I wasn’t sure what life would be like as a freelancer. Initially, I visioned no changes in my lifestyle. I would add a few hours of work followed by poolside reading and lots of outdoor exercise and adventure. Catching up with friends for lunch at least once a week was also possible. My newfound freedom as a freelancer would be fulfilling, fun and easy.
I had a vague idea that I would at first be at the mercy of whoever was willing to hire me, and I may have to pull some long hours until I established myself. However, I quickly learned, there are plenty of opportunities for freelancers who:
1) Are qualified to complete a job exceptionally well.
2) Respect people and their work.
3) Follow-up within a reasonable time.
Now that I have a full plate, one thing I know for sure is that my life didn’t change; it got exponentially busier. In my first three months of editing and proofing, I worked like a maniac, simultaneously trying to meet deadlines and putting together my business basics such as banking, invoicing and website. At the same time, I tried to stay calm and carry on with life’s obligations.
During this busy time, I spoke to no one, including the family that lived with me. They would ask me any number of questions, and I would politely ignore them and keep typing. Even though I lived on my own island with my clients, I was riding a high with my new venture.
Now that the dust has settled and I have a full workload, I tested how my daily life has changed since becoming a freelancer. I wanted to check myself to see if I could take on more projects, or I was simply delusional, and I was about to crack trying to balance the new workload.
I couldn’t base my research on how I thought I was using my time. I had to use a time tracker to get an honest assessment of how much time I was successfully using and how much time I was wasting.
So, here is my schedule without tracking time and a view of my actual time spent as a freelancer. I used the free version of https://toggl.com/ . I highly recommend toggl if you are looking for time-tracking software.
Before Time Tracking
5:00 a.m.– 6:20 a.m.: Workout.
6:30 a.m. – 8:00 a.m.: Breakfast, Getting the house in order, feeding and playing with dogs, getting daughter ready for school.
8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.: Driving to and from daughter’s school for drop-off.
9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.: Shower, clean up the house, answer texts and easy emails.
10:00 – 12:00: Short-form client work such as proofreading company emails, newsletters, content writing, final review of work completed the previous day.
12:00 – 12:30: Lunch, play with dogs.
12:30 – 3:00: Long-form client work such as editing and proofreading author manuscripts.
3:00 – 4:00: Drive to school for pick-up.
4:00 – 6:00: Have daughter practice piano and finish up the work that’s due.
5:45 – 7:30: Make and have dinner.
7:30 – 9:00: Relax and get ready for bed.
After Time Tracking
Let’s just say that most of the above stayed true. Obviously, there is no average day. Sometimes I will work early or late to meet a client’s deadline.
However, I learned that I spend an insane amount of time on laundry and vacuuming pet hair. Occasionally, I argue with the iRobot vacuum for getting stuck time and time again under my couch or vacuuming incessantly under my feet. Finally, the little things that creep into our lives and become time-suckers take over, such as: grabbing the dropped-off Amazon package for the new face moisturizer I ordered, opening it, deciding I don’t want it, completing the return process, packing it back up, making time to drive to Kohl’s for drop off, walking through the entire store to leave the package and then running to the drugstore to purchase the usual moisturizer that I know will work.
What I’ve Learned
The day in the life of a freelancer doesn’t differ far from what everyone who works experiences. Of course, you start with a plan and try to stick to it whenever possible. But in reality, plans are just plans. It’s not real life. But I have figured out a few tips to keep focused on making money and doing what I love:
- Stay off social media when working unless you create a post for your business or respond to a work-related post.
- Avoid using too many technologies. Pick one or two organizing tools, but don’t rely on so many apps or websites that take half of your day just to get to the starting line. For example, I like using time tracking software to ensure I am billing the correct amount to clients and staying focused on a task. But, I don’t use task managers, sharing software (unless dictated by the client), or multiple proofreading software instead of my own editing eyes. I also avoid software that requires me to use numerous methods to log in, such as passwords, text messages that verify my identity and answering security questions.
- Before starting work, create a priority list to keep you focused on paid work instead of tasks that can wait, such as laundry.
Finally, and most importantly, listen to your gut. Avoid taking on clients you know will be a time drain. For example, I try to ignore potential clients who say, “this job should be quick and easy.” This statement grates on my nerves. But in the beginning, I didn’t believe I had the luxury to say no to anyone. Then I got an email from a newsletter I subscribed to by Danny Margulies and realized I should believe in my hunch that I should run away from jobs like this. Margulies does a great job outlining the reasons I should say no. He states,
You don’t do that (take the job) because you know it would be:
· Disrespectful (who talks to people like that, especially in a professional setting?)
· Ignorant – work only seems “quick and easy” when someone else has to do it!
· Unprofessional – only an inexperienced or amateurish customer speaks to professionals this way, as it’s a surefire way to piss them off!
Oh yeah, and I almost forgot to mention, “this should be quick and easy” is also code for “I don’t want to pay much”!
Finding a balance between work and life seems absurd to most people. I know I feel frustrated that there is not enough time in the day to get everything done. But usually, I avoid the frustration feeling because I enjoy what I’m spending my time doing. If you choose to work as a freelancer or work from home, the key is choosing an occupation you genuinely find enjoyable (or can convince yourself it’s joyful).
Managing your time is possible, but managing your reaction to whatever life throws at you is imperative for a happy life. Choosing and handling responses can be easy if you do what you love.
Although I am blessed with enough work to keep me juggling life, I am currently taking on new clients. For business clients, I am their reassurance that the work they are putting out into the world, whether it is an email, presentation, or marketing material, is free of errors and looks professional. For author clients, I will make sure your manuscript is clean of any spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors and make sure your style and characters come through consistently. So please contact me if you want to look clean and polished.