KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Friday, August 12, 2011

Do Freelance Editorial Professionals Keep 9-to-5 Schedules?

One of the big attractions of self-employment is the ability to set your own work hours. The variety of schedules that freelance editorial pros keep is quite large, as shown by a discussion this week on the Copyediting-L e-mail list. What freelancers' schedules look like depends on their workload; their clients' needs; their circadian rhythms; whether they must accommodate the needs of life partners, children, aging parents, and/or pets; and the activities they're involved in outside of work.

I'm sharing my general schedule here in hopes of helping other freelancers see the possibilities and inspiring them to share their schedules in the comments section.

Several factors affect my schedule because they require my attention:

  • I'm married.
  • I have a 9-year-old son and a 16-year-old son.
  • I have an adult daughter who visits us, with her husband and my 4-year-old granddaughter, on some weekends.
  • My husband, a cabinetmaker, is self-employed like me. Periodically, I take time away from my work to help him with his project estimates, because I'm better at estimating time than he is, and to write up his estimates and help him with customer e-mails, because effective writing is one of my skills rather than one of his.
  • My in-laws live in the downstairs apartment within my home.
  • There are 2 dogs and 1 cat in my home.

So here's my approximate weekday schedule:

  • ~7:30–10 a.m.: Eat breakfast in my office, while I alternate between helping my husband get the boys out the front door (if it's during the school year) and doing workday-startup tasks:
    • Read and respond to e-mails.
    • Do my Facebook rounds for the following people or groups: the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences ([BELS] I'm one of the page administrators), the Council of Science Editors ([CSE] I'm one of the admins), members of my extended family, me, and friends and colleagues.
    • Do my Twitter rounds for accounts held by the following: BELS (I'm on its Twitter team), CSE (I'm on its Twitter team), KOK Edit.
    • Create proposals and invoices for projects as necessary.
    • Review my calendar items for the day.

  • ~10 a.m.: Shower.
  • ~11 a.m.: Start editing the first project of the day.
  • ~12:30 p.m.: Eat lunch.
  • ~1 p.m.: Get back to work.
  • ~7 p.m.: Knock off work and eat dinner, unless I'm facing a dire deadline. If it's a deadline night, stop for dinner and then go back to work till ~10:30 p.m.
  • ~Throughout the day:
    • Answer client e-mails and e-mails from colleagues and mentees; spot-check profession-related e-mail lists; spot-check Facebook walls for BELS, CSE, and me; spot-check Twitter for BELS, CSE, and KOK Edit.
    • Write up project estimates for my husband's cabinetmaking business when necessary and edit his e-mails to clients.
    • Brew multiple cups of tea.
    • Pet and/or play with my dog.
    • Take breaks with my husband and my kids or go flop on the hammock under the giant old maple tree in my backyard (in warm weather).
    • Make sure that my sons are on track for chores, for music practice (for the one who plays the cello), and for homework if it's during the school year.
I often do some work on weekends, but I don't get up for the day until about 9 or 10 a.m. I don't usually post anything to Facebook or Twitter on weekends, and I much do more hanging out with family members than on weekdays.

Even with a work schedule that spreads widely across the day, I answer e-mails and phone calls from U.S. clients only between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays, to help me separate my work life from my home life. But I do make some exceptions for my authors in other nations; I sometimes answer their e-mails in the evening or early morning because of the time-zone difference.

So, colleagues, what's your schedule like, given your lifestyle and personal and work needs?


Leigh Ann said...

Interesting topic. I like your idea of only answering emails during the hours of 9 to 5.

I used to try to keep a traditional schedule--get up at a decent hour, work until 6 or 7, take nights and weekends off, etc. Now, I'm more relaxed. One thing that's made a big difference for me is accepting my own circadian rhythm. I stay up late and sleep late. I used to try to get up earlier, but it seemed like I'd get sleepy in the afternoons more often. Now, I'm wide awake all day.

I also work weekends if needed—though I do strive to take at least one day off.

I'm lucky in that my husband's a freelancer too—a cinematographer—and our mutual nontraditional schedules work together well.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Sounds like you've found the right schedule for yourself, Leigh Ann.

My schedule has changed a lot over the nearly 17 years I've been freelancing. For instance, when each of my sons were babies and then toddlers, I worked in lots of short little spurts, sometimes even stopping to nap with them. I'm sure that once the youngest is old enough to get himself off to high school reliably on his own, I'll get a later start in the mornings, because I'm not an early-morning person. For now, though, I need to get up early each weekday because of the school-year schedule.

Nicky Parry said...

I especially love that you "brew multiple cups of tea" throughout the day! I'm still working full time in research, and moonlighting as a freelance writer/editor, so I can absolutely relate to the need for liquid refreshment. Like both yourself and Leigh Ann have alluded to, it's important to find some pattern that suits you as an individual, allowing some work-life balance. That's proving hard for me just now with the moonlighting, but is what I aspire to in my effort to become a full time freelancer.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Moonlighting can definitely make it tough to find the balance you seek, Nicky. But I understand why you're doing it; lots of full-time employees moonlight for a while until they get a good feel for how they can build up their clientele for full-time freelancing.

Multiple cups of tea are a necessity for me, so that I'm alert yet calm while I work. If you're a tea drinker too, you might be interested in my collection of links to tea vendors.

You have impressive qualifications. I hope that they draw plenty of clients to you.

Nicky Parry said...

Thanks for the kind words Katharine. I'm gradually building up my client list. It's tough getting that balance while moonlighting, for sure. I actually made the tough decision this past week to turn down some projects since I am feeling a little worn out right now. I have some work projects on the go that are demanding my free time at home too, so I can't split myself too many ways, for fear of burning out. It's a double-edged sword!

Thanks also for the link to your tea list - how wonderful! Yes, I do like tea too, so I will definitely get some good use from this list :)

DK Research Inc said...

I usually get into my office between 9-9:30 and work until about 3pm when my 13-year old and 15-yr old come home from school. Then it is time to drive them around to the varios places they need to be. We usually eat dinner around 5:30 and then i got back in to my office until about 8 or 9. If I am super busy, that could end up being 10 or 11. I am very active in my school's PTA, so in between my working during the day, I fit in meetings and school functions. Now that my kids are older, there are not many of those. I love the flexibility of being able to choose my own hours to fit the needs of a particular day, even if it means on ocassion working at night.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

DK, it sounds like you're a pro at juggling work and parenting. Flexibility is invaluable.

Juliette said...

I'm also a fairly scheduled person: Early mornings are for cleaning out the inbox and doing admin tasks. Late morning sees me doing projects. Lunch is the main meal in our home, so I'll take 2hrs for lunch prep/eat/clean-up before getting back to work projects. I will work nights and Saturdays if needed, but thankfully those situations are rare.

My husband's job also has him spending a considerable amount of time his his home office, so we try to work the same hours. Although I tend to be a creature of habit, working from home makes me a better worker simply because I know I have the freedom to change things up if I need to.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Juliette, it's nice to hear from a colleague whose spouse works from home like mine does.

Shakirah Dawud said...

It's nice to hear from a tea lover, although i generally only take one cup. My household's a large one and I try not to feel like I'm hogging it. As for working 9 to 5, as I said, that's what i tell the public, but it's not always the case. I tell my family I'm on till 6, just to steal that extra hour to get things done :).

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Shakirah: Three cheers for those freelancers who successfully juggle freelancing and family time!

ElaineLK said...

Your schedule sounds a lot like mine. I'm not as good at getting to my desk early, though. I have to have my tea and eat my breakfast at the kitchen table while reading the paper, then I shower; all this takes between 1 1/2 and 2 hours.

I try to get to my desk between 10 and 10:30. Then the computer takes over my attention while I check email and Facebook before digging into work around 11. I tend to break for lunch around 12-12:30. It's apparent, I guess, that morning isn't the time I work best.

The rest of day I do try to work fairly steadily, although I have a walk-the-dog break somewhere in there. This all depends on how much work I have, of course. If I'm not loaded down, I goof off a little more; and when deadline time looms, I try to cut all interruptions to minimum.

My mother is also in assisted living now. I usually go to see her with my husband on Wednesdays (his day off) and over the weekend. This also cuts into my available work time,so I try to plan accordingly. And I try to keep weekends and nights free unless I'm in a time jam.

It looks from this like I don't work a lot, but at present I'm trying to get back into a regular full-time schedule after having taken a lot of time off while my mother was living with us and when she first went into AL. So I'm dragging a bit right now.

And I am also a tea person! Never touch coffee. Those "multiple cups" are bright spots in my day (along with maybe a little chocolate in the afternoon...)

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Elaine, that's the beauty of self-employment—a flexible schedule. It's so nice to hear from another tea person. :-)

LyzzyBee said...

I've just published a blog post on my schedule in response to friends being concerned that if I'm working at 6am and 10pm, I'm working all the hours in between! http://librofulltime.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/a-typical-day-for-libro/

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

It's so obvious that successful freelancers are quite good at managing time to fit both their needs and the needs of their clients.

Template created by Makeworthy Media