A Day in the Life of a Freelancer: Winter 2020

Ever wonder what it’s like being a freelancer (especially, now, during COVID)? Thinking of taking the plunge into self-employment yourself? Think that I just sit around and watch television in my pajamas as I wait for a gig to come in? Tag along for a day in the life of a freelancer.

Keep in mind — I don’t do breaking news/hard journalism. That’s not my preference. I like writing fluffy, easy-reading content, for the most part. I want to tell you where to vacation, what to eat and what to buy, and occasionally, I’ll tell you a cool story about an entrepreneur or a nonprofit that’s doing some good in the world, just to round up the warm and fuzzy stuff.

While this type of writing comes easily to me (meaning, I can crank it out pretty quickly), it’s not as simple as it seems, especially to do it well and efficiently, with few mistakes and edits needed. I can count on my hands the number of times per year an editor comes back to me wanting changes.

All of this said, it means that my typical work day looks a bit different from other freelance writers’, especially those in the hard news area. They may crank out a few stories per month, whereas I’m cranking out a few per day (that’s why they get paid big bucks for stories and I get paid less per story; it’s all about time/effort needed). However, for those who like the type of work I enjoy, it’s a great way of life (imo).

6:30 a.m. — My husband (who works for a national news network as a multimedia journalist and heads to his basement desk at 5 a.m.) wakes me up by yelling at the dog to get in from the backyard. No worries, as I’d planned to wake up at 6:30 anyway.

6:30–7 a.m. — Scroll through Twitter, Instagram and my email. Possibly stalk some folks I’m looking to submit work to in the near future.

7–8 a.m. — Shower (cut short by lack of hot water), makeup, hair and a few chores, like throwing in a load of laundry and setting out the Christmas turkey to thaw for three ridiculous days.

8 a.m. — Coffee acquired, it’s time to sit down and work, door to my office closed, Alexa playing white noise and the dog happily snoozing at my feet.

8–9 a.m.— I try to pack a lot into my first hour, including some of my least-liked tasks (hello, transcribing interviews!). I answer some emails from interviewees for upcoming stories, transcribe a short interview and finish up a food & dining column for a local newspaper.

9–10:30 a.m. — Research and complete web copy for Hotels.com. (And drink more coffee!)

10:30–11 a.m. — Finish and submit a ghostwritten mommy blog. (I’m wondering how in the world it’s not noon yet. This day is dragging. Husband comes in and wants help with a script and he concurs that pre-holiday work days are the worst.)

11 a.m.–12 p.m. — Is it too early for lunch? I settle for a spoonful of peanut butter to hold me off until later and start working on one of four Mashed news articles for the day. I just recently started contributing to Mashed and it’s one of my fav gigs at the moment (I’m getting paid to break down a Martha Stewart recipe or complain about my Buffalo Wild Wings’ salad for 500 words?? Obviously no complaint there.).

12–12:30 p.m. — Time for a FaceTime call with an interviewee in Asia.

12:30–3:30 p.m. — Back to Mashed news articles, plus lunch at my desk (turkey sandwich, so posh). By 3 p.m., I’ve hit my afternoon slump, but I manage to fit in an extra, fifth news article.

3:30–4 p.m. — Time for administrative tasks. They’re one of the biggest freelance time sucks and something a lot of newer freelancers forget to set aside time for. Luckily for me, admin tasks are down this week due to Christmas. Usually I spend an hour to an hour and a half a day on admin. Today, tasks included answering some emails, following up with an interviewee to see if I can squeeze them in before Christmas Eve and making my to-do list for tomorrow.

4 p.m. — At 4 p.m., it’s time to call it a day and move on to cleaning the house pre-Christmas. I’ll likely answer a few emails throughout the evening, but otherwise, work is finished.

What were the results of all my efforts today?

Total invoiced for the day’s work: $409

Hours worked: 8

Any questions? This is a pretty typical day for me, especially on weeks where I’m taking off a day or two. Otherwise, I might try to work around 6ish hours per day rather than 8, to leave time for unpaid writing in the evenings.

It’s not glamorous, it’s not fancy. It’s mostly me eating turkey sandwiches in sweats (but, hey, a full face of makeup) while typing up articles on things like, what the eff is really in a Peep (yes, the marshmallow chickens, and yes, that was an article topic today).

But it’s my life and I love it — and I think other potential freelancers could love it, too.

Holly Riddle is a freelance travel, lifestyle and food journalist and copywriter who dabbles in fiction. She can be reached at holly.ridd@gmail.com. Her website is hollyriddle.org and her twitter handle is @TheHollyRiddle.

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