So, I’ve told you how I got into the freelance game and got my friend and editor Tracey John to comment on her experience with bringing in new writers over UGO.com, but now I figured would be a good time to let you know how I work. It’s not too complicated really, I get up in the morning, spend the rest of the day writing until about 5PM and then start cooking dinner for the missus and me to eat when she gets home. We hang out until she goes to bed around 10 or 11PM, then I stay up watching movies or playing video games, but generally spend this time relaxing. But I guess like most things, it’s more complicated than it appears on paper.
As far as schedule goes, I wake up when I wake up unless I’m going down into the city for a meet-up or have a phone interview I need to do. Otherwise, I’ve gotten into a routine of staying up til around 2AM and getting up around 10PM. The way I figure it, the beauty of being a freelancer is being able to write whenever you want. If you’re a night owl, stay up late and get your work done (something I do every now and then when I’m particularly swamped) or if you prefer mornings, get up early. I prefer nights, but I’ve also found that my more lax schedule has served me well. I know some people have to keep a more regular business hour-like schedule especially if they run a site (I kept basic 9-5 during my very short tenure as the site editor of Gamma Squad, for example) though I guess if you’re running a site, you probably aren’t strictly freelance.
Aside from my sleep schedule, which I’m sure you’re fascinated by, I work on your basic MacBook. I’m guessing I could do a lot of my work with a simple netbook, but I’m a fan of Macs and use this computer for all my media like music, movies, pictures and that kind of thing. I’ve also got an external hard drive I use for backing things up. When I was using more than one computer (before the desktop crapped out), I also utilized Drop Box, a great program that allows you to upload files to an external source that you can access from multiple computers, Google Docs has similar funtionality. If you have a day job and can get away with doing some freelance there, this is a great way to keep your files available wherever you are without the hassle of a thumb drive. Instead of buying Office, I downloaded the free Office emulator called NeoOffice which doubles everything from Word to Excel. I use the Excel clone to keep a detailed record of my assignments, when I got them, when I turned them in, how much I’m supposed to get paid, whether I’ve been paid, when I got paid and whether I moved a percentage into a special bank account I keep to pay my taxes at the end of the year. This is incredibly helpful, especially for gigs where I have to send invoices to my editors. While NeoOffice is the most important piece of software I use (editors tend not to like getting submissions in TextEdit docs), but I’ve also come to rely on iCal, which, as far as I can tell, is very similar to the Google Calendar, which I would utilize if I used more than one computer. As it is, iCal works for me. Instead of using the more detailed weekly view as an hourly schedule, though, I use it more like a checklist. Blue boxes denote assignments, Red are personal blog posts I want to do and Green are personal things I need to take care of. When I finish something, I delete the box unless it’s a recurring event like a birthday or anniversary. As you can see, I’ve got a busy day on Tuesday. I don’t expect to get all that work done, but I’m going to aim high. I load bigger assignments like online lists or magazine features earlier in the week, so I can wear them away by the end of the week. Some of my assignments like WTF Star Wars for UGO.com don’t take a lot of time (I’ve got a folder filled with links to use as potential entries on my desktop) while others can take up a full day, depending on how much I have to do for them. Writing a list takes a certain amount of time, but that number can grow if I’ve got to track down YouTube clips to go along with them, uploading and editing images and sometimes double checking my facts with source material like movies and trades. I’ve made some real dumb mistakes in my writing that haven’t been caught which drives me crazy, so I try to double check things I’m not sure about.
So, there you have. This is the real nuts and bolts as far as day to day writing goes. I write either from home or a local coffee shop I discovered one town over and either listen to music and podcasts or watch TV and movies while working. Of course, deadlines are king in this game and missing one can completely screw a job up. When you’re working day to day and project to project, I’ve found it’s best to get your work in on time if not early and do whatever you can to help your editor out. Sometimes that means doing a little extra work or bumping up a deadline without too much hassle. By doing that, you’re showing that you’re flexible and reliable and it makes an editor more likely to cut you a break if your schedule changes and you need to change things up, though I wouldn’t make a habit of that. If you’ve got any questions or comments, leave one below or drop me a line at tjdietsch AT SYMBOL gmail DIGGITY DOT com.