Notes From a Hired Pen

Freelance myth: We sleep in every day

It’s 8:20am, and I’ve already filed a social media report, written an article for a custom publication, sent out emails scheduling two interviews, and invoiced two clients. After I write this post, I’ll go to the post office, and then to the gym before I tackle the second half of today’s to-do list (though my dog, who you see here, will have moved on to another sunny spot in my house).

I’m a morning person – a very early morning person. I’ve been this way since college, when I’d be the first of my roommates up, so I’d go to my newspaper office to do homework before class. When I was in graduate school and had a part time marketing job, I’d be at my desk before 7am because I’d write my papers before the office came to life. I do my best work before 10am. If I slept in every day, as some people think freelancers do, I’d never get anything done. Or I would, but with an IV of coffee while fighting against the tide of a brain that’s just sharper in the morning.

When you freelance, you need to learn your best work patterns. For some, that’s writing all night. For others, it means setting aside chunks of time mid-day when the kids are in school. For me, getting up at 5:30am isn’t such a bad thing. I don’t set an alarm. It’s just when I’ve been waking up lately (earlier now that I don’t have cable TV to keep me up at night).

This doesn’t mean that I don’t do any work after 10am. The second half of today’s to do list is phone interviews, sending out pitches, and following up on late checks. I usually stop working around 3:30 or 4pm, though I’ve spent plenty of nights tapping away when I’ve had a lot of deadlines.

I think many readers would be surprised how structured freelancer lives are. It’s necessary because if we don’t get ourselves to our desks, we don’t work, and then we don’t get paid. No one wants that.

If you freelance, what hours do you work? And how long did it take you to figure out your best schedule?

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3 Responses to “Freelance myth: We sleep in every day”

  1. AC Shilton says:

    People can never believe that I get up at 5:15 every morning to get my workout in before the day begins. My sister is always like, “but you can workout anytime you want!” Not true! The second I hit the gym at 11:30, that source I’ve been waiting on for DAYS is finally going to call me back. It’s like the first law of journalism: leave your desk and a source will finally call you back. I’m at my desk daily at 8 a.m. and out at 5:30, and like you I do my writing in the morning and my interviews in the afternoon, if possible.

  2. Dan Eldridge says:

    I’ve actually never been a morning person, and I don’t really like working in the early morning … but as a freelancer, I often do it anyway.

    Why? Because if I don’t start the day by tackling my most important and/or least pleasant tasks, I stress out about them until I finally get them done, or my head hits the pillow. And work done under extreme stress usually isn’t of top-notch quality.

    A successful freelancing career is all about discipline, as you clearly know, Jen. For me, it’s all about being disciplined enough to “eat that frog,” as Brian Tracy says, first thing in the day.

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