Freelancer Lifestyle

A Day In A
Freelancer's Life

Almost every Freelancer I speak to says that they wish they would have started sooner. Some of the reasons are financial but many state the lifestyle and freedom they enjoy!

Take a quick look at the photo above, this is how I often start my day, with a nice and clean desk. Not, just kidding, this isn’t my office or desk, since right now it’s a work in progress (politically correct for it’s kind of a mess). In fact I’m not sure my desk area has ever been that clean unless somebody helped me, a lot. I do put things in strategic piles and God Bless Post-it notes, they often save my life since I can find them pretty easily. 

My problem is that the clients and deadlines come first, and a clean office is probably several lines lower than anything else. Most of my work involves website development (development covers a lot more ground than just design, like back-end applications, and dealing with marketing). I also do a lot of troubleshooting due to my computer and networking background. So as long as I don’t start losing things among the stacks or start missing the deadlines I’m alright with my desk being a little messy.

The Day Starts Early For Me

OK, so let me start out with that I’m an early riser and definitely a morning person. Clients that know me well, know they can call me at 6:00 am and not wake me up. In fact by 6:00 am I’ve walked the dog and had a couple of cups of coffee.  And walking my dog helps me get a little exercise and clear my mind for the coming fun filled day ahead. And if you ask my dog he’ll tell you it’s a necessity. If you’re a dog person you can see my dog on the about me page here.

So, after the dog walk I have a quick breakfast and read my morning emails. Depending on the number I usually spend around 30-45 minutes each morning. Then I check my list for the day, I usually make it last thing in the prior afternoon. Setting priorities is important when you are a one man band so to speak. I usually do the toughest or most critical things first since I want to get them off my plate early while I have the snap and attention span to deal with them. I also try and do any troubleshooting work on the schedule while I have some momentum going for me.

Next up are the chores, these are tasks that I do often to keep this madhouse moving forward like paying bills or sending out invoices. About this time the rest of the world gets to work and so I return calls or deal with leftover calls from the day before. Speaking of phone calls and emails, I highly recommend you use a client tracking software to make sure nothing slips through the cracks on any communications with clients. I use a simple spreadsheet I made years ago. There are several CRM software programs that do a lot more than my spreadsheet but to me they’re way to flaky, and they take too much time to learn and use. But you should use some type of tracking if you have a lot of activity, it’s a big time saver too.

And before I know it, lunch time and another dog walk looms large. Sometimes I meet with an associate or client for lunch but most of the time I watch the news and eat at home. After lunch I do all the quick and easy stuff that’s on the list, and run reports on my and client websites to make sure all is well. If I have an ongoing project for a client I usually attack it next. For some reason I seem to come up with better ideas in the afternoon on designs. I’ve developed my work flow over the years and it helps to understand what works the best for you.

It’s All About The Work-Flow

A good example is I’ve always done any coding or networking work in the mornings, design, sales and marketing, phone calls in the afternoon. Can’t say why in my case but it works for me so I continue to work in that fashion. It isn’t always possible to arrange work like you want but it is a good idea to be aware of your patterns. I always arrange any appointments in the afternoon too. I usually take a laptop or tablet with me, that way I can do something constructive if I’m sitting and waiting for the appointment (I don’t know about you but doctors drive me crazy when I have to sit there and wait for an hour).

I try to wrap up up by 5:00 pm. Now I start at around 6:00 am so that’s plenty of work for the day. And there are a lot of days I’m done by 3:00 pm which is great. In my business you have ongoing projects so you can’t ever clear the decks entirely (well, maybe when you just start out and spend the extra time looking for new clients). One of the things I learned early on is to take breaks, and do not work nonstop. It’s easy to do when you work for yourself at home. You will burn yourself out, you won’t have any friends, and your family will be pissed. Been there, done that and it wasn’t pretty at all.

Things Can Go Sideways Even Working At Home

Now I have literally hundreds of antidotes of  crazy stuff happening when you work from home. Most are funny after the fact but a few that were not. And I have my schedule pretty well mapped out each day so unless there is a 911 call from a client, things go fairly smoothly. It did take me a while to catch on when I first started, and I made all the normal rookie mistakes. A couple of times I went out and rented an office to get out of the house and away from distractions. But it never really helped and actually hurt my production so I moved back to the house.

And not everyone may like the isolation and miss the daily interaction with fellow employees when you work at home. I’m pretty lucky in that I have some local associates in the same type of business and we talk often and meet for lunch at least once or twice a month. BTW, you need to have friends in the business so you can get some extra help if you need it and get a little social time with someone who understands your business. It’s funny, I’ll be having a rough day for one reason or another and one of my buddies will call and tell me about his day that’s even worse so misery loves company,

Time Management Is Very Important!

I guess the toughest area is time management when you work at home. Since you have no commute, you do get a little extra time compared to going to an office. Making daily lists to set priorities, being realistic about time allotments, and avoiding the possible distractions all are important. Allowing for admin time is important too, when you first start out that’s an easy area to forget. Year over year, I’d have to say that about 15% of your time goes to tasks that are not billable. Everything from going to buy office supplies to writing proposals takes time. You can’t bill every hour, it would be nice but it ain’t happening. Figure if you plan on billing 40 hours a week, you’re going to work about 50 hours to compensate for the admin time. I guarantee you I’ve never billed 160 hours without doing at least 15-16 hours of admin.

Let me bring this story to an end with a few common questions I get asked about working at home.

What’s the best thing about working from home?

Hands down, no commute, no getting stuck in traffic.

What’s the worse thing about working from home?

Well, in the beginning it was what happens if I get sick or hurt and can’t do any work that clients are depending on. But like I mentioned I’ve got friends in the business now that can help.

What’s the worse thing that has happened while working at home?

I’ve got two answers for this one. My neighbors house caught on fire and darn near caught mine of fire too. Then there was a Tornado that came right through my back yard in the middle of the day with no prior warning that caught me totally by surprise and tore up the whole neighborhood.

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