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Freelance Writing – What Does Full-Time Actually Mean?

Freelance WritingIf you’re used to commuting to a regular job, switching to freelance writing will plunge you into a weird and often wonderful new world.

The biggest difference is you’re totally in charge of your own time. You get to decide what time to start writing, how much to write, and when to quit for the day.

But writing is far from the only thing you need be concerned about. Even if you manage to walk away from your job with plenty of freelance writing work to do for your former employer, you’ve got to market yourself and your writing business – you’ll need to replace that initial client someday, I promise.

Then there are all the other things that go into making a profitable business of any sort – everything from updating computer to filing taxes. You’ll have to do things like keep track of your income and expenses, find and keep up with your own health insurance and other benefits. Heck, you even have to clean your own office, or hire someone to do it for you.

Assuming an eight hour work day, I find mine works like more or less like this:

Four hours actually writing. While that may include some creative starting out the window, it doesn’t include all the other possible distractions. I rarely spend those four hours all in a row. I usually have multiple projects going – for clients and for myself. If I try to push beyond four hours of real writing I find I’m trashed and unable to sustain it the next day.

An hour on writing related email. I wish I could say I spent less time, but I don’t. Writing related email means responding to clients and potential clients, and any other kind of followup or reading that is for my writing business. It doesn’t include quick emails to my kids or friends, although I’ll admit I sometimes do those in the middle of stuff.

The other two hours vary. Some days I’m meeting with clients or talking with them on the phone. I may have one or two coaching clients which require some prep time plus their phone calls. Marketing is close to the top of this miscellaneous list, although I sometimes can’t tell if I’m marketing or responding.

Reading – I often find myself reading about writing or just general non-fiction writing that falls at least partly under the rubric of work related in the evening.

Of course there’s lots of variation within these rough parameters. I meet with my accountability partners each week – we’re still experimenting with the time. I have lunch with my son a couple of times a month, which means those days I’m actually at my desk later into the afternoon than usual.

Flexibility is both one of the joys of freelancing and one of its problems. It takes discipline and persistence to make it all work.

And the cleaning of the office? I’m not good at this one so it usually happens in an hour or so on a weekend – not nearly as often as it might.

What does your writing day look like?

Anne Wayman Writing Coach



Anne can help you develop a profitable freelance writing business.

Two newsletters:
About Freelance Writing
Writing With Vision

Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by juliejordanscott

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • For me the biggest benefit obtained from freelance writing is that you have your own time. You can write according to your mood. No boundary around your work it’s really well enough to make you feel lucky. Isn’t it?

    • Yes, and when I see the commute traffic I know I’m blessed.

  • The most important problem of all freelancers…TIME MANAGEMENT!

    …And honestly speaking, I also suffer from being a full-time in my pajamas.

  • Good stuff Anne. Actually, I can’t say I’m all that balanced at all, and that’s probably a problem. I’m bad at the marketing part, and the only real reading I get to do these days is online, not counting recorded books in the car. But when it’s writing time I just write, and I can write multiple things in one sitting. When it’s done it’s done, and then it’s on to consuming more information online or finally getting to email.
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted..Your Purpose In WritingMy Profile

    • sounds pretty balanced to me, Mitch… but I’m not the best model of that.

  • Great post! What I love about being a freelance writer is that you have your own time, you can write and write without being told on what to do and how to do it.

  • Kat

    Vincent, I’m the same! I now have a To Do Today list and at the start of each day, I sit down with a big mug of tea and prioritise my tasks for the day.

    I find my writing time easily extends to 5 or 6 hours (eek), especially when I’m in the zone. Admin tasks are then squished in either side and I don’t switch off until about 8pm.

    I work far longer hours than I did for any employer, but I feel freer than ever! Full-time as a freelancer is just so much more satisfying than full-time for someone else’s business. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
    Kat recently posted..12 things to do when you’re without writing workMy Profile

  • @ Anne… It’s exciting to co-write a screenplay. But I need to do a better job with balancing. I have a tendency to work full-steam ahead and then I burn out. I want to enjoy the writing.

  • Very true. In a given day, I probably only spend about 3 – 4 hours doing actual writing (if that). There’s so much planning, scheduling, researching and so on involved. Today I had an appointment for my daughter, so I took a client’s file and worked on creating an outline for the project we are working on right there in the waiting room! Other items I have scheduled for today include a phone call with the client, prep work for a guest post, and transcribing an interview. Whew! I’ve already spent quite a bit of time emailing, organizing, filing, and more. Oh yeah, and I managed to eat lunch!
    Amelia Ramstead recently posted..Getting to Know Your IEP TeamMy Profile

  • Right now, my writing day consists of six hours of co-writing a screenplay that’s moving faster than a speeding locomotive! I’m thrilled to be a part of the project, but I could use more balance with regards to marketing my writing. I’ve been staying up late sending out letters of introductions, working on other projects, answering emails, etc.

    Today, I have a break. I’m grateful for it. 🙂
    Amandah recently posted..5 Simple Ways to Make Blog Posts Viral (Even if You’re about to Give Up)My Profile

    • A screen play… how exciting. Sometimes the balance doesn’t happen every day but over a week or a month. Breaks are wonderful.

  • ‘I am more disciplined than you might expect,’

    Only usually I don’t only – Just Write – or do Freelance Writing,
    You will also frequently find me Answering Questions in Forums, or Read- and Comment on other Blogs, and I also frequently work on improving any of my own Blogs.

    You can also discover yourself that I usually Write Replies Back
    to Commenters on my own Blogs. Sometimes Comments can even Inspire me to Write actual – Crispy Fresh – New Blogspots.

    Occasionally I also experiment with other types of writing and recently
    I also actually wrote a Book Review
    for one of my Review Blogs.
    HP van Duuren recently posted..What Do You Think About My Book Review?My Profile

  • Michael Davis

    For me the biggest benefit obtained from freelance writing is that you have your own time. You can write according to your mood. No boundary around your work it’s really well enough to make you feel lucky. Isn’t it?
    Michael Davis recently posted..3144 בעלי מקצוע שנבדקוMy Profile

    • Sure does, Michael, although I don’t trust my mood much.

  • I find that setting a time as the established start of the work day is the most important for me when I’m freelancing. If I don’t say that I must start working at 9 I’ll start the day off by checking my (personal) email, reading the news, etc., until I realize it’s noon and I haven’t accomplished anything yet.
    Vincent Clarke recently posted..How to upgrade your electrical outlet with USB portsMy Profile

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