We’ve all heard that favorite cocktail-party line, “So, what do you do for a living?”

When I answer “I’m a writer,” I inevitably get one of two responses:

  1. The cocked-head response. Comes with an incredulous smile and narrowed eyes that say, “Ah, so you don’t have a real job.”
  2. The raised-eyebrow response. Usually followed by a question along the lines of, “I see. But what is it you actually do? You know, to earn a living?”

There’s not much you can do with someone who gives you the first response. (But it’s pretty easy to talk that kind of person into buying you lunch since they assume you live on rice and ramen.)

Fortunately, the second response is much more common — especially as more people realize how essential writing is for business these days.

And it makes sense that someone would ask how I actually make my living. Because it’s one thing to say you curl up with your computer and pound out thousands of words each day.

It’s another thing to actually make money off it.

Proof You Can Do Your Own Thing as a Freelance Writer

The first thing you have to figure out as a money-making writer is when to fit in the work.

So here’s a glimpse into my own writing workday. But I have to stress that every writer is different. That’s the beauty of this profession — there’s no set schedule to follow, no quota to meet. You simply write what you want, when you want. (Although between you and me, that’s sometimes the hardest part of this whole gig.)

Schedule-wise, I’ve been all over the place:

  • When I first started freelance writing, my husband did shift-work. Since part of the draw of freelancing was to spend more time with him, I mirrored his schedule and worked odd hours that changed every day.
  • When we had kids, I flipped my schedule and worked opposite my husband’s hours so one of us was always home with the little ones.
  • When our kids started school, I did most of my writing at 4:00 a.m. because the house was blessedly quiet. Then I’d have another writing stint in the late morning, and then another after lunch. I went to bed when the kids did (early), so it wasn’t painful.
  • Now that we have a baby in the house again, I work when I’m awake, clear-headed, and have help. That means short, sporadic bursts of writing at unpredictable times are my new norm.

All this schedule-switching has taught me that the best time to write — for me, anyway — is late at night and during the dawn hours. Hardly anybody else works during those times, so email and social media aren’t much of a distraction. (I’ll talk more about effective freelancing strategies in a future blog.)

You know, once you’ve landed a few writing clients, it’s helpful to work regular business hours, but not necessary. Sure, your emails get answered more quickly, but it’s rare that you’ll have a pressing need for an immediate response. Most projects are planned ahead, anyway.

The point is, no schedule is necessary when you’re a full-time writer. Flexibility becomes your reality.

That’s one of the reasons it’s relatively easy to break into freelance writing. If you’re committed, that is. I know several writers who started out just writing for clients in the evenings and on the weekend.

Once you’re writing full-time, that flexibility can become your nemesis… but that’s another post for another day.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about how to find paying projects to fit into whatever you want to define as your writing schedule.