Freelancing

Freelancing Friday: A day in the life

I am not a very organised person. Let me give you an example: as I type this, I am currently curled up in bed, with a pile of paper next to me and I only have one sock on. The reason I have one sock on is because I can’t find my other one. The reason I have a pile of paper to go through asap is because I have ignored it for too long.

But I am in business now. I’m in business by myself – all by my little lonesome self. If the whole thing comes crashing down around my ears, I only have myself to blame. Surprisingly enough, I am a bit of a control freak so this does not scare me … much (also at this point the flatmate interrupts with a rather sarcastic ” ‘bit’? Did you say ‘a bit’? “).

So here’s a day in the life of me – the accidental freelance journalist, the intentional freelance editor and the “how the hell did I end up here?” occasional freelance web designer:

6:00 am: Whose bright idea was it to invent 6:00 am? The other times have  their place and purpose. I mean, 3:00 am is the designated time for insomniacs to get sleepy. 4:00 am is that odd time of night/morning when dew forms and it gets chillier in summer, freezing bloody cold in winter and surprisingly blazingly hot in spring and fall. 4:20 am is when the street sweeper comes past and wakes the flatmate up.

6:00 am however has no bloody purpose other than to wake up the cat who then dive bombs  on to the bed from a great height, aiming straight for your ankles or stomach. At this point, the cat then purrs loudly and insists on sitting on your chest thereby squashing your lungs/bladder/stomach till under great duress, you get up and feed it breakfast. Sometimes it rewards you for this by making those retching and vomiting noises just at 6:15 am when you have climbed back into bed and are about to fall asleep again.

7:00 am: Flatmate waltzes into bedroom. She’s been up since 4:00 am because of the Fremantle street sweeper and is therefore not very happy but nevertheless has had more sleep than I have had. “Wake up!” she says and then because she knows I am a softie, she sits on my bed at the foot of it and proceeds to natter on about her plans for the day. I nod my head. I am interested but my memory has shut down its inbox for maintenance at 7:00 am and I am not going to remember anything of what she’s saying right now. I want to go back to dreaming about the latest gorgeous guy I squirreled away in my imaginary cupboard under the stairs. Given that I do not share the flatmate’s taste in men save for David Bowie’s Jareth in Labyrinth, there is not much point me even bringing up the dream as a topic of conversation.

7:30 am: On a good day (which never happens to me and when it does I often wonder if it’s going to be ruined at any point in time and prepare myself for the disappointing day which must surely follow), I am up. I am out of bed, whatever the weather and I am eating a breakfast of Weetbix (I do this out of solidarity to the flatmate’s diet) and also because it is faster and easier than waiting for the kettle to boil for a cup of miso soup. Breakfast can consist of any or all of the following: porridge, Weetbix, miso soup, tea, hot chocolate or a big country breakfast with fried eggs, bacon and so on. It depends on how hungry I am and therefore how impatient my stomach is. Most of the time I sleep in and don’t wake up till 2:00 pm.

8:00 am: I log on and check my email. I use a Gmail account and I am so happy that I do. I’ve set up filters and folders so I just check the folders for what’s going on and check the inbox. I pull out my organiser and a notepad. I have usually written out a to do list the night before and I cross things off or add things to it at this point based on what’s turned up in my email. The to do list goes on the notepad, I rewrite it briefly in the organiser and add appointments in. I reply to whatever emails I can reply to, so that usually means confirming times and dates, answering basic questions or attaching files. Emails I need to send are sent then.

8:30 am: I decide what I am wearing for the day, depending on what I am doing. If I am sitting at home for most of the day since I work from home, I wear something less casual. It reminds me that I am still working so I am not tempted to slack off. If I need to go see someone at some point, I usually dress up now or mull it over till the minute before I rush out the door. And somethings like stockings in winter can’t be rushed.

8:45 am: I empty out the tote bag, toss crap away, and repack it with stuff I’ll need like: digital camera, video camera, notepad, organiser, wallet etc. I ask the cat why she is so sure that I did not feed her breakfast because I am damn sure that I did. Chase flatmate’s cat out of my room which is out-of-bounds for her and open the front door so that both cats and go out and explore the neighbouring rooftops and declare war on the Fremantle cockroaches.

9:00 am: Chat to flatmate, keep eye on email for story notifications. Pat myself on the back temporarily that half the work I need to do for the day is done and then remember something I forgot to do. Check to do list, see it written down and swear very loudly. Flatmate is more than easily amused by this display so I have satisfied my primary goal of existence which is to entertain her. I go off and pay bill(s) or rent and mourn the depletion of funds in my bank account.

10:00 am: The time is heralded in by the dress shop downstairs putting their music on. Since after four odd years of living above them, I am now sick of their music, I put my own on if the flatmate hasn’t already beaten me to it. I chase her cat out of my room again while she informs me that one of the cats has missed the litter tray completely … again. Flatmate curses that since it is business hours and she has nothing to do this morning that she can’t play the drums as loudly as she wants to. I am rather glad of this at the moment as my brain is now craving some snacks and I am having trouble remembering what it is I am supposed to do next. The gorgeous boy in my mind is telling me to sleep, perchance to dream of him and I think instead of my boyfriend which immediately quells any such romantic notions. The realm of fantasy in my head does not include current boyfriends or else I’d feel as if my privacy were invaded.

11:00 am: Call people up for phone interviews. Grab notepad and pen and start writing stuff down. I usually have done research and have a list of questions to ask them beforehand. I jot down notes while I am on the phone. My friend is a gadget freak and has a nifty gadget that records the conversation for her. She is however slightly dyslexic I believe so the gadgets probably help. I sound like a two-year old on helium when I am recorded so I try to avoid this as much as possible. Notes work. I usually type up the first draft of the story right after the interview and quotes and such are easy to remember at that point. I write in shorthand. If I can get it written out properly at this point, I will email it off to my editor straight away.

12:00 pm: At this point I am resolutely telling myself that I will not write my own little fantasy stories but nice articles that need to be written that I get paid for writing. Because I am a journalist now. It is very hard especially when a character in my head has just thought of the most hilarious scene ever … but no, I will write my article on the fact that X does this and it results in Y and why Prof. Thingamajig has only just discovered it despite the fact that I think it was something extremely obvious by extension of logic to someone like me who only had a few university level classes in the subject. Maybe part of doing a Phd means you learn how to avoid seeing the obvious for several years. Somewhere in me, some part of me that does not belong to the insomniac, says: “12:00 noon is equivalent to lunch time!”

12:30 pm: I have pulled myself away from the computer and if I am lucky, a friend of mine has arranged to meet up with me whereby I proceed to sit and stare at him over salmon and salad. The downside of leaving university is that you have to squeeze in the quality time with friends to within an hour. I always remember everything I wanted to tell him after we say goodbye and rush off back to work. We used to take our time as students, staying up late and chatting. Now, especially on his side, it’s all rush, rush, rush. I could put my work off for a bit but he can’t. Conversation is stilted while we eat and I try to chase my salad leaves all over the plate with my fork, knowing that he is dying to laugh at me. After seeing him, I have had my fill of salmon but I always mourn the fact that until he slows down a bit, things are changing.

If there is no meeting up with friend’s for lunch, I usually eat by myself, foraging for a salad or something similar I made the night before. I do most of the cooking. The flatmate is still learning how to cook and I like cooking. She does most of the dish washing to make up for it – something which I am only too happy to leave to her.

1:30 pm: Flatmate’s back and asking questions about how my lunch went at which point I usually weep, wail and mourn about how I love having male friends, how I get along with them and now how it’s all going down the drain rapidly. I probably should be weeping, wailing and mourning during my actual lunch break which might actually get more of a result but no, instead I chase the salad leaves around on my plate. This goes on for about an hour. So really I get a two-hour lunch break if I meet up with someone.

2:00 pm: I have to catch the train or bus to go interview someone or to attend some meeting or function. I don’t have a car or a driving license so it’s public transport and my own two feet for me. If anyone asks me why I am so thin, that’s why. I get my exercise. Tote bag, documents, and my concession card, change and keys and I am off. I memorize directions as well. Once I get there, I interview them, take a few photographs and hand over some free goodies from the publication, a business card from the publication, and my business card. I take the time to chat to them as well. In fact, I try to make the interview as informal as possible. Most of the people I interview are scientists who get very passionate about their chosen subject. Let them talk and I have the gist of everything.

3:45 pm: If I am lucky, I am back in the door of my flat. Flatmate is usually out somewhere at an appointment or volunteering at this time. I can sometimes catch her and ask what she wants for dinner. Someone has to go shopping. Sometimes I send her off with a list. If I haven’t done it, I take five minutes to go into the kitchen and go through what we need or check the cookbook/internet because the flatmate wants something I haven’t made before. If there are leftovers, I see what I can do with that. for example, if there is roast chicken, I can make chicken soup or paella. Dinner is a light meal, breakfast is the heavy one. This is due to my common sense and logic and the flatmate’s dietitian’s instructions, who seems to be on the same wavelength as I am. Dinner is decided and I sit down to do editing work.

4:30 pm: Friend usually calls about this time asking for help explaining what an assignment means. The boyfriend also interrupts at this point, calling from Melbourne asking how my day went when it hasn’t even finished yet at which I point I bark at him to call me later. I don’t look or seem stressed but I usually am. The boyfriend is used to the barking so he calls later. Sometimes he does get a conversation which mostly consists of me ranting about why some people don’t know how to use an apostrophe, a semicolon or some other punctuation mark. Flatmate gets back and is treated to a repetition of the whole “grammar fiasco of the day” conversation.

5:00 pm: I write down how long it took to edit a piece, check email and log off. As far as outsiders and the business is concerned, I am done for the day. Sort of. From now, till 6 pm, I am winding everything down. I write out my to do list for the next day. I start work on what I need to do for the Society of Editors website (email queries I get as a committee member for the Society, I field those all day since they usually don’t take long). I write out blog posts like this. I write out other things, minutes for meetings, style guides. I file what I can though I usually have done quite a bit of this between 8 am and 10 am. I call people who want to join the Society to tell them what it’s about before they decide. I try to think about marketing techniques.

6:00 pm: I change out of my work clothes, have a shower and change into something comfy and I go off to sort dinner out. I also feed my cat. Or at least I put the food in her bowl in the hopes that she gives up chasing the cockroaches soon and comes in for dinner so I can shut the front door. Sometimes I go to the library and borrow more books out, all of which I usually finish that evening itself.

7:00 pm: Dinner is ready, the front door is shut and the flatmate’s cat who is diabetic has been given her second insulin shot for the day. Sometimes the flatmate and I sit and eat  and talk together. Sometimes we watch something together. Sometimes I take my plate and go curl up with a book or I play a game while I am eating. I usually write reviews on the games I play and the books I read.

8:00 pm: Craving dessert. Sometimes I cave in and go get ice cream if I have cash. Sometimes I boil milk and make hot chocolate. Sometimes I go get a coke. Sometimes I don’t do anything and I sit there with the desire for something sweet screaming at me. Usually at 8 pm if I am not engrossed in a book or a game, I am writing. Yes, back on the computer and writing. But I am not writing my novel. No, I am writing those fantasy stories I mentioned earlier. Sometimes the boyfriend calls and I get to talk to him until he falls asleep on the other end of the phone usually when I have something important to say.

10:00 pm: I should be in bed. The cat has tried to convince me to give her a second dinner to no avail. Sometimes I am online checking out web comics. Sometimes I am too busy writing. Either way I am usually up in which case I fall asleep at 3 am or 5:32 am precisely. If I manage to sleep at 10:00 pm, it’s a miracle and I wake up at 5:30 am all happy and cheery the next day which promptly makes the flatmate hate me.

Most of the time, my routine isn’t like this and consists of me getting up at 6 am, feeding the cat, going back to bed and then waking up at 2 pm and freaking out that I haven’t done anything for the day and feeling utterly useless. This happens more often than not during winter because no one wants to get out bed when it is freezing cold.

What’s your daily routine like?

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is usually based in Melbourne but is currently flouncing around in Perth for a week for the Inaugural 2018 KSP - Varuna Foundation Fellowship. She will be at Melbourne's Continuum and online running a Writers' Bloc course in the coming weeks.

3 Comments

  • ValenCina

    Dear Marisa,

    I have been following your blog for a while and as an aspiring freelance teacher/translator, it really helps to read that there’s hope even for a terribly unorganised person like me!
    I’m picking up some of your tips, thank you for sharing. 🙂

    Cheers,
    Valentina

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