A Day in the Life of a Freelancer

by Gurpreet Sihat

10.00 am

Before you ask, yes 10am is the time my days usually start. As you’ll come to realise by the end of this post, my days aren’t 9 to 5, I don’t work 8 hour days with an hour break in the middle and I sure as hell don’t go to sleep at a decent hour… not unless I’m ill. For the record, I woke up about 25 minutes ago. I had a bath, brushed my teeth, got changed and combed my hair before making a cup of coffee and entering my home office (which happens to be opposite my bed). I’ve got the finale of Lucifer on at the moment while I snack on a banana, reply to the e-mails cluttering up my inbox and deal with the catastrophe that is one of my clients refusing to pay for a completed job. You’re taught to build a relationship with your clients, but you’re never taught what to do when that client, who you’ve worked with on numerous occasions, refuses you to pay you. It’s a nightmare but I’m trying hard not to let it mess up my entire day…

10.45 am

Okay, in the past forty-five minutes I’ve replied to all my e-mails and signed up to another three freelancing websites through which I’ve pitched to ten new clients – here’s hoping the majority of them are successful. A lot of the time you’re working like a maniac for only $50 a month, if you’re lucky. By the way, I’m based in London. My clients happen to all be American though, hence the dollars. I’ve also updated my schedule and lists. It’s difficult, sometimes, at the end of the day to know what you’ve spent your entire day doing so I’ve started writing ‘Done’ lists as well as my ‘To Do Lists’, updating both a number of times throughout the day so that I don’t forget anything. One of the biggest things I’ve found since I became a freelancer is that you spend a lot of the day doing things that feel like they shouldn’t take that long. Take e-mails, for example. When you’re replying to the photographs a family member just sent you, you can write a quick, easy 50 word maximum reply. But when you’re pitching a new project to someone, or you’re sending your notes to a client, or you’re trying to answer a million and one questions in reply to an e-mail (usually one that has appalling structure so the questions are all over the place), 800 words is minimum and that takes up time. Speaking of which, I think it’s time to grab another coffee and then back to it.

12.15 pm

I’ve never been one of those people who can work in silence. It’s probably one of the reasons I hated exams. I work better when there’s noise, whether I’m paying attention to it or just using it as a sort of metronome to help keep time as I write… Since I last wrote, I’ve caught up on EastEnders and this week’s Neighbours. I’ve also updated my LinkedIn Profile (which I haven’t touched in about two years but really ought to); wrote 200 words on my new book, The Faceless Angel, that randomly came into my head; discussed my novel, A Tale As Old As Time, with my editor; and organised another few guest bloggers to post on Caffeine Addled Ramblings while I’m working at the Edinburgh Film Festival and in Canada in August. An hour and a half well spent, I think.

13.15 pm

I’m officially on my third mug of coffee for the day. We writers do love our caffeine! In all honesty, I haven’t done any writing yet, unless you count that 200 words I wrote this morning. I had a five minute lunch before moving on to finalising designs for a company rebrand I’m helping on. I’ve worked their logo, their Facebook group profile picture and banner, and their business card and have already got the feedback from them – all positive! Brilliant. I previously worked with one of the partners in this company on designs for her Ann Summers Party Representative job too. I love doing photography and design as side jobs – it means that I’m always doing something creative but not focusing on one thing long enough to get bored of it. When you’re working from home, I think that’s important. Eventually, I’d like to be doing something completely different such as working with animals but, for now, photography and design it is.

15.30 pm

It’s been just over two hours. I had a quick brainstorming chat with my parents (they’re always such great soundboards for new ideas and concepts) while making another cup of coffee. Then I spent two hours working on editing my novel with John Madden’s Proof on in the background. It’s a brilliant movie for those of you that haven’t seen it and are looking for recommendations. The cast includes Anthony Hopkins, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jake Gyllenhaal… Anyway, I used to hate editing my own work but I set up a system for this novel that I love so much I’ll definitely be using it again. I took about a week to plan out the story in as much detail as possible and then wrote the manuscript itself in a month – it was a strenuous month, but well worth it! I then did two edits by myself before sending it off to a beta reader and an editor simultaneously. The editor’s taking more time than the beta reader to get all the notes back to me because she’s going through it with a fine tooth comb, but she’s been sending me chapters at the end of each week which means the following week I go through those chapters, merging them with the notes from the beta reader, and then putting the whole thing through ProWritingAid to pick out grammar and structure issues that we’ve all missed (that’s usually deleting the word ‘that’ from every other sentence). With any luck, this’ll be finished by the time I leave for Edinburgh in a few weeks so I can send it to a final editor who’ll do all the last checks before I begin to query.

17.45 pm

My application to sell my animal photography online was accepted this week so I’ve just spent the better part of two hours going through the ones that I want to sell and making sure they’re perfect before I have them uploaded this evening. I’ve switched to music for the time being so Dido’s albums, No Angel and Life for Rent are on loop. Speaking of photography, I really ought to arrange a date to see the venue of the wedding I’m photographing in August – see, this post isn’t just a look into my chaotic day, it’s a trigger for my memory too! Time to update my To Do List…

19.00 pm

I’m just about to run downstairs for dinner (finally, a full meal!) but before I do, a quick catch up with what I’ve been up to the past hour. I actually fit in an hour’s worth of study on the CBT diploma I’m taking. Normally I take the weekends off to try and get some work done then but I’ve scheduled in a writing sprint with a friend after dinner and decided I should fit something else into this hour instead of just sitting around and waiting. I don’t like to write before AND after dinner because the flow gets lost and I’m sure any writer reading this knows how frustrating that is. One minute you’re writing absolute genius and the next you’re writing something so bad that not even the person with the most terrible taste in the world wants to read it! It’s been a productive day so far though so even if I only manage a one hour sprint today it’s all good.

21.30 pm

My hour’s writing sprint turned into a two hour writing sprint (well, two one hour sprints) which is good although it was more difficult than normal today – I just wasn’t feeling the chapter I was meant to be working on. But it’s done and that’s huge! I’ve been using Scrivener, if anyone wanted to know. I LOVE it! It’s an absolutely brilliant writing tool. There’s one main feature that I really like: word count. You put in the date you want to finish the project on, the final word count you’re working towards and what days of the week you’re going to be writing on. Then the software goes and calculates how many words you need to be writing a day to hit your target and this changes each day depending on how many words you wrote before. For someone like me, who absolutely hates numbers, you can’t ask for anymore more amazing than that. There’s going to be a chance that what I’ve written today is absolute bollocks but it’s all about getting words on a page – the rest can be sorted out in the editing process later.

22.45 pm

I took an hour out of the day to read a friend’s book just now and send her what I think about it so far. I’m really looking forward to it being published so that I can brag about it to everyone, but until then it’s got to remain under wraps. It’s been suggested that I start taking ‘reading days’ off work which I love the sound of. It’s literally just an entire day devouring books from your TBR pile (that’s your ‘to be read’ pile for those that aren’t familiar with the term). My pile happens to be four giant piles now – two of which start on the floor! I keep being warned that if I don’t get to them quickly, I may end up drowning in a sea of books that collapse on me while I sleep – we shall see! Anyway, it’s over to The Walking Dead for me now and then, hopefully, a good night’s sleep. It doesn’t have the greatest screenplay in the world but what it does have is a really talented cast (seriously, Andrew Lincoln!!!) and amazing character arcs. I actually think The Walking Dead has my favourite character arcs on television at the moment – Rick’s being the best of them all! Although I am really curious what would have happened to Shane’s character arc if he was still around… I’m off! Thanks for sticking with me today – it was nice to have the company, even if it was virtual. Have a great night!

01.25 am

Okay, I really ought to be sleeping… I watched two episodes of The Walking Dead (I’m on Season Five now, if anyone’s interested) and got into bed but barely thirty minutes passed and this insane gust of inspiration hit me. It’s a terrible time for inspiration to strike but I think it’s always important to get it out of you system instead of pushing it away and watching it disappear. You’re not going to get that wave back, that’s for sure, and when you realise it’s gone? That’s normally when you end up banging your head against a wall or your desk praying that it’ll come back while cursing yourself for letting it fizzle out. Let’s hope my hands type as fast as my head is throwing things out!

03.15 am

Apparently writing 124 words per minute still isn’t fast enough. I’m still at it… Another twenty minutes and then bed.

04.05 am

Finally! Bedtime! Goodnight world!

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