Being a freelance writer is about juggling many tasks all at once—some days you’re whizzing through assignment after assignment, sending flawless copy to your editors and feeling great. Other days, it seems as if everything is dragging and you can’t focus. In order to be a successful freelancer, you have to create habits that allow you to maximize the number of productive days that you have, and to minimize the number of days where work seems futile.
For me, an ideal day of freelance work includes long stretches of extremely focused work, but also a fair amount of breaks.
In order to be a successful freelancer, you have to create habits that allow you to maximize the number of productive days that you have…
Let’s take a look at what an optimal day of freelancing looks like for me:
6 AM: Wake Up Early: Me Time
My most productive days start off with waking up early and doing something I enjoy. It might be taking a walk to my favorite coffee shop, or reading a book, or playing my guitar. The point is to clear my head before diving into my work. After an hour or so, I’m ready to get started.
7 AM: Write, Write, Write
I find that I am best at writing early in the mornings, just after the time I spend relaxing or reading. I usually have a few assignments I’m working on at any given time, so when I start writing in the morning, I focus on whichever one is due first. In order to give myself enough time to edit, I usually start drafting my pieces a week or two in advance. Finding the times when you work most efficiently is the most helpful way to reduce unnecessary stress and to save time. Breaking work into steps and planning in advance also makes work easier, reducing anxiety and ensuring that deadlines are met. So, on my best days, I blast out drafts of all of the things I’m working on during the quiet morning hours.
9 AM: Take a Break
After writing a draft or two of pieces that I need to work on, I’ll take a break to make breakfast or take another walk (sometimes back to that same coffee shop…I’m addicted). If I’m working on an album review, I’ll take a walk and listen to an album that I need to review. This time allows me to clear my head a bit so that when I come back to the writing I did earlier in the morning, I can edit it better because I’ve created some distance between myself and the original draft.
10 AM: Check Email
I usually don’t check my email until I feel that a lot of the most pressing work of the day is completed, which is usually a few hours after I’ve started working. If I check my email before I start writing a draft of a piece I’m working on, I’ll get distracted—the rule for me is always write first, then, once a draft is done, allow myself to check email and maybe even social media. After I’ve checked my email and responded to anything that needed a response, I get into my editing phase.
10:30 AM: Edit What I Wrote Earlier in the Morning
During this part of the day I read and reread a piece over and over, tweaking little things, changing the wordings of sentences, and sometimes rewriting whole sections. If I can read through a draft two or three times without changing anything, I’m pretty sure it’s almost done, but still, if I have time, I won’t submit it until I read it again in a day or two. If it is due, though, and I have checked it thoroughly, I send it along to my editor. Once I’ve written and edited everything that I needed to do on a given day, I try to take another break for exercise, or to play my guitar, or to read the news, or whatever I feel like doing. By now it is probably early afternoon, so that also means lunch. Eating something healthy is key for me here—if I eat too much, or if I eat junk food, I’ll be out of commission for the rest of the afternoon.
1 PM to 5 PM: After Lunch, Complete (or Find) More Work
After tackling all my most pressing tasks in the morning, I’ll usually spend the afternoon working on more assignments, or, if it’s a slow week, pitching ideas to clients or trying to find new clients. Since I also work as a freelance musician, I might spend this time reaching out to attempt to book gigs. Sometimes I cold call people who are responsible for booking musicians in this afternoon time. If I can book a couple of gigs during an afternoon, after having written and edited all morning, I’ve had a great day freelancing. At night, I’ll give myself a break to do whatever I want (or to play one of those gigs I previously booked).
What Does Your Optimal Day Look Like?
The above scenario is what a great day of freelancing looks like for me, but what does it look like for you? Do you prefer to stay up late working, then sleep in all day? Do you have to go for a run every morning? Eat a huge breakfast? Drink an entire pot of coffee? Everyone’s optimal day is going to look different, but the key is to know what your best days look like and try to make sure every day is as close to your ideal as possible. That way you’ll get more and better work done, and you’ll be happier doing it—what’s more important than that?