Freelance Writing Schedule 2024: Less Client Work, More Personal Projects

What's your freelance writing schedule in 2024? How do you want to change it? And what's your ongoing focus?

Every couple of years, I share my freelance writing schedule at the request of readers and others. It's evolved over time as my priorities, living situation, and other factors have changed.

Figure out your freelance writing schedule

When creating your freelance writing schedule, consider various factors:

  • When you have available time: This is huge. After all, you need time to write, no matter the stage you're at with your freelance writing career. Review your schedule to see when you can make time for freelancing, whether it's a couple of hours here and there or you can dedicate large swaths of the day to freelancing.
  • Your most productive times: Pay attention to when you will likely be most productive. For example, I still do best when I can get my most intense work out of the way before noon. When possible, plan most of your client work or other freelancing during times when you're better able to focus.
  • Recognize weekly and monthly patterns: There's often a cadence to your weeks. I have a nail appointment every other Monday. My monthly YMCA board meeting is the last Wednesday of the month at noon. Twice a month, I record a podcast for Money Talks News. I look ahead and incorporate these realities into my schedule. You might need to account for kids' activities and other obligations.
  • Don't be afraid to work weekends: Some of my freelancing writing gets done on the weekend. If you have that flexibility, it might make sense. I know many people who aim for a four-day “workweek” with their freelancing. That's fine. But I find that I like being able to hike on a Wednesday or get a massage mid-day on a Tuesday. Fewer people around.
  • Consider smaller chunks spread out vs. bigger chunks at once: During one period, I did client work seven days a week. I don't anymore, but it worked well with my lifestyle at the time. Organizing my work to fit my life is a huge part of why I like freelancing, but sometimes it means an unconventional approach.

My freelance writing schedule in 2024

My schedule is similar to how it looked in 2022 in many ways (see other versions: 20082014, and 2020).

  •   7:ooish: I wake up naturally, without an alarm, sometime around 7 a.m. I'm usually not ready to get out of bed, though. Unless I have an early meeting (I try to avoid those) or I'm doing East Coast media, there's no need for an alarm and no need to hop out of bed quickly. Instead, I read in bed, doze/drowse, or do some gentle stretching.
  • 8:30ish: This is generally when I try to get out of bed. I usually start my Crio Bru, boiling the water in the kettle while I tidy the kitchen area. Then, while the Crio steeps, I practice yoga. When I'm done with yoga, the Crio is ready, and I journal while I drink my first cup. If I'm hungry (not very often), I make myself a small breakfast. But most mornings I don't eat breakfast.
  • 9:30ish: “Deep work” time. Depending on what's on my plate, this is when I write articles for clients, tackle important emails, write podcast episode outlines, create content for my website, prepare political materials, or do whatever needs doing.
  • 12:30ish to 1:00ish: This is a natural stopping point for me, although if I have a nail appointment or noon board meeting, I might stop around 11:00 a.m. to get ready. But this only happens maybe three times a month.
  • 1:00 to 6:00: Afternoon activities. This includes lunch, a workout, and anything else I have going. After a workout, I usually take a slow shower and get ready for other obligations. Maybe it's a 4 pm Habitat for Humanity board meeting. Perhaps I decide to head downtown and set up shop at a coffee shop and do a little light work in a new environment. Lunch dates, errands, and an afternoon walk all fall into this timeframe.
  • 6:00 to 10:00: Evening time. Maybe I engage in self-care, snuggling up with a book or practicing music. I've started running a trivia show twice a month, so I must prepare for that. I also play trivia with friends some nights. Occasionally, this rolls into “office hours” where I create graphics and answer emails while chatting with people in my downtown spot.
  • 11:00: My target bedtime. Sometimes I get to bed earlier. I like to wind down, starting around 10 p.m. Sometimes, if I feel like it, I'll stay out later, singing karaoke or just tooling around with friends. Occasionally (especially during the summer), friends come by my house, and we sit out on my balcony, sipping wine and talking until late. Mostly, though, I try to get plenty of sleep.

Managing a weekly freelance writing schedule

I'm fortunate enough to have built a career and raised my rates over time to the point where I have a lot of freedom and flexibility. I use Google Calendar, which also displays on my phone, to keep track of everything going on. From meetings to podcast recordings to trips, I take a look at my week and month ahead when scheduling my work.

Currently, my work usually comes in two waves:

  1. Some of my clients make assignments at the end of the previous month. I get them in the calendar, leaving gaps for later assignments.
  2. Other clients make assignments after the end of the first full week. Those I plug in around what's already there, and my other obligations.

I know some days will be more open than others. For example, I know I have a noon nail appointment two Mondays a month. On those weeks, I don't schedule more than one article in the morning for Monday. Tuesdays and Fridays, though, I keep free for work. I try to avoid scheduling recurring appointments or meetings before 6 pm on those days. Thursdays are generally client podcast days. When there isn't a recording, I prepare show notes, schedule guests, and take care of other podcast-related tasks.

When I'm not traveling or engaging in political or nonprofit work, I often have Saturdays and Sundays open for work. This allows me to catch up if I've fallen behind. I generally try to schedule the day I write a client article for at least three days before it's due. That way, if I don't feel like working (yay ADHD) or if something else comes up, I can shift to another day. Sometimes, I have to finish client work during the afternoon, but I usually try to work out or go for a walk before I get back into it.

What about when I travel?

Last year, I traveled a lot, thanks to my travel fund and to several cool opportunities. This year, I'm trying to stick closer to home. I've got a political campaign to run, so I'm limiting out-of-state travel and focusing on shorter trips and experiences.

Regardless, when traveling, my freelance writing schedule gets a little messed up. Unless I'll be gone for more than four or five days, I try to avoid the need to do “deep” work while away from home. Instead, I keep up with emails, work on podcast notes, or do other tasks that don't require a lot of thought.

When traveling for long periods of time (such as when I went to China for two weeks in 2023), I attempt to carve out specific times for work. During the China trip, we scheduled downtime, when we could relax and regroup from all the activities. I used this time, usually when I was alone, to keep up with articles.

As a solo traveler, I create specific times for work. For example, when I spent a week in Boston in 2022, I dedicated one full day to client work. That's all I did from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It kept me on track and freed up stress-free time for other things, like meeting up with friends and sightseeing. I had one day when I traveled to Newport, RI, to spend the day with a long-time friend. On that day, I used the train ride to catch up on edits and manage other housekeeping items.

Travel takes me out of my “regular” schedule, but I don't mind. I just make it a point to remain flexible and plan ahead, similar to my approach to family vacations as a freelancer when I had a husband and a young son.

Be gentle with yourself when setting your freelance schedule

I have a lot of flexibility and even ease built into my schedule. Part of that, though, is due to where I'm at in my life. I remember the stressful and frantic days that involved cranking out 30 or 40 articles per week, sometimes working for 50 or 60 hours. My early days as a freelancer included supporting my then-husband through his graduate program and raising a toddler.

As you can imagine, there were quite a few days when I didn't finish everything. There were times when I struggled to stick to any type of schedule. And things changed a lot. So, if you end up with late nights, early mornings, and a certain amount of frantic writing while asking for deadline extensions, be kind to yourself.

I didn't just magically end up with time to bake bread on a Thursday evening or spend the last 20 years with an ideal schedule. Even today, sometimes things get weird and pile up. I've managed to evolve my schedule over the years so that I have more options. It also helps that my son is 21 and in his own place. And that I haven't had a husband since the middle of 2015. That frees up a lot of flexibility.

Think about how much help you have from family and others in your network, as well as when you might be able to do extra work. Be realistic about what you can accomplish based on your circumstances.

Freelancing has been an amazing way for me to design a life I love, even when it's been difficult. However, freelancing requires schedule updates and the ability to change things up as needed.

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