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  • Writer's pictureZanny Merullo Steffgen

A Day in the Life of a Freelancer

Curious about the freelance writing lifestyle and wondering if it might be right for you? Read on to see what a typical day looks like in the life of a freelance writer and you might just be convinced to give it a try.

A Little Bit About Me

Eight years ago, I started taking on freelance writing gigs. First I wrote regular blogs for a travel publication while I studied abroad, then eventually became a contributing writer for Verge Magazine, took on a three-year SEO copywriting job, got my articles published in various magazines, and then switched full-time to freelance writing in the spring of 2021.

Ever since then, I’ve been writing articles to help prospective freelance writers quit their day jobs. Below I’ve written out my schedule from a real day in the life of a freelance writer.

9:30 AM — Started My Day

Over the years, I’ve been someone who wakes up at 7 to go to work and someone who works until 2 am and sleeps until 11. When I switched full-time to freelance writing, I let myself fall into a natural schedule, which happens to involve me waking up around 9.

I’ve been trying to get better about not checking my email first thing when I wake up, but I’m still working on that one. I did a quick scroll through the emails before getting up, just to get a sense of what awaited me. Around 9:30 I made a cup of matcha, and sat down to read in the light of my Seasonal Affective Disorder Lamp. (Not paid to share this product, I just appreciate it so much I’d thought I’d leave a link here.)

10:30 AM — Meditated

Once I’d read the news and flipped through a few pages of an issue of National Geographic, I made time for a quick meditation session. I’m trying to get in the habit of doing this before getting to work in order to focus my mind and not get caught up in the stress of it all.

11:00 AM — Looked Over Goals and Schedule

After meditating, I looked through my schedule and goals for the day and week. Earlier this year I invested in a Life Mastery Planner (again, not paid to advertise, just a huge fan!), where I keep track of my work assignments and meetings, set goals for each week and month, and keep a checklist of healthy habits to stick to each day. I owe my life to this planner not only because it’s helped me stay organized, but also because it has inspired me to make things happen.

Every morning I go over my goals and schedule to get ready for the day. Sometimes I’ll add a few more items to my to-do list, other times I’ll write down what I’m feeling grateful for in the moment to keep me grounded before my work day begins. I find it helpful to check in with myself each day in this way.

11:30 AM — First Work Call

Finally, my work day begins! Twice a week I join a skype session with the development team for a start-up I write marketing emails for. This typically just involves listening to the latest tech updates from the software developers and taking notes on elements I think would be interesting subjects of marketing emails.

12:00 PM — Tidied Up and Made Lunch

Yup, I like to break up my productivity throughout the day, especially because that helps me not get bogged down by too much screen time. Today I put away laundry, washed the dishes, then cooked. This helped me incorporate a little movement into my day of freelance writing while giving me a break from my computer.

12:45 PM — Blog Edits

Once I was well-fed and my eyes had adjusted to natural light again, I went back to work. Since many of my clients are on the east coast and I am living in mountain time, I prioritize those clients first to get submit work by the end of their day. So I finished blog edits for a client on the east coast and sent a new draft off.

1:15 PM — Updated a Payment Tracker

Because I’m self-employed as a freelance writer, I keep meticulous records of my payments and business expenses in order to file my taxes properly. This involves keeping a chart with the payments I’ve received and when, what they’re for, and what the hourly or per word rate was. I also try to set a strict budget to keep my expenses low because of how unpredictable my freelance income can be.

1:30 PM — Wrote Outlines

The next task on my to-do list for the day was working on a project that involves putting together outlines for SEO blogs. Each week I get a content sheet with keywords and can go through them at my leisure and put together outlines. I like this work because it complements my writing while giving me a break from the actual — you know — writing. In between outlines I did things like put away laundry, chat with my husband, water the plants…Anything to break up the time a little bit!

3:00 PM — Work Call (Well, Almost)

At 3 I had scheduled a Zoom session with a client to go over some copywriting I had done for their website. When the client didn’t respond after five minutes, I sent them an email and waited a little longer. Finally, I heard back that something had come up and we scheduled a call for the next day.

This happens more often than I wish it would, and can be a pain if I’ve scheduled my day around a call. What I’ve learned to do is just give them a courtesy 10 minutes before giving up, then let them know that it’s up to them to schedule a call for a time that they can plan on being there. Sometimes I’ll charge extra for phone calls because, after all, my time is valuable!

3:15 PM — Walked Around

At some point each day I try to get outside and get some exercise. This is easier for me in the summer, when I can hike, kayak, golf, and explore. In the winter, incorporating movement into my days is trickier for me. Every day I go for a walk, sometimes try cross country skiing or snowshoeing, sometimes do at-home dance classes, or attend a yoga class in town.

Today this just meant walking once through the small town where I live, stopping to check my mail and visit the library. Any movement is good movement, especially when my work is now so sedentary!

4:00 PM — Searched for Opportunities

Because of the unpredictable nature of freelance work, I’m always on the lookout for new gigs. This means scrolling through the job postings on Upwork, combing through Twitter and LinkedIn, and subscribing to several writing opportunities newsletters.

A few times a week I’ll just see what’s out there. If something looks particularly interesting, and I happen to have time in my schedule, I’ll apply. I keep a list of calls for pitches and make my way through them in my extra time. This is how I’ve been published so many times this year and, while it isn’t steady enough income to rely on completely, it’s always nice to see my name in print and get a few extra bucks.

4:30 PM — Worked on Personal Projects

After finding a few new work opportunities and then continuing some of my outline work, I started chipping away at some personal writing projects I have going on. This meant adding a few pages to an online freelance writing course I’m working on and then starting this Medium article.

5:30 PM — Outlines and Work Prep

Preparing work ahead of time has been one of the best moves I’ve made while freelance writing. I usually save this for the end of the day, when words start swimming in my brain and I realize that plowing on would only mean devolving into terrible writing. I always take this as a sign from my body and do some quick prep work to make my life easier in the coming days.

This means setting up outlines for upcoming assignments, doing any necessary research for projects, and working on SEO. I’ll take off bite-size chunks of work in order to lessen my workload the next day. Then, whatever doesn’t get done I’ll just shift to tomorrow. (No, this isn’t procrastinating, it’s time and energy management. Or at least that’s what I tell myself!)

6:30 PM — Dinner

Cooking is often a source of joy for me, so I try to fully immerse myself in the experience each night. This gives me a much-welcome break from all that screen time!

7:30 PM — Free Time!

At this point in the day, I’m no longer productive so I try to give myself a break and just relax. Sometimes that means meeting up with friends or going for a drink and a game of pool in town, other times it means scrolling through social media or lounging on the couch. Tonight it involved watching TV.

10:30 PM — Reading

Each night before bed I try to make reading my very last activity. There is no better way to improve your writing than to read regularly! I find that reading well-written work is like getting a song stuck in my head. I lose myself in the rhythm of impressive sentences, then, when I sit down to work on my own writing, I can naturally fall into that same rhythm and find that my sentence structure is better for it.

So, that’s a day in the life of a freelance writer! Some writing, some searching for new gigs, some preparing, and lots of free time. Not every day is like this — sometimes I work from when I get up to when I go to bed without much of a break — but this is fairly typical. With this schedule, I’ve managed to make good money and maintain a lifestyle that I enjoy.

Questions? Feel free to reach out!

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