When you imagine a day in the life of a full-time freelancer, you might imagine someone happily typing away at a laptop or filling a sketchbook with exciting new designs. But there's a lot more to freelance life than that. What many people don't realize is that when you're a freelancer, you run your own small business, and most freelancers spend much of their time trying to run and expand their business along with doing creative work.
In addition to their billable work (which is defined as all the work for which freelancers are able to invoice their clients), freelancers are responsible for plenty of non-billable work, such as developing proposals, looking for potential clients, sending out contracts and invoices to current clients, and maintaining their personal brand by posting on social media. Make no mistake: freelancing is a ton of work.
But what does a freelancer actually do all day? While their exact schedules vary widely between different people in different fields, most freelancers have some areas of common overlap. Read on to learn more about what most freelancers tend to do in a given day by following the daily schedule of a hypothetical freelance writer named Andrea.
A Typical Day In The Life Of A Freelancer
7am-8am: Wake Up
Although every freelancer is different, most agree that it's important to stick to a schedule when working from home. Because Andrea doesn't have to worry about commuting to work, she has some flexibility with when she wakes up, but she also knows that she has a lot of self-motivated work to get done today. Andrea also likes to make time in the morning to go for a run so that she feels focused, motivated, and energized for the rest of the day.
8am-9am: Breakfast and Email
Because Andrea is her own boss, she doesn't have to worry about checking in with a supervisor before beginning her work. However, she does have to make sure that she's up to date on any emails that clients may have sent the night before, and checking her email will clue her in on any changes or developments that might affect her daily schedule. As she finishes her coffee and breakfast, Andrea also checks the news and LinkedIn to stay up-to-date on any new happenings in her chosen field or the world at large.
Andrea's clients want to check in on the progress of her projects, so they've scheduled two 30-minute meetings to see how her work is coming along. One meeting, which is a project proposal to a new client, is not billable; the other, in which Andrea provides an update on the progress of her project, is. Although Andrea doesn't always have virtual meetings with her clients — they often communicate via email or Slack instead — she always tries to regularly communicate with her clients in whatever format they prefer.
10am-1pm: Client Work
For a solid three-hour period, Andrea gets to work on her freelance writing for her clients. This work might involve writing website content, blog posts, or more. Because all this work is billable, Andrea makes sure to keep her many assignments organized using task lists and schedules so she doesn't forget anything or accidentally complete a low-priority task before a high-priority one.
Andrea takes this time to eat lunch, relax away from her computer, and give her mind a rest. Taking scheduled breaks during the workday is a great way to practice self-care as a freelance writer and avoid burnout. Andrea also takes this time to check social media and visit whatever websites might otherwise be a distraction when she's trying to get work done.
1:30pm-4pm: More Client Work
Andrea spends most of the afternoon finishing up her work from earlier in the day. While she works on her writing and periodically sends it off to clients as it's finished, she also keeps an eye on her email inbox in case a client has a new request or she has a new email from a potential client. She also lets herself take a brief mid-afternoon break to grab a healthy snack and take a quick walk around the block, which leaves her feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle the rest of her work.
4pm-4:30pm: Another Client Meeting
In the later afternoon, Andrea meets with another client to discuss some writing she handed in earlier in the week. During the discussion, she learns that the customer was happy with her work and would like her to do more. Because this meeting is focused on a specific client's work, this time is billable.
4:30-5:30pm: Marketing And Job Boards
The key to finding success as a freelancer is bringing in new clients and retaining old ones. After a day spent working on her current clients' work, Andrea takes an hour to focus on acquiring new clients. Sometimes this means bidding on proposals on job boards or freelancer platforms, although she tries to avoid them — they often take a large cut of the freelancer's total fee, and many encourage freelancers to undercut each other when bidding on a proposal. Other times, it means working on her personal website and updating her social media feeds to catch the eye of new clients. Although this work is non-billable, it's necessary for bringing in new clients.
5:30pm-6pm: Administrative Tasks
Before winding down for the night, Andrea takes some time to send out any contracts, invoices, or forms she may have forgotten to send earlier. She also takes a few minutes to reply to any emails that she may have missed before turning off her computer for the night.
A Day In The Life
Although every freelancer's experience is different, all freelancers spend time on both billable and non-billable tasks. Additionally, many freelancers benefit from adhering to some kind of schedule, regardless of how it might be organized. Whether you're a pro at full-time freelancing or just starting out, make sure that your days have some kind of structure to them. With a good schedule in place and a strong understanding of what work you need to do every day, you're likely to have a better chance of succeeding.