We all need a routine and a structure. Here is one day in my life as a proofreader, editor, and primary tutor.
Freelancers like me find ways to work, rest and play to optimise our mental health and pay the bills.
Hello, this is #TallTartanTalks … It’s more professional to think of yourself as a business owner than a freelancer. Both are correct, but having the mindset of authority and worth will help you get on with what’s required of the day.
In winter, my routine starts at 7am; in summer it starts at 6am. I used to be an owl, but, as I hit middle age, I turned into a lark with my day starting earlier and earlier. It also depends when my husband gets up – he often works for gardening clients.
He sits at the dining table eating breakfast and reading a book. I mix a mug of hot water and lemon juice, sit at the end of the table (that end is my ‘office’), switch on my laptop, and start drafting emails.
I find that early morning routine is the best time for me to write down my email responses. Mostly, I wake up thinking about phrasing a reply to a received email. Or, I have had a brainwave about who to contact for a possible proofreading job. I leave the emails in my draft folder, making a note to send them at 9am – the start of official business hours when sensible folk begin their day.
I say sensible … Freelancers are as varied as the routines and schedules they follow. Flexibility is key as deadlines determine the hours worked.
At this time of the day I may also get on with one of these tasks:
- work on a proofreading or editing project
- research facts for a proofreading project or blog post
- complete a stage of a CPD training course
- prepare a primary tuition lesson.
9:00am: When Tom has cycled off to work, I have usually done two sets of the Pomodoro timing technique and completed a couple of hours of work or admin. I realise that I really should eat some breakfast. A break and a change of view is needed.
I take my Android tablet through to the living room, to a soft chair, where I can sit at the window and look out into the main street. I peruse the comings and goings outside my house, as well as those onscreen in the online newspaper reviews.
9:30am: My sons (both in their 20s) have gone about their business. They are old enough to be independent, thank goodness. I get on with the next part of the morning routine.
10:30am: Oldest son switches on the coffee machine for elevenses. By now, I have usually logged on to the CIEP (Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading) forums to view discussions. Since I joined the CIEP in 2017, the forums have become my online staffroom.
Afterwards, I check social media and may post some content marketing, especially on Linkedin, whether that be freelancer business tips or a blog post. If you don’t already, find and follow my hashtags on Linkedin and Twitter: #TallTartanTips and #TallTartanTalks (previously called #TallTartanTells). Then you won’t miss any of my tips.
Getting on with the day
For the next two hours, my routine continues. I may answer an email proofreading enquiry. The reply conversation goes like this:
- Receive an email through the contact form on my website. At the moment I am getting enquiries from students and new, indie children’s authors. They ask if I’m available and how much I charge.
- Reply with my availability. At the moment I am booked up for the next month.
- If they can wait, I ask for a 1,000 word sample from the middle of their text to judge how long it will take me to proofread. (The beginning and ends of the text are usually much better, so not always a good way to judge.)
- From that sample I can give them a quote. I have increased my prices now that I have completed intense proofreading training over the last three years. If the project needs my educational specialism, I will also factor in my 30 years of experience as a teacher. I know my value and the knowledge I bring to a project.
- If the timing and rate suits them, I book them in by sending them a copy of my Terms & Conditions. (See templates in the Resources on my website). If the job is large (over 15,000 words) and going to take a few days, I send an invoice for the deposit to secure that slot.
1:00pm: Lunch – joined by Tom (if he is having a painting day in his garden studio). We have been enjoying some comforting home-made soup this winter. A perk of being freelance means I can take as much or as little time for lunch as needed.
2:00pm: Desperate for some exercise and fresh air by now, I realise that it is time to look away from a screen.
For 30 minutes, either I wheel my shopping trolley to the shops in town or take a brisk walk in the opposite direction towards the nearby countryside.
Cup of tea
3:30pm: Time for a break to move around after another spell on the laptop, and to make a pot of tea. Fruit is the preferred snack if I’m being good. Cake on a Friday …
4:00pm: Take part in a Zoom CIEP networking meeting. It could be Cloud Club West, my accountability group (which chats daily on Slack). Or it may be a tuition day when I tutor a primary child on Zoom.
5:00pm: Time to wind down. I consider the work I haven’t fitted in today. This will be carried over to tomorrow, added to the e-list on my smartphone. Appointments for Zoom calls are written in my paper diary.
When I was teaching primary children full-time (Ieft in 2016), I left home at 7:30am to be in the classroom. By 6:00pm I left school with a box trolley full of the workbooks I hadn’t had time to mark.
I would continue to mark for at least a couple of hours in the evening. It became relentless after doing it for 30 years. I didn’t see much of my children while I was busy educating other people’s children.
Being my own boss
When you own your own business, the responsibility is on you to do everything. This will either terrify you or excite you.
You and you alone are in charge: secretarial and admin; your computer, website and knowing what to do if something goes wrong, or know who to ask; keeping track of income and expenses; networking; training; marketing.
But I get a thrill from running my business efficiently; by doing a bit of the above, each day. If it gets too overwhelming, break each element down into smaller chunks.
7:00pm: Listen to The Archers on BBC Radio 4. My mother typed the scripts when she worked at Pebble Mill in Birmingham where it was recorded in the 1950s. This time in my routine is sacrosanct.
7:30pm: I have a last check of my emails and social media. Then they all get switched off, and I turn to something other. As I have got up so early, I’m usually running out of steam by this point.
I only work evenings or weekends if I have a deadline. I charge for overtime accordingly.
After decades of working an infinite number of unsociable hours, I realise the major importance of a work/life balance and my self-worth.
Here is the link to my blog page if you want to catch up with previous posts.