I write in my pajamas, take daily naps, work four-day weeks, watch Netflix and play Facebook games all day. That’s what some of my friends think the freelance life is all about. “You’re so lucky,” they say with envy. But that’s not exactly how it works. Allow me to explain.
1) Writing in my pajamas: I write in my pajamas…sometimes, maybe 10% of the time, but only because I get up in the middle of the night to write down an idea before I lose it. After working on a story all day, I sometimes get stuck on the lede, but once I go to sleep, my creativity percolates and the lede writes itself. I have to capture it before I lose it, and that often happens when I’m in my pajamas. The rest of the time I’m dressed for the day, just like everyone else.
2) Daily naps: Yes, I take a nap almost every day, and I won’t apologize for it. I need my naps to recharge after the early morning dashes to my computer, and sometimes just to give my brain a rest from writing, editing, researching and managing the day-to-day tasks that go along with owning a business. In addition, I have to adjust my schedule to other time zones, which sometimes means I have to be up as early as 4 a.m. PST for early morning calls with my East Coast friends and colleagues, but still be available to editors and clients on the West Coast after 5 p.m. PST.
3) Four-day weeks: Ha! I wish. I usually work at least a five-day week, taking Fridays and Saturdays off, but any freelancer knows you work when you need to. Some days I’ll put in 12 to 14 hours, others maybe only six, but this usually spreads out over at least five days a week, and often more. And let’s not even talk about vacations. What?!!
4) Netflix: I’ll confess. I do watch Netflix sometimes, but only after 5 p.m. PST and only if my writing and editing work is done. I watch old episodes of Mad Men while I’m doing my bookkeeping, filing, planning for the next day or other tasks that don’t require 100% of my attention. It’s my reward after a long day. Sometimes this down time even includes a glass of wine.
5) Facebook games: If I am in the office all day, I typically have Facebook and Twitter open on a separate monitor on my desktop. This allows me to monitor activity on my iLoveKent and Virtually Yourz pages, but also to keep up with the day’s news and to connect with my freelance friends (see my previous post on fostering freelance relationships). I play the occasional game, but it doesn’t amount to more than 10 minutes every couple of weeks. And when I’m writing or editing, I shut everything down – Facebook, Twitter, email, cell phone, etc.
To my non-freelance, non-business owner friends, I agree with you – I *am* lucky. I wouldn’t trade my freelance life for any “day job,” but it isn’t as easy as it looks. It requires long hours, the occasional sleepless night and a heck of a lot of work. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with my pillow…
Based in the Seattle area, Dana Neuts of Virtually Yourz has been a freelance journalist for 10 years, specializing in business, feature and community writing. She is also the publisher of iLoveKent.net, which won a 2nd place award in the 2012 NW Excellence in Journalism contest for “Best Online Community Engagement.” She was named Regional Director of the Year in 2012, is currently serving as the national SPJ Secretary/Treasurer and will run for President-Elect in August 2013. Follow her on Twitter @VirtuallyYourz and @SPJDana.