Hi! If you’re new to this column: I track my freelance income every month and share it with all of you. This is my third year of public income tracking, and my first year sharing my income with The Write Life.
You probably have a daily work routine, right? Get up, make coffee, check email, that sort of thing? Are you satisfied with your routine, or do you find parts of it frustrating?
This month I got rid of a really frustrating part of my freelancing routine, and found this change helped me work fewer hours.
But before we get to that, here’s the monthly roundup:
Completed Pieces: 54
Work Billed: $5,808.25
Earnings Received: $6,413.35
In June, I wrote fewer pieces for more money. I only wrote 54 pieces this month, compared to last month’s 80. I also wrote 40,704 words, compared to last month’s 57,000. And I billed $5,808, compared to last month’s $5,336.
Here’s some even better news: My average per-piece earning climbed to $108 (from last month’s $67), and while my lowest-paid piece is still $35, my highest-paid piece is $751.
Wait, you might be asking yourself. How did your highest per-piece rate go from $300 to $751?
Well, I got a new client.
But, you might continue, didn’t you say that you weren’t taking on any new clients unless they were offering a dream job?
Yes. It is a dream job. I’m writing for a major company and getting paid $1 a word, so I’m pretty pumped.
How’d I get this dream job? Via a recommendation from another freelancer, of course. The best jobs have nearly always come this way.
The best part about taking on this new client was that I didn’t have to let any of my regular clients go. Right now I like everyone on my client list, and so I made space for this new client by pulling back on new pitches and one-off pieces.
This was also one of my goals for June, and it worked; everything I wrote was for a client with whom I had an established relationship. I expect this to continue through July, and don’t anticipate sending out any new pitches or taking on new clients. But, as we’ve just seen, it’s hard to predict what might happen.
Writing fewer pieces and working fewer hours
The other way I made room for my new client was by taking on fewer pieces from existing clients. Two of my clients put out a big list of potential article topics every Monday, and writers can claim as many or as few as they want — have you worked for clients like those? — and so I’ve taken on fewer of those articles.
This, in turn, has helped me pull back on my work hours. I still get the occasional day when a difficult assignment pushes my work into the late evening, but I feel like my freelance workload is a lot lighter than it used to be — especially if you compare it to that monster week I wrote about for The Freelancer, where I spent most nights working until 9, 10 or 11 p.m.
In March, I tracked my hours and discovered I was averaging a 50-hour workweek and spending about 25 of those hours writing. (I also wrote 90 pieces in March, so I was doing a lot more work back then.) It would be interesting to track my hours again and see how they’ve changed, so that’s something I’ll do for July.
Building a routine (that gets me out of my pajamas)
The other big change I made in June has to do with my personal routine. I live in Seattle, which means I work on Pacific Time, but a lot of my clients work on Eastern Time. Because of that, I often felt compelled to wake up and start working right away, without changing out of my pajamas. After all, if my 9 a.m. was a client’s noon, I wanted to make sure I caught up.
But that also meant that I often stayed in my pajamas until 1 or 2 p.m., when my Eastern Time clients began winding down their workdays and I felt like I could take a little break. Some people really like working in their pajamas, but I don’t, especially when it gets into the afternoon — I feel sweaty and gross, and all I want to do is take a shower.
So I decided to change my routine. I would set my alarm for 8 a.m. instead of 8:30, and start my official workday at 9:30 a.m. instead of 9:00. That gave me 90 minutes to wake up, do yoga, shower, get dressed and eat breakfast. Then, I’d be ready to start work at 9:30 without wondering when I’d find time to do all of that important stuff.
Did my Eastern Time clients notice that I was getting in touch with them a half hour later than usual? Nope. I do scan my email as soon as I wake up — don’t we all? — so I have occasionally responded to an urgent message at 8 a.m., but otherwise, putting off my workday by a half hour has made the whole day better.
And no, I haven’t had to make up that half hour at the end of the day either. This new routine has given me a momentum that carries me through my entire day and helps me finish my assignments more quickly. Today, I’ll end my workday at 6 p.m., making it an eight-hour workday plus a 30-minute break for lunch. That’s an ideal schedule for a busy freelancer.
How about you? Have you tested out new routines until you found one that improved your workday? I’d love to hear about all of your freelance routines in the comments.
Share your freelance routines: Are you a pajamas-wearer? A coffee-drinker? Do you check your email as soon as your alarm rings? Do you take lunch breaks?