We all need a routine and a structure. Here I describe one day in my life as a proofreader, editor and primary tutor.
Having a business mindset will help structure your daily routine.
Tall Tartan Talks here … Think of yourself as a business owner rather than ‘just’ a freelancer. Knowing your value and worth will help.
In winter, my routine starts at 7am; in summer it starts at 6am. I used to be an owl and stay up late. 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 sits at the dining table eating breakfast and reading a book. I mix a mug of hot water and lemon juice, sit at the other end of the table (the end that is my ‘office’), and switch on my laptop.
He often spends the day gardening for clients and leaves the house early to cycle to work.
I find that the morning is the best time for me to respond to emails. Mostly I wake up thinking about phrasing a reply to a received email. Or, I have had a lightbulb moment 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, which is the start of standard business hours.
Freelancers are as varied as the routines and schedules they follow. Flexibility is key as deadlines can 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: By the time Mr D has cycled off to work, I have usually done several sets of the Pomodoro timing technique. I have completed a couple of hours of work or admin. I realise that I am hungry and 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.
After coffee, I check social media and may post some content marketing, especially on Linkedin, whether that be freelancer business tips or a blog post.
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. Currently I am getting enquiries from new, independent children’s authors. They ask if I’m available and how much I charge.
- I direct them towards the appropriate page of my website and give them my availability.
- I ask them to send the document so I can give a personalised quote. Or send, at the very least, a 1,000 word sample from the middle of their text so I can judge how long it will take me to proofread. (The beginning and ends of the text are usually much better.)
- From that sample I can give them a quote. If the project needs my educational specialism, I will also factor in my 30 years of experience as a teacher. I know the value and 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 is going to take a few days, I send an invoice for the deposit for them to secure a slot in my schedule.
1:00pm: Lunch – joined by Mr D (if he is having a painting day in his garden studio). We have been enjoying some comforting homemade soup. 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 take my eyes away from the screen.
For 30 minutes, I either head to the shops in town or take a brisk walk in the opposite direction, propelled by my walking poles, 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 networking meeting. It could be CIEP Cloud Club West, or my accountability group, or another. Or it may be a tuition day when I tutor a primary-aged child on Zoom.
5:00pm: Time to wind down. I consider the achievements and the work I haven’t fitted in today. Notes are made for tomorrow, added to the e-list on my smartphone. I like the Evernote app.
Next, cooking the family dinner is a welcome distraction.
When I was teaching primary children full-time (I Ieft the classroom in 2016), I left home at 7:30am to be at school to prepare my classroom.
I left school each day at 6pm with a trolley-box full of the workbooks I hadn’t had time to mark after 3.15pm.
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 the children of others.
Being my own boss
When you own your business, you are your own boss. The responsibility is on you to do everything. This will either terrify you or excite you.
You and you alone are in charge of tasks like email admin, IT, website, keeping track of income and expenses. Remember to plan time for networking, CPD and marketing. It helps if you know what to do if something goes wrong, or you know who to ask.
But I get a thrill from running my business efficiently and by doing some of the required tasks each day.
If chores get too overwhelming, break down each element of your big task into smaller chunks.
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. Maybe a book. As I have got up so early in the morning, I’m usually running out of steam by this point.
I only work evenings or weekends if I have an urgent deadline or there is a rush job. I charge accordingly for working overtime.
After decades of working an infinite number of unsociable hours, I realise the major importance of having a work/life balance. Having a sense of my self-worth is vital.
Here is the link to my blog page if you want to catch up with previous posts.