We’ve already answered the big, burning question on everyone’s minds: what is freelance, and what are some common freelance roles?
But for some, another question remains: what is freelance work? What are freelancers actually doing day in and day out that makes their style of employment distinctly different from traditional, in-office employees?
What does freelance mean?
Freelance work is any work done by an individual who is not indefinitely employed by the person or company for whom they are working. Freelancers are considered self-employed and are free to choose clients or projects as they see fit.
You may be surprised to find out that the workday is not all that different from what you’re used to.
Let’s explore a freelancer’s typical day to understand more about what the work is like, and maybe to help you decide if you’re ready to take the plunge into freelancing.
What is freelance work?
We should start by saying that every freelancer is different. Their jobs differ, their lifestyles differ, etc. While one person may wake up at the crack of dawn to do yoga and dive into work, another may choose to sleep until noon and then get to work with the afternoon crowd.
Know that the examples I’ve included in this article are not exclusive, and there is no one way to freelance!
Whether you work in an office or from your couch, everyone needs a solid morning (or afternoon, if that’s when your alarms sound) routine. Freelancers would do well to plan their days in advance: know what time you have to wake up every day in order to get things done.
For some, the morning routine consists of waking up early, getting that first cup of coffee, maybe walking the dog or hitting the gym, brushing teeth, and sitting down to work with a clear mind. Don’t forget a decent breakfast, as it’s still the most important meal of the day no matter where you work!
Keeping a morning routine is important as it keeps your days from getting sloppy. If you wake up at exactly the time you need to start working, your day can feel rushed and confusing. Ultimately the choice is yours, but there’s no shortage of research proving that a healthy morning routine makes for a better day.
After you’ve completed your morning routine, it’s time to begin the “work” part of your day. This can take place wherever you like: your bedroom, in a home office, at the library, at a coffee shop. Try to make this decision in advance so you’re not scrambling trying to figure out if your favorite cafe is open on Tuesdays.
What the workday consists of will depend entirely on your industry and role.
A freelance writer may jump into research for their latest topic, while a freelance photographer may have a fresh batch of photos to edit from last weekend’s wedding. A freelance project manager might spend the day running reports, and looking at project management software to see where team members are at in their responsibilities.
Freelance work, realistically, is the same as other types of work: you just complete tasks without supervision. Freelancers have to be especially self-motivated and focused. Although for many, the knowledge that no work = no pay is enough to get their tasks completed in a timely manner.
Like any employee, freelancers typically break midday for lunch. The difference here is that freelancers have, well, the freedom to do things with their lunch hour that in-office employees don’t usually get to do.
Freelancers can eat their ham sammy while watching Netflix, head outside for a quick run, go run an errand, or take a nap. Who’s watching!? Freelancers set their own schedules, and are allowed to decide what they do with their time.
After a mid-shift break, it’s time to get back to the old grind and finish out the day strong. As before, this will look different depending on your job and what all it entails.
If you’re a freelance graphic designer, you’ll probably spend this time wrapping up designs, and accomplishing your busy work for the day. Freelancers have the burden of completing both revenue-earning work, and non-revenue-earning work.
This means that part of the day may be spent on projects that earn money: completing designs, balancing a client’s bank accounts. And other parts of the day will have to be spent on necessary tasks and projects that don’t incur revenue immediately: sending emails, finding new clients, filling out paperwork.
While the work may not be completely finished, a freelancer decides when to call it a day. It can be easy to get sucked into work and want to finish everything all at once; especially when there are no supervisors to say it’s time to quit.
However, freelancers have lives outside of work the same as everyone else, and have to be good judges of their own stopping points.
This is one of the main challenges of being a freelancer: being a good judge of how long it will take to complete certain tasks so as to accurately calculate how long to work each week.
This is especially true if you invoice for tasks hourly. While making more money can seem fun, you definitely don’t want to be the unprofessional freelancer who charges clients for time when you were actually scrolling Instagram. You don't want bad reviews about your services to get around.
Speaking of, an easy way to build your brand and spread awareness of the great work you're doing is through a review platform. Don't have your services listed on one yet? It's easy to get started.
That’s a wrap
That, for the most part, is a typical day in the life of a freelancer. Some roles will consist more heavily of being out and about. Freelance photographers have to shoot at events, and even accountants may schedule some in-person meetings with clients.
But for the most part, it’s a lot of self-sufficiency and learning to work diligently without direct pressure from a manager.
If you want to learn more about the logistics of becoming a freelancer, check out the difference between independent contractors vs. employees.