Diana Kelly Levey

How Many Hours Do Freelancers Work Each Week?

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September 6, 2021

This freelance question of “how many hours do freelancers work?” is one I see posed often to freelancers and a question I receive from blog readers and freelance coaching clients. “How many hours does a freelancer work” is very individualized and it’s one that depends a lot on goals.

(It’s a common freelance FAQ along with: “Do freelancers work in their pajamas?)

Quite honestly, the number of hours freelancers and freelance writers work each week (and how many hours freelancers work in a day) can be all over the place as it’s different for each freelancer I’ve met and come across online.  It’s also probably different depending on how many clients they’re juggling that week. 

I find that the number of hours a freelancer works also depends on their other obligations like caring for family members or holding down a full-time job. In this post I’ll share how many hours a freelancer works each week–and earns a six-figure salary.

If you’re ready to kick-start a successful freelance writing career, download my e-Book for 100+ Tips for Beginner Freelance Writers.

This is How Many Hours Freelancers Work Each Week

The answer to how many hours does a freelancer work each day and how many hours do freelancers work each week depends a lot on their current clients and projects, experience level, and hourly pay rate. Believe it or not, most of the six-figure freelancers I know work less than 30 hours a week,  usually closer to 20 billable hours. (If you’re ready to earn $100 an hour or more freelancing, check out my online course.)

I’ll answer this question  about how many hours freelancers work for myself and share some posts that work for other freelancers. (Note: This was originally written in 2019 before I had a child. This updated blog post on how I scale my freelance business and earn six figures working 10 hours a week is the latest post on my weekly freelance hours.) 

What’s considered “normal working hours of a freelancer”  can change from week to week!

Before jumping ahead to the number of freelance hours worked in a week, it’s helpful to look at how many hours freelancers are  working in a day. (Here’s a post on setting daily freelance rates. If you want to know how to set hourly freelance rates, I’ve got you covered.)

The number of hours I work as a freelancer each week for the  past few years is usually about six hours of paid work for five days a week. (Now that I have a toddler, it’s closer to three hours of work four to five days a week.)

Sounds pretty sweet, right? Let me be clear. Those freelance hours are the “billable hours” — which means they are the hours that I’m working on freelance assignments I’m getting paid for. I’m probably working a total of 36 to 42 freelance hours weekly (and now working 15 to 20 hours a week freelancing since having a baby) but I am not getting paid for those hours that aren’t spent on client work. (Ahem, so writing this freelance writing tips blog post nets me nil.)

Before you quit your job to become a full-time freelance writer because working 30 freelance hours working from home sounds much better than 40 at your current job, think back to the last time you really worked for an hour at your day job. I mean you didn’t stop emailing, writing, interviewing, researching (not scanning social media),  analyzing content and generating ideas for 60 minutes and you felt pretty spent after that hour. That’s what I mean by working one hour as a freelancer.

This is one of the 10 challenges of being a freelancer I mentioned in this blog  — you aren’t able to daydream and still bill clients for it. If you don’t produce work, you won’t get paid.

According to a 2016 study, the average full-time freelancer works 36 hours per week, reported this article. 

While that number might have been accurate for a certain cohort five years ago, I would guess that if the survey asked six-figure freelancers how many hours freelancers work per week it would be about half of that–particularly billable freelance hours.

Some weeks I do freelance work on weekends—I find Sunday mornings are quiet and I can get a lot done that day, like writing feature-length articles, blog posts and  scheduling social media. I’m more productive at that time than on a Monday morning.

If I’m very busy with a ton of deadlines — and most freelancers know that the workflow can be ‘feast or famine’ mode — the number of hours this freelancer works a week might be  six days a week for 10 or so hours a day. I try not to do that too often because I’ll get burned out and I fear that my creativity  is compromised.

During those six hours I’m working as a freelancer about five days a week, I’m probably working for about 10 clients so I have a variety of projects and assignments to keep me busy. I also might work 10 hours on one day and only two the next day if I’m traveling, attending events, or taking the day (somewhat) off for personal time.

Last week I worked on a weekend day so I could spend some afternoon time in the middle of the week with my husband. Sometimes I’ll look ahead at the weather for the week and plan to get up earlier on nicer days so I can take the afternoon off or plan to crank out more work on rainy days so I have freedom to leave my desk when it’s nice out. (This is one of the many perks of being a freelancer.)

But I also try to stay in touch with previous editors who gave me freelance assignments and continue to pitch ideas to the editors I’m turning in assignments to, so that “touching base” and “researching new ideas” for clients I’m turning articles in for averages about three hours a week as part of the how many hours freelancers work per week. That’s referred to as “marketing” in the freelance world. You need to constantly be pitching new ideas, finding new freelance clients and marketing yourself as a freelancer.

Lately, I’ve been trying to track my hours using a tool like Toggl.com. When I use it properly, it helps me see how often I’m spending writing and researching freelance articles for each client, as well as marketing and social media management for my freelance business.

Here’s how some other freelancers who answered the question of how many hours they work a week differently than I did:

  • Another freelancer friend, Laura Vrcek, told me that while she bills on average 30 hours a week, she works no less than 40. “I had this one mentor-friend at a PR agency who recommended to me that if I can bill six hours a day, I’m in a good spot in reaching my ‘in-house salary equivalent.’ So that’s my goal every day–if I hit six hours and it’s 3 p.m., I might stop there. Other days, that’s not feasible and I work much later,” Vrcek said.
  • Tina M. responded on AMAFeed.com that she works about 40 hours weekly for several steady clients each week as a freelancer.
  • Freelancer Tamara Berry said she usually works about 25 hours per week.
  • Freelancer Allena Tapia says she likes to work 20 to 30 hours a week.
  • Freelance writer Jennifer Mattern said freelancers should not aim to work seven days a week. I agree!
  • Freelancer Nebojsa Todorovic discusses how much one “effective” freelance hour is when compared to the 9-to-5 world.
  • On this Reddit thread in 2014 a few freelancers shared their average hours worked per week.
  • One FreelancerMap survey said freelancers work 46 hours per week.

If you want to forego “getting ready for work in the morning,” or “dragging yourself through a long commute” and “working at a job you hate,” I can show you how to freelance as a side hustle, or how to become a full-time writer and get your business started. Enroll in my freelance writing online courses and learn how to become a successful freelancer.

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