Every time I mention my secret life as a freelancer to someone, they immediately assume it’s the coolest thing ever. And yeah, it’s pretty awesome most of the time. But the truth is, it’s hard work. Being a freelance writer means being organized and self-motivated; it also requires the ability to adapt to an ever-changing work schedule. That’s without all of the different ways life can interfere with a freelancer’s life.
I’m blessed to have a great wife, two adorable little girls and a steady full-time job (which, as it happens, has nothing to do with writing). But that’s a lot to juggle. Clients don’t know about all of these obligations, nor should they care; as a freelance writer, it’s my job to deliver the goods no matter what else is going on in my life. In a perfect world, I’d write to my heart’s content every day, and both my clients and I would be happy.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. So, with that in mind, here’s a look at what really goes on behind the scenes. Although people’s life situations tend to vary, this jugging of responsibilities is very common.
6:30 AM: My oldest daughter, aged 5, comes in my bedroom to wake me up. I tend to stay up late because I write better at night, so this wake-up call, while sweet, comes way too early.
6:45 AM: After trying to stall, it’s finally time to get up. I check with the main web content service I write for to see if anything was posted overnight.
8:04 AM: Arrive to my job late. I always keep a Gmail tab open on my Web browser at work so I don’t miss anything. Of course, Gmail’s new inbox filters new job notifications to a different section of my inbox, so I have to keep a closer eye than ever these days.
10:30 AM: I compulsively refresh my Gmail, hoping to hear back from a client. They’ve asked me to revise this one article a few times now, and I’m hoping that the version I submitted last night was the one that did the trick. Nothing yet. Obviously, this has to mean they hated it. Either that or they loved it. But they probably hated it.
12:45 PM: Lunchtime. Should I write, or should I actually take some time to unwind and relax?
12:47 PM: Gonna take it easy today. But I’ll be reading, so I can justify it by saying it’ll somehow help my writing.
2:36 PM: Just got an order directly from a client. As a writer, there’s nothing more flattering than a client who comes back to ask for more work. It’s moments like these that keep me motivated to do my best.
2:49 PM: The revised order I was worrying about got approved. Hooray!
5:15 PM: Leaving work now. It’s been kind of a slow day on the writing front, which is actually pretty typical. Freelance writing is pretty much a boom-or-bust type of deal. Either I get ten clients banging down my door, or I don’t write anything for a week. Tonight I just have that direct order, and that’s a good thing.
5:20 PM: Usually I have to rush home to take care of my kids, but my mom needs me to clean out a bunch of stuff in her apartment.
7:45 PM: Finally done. Exhausted. Time to run home and catch the kids before they go to bed.
8:02 PM: I walk in the door to greet my girls. I’ve got a surprise – plush toys from the Disney Store. I hate to bribe them, but between work and writing, it’s hard to give them the time and attention they deserve. It’s something everyone has to deal with, but that doesn’t make it easy.
8:30 PM: Dinner. Put on the Mets game. Hey, this game is pretty close…
10:05 PM: Mets lose. Again. Time to actually get some work done.
10:10 PM: I like to go out to write so that I can focus on what I have to do instead of staring at the idiot box. I have two go-to spots for writing, one of which is closed. So it looks like I’m off to the McDonald’s that closes at midnight. Underrated annoyance of freelance writing – the obligation to buy something every time you go somewhere for free Wifi.
10:30 PM: Stop browsing the Web! Time to get to work.
11:30 PM: Tonight’s piece was pretty straightforward, and it was something I already knew about. It was also fun to write. It also could have been done hours ago if I didn’t procrastinate. Writing is like going to the gym – the hardest part is getting off your rear end. The actual work is easy.
11:40 PM: Now that I’m done, I’m wired and don’t want to go to sleep. I’ll use this time to apply for more jobs, look for more freelancing opportunities and read old articles I’ve written to see how I could have done them better. A freelance writer’s work is truly never done.
1:30 AM: Bedtime. After all that work, five hours of sleep hardly seems like enough.
Bryan B is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.