“People have no idea what teachers deal with all day,” my teacher-friend said. She grinned at me over the rim of her coffee cup. “Mind you, I have no idea what you do all day. Don’t get me wrong, I think the freelance thing is great, and I respect like crazy the fact that you’re doing it! But if someone asked me, hey, what does Rachel actually do with her workday? My answer would be a big fat um.”
It’s not the first time I’ve fielded that question, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. So, in the spirit of satisfying your curiosity, let’s go through a fairly typical day in the life of this freelance writer.
To be more precise, this Kiwi freelance writer who sold all her stuff and moved overseas, and is currently in Scotland visiting her cousin & trying to find some semblance of a routine. Yeah. That’s the badger.
6am | Wake Up
I don’t set an alarm. My body clock wakes me up just fine – at the moment, when we’re sliding into autumn, that’s around 6:10am. Usually I’d get up and go for a walk, but on this particular day, the weather is… well… uninspiring, to say the least. I know how to pick my battles. Today? I roll over and go back to sleep for a bit.
7am | Coffee & Wordle
I’ve tried many different ways of starting my day while travelling, from a whiplash no-routine free-for-all to a more structured approach. This one has become my firm favourite. While the rest of the household bustles around getting sorted for work and school, I make myself a coffee, claim a quiet corner of the kitchen table, and do the daily Wordle. That done, it’s on to checking work emails, making a note of anything that needs to be prioritised. Then I catch up on messages that came through overnight from friends and family back home in New Zealand.
7:30am | Walk
By 7:30am, the front door has slammed for the last time and I have the house to myself. The claggy, moody clouds of an hour ago are gone: the sky has cleared to a pure bright blue (which won’t last) and the sun is shining (which also won’t last.) Better make the most of it!
From my cousin’s place, I cut along the old railway line, officially known as the Formatine & Buchan Way, and through the grounds of a nearby luxury lodge to the local recreational lake. Pitfour Estate was purchased in 1700 and renovated over the years to include the lake, extensive parklands, a two-mile racecourse, a stone observatory tower, and a small replica Temple of Theseus (which may or may not have had alligators kept in it.)
There are lots of trails for walking and biking around Mintlaw, Pitfour, and the Forest of Deer, but I can’t be gone all morning — this woman has work to do. A quick figure-eight loop sees me back at the house in just over an hour.
Ten minutes after I get home, the rain starts. How’s that for timing!
8:45am | Work
When I tell people I’m a freelance writer, they tend to have two reactions: “do you write stories?” or “right, but what do you do?” Today I’m starting work late – between 7:30am and 8am is my usual butt-in-chair time – but it’s a quiet week with nothing urgent on the priority list, so no biggie. My morning looks like this:
Fire off some quick replies and mark a couple for more time-intensive responses later on.
- Client check-in.
Log in to a regular client’s project management system. This lets me see what we have coming up and if next week is likely to be busier or quieter on that front. Nothing new has cropped up, so I check the project calendar, make a mental note of when my next few tasks are due, tag the client in a ticket to bring it to the front of his mind, and log out again.
- Deep work time.
I do my best work in the morning. Transcribing for my historian is a simple process: he emails me hundreds of archive pages from his research, noting which parts he wants me to focus on and which can be safely ignored. I type them up, marking any areas that need querying, and send them back.
There have been some fascinating snippets over the years, from a pipe organ with Braille keys for blind players, to infestations of rats, to today’s gem — the organ builder who, as legend has it, was so afraid of being conscripted for the army that he hid inside a bolt hole under his own pipe organ for several years.
12:15pm | Break time
Three hours of intense transcribing sees me to the end of this week’s tranche of notes. By this time I’m more than ready for a screen break. I’ve been craving a new project and the more hands-on, the better. As it happens, we bought active yeast at the weekend. I’ve never made focaccia before! I pull up Emma Fontanella’s recipe for big bubble no-knead focaccia bread and get to it.
12:30pm | Gym
I’ve never made focaccia before so I have no idea what to expect, but this dough smells amazing. It needs time to rest while the yeast activates. 30 minutes? Perfect! That’s enough time for a quick session in the gym (a.k.a. the garage.) Five minutes on the treadmill for a brief warmup, then twenty minutes of weights, finishing with some stretching to cool down.
1pm | F1, post-gym shower
The focaccia needs several rounds of stretch-and-folding to help the gluten develop. No, it’s not a gym routine, even if it sounds like one! (Bend and snap, anyone?) The recipe makes it sound simple: all I have to do is grab one side of the dough, gently lift upwards to stretch it, and fold it across the bowl to tuck in the far side. Rotate the bowl and repeat 4 times. Easy, right?
Okay, it takes a bit of practice to get the technique down, but we get there. That done, time to hit the shower and wash the gym sweat off!
1:30pm | F2, lunch
This time the stretch is really noticeable in the focaccia dough. Before, I felt like I was fighting to lift it high enough and fold it across. It kept wanting to break off. Now… well, see for yourself! Then it’s lunch time: a delicious prosciutto and avocado salad wrap.
Only round 2 of the stretch-and-folds, but already we’re seeing great progress.
Check out that stretch!
2pm | F3, Emails & invoicing
Stretch and fold, round 3. The elasticity is even more noticeable now.
I make myself another coffee and sit down to answer some emails that need longer or more in-depth responses. While I’m at it, I log in to Hnry for a quick look at my invoices. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on what has been paid and what is still outstanding! I have a couple of clients who pay within 24 hours of receiving an invoice, which is a) fantastic, and b) makes me happy to bump them to the top of the list when they need something done.
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2:30pm | F4, blog concepts and drafting
Last round of stretching and folding! Then I drizzle a baking dish with olive oil and move the dough across. It will rest there, well covered, for its final round of proofing. The yeasty smell is sublime. So are the gentle bubbles.
Now it’s on to another block of work for the afternoon. This one isn’t for a client; it’s for my loyal readers and subscribers here on the website. Even one single blog post can cover a wide range of tasks.
- Ideation and brainstorming
- The actual drafting (more time consuming than most people think!)
- Images – taking photos, organising them, creating other graphic pieces if needed, adding metadata for search engine optimisation.
- Editing. Often this is when I realise I need just one more photo, or I’m missing some crucial piece of information, or I have a full paragraph that is better structured as a list, or… you get the idea.
- Final formatting, adding background data and tags.
- Approve for scheduling & update relevant social media.
Today, I’m adding a couple of ideas to my Drafts list. They’ll sit there for a while, percolating on the mental backburner, before I go back in, pick the ones that most appeal, and outline them with a rough structure or summary blurb.
Then it’s time to get drafting. This very blog, in fact. A day in the life of a freelance writer. At this point, time basically vanishes into the void. Flow state is a glorious thing. The only thing that matters is making the words dance.
5pm | Home time
By 5pm, the rest of the household are starting to arrive home from work and school. It’s time for me to close the laptop for the day. With the final proof finished on the focaccia, we can pre-heat the oven to 200C fan bake and stick that bad boy in for 20-25 minutes.
You won’t know how amazing it is unless someone invents smell-o-vision, but just take my word for it: my first ever attempt at making focaccia? Fragrant. Stunning. Delicious. Redolent. Light, fluffy, crispy, airy, moist, all at the same time.
Evenings tend to be fairly quiet. After supper (dinner/tea), we do the dishes and decompress from the day. Then I might take my niece for a bike ride, or play some board games, or just blob and watch tv or read a book. It varies — and as ever, it depends on the weather.
So there we have it: a fairly typical day in my life as a Kiwi freelance writer in Scotland! featuring work, exercise, and an enforced screen break in the form of some mouth-watering, hands-on creativity.
Did anything surprise you about my day? What was your favourite part? Do you want to see more posts like this? Let me know!