The Way We Work
October 12, 2011 by Stephanie Gonzaga

Freelancer |ˈfrēˌlansər|
A person who pursues an occupation without a long-term commitment to any particular employer.

Such a simple, straight-to-the-point answer ... but come on. We all know that being a freelancer isn't just about looking for short-term work. There's a whole lot of adventure down the freelancing road, a journey that only a true freelancer can endure and understand: battles against distraction, the hunt for unpaid invoices, saving the remote team from the wrath of procrastination, and achieving freelance success.

But the question still stands: What's a day like in the life of a freelancer? Let's have a look and see:

06:00 - 07:00

I stir, waking up to chirping birds and ongoing construction outside (not a good combination, trust me). Fumble with my smartphone till I see the screen clearly. Good, no messages.

07:30 - 08:15

Sit down to have my morning coffee, breakfast, and my daily RSS feeds. The doorbell rings, but I refuse to answer the front door. That pesky door-to-door cleaning supply salesman can't possibly know I'm home at 8:00 a.m. on a Monday!

To spread the work throughout the day, I take out my organizer and list all tasks to be done and how many hours to allot for each. I then note the overall estimate of hours for each of my three projects in order to balance everything out.

08:30 - 09:10

Clicking on my mail client, I wait till all the messages are pulled in, then slowly work my way from bottom up. I send progress reports to my three employers, enumerating finished tasks, as well as a short reminder about the next milestone payment. *crossing my fingers on this one*

09:30 - 11:20

businesswoman woman on conference callWork begins. I attend a brief tele-conference meeting with my employer to discuss project updates, minor problems, and known issues. I take notes, balancing another cup of coffee with my pen and phone.

Once we wrap things up, we engage in a minute or two of small talk about the broken sewer pipes keeping the employer's in-house team away from the office -- guess everyone is working from home today!

Once we hang up, I work on each task, ticking off completed ones from my task management app. I then move on to the fixed price project and do the same.

11:30 - 11:50

Putting my work aside for about 10-20 minutes, I search for open job posts on oDesk. There are plenty to choose from, but I constantly remind myself to go for projects that have verified payment methods, good feedback, and that will utilize the best of my skills and abilities.

12:00 - 12:30

Lunch break! Feeling a need to socialize in between bites, I open my Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ accounts to see what's new and interesting. I share awesome stuff, respond to @mentions, and comment on Facebook posts before getting back to work. But before I go, I tweet to my followers to refer me if anyone is looking for a creative, trustworthy, and reliable freelance writer.

12:45 - 12:47

The phone rings. Someone of the HR department of a company calls to ask if I'm interested to apply for a full-time 9-to-5 position. I respond, "Thank you, but you'll have to look for someone else. I'm a freelancer now." Fist pump!

13:00 - 14:45

Working hard on my third project. It requires a keen eye for detail and a touch of passion. Energy levels are peaking, the creative juices are flowing like the Niagara, but all is lost when the phone rings once more.

This time it's my sister, asking if I'd like to come over to watch her try on two new outfits for her dinner date. As much as I'd love to watch and comment on how lovely they look on her, I politely decline and promise to go over tomorrow (gotta remember to put that down on my calendar).

15:15 - 16:00

young businessman at coffee shopI'm at my favorite coffee shop for a good dose of café mocha. I sit down in a comfy spot, pull out my laptop (can't live without it, really), and start brushing up my freelance skills through books and online courses.

Suddenly, a friend walks by and greets me with an unusual level of excitement. She asks, "Stef! How have you been? I thought you disappeared from the face of the earth! Were you able to get a new job?" I answer cheerily, "Yes, I'm a freelancer now." *awkward silence* (Somehow I thought she'd take this as good news, but it seems there are still people who think "freelance" is just code for "unemployed.")

After that rather short conversation, I decided finish off my coffe, stash my laptop, and head home.

16:30 - 16:45

I check my inbox once more to see if there are any urgent messages. Fortunately, I received an invitation for an interview from a potential employer in need of a writer for his team. Should I apply for it? Does the job fit my skill set? It sounds interesting, so I respond with a few more questions and hope for the best.

17:00 - 17:30

I tie up my good ol' running shoes and head out for a 15-30 minute jog. After being stuck in the house and in front of the computer for months, it's time to crank the machines and burn those calories.

18:30 - 19:00

Dinnertime. I make sure that all my tasks are complete and ready for the client as soon as he logs in to check. I put up the virtual "Closed" sign and spend the rest of my night with my family.

21:45 - 21:47

The husband catches me checking my work email on my smartphone. Oops!

I'd love to hear what your typical day as a freelancer is like. Is it more systematized than mine, or just as crazy and hectic? Share your stories in the comments!

Stephanie Gonzaga

Freelance Writer

Stephanie Gonzaga is a freelancer on oDesk who specializes in writing top-notch web content, such as product copy, articles, and blog posts for clients all over the globe. During her free time, she writes on her blog The Freelance Pinoy, a site dedicated to providing Filipino freelancers with tips, advice, and strategies to help them reach freelancing success.

  • Cartrell

    Hey Stephanie.

    That's an interesting schedule you have there. I like the part about the awkward silence, and especially the fist pump.

    Since I work with multiple clients, I split my day up into two 4-hour sessions, one for each client. The basic format is 4-hour work, 1-hour break, 4-hour work. I will take small 10-minute breaks or so about every 50 minutes (this is new to me, I recently heard about it from Ed Gandia's International Freelance Academy, and thought I'd give it a try - I was doing my 10-min break every 2 hours).

    As a remote Flash game developer, I always work from home, and my day usually goes something like this:

    08:30 - 10:00
    Wake up within this time frame. Get dressed, eat breakfast. Check RSS feeds like you do. Fortunately, there is no construction, but I do live three houses from the corner of a service drive of a freeway. While it's not noise, there are occasions of that loud semi "fart" truck going by, but it's not big deal; we're used to it. (:

    Start work with first client. I always try to start at 11:00, but sometimes, I don't log into oDesk until maybe 30 minutes. It's 10:58 now at the time of this post, so.... yeah. (:

    11:15 - 12:00
    Working with first client, so I have oDesk up, I'm coding away, and I also have Google Chat and my e-mail programs open.

    12:15 - 12:30
    Maybe get an e-mail from another client, whose projects I am not working with at the time. I'll take a peek. Sometimes, it's just a head's up/FYI, and that's cool. If they;re asking something and I can quickly answer, I'll go ahead and reply. Otherwise, I won't even reply, until my 1-hour break, or I am actually working with that client. (At the beginning of each week, I send all my clients a copy of my schedule for that week, so they'll know the days and times I'll be on for them.)

    13:00 - 13:15
    First break. Not a coffee drinker, so I'll grab a quick snack, and/or quench my thirst with juice, chocolate mile, or hot cocoa (which I'm stocking up on, especially for the upcoming winter). Move around a bit, do some stretches, get the blood flowin'.

    13:10 - 13:50
    Back to work with first client. By this time, my e-mail is full of spam and ad-crap, so I might just close it down, but not before noticing one of those might be an invite to interview for a job posted on oDesk, a new connection on LinkedIn, or some other non-junk e-mail.

    14:00 - 15:00
    Finish up the work day for first client. If there is any correspondence, that gets done here, usually through Chat.

    15:05 - 16:00
    Time for lunch. Log off oDesk. I also take this time to just relax, run any errands I might have, and what not. For trips to the local store or mailbox, I'll walk, rather than use the car. If I'm staying on the computer, I might load up a game of Battlefield 2, or check out what's going on at Newgrounds or GaiaOnline. Sometimes, I may get final correspondence from my first client, and that's fine.

    16:05 - 18:00
    Back to work, now with second client. Before starting, I'll complete any correspondence from first client, and re-open e-mail. From here, it's pretty much working with the client, and communication with the other team members.

    18:00 - 18:30
    This time of the evening is a little trick, because it's dinner time, but I'm still working! So I'll do one of three things:
    1). If I have some quick left-overs, and it's a light meal, I can work through it.
    2). Otherwise, I stop here (log off oDesk), and prep dinner. However long I'm off line will be made up in the evening, so if it takes me an hour to eat, I'll quit for the evening at 21:00 instead of 20:00.
    3). If I'm not really hungry, I'll just take a break, and eat at the end of the work day.

    18:45 - 20:00
    Back to work to finish for the second client. While my day is officially over, I will stay on for an extra half hour or so for any correspondence.

    20:30 - 20:45
    Relax, take a look at what was accomplished today, and how much it will take to get to the next milestone for each client.

    21:00 - ???
    Enjoy evening? Sometimes, I'll break out the weights and if a game is on TV, I'll be messing around on the computer and do sets of 100 jumping jacks with weight training during commercials. You know how often pro sports go to commercial breaks - EVERY TWO SECONDS!! This wears you out, quickly.

    So, I guess that's it. Doesn't always go like that, and that's the jist of it. During the breaks, the focus can be on relaxing, food/drink, and networking.

    (Now it's 11:25, so I need to get to work (: )

    - C. out.

    • Stephanie

      Haha! This is an awesome schedule you got here Cartrell. I think it's great that you give yourself plenty of breaks in between. It keeps us from feeling tired and bored with work, especially now that we're working solo.

      As for commercials that pop up every two seconds, yikes! I thought the 5-minute ad intervals here in the Philippines were bad already.

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