October 16, 2018
When I went full-time freelance in 2013, one of the first things to go out the window was a steady morning routine. Isn’t that the point of freelancing and working from home? I thought. I can sleep until 11 a.m. and work until 11 p.m. at night and no one is expecting me to sit at my desk with the computer on while I scroll through news headlines and email.
Eventually, I realized having no real schedule wasn’t good for me, my business, or my health. Between 2013 and 2017 I took some in-house part-time jobs to help me stick to a freelance routine. I worked as a freelance syndication editor at the startup, Bookish, helping them get their content picked up by other websites and drive traffic to their website. After that changed ownership and I went back to working from home freelancing full-time for a few months, I took a part-time editor role at Muscle & Fitness magazine for three years. I worked in the office two days a week, which helped me manage my time at home better while juggling a full-time freelance client list.
Besides having a steady paycheck direct deposited into my bank account every two weeks, part of the reason I really appreciated the in-house editor job I had was that it added structure to my week. I tended to be very productive on the days I wasn’t in the office because I had to be in order to tackle freelance assignments. I had to go to bed at a certain time so I would be able to wake up early and accomplish tasks for my small business. (How many hours do freelancers work each week?)
Now that I’m back to full-time freelance writing from home, my weekday routine is better than it was when I first started freelancing, but could still use improvement. After waking up between 8 and 9 and showering (depending on a morning workout class schedule), I take care of the dog, eat breakfast and drink coffee while scrolling through email, then try to address emails or write for an hour if I’m disciplined before walking the pooch and then tackling deadlines and emails for the day.
Morning is when many freelancers say they’re most productive, some even waking up before the rest of their household rises and “eating the frog” or writing the assignment they need to get out of the way so they can be more productive with the rest of their time during the day. I think that’s because morning is one of the times of the day that you can somewhat “control” if you get up early enough and don’t allow external factors (traffic, children, spouses, TV) to derail you. When I get “writing” done that isn’t emailing in the morning I always feel more energized and productive the rest of the day because it isn’t hanging over my head.
Since a morning freelance writing routine is an area that I can always improve upon, I asked freelance writer friends to share their optimal morning routine is when they want to have a productive day. Here’s what they said:
“On my best days, I wake up around 6 and am at my desk by 6:30 a.m. I fight the urge to check emails and instead dive straight into writing something, whether it’s an article for a client that requires fresh brainpower or a creative nonfiction essay of my own. If I can write for two hours straight, or even one, before checking my emails, chances are I’ll have what I consider a successful day. This is definitely a ‘best case’ scenario! My worst days are when I’m reactive to my inbox, as opposed to doing the actual work I love. One of the reasons I wanted to work for myself was to be able to reclaim commute time and turn it into something productive. It’s a lot of time when you think about it! This is an upgrade that benefits my clients (because I can now capitalize on the time of day when I’m most creative) and keeps me more in balance as an individual. I think a lot of freelancers can probably relate to this.” – Laura Vrcek, Freelance Brand Journalist at Purple Pages
(Here’s how to find freelance money in your inbox.)
“On my best days, I go on a morning walk first thing. It used to be to the coffee shop to pick up a hot cuppa for the energy jolt, but it’s become a longer, non-caffeinated more peaceful walk through a local park along the waterfront. I find as a writer it is key to allow yourself time to daydream, soak in life experience, see, feel and think. I watch furry tails at the dog park, cooing (or crying!) babies with their nannies, sunbathers, execs on frantic calls, speedwalkers, and most importantly, breathe in nature’s unfathomable beauty. It’s a lot of positive stimulation and think time with which to jumpstart the day. When I want to get serious work done and have a productive day, I always make a healthy but fast breakfast (oatmeal, yogurt and fruit, maybe a few scrambled eggs), put on music, light a candle and sit at my desk. I’m very big into rituals and mindfulness and find making my breakfast is a peaceful time of using my hands and senses and preparation. Our brains need fuel! I spend a half hour responding to any new emails, check in on the news of the day, then feel ready to dive in and do a good three- to four-hour session attacking the assignments in the cue. I try hard not to answer emails or calls or check social media when working—this can drive my mother and husband crazy, but my work is best without distraction. I’m one of those people who can disconnect for a whole day and feel blissfully tranquil.” – Julie D. Andrews, copywriter, creative strategist at JulesInk.com
“I am very routined and always do the same thing every morning: I wake up at 7, work out at home, and then meditate for 20 minutes. Then first thing I do is check email. I know you’re not supposed to, but I have to see who has replied, as far as editors and sources, so I can make any adjustments to my schedule if necessary. I work out in the morning because otherwise it often doesn’t happen (I get too tunnel visioned on work), and it really sets my day off right. The meditation then gives me a bit more ‘me’ time to find some quiet before the chaos of the day starts.” -Brittany Risher, Digital Strategist, Editor, Writer at BrittanyRisher.com
What’s your morning routine? How have you improved it to become more productive? Feel free to share in the comments below and I’ll include some in a future blog post!
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