Ah, a day in the life of a freelancer! I’ve been doing this freelance thing for about eleven years now. It’s hard work. I love it, though.

If you've been on the fence about what it's like as a freelancer, thinking of leaving your day job and going for the full-time hustle, this post can give you some insight on what it's like for me.

If you’ve been on the fence about what it’s like as a freelancer, thinking of leaving your day job and going for the full-time hustle, this post can give you some insight on what it’s like for me.

It’s not always roses, and there are a lot of things you have to do that you’d rather not. Just make your decision carefully.

My Background as a Freelancer

I’ve been self-employed, as a freelancer, or running my LLC if you will for about 12 years now. During this time, I started out doing it part time while I held some positions in retail and for a medical office.

I created my LLC when I was designing for scrapbooking companies and creating my craft designs for sale. Then, I put my photography skills to use by starting my own business photographing portraits for families, weddings, and seniors. So I’ve had my hands on just about everything when it comes to graphic design.

I spent the better part of 2015, after my move to Denver, Colorado contracting out with several companies. I designed websites and did page layout design for these businesses while I soon discovered that I wanted to take my knowledge of running a small, creative business and teach others how to do it too.

I now focus my energy on creating courses and coaching other creative businesses and bloggers while doing brand design work. After 20 years, I cannot imagine ever going back into the workforce. But never say never, right?

A Day In the Life of a Freelancer

Let me share a typical day with you. While I have freedoms like being able to schedule doctor appointments when I want, or take the afternoon off to play with my 2-year old nephew, it’s up to me to get the work done.

No work = no income. So, if you’re considering quitting your day job and going full force as a freelancer, remember that it’s up to you to find the money.

Wake Up: 7:30 a.m.

To be honest, I wake up at 5:30 a.m. because I have these two dogs that like to whine and stare at me to get up and feed them. Lola stands on top of me, trying to get my attention. So I get up and feed them.

Then, I put the gate up in the bathroom doorway (where they eat since it’s a tiled floor) and close my bedroom door to try to catch at least another hour of sleep. I say I wake up at 7:30, but it can vary from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m.

If I want to sleep in, I do. But, if you’re contracting for businesses you’re going to want to make sure you set an alarm and stick to your posted work schedule, so you’re easily reached.

Acclimate: 7:30 to 9 a.m.

During this time I drink my coffee and maybe watch the news. I can’t just jump up and start working. It takes me some time to acclimate to the day.

I have set my business hours to start at 9 a.m. for a reason, and so I allow myself the time to do what I need to do. If I feel like getting showered and made up for the day then I do it during this time period.

Working from home does afford me the luxury of having a lot of yoga pants or the option to stay in my PJs. I don’t have to leave the house much. However, I do host webinars, so those are days I plan to be more presentable.

I also use this time to check social media for comments to follow-up with or research.

Work: 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

As a creative person, my zone is during the 9 to 11:30 a.m. timeframe. It’s when I’m most creative.

I start by checking emails and cleaning out my inbox from overnight. This process takes me about 30 minutes. I answer important emails, or will wait until lunch time to respond to messages that are less relevant.

When working for contract companies, I would use this time to check project management apps to see what I need to task for the day. However, now that it’s just me, I look at my project management app, Asana to view what I’ve scheduled for myself to do.

Depending on what my workload is like, and deadlines, I plan my day accordingly.

I never schedule more than three essential tasks per day. This allows me to be sure that I can finish them on time. They are prioritized with the most involved first, ending with the more “fun” project last.

Any administrative tasks are completed first. I loathe things like having to deal with accounting or other paperwork. So let’s get them done asap!

I try to work efficiently. I don’t want to start and stop a lot.

Lunch: 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

I break for lunch for about an hour. I use this time to eat something, catch up on a show on my DVR, or just chat with my mom. I do everything in my power to have one of my tasks complete before lunch.

Work: 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

After lunch, I return to my desk to check email and respond to them, and continue to my work day.

End of Work: 4:30 p.m.

It’s critical to me to set a work schedule. As a creative person, I mentioned I have that zone in the morning when I work best. So, I fizzle pretty fast by about 4 p.m. I’m pushing myself to finish what needs to be done.

Many times my creative spark is gone, and I will stop and pick it back up again in the morning. I’d rather give my client a creative and clean final result than something half-assed because I needed to do it fast and get it done.

Then, before I’m all done, I clean my email inbox again. I don’t want anything there that I don’t need. It’s disgusting how organized my inbox thing is.

Why You Need a Set Work Schedule

I mentioned that setting a work schedule is really important for us freelancers. We need time to focus. As someone who is self-employed, I believe it’s important to schedule your day like a typical business, with work hours. People will respect them. Do it, and do it now!

After 4:30 p.m. and weekends are time for me. I can work on my creative endeavors like my illustrations and the products I make for Creative Market and Etsy. I also have this time to dedicate to my family and friends and enjoy this beautiful state of Colorado.

Handling Distractions As a Freelancer

They are bound to happen. Here is a list of things I do to handle distractions during my work day:

  • I have disabled any chat/instant message apps as well as email on my iPad, so I’m not tempted to respond.
  • I also don’t respond to email on my phone unless I am waiting for something important or I’m out-of-town. I just feel like it’s bad enough that I’m already too connected on social media. It’s so important to disengage.
  • As I talked about above, I try to check email three times a day, unless I’m waiting for something specific. That can be a huge time suck if you aren’t careful. Also, keeping my inbox clean and organized as well as empty makes each day that much easier.
  • I use Unroll.me to handle all solicitation emails I receive but still want to read. This way I get one email I can scan through to see updates and sales, etc.

If you’re considering quitting your day job, and jumping into the freelance gig make sure you have a plan. Think about how important it is to find new clients, get more work, and stay on schedule. Without that, you may find yourself heading back to the office.

Holly McCaig

About Holly McCaig

Hey you! I'm Holly McCaig and I'm super excited to help you love and ROCK your Etsy shop. I will help you have an amazing online presence so you can build a strong business and attract more customers to your shop. Let's do this together! Let's connect on Pinterest or Instagram, k?

About Holly McCaig

Hey you! I'm Holly McCaig and I'm super excited to help you love and ROCK your Etsy shop. I will help you have an amazing online presence so you can build a strong business and attract more customers to your shop. Let's do this together! Let's connect on Pinterest or Instagram, k?

6 Comments

  1. Angelica Suarez on August 5, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Love this post Holly! My routine has changed over the years. Even though I’ve been working virtually for over 5 yrs, I only started freelancing two years ago. When it was just my two girls and both were in school during the day, getting the work done wasn’t an issue and sticking to a regular schedule.

    Add in another kiddo and life is just plain crazy some days. My schedule looks very similar to yours although now I need to push myself to get up even earlier (which can be so difficult when the baby’s been up all night) to get that morning work done.

    I need to look back at Co-Schedule. I downloaded it as a trial last year and really liked it but have been rather inconsistent in my blogging since end of Spring. You inspire me in so many ways! Thanks for sharing.

    • Holly McCaig on August 5, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      Hi Angelica! Sometimes we try to fit into a regular routine and it just doesn’t work. The day doesn’t allow, or whatever. It’s okay! But, seriously, it keeps me from feeling burned out!

  2. Garlic Friday Designs on December 30, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    Thanks for sharing this Holly. For me, one of the hardest things is switching out of work mode. It’s a little difficult at the moment with a toddler at home (they have zero respect for schedules!) However as a business owner I’ve always struggled with that aspect. That’s why I think setting work hours is very important for your family life too.
    – Mégan

    • Holly McCaig on December 31, 2015 at 9:28 am

      Megan, so true! We have a standing date for Trivia every Monday night (me, my mom, my brother, my SIL and my nephew) at one of our local craft breweries and it’s just two hours of our time. We bring food or order from the food truck. Play, and laugh and just enjoy our time together. Gotta do it for sure!

  3. Holly on March 29, 2016 at 11:30 am

    I plan to become a creative entrepreneur and this is all great info! I’m realizing the “I’m-just-going-to-be-creative” isn’t enough to be self-employed. To be successful there is a lot of business planning and time management involved. Thanks for sharing!

    • Holly McCaig on March 29, 2016 at 12:49 pm

      Holly, you are so welcome! Yep! 20% is creativity. The rest is planning, marketing and accounting. Bleh. But, it’s so a necessary part of running a creative business. YOU GOT THIS!

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