appointment or an errand that I can’t do after hours, I’ll squeeze that in during this time.

2 p.m.

Back at my desk, I’ll be knee-deep into researching for articles, editing, etc. I try to block out my calendar at this time so I cannot be scheduled for calls. It’s 60 minutes of uninterrupted productivity.

3 p.m.

If I have any in-person meetings, I will schedule them in the late afternoon at a local coffee shop. By this time, I’ve worked up the appetite for a snack or caffeine rush, plus it gets me out of the house. A change of scenery is important!

4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Reply to emails and messages while I round out my day and wait for my husband to get home for dinner.

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8 p.m.

I’ll log back on once more to check for fire alarms, as well as peep my schedule for the following day. This is my last chance before I completely unplug to get a feel for my next day.

My parting advice to be a successful freelancer is this: don’t let the fact that you aren’t necessarily clocking in or reporting to a supervisor each day deter you from finding and sticking to a routine. And as a simple tip that makes a big difference, create a separate Skype handle for your business and encourage your clients and collaborators to become your contacts. It cuts down on emails and improves communication.

What does your day as a freelancer look like?

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