Hi! What do you do? I’m a writer. “Wow,” my new acquaintance says, “I always thought about doing that, but I needed to get a ‘real’ job.” What?! Um, hello. “Writer” is a real job. It pays the bills. It keeps me in books and keeps my poodle clothed.
If you’ve ever thought of being a writer and imagined it was a glamorous job filled with glitz and hob nobbing with celebs, well, sometimes it is. Other times it is fingers to the keyboard, all out work. There are some times that even my family still thinks that writing isn’t a real job and that some day I will have to actually get one — a “real job.” Well, let me tell you, folks, writing has been my real, and only job for the past decade. Hhmmm sounds pretty real, don’t you agree?
The life of a writer has many people believing that I spend my day eating bon-bons (can’t do that any more… was diagnosed with pre-diabetes), watching soap operas (okay, okay the television is always on in the background, but it’s sitcoms, not soaps), hanging out with friends at coffee shops sipping decaf lattes lingering lovingly over each and every piece of prose that falls from my fingertips on my state of the art laptop. Sounds, wonderful. Hey, sign me up!
Here is what a day is like in the life of this writer:
- I get up and get dressed and ready to face my day at around 5:30 am. Why? Because I get my best writing done before the sun comes up. I brush my teeth, do my hair, swipe on mascara and some foundation. Why? I need to feel professional. I also have many client calls a day — some of them video calls — and you need to be presentable for those. Also, if you’r grunging it up in your sweats with bedhead all day, you won’t feel professional and I believe that will show in the way you present yourself to your clients.
- I don’t punch a clock but I do have myriad client calls (see above for my reasons for putting on makeup and clothes every day!). My schedule sometimes revolves around their schedules. We talk content strategy. We discuss personal issues and life in general. It’s always nice to touch base and make sure that you’re on the same page. Also, if you’re not reaching out to your clients, they may just leave you for someone who is more accessible.
- Because I don’t punch a clock or have to leave the house for work, it is sometimes hard to detach myself from work. I make it a habit to turn my computer off at 6 pm at the latest if possible. I need to make certain I take time for myself because if you work from home the lure of working 24/7 is always there. Resist the urge.
- I take breaks. I walk on my treadmill after every meal. I will sometimes throw a load of laundry in and then fold it when I am on another break. I walk Henrietta. I sometimes catch up with friends on my lunch hour. Yes, I take an actual lunch hour. I eat lunch. I watch a television show I have DVRd. I walk Henrietta. I read a magazine. I do not look at the computer for that hour. I don’t typically run errands because, frankly, leaving the house makes it hard for me to get back into work mode so I avoid that if possible. I do my errands at the end of the workday.
- I spend time researching and building out my editorial calendars. I am a proponent of editorial calendars and as such each of my clients has one. Keep the calendar filled so you can get right to the writing once you sit down.
- I work the phone and Internet and social media to stay front of mind with potential clients. You never know when a big account will dry up and you don’t want to be in famine mode. Be constantly marketing yourself and your services.
- Interact with humans. I know this is contradictory to the tip above, but you do need to get out into the world and network. Writers are solitary by nature. That’s why the freelance life suits us, but it’s easy to isolate and as the days go by it’s easier to not leave the house than it is to leave it. Don’t cancel lunch or dinner dates. Attend networking events. As a writer, how can you effectively write about the world outside your door if you never make it outside the door?
If you’ve decided that a freelance life is something you want to focus on this year, take your time and make your plans. Remember it is very easy to get sidetracked, not be productive and then you have nothing to bill! Being a freelancer means you don’t get paid unless you produce — it is a big mindset change if you’re accustomed to being an employee.
Let me know how your freelance life goes and share with me any tips you have for being “just a writer.”