Work Life Balance

What Work-Life Balance Looks Like for Freelancers

Life as a freelancer can sound amazing at a first glance. The flexibility and control freelancing grants means you can work wherever you want, whenever you want; choosing which clients to work for; and have complete independence over your career.

On the flipside, these benefits can quickly turn into negatives if freelancers aren’t disciplined and set a proper routine to help them juggle their responsibilities. Deadlines and client workload can snowball and overwhelm you if you’re not careful.

To find out what work-life balance looks for freelancers, we spoke to eight of them across journalism, marketing and PR roles about what a typical day in their life looks like.

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Sofia Levin // Food & Travel Journalist who has written for publications such as Fairfax’s Good Food, Lonely Planet, Domain Review, delicious. and in-flight magazines, among others.

There is no typical day, and that’s what I love about my job. Writing about food and travelling often means a lack of predictability.

When I’m at home in Melbourne, I’m up at 5.30am to go to the gym, at my desk checking emails by 8am, and writing in chunks until dinner, sometimes later. Often these days are broken up with interviews, work-related meals out, site visits and industry press events.

Dinner is usually out at a new restaurant or somewhere I need to cover for a story. At the other end of the scale, a typical day could also involve visiting upward of 25 places a day in a foreign city while writing a Lonely Planet guidebook, filming food-related content or eating my way through Texas.

The line between what I enjoy doing in my spare time and my work is incredibly blurred, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Lucinda Starr // Freelance Writer who is currently contributing to publications Broadsheet Media, Concrete Playground Sydney, BuzzFeed and the women’s lifestyle blog A Girl in Progress.

My day usually begins quite early, typically around 6:15am with a walk to the park with my puppy.

She’s a bundle of energy, which is great because it gets me out and about before the sun’s up and still gives me plenty of time to get to my desk by 8am.

With a coffee in hand, I start by blocking out my calendar for the day ahead. I like to work in 1 to 2 hour blocks to maximise my time (and avoid multi-tasking!), so I priories my time based on deadlines and what’s due first.

Most days I’ll start with my more creative writing pieces, such as long-form articles and interviews so I can tackle those while my mind is fresh before lunch.

In the afternoon, I’ll usually work through proof-reading and editing my work, responding to client emails and general admin that needs doing (like invoices etc.).

I like to finish my day by 4:30pm so I can hit the gym or head to a yoga class. I find ending my day with movement does wonders for my overall mood and mental health, and let’s me decompress from my work day.

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Jefferey Spivey // Freelance Writer, Author, Blogger, and Founder of Uptown Bourgeois.

I’m not accountable to a boss or a single organization but I don’t take that freedom for granted. I’m really deadline-driven, and I need some semblance of structure to feel productive and keep my projects on track.

A typical day for me starts at 6:30 a.m. – I walk my dog, meditate for 10 minutes, write a page or two in my journal to empty my head, and then I listen to a few news podcasts while I make breakfast.

I put in a couple hours of writing, then I head to the gym for a mid-morning workout. When I’m back at home, I have a few solid hours of writing or editing. I usually break around 3 p.m. or so to take my dog on a longer walk and grab a late lunch.

From 4-7 p.m., I try to reach a stopping point on the day’s project and take care of housekeeping duties. If I’m lucky, I can squeeze in a little creative writing time (to develop a novel I’m working on).

Kalinda Atkinson // Freelance Digital Marketer, working across startups, SMEs and large corporations, in several different industries: online games, fitness, education, events, and more.

No two days are the same! Some days I’ll be working on-site with a client, others I’ll be working out of the home office (nee: spare bedroom), sometimes I’m in a library, and sometimes I’m working while traveling.

But either way, I always strive to get up around 6am, make a coffee and get straight into work. I find jumping in straight away sets the tone for a productive day. I tackle emails first and allocate time for projects for the clients I’m focusing on that day.

I’ll generally have a late breakfast and always need to get out for a walk at lunch to clear my head of all that digital goo. It also resets me for the afternoon, where I usually push through until about 6pm.

Once my day ends that’s it; no emails, no laptop, and lately no TV.

I’m learning to play piano so I’ll try to squeeze in some sub-par practice, make dinner, maybe go to the gym (but not every day, let’s be honest). Having my evenings free means I’m re-energized the next morning.

Lisa Cugnetto // freelance writer, editor & content producer with over 15 years of experience. She works with a range of businesses, agencies, publications, not-for-profits and more.

I try to keep my work hours between 8.30 am and 5.30 pm. However the nature of my workload tends to ebb and flow, moving quickly from a quiet week to a busy one with a moment’s notice, so it tends to change based on that.

My day usually starts with reading and responding to emails, then tucking into whatever tasks I have allocated for that day.

This may include writing web copy, blogs, articles, proofing or editing content, researching and pitching stories, undertaking or transcribing interviews, putting together content calendars, style guides or strategies, meeting with clients or general business-related admin.

Kimberley Lee // Director of PR agency Brand PR Social and freelance consultant.

There is no typical day, which I know a lot of freelancers say, but that’s not incredibly helpful.

So, here is a glance at my recurring weekly calendar entries, which is more telling than looking at a day:

  • brand and communications client workshop (we’re currently working through a re-brand)
  • daily social channel management
  • content creation
  • placement at the crisis centre
  • weekly classes at uni on campus or online
  • volunteering on Mondays and Wednesdays (I tutor school students through Weave), and
  • admin working on my business

I spread my ‘workdays’ out through the week from Monday to Sunday, so it looks like a lot but actually very manageable and enjoyable.

It suits the way my brain works and the lifestyle I want at this stage of my life and career.

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Navani Otero // NYC-based based digital writer and editor specializing in entertainment, music, Latin culture, and lifestyle stories.

An example of a recent work day could go like this: work for my day job from the hours of 8am – 4pm.

The beauty is that it’s remote, so I can work from home or any other location if need be. There I’m programming and editing content to be published all day on the food & Drink vertical and tracking its engagement to keep swapping in fresh content.

After 4 PM if it’s a day I’m recording for the radio show CityFM then I head to the studio to meet the team and go over the episode script and essentially do a table read and then record.

Other days, I could be interviewing someone for a feature piece I’m working on for a publication, like most recently I got to interview Eva Longoria.

Then I head home and work on some assignments for a podcasting class I’m currently taking which meets twice a week. Some point in all of this I still manage to watch a bit of TV to keep up with all the content coming out.

Eve Zaidan // Content Lead with over seven years’ experience as a professional Content Producer working across multi-platform storytelling, SEO copywriting, feature writing, premium website copy, blogging, social media strategy and digital marketing.

I wake up at 6am to the soulful sounds of The Isley Brothers, which for me, means starting my day on the right note (literally). I then prepare two bags: one for work, and one for the gym. I leave home around 7am to ensure enough time to grab a coffee before heading into work at 8:30am.

When I arrive to work, I greet my team, set up my tools and go through my emails and correspondence.

Following this, I’ll then write a to-do list for the day in accordance with my Google and HubSpot Calendars; this allows me to properly scope out my priorities, approaching deadlines and upcoming meetings for the week.

After I’ve scoped out my list of to-dos, I then commence work accordingly. I think it’s safe to say that when you’re a writer, working in marketing, or both, no two days are ever the same, which is why ideation is so important. Here, I make sure that I’m continually adding ideas whenever they come to mind.

For lunch, I leave the office and go for a walk through a nearby park to recharge. I usually prefer to eat while I’m walking to get in some exercise and clear my head before returning to my desk.

After returning from lunch, I make a hot cup of green tea to drink at my desk and resume my duties as per usual. I leave work at 5:30pm for the day, and make my way to the gym or local dance studio for a workout.

When I arrive home, I dedicate a solid hour to working on my freelance projects or scheduled tutorials, before having dinner and preparing for the next day.

After this, I turn my phone on airplane mode to officially “switch off” for the day. I then unwind with an episode before finally going to sleep by 10:30pm (at the latest).

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.