I set my alarm clock for 8:30am, but I’m usually awake before then. Nature’s alarm clock goes off first when sunlight streams through the Venetian blinds on the eastern wall of my bedroom. Then I’m up and the cats are skittering about my feet, mewing as I walk to the kitchen and fill their bowls with food. I fill my own human bowl with oatmeal, precisely measured out like the kibble at my feet. Then Mr. Coffee starts brewing some Folgers Classic Roast for me as I eat my breakfast and perhaps catch a clip of Good Morning America. With coffee cup in hand I head to my office, closing the door to keep kitties out. Then I open the curtains and read my emails, sometimes in my pajamas.
After the emails are sorted, I go put on pants and get my second cup of coffee. Next up I tend to any estimates that need estimating. This requires lots of thinking and analyzing and spreadsheeting. I break down the project into the different parts, estimating how many hours each task will take. I look at the timesheets I’ve kept on previous projects to see how long similar jobs took. I might also have to explain some technical stuff to my clients, so I work on translating technobabble to English. Sometimes a client wants something that I’ve never done before, so I have to poke around the Interwebs, checking out plugins or programs or documentation, figuring out the best way to handle their problem and how much to charge. Then I look at my schedule, which I have been keeping in Google Calendar because it nicely color codes work projects and personal commitments. I can also easily drag and drop tasks when I don’t have time to do them that day, not that that happens, of course not. I scan the days and see when I will be free and add that start date to the estimate.
By then someone else has replied to something I emailed yesterday or last week or back when grunge was cool . I pull up the email and momentarily wonder, “Who is this person? What did they want? How much did I say it would cost? What color is their dog?” and think to myself that I must keep better notes because constantly rereading all my emails is confusing and taking too much time. I have not seen my clients’ faces or heard their voices and all this text looks the same. So now I take notes in a spreadsheet with different pages for each estimate. I break down each task and how much it will cost by row, and I have text files which contain my common replies, all of which I use to copy and paste information into an email with the estimate information. If the client decides to go ahead, I create another spreadsheet where I track my time when I work on the project.
This also means I have to bill the client and track how much they’ve paid and for what. There was a spreadsheet for this too, but it didn’t integrate with my email, so now I’m using Freshbooks which makes pretty little invoices, tracks payments, lets me enter expenses, and makes handy, dandy reports which will be priceless come tax time, which is every 3 months now that I’m a freelancer. Uncle Sam wants his money as I make it, not in a big lump at the end of the year. I can also analyze how much I have billed this week and how much I’ve been paid this week and compare that to the goals in my business plan.
Now it’s on to, oh yes, the actual work, the work I am now contracted to do, but look it’s already noon! Off I go to run and eat lunch, maybe with a friend, and pet my kitties who want to be let out onto the porch. Then it’s back to the office, which my oh my is rather hot, isn’t it? That’s what happens when you keep the door closed and have an eastern-facing window. At least I have my fan circulating air past my face. Now I am working on a project, actual web design work, which I will do for 3 or 4 hours, until my body starts to ache. Maybe I’m done with the work now, so I email the client with mockups or links to check out. Then they email me back later and I think, “Who? What? Where am I?” but now I have my notes which I refer to and can remember what my name is and how old I am and what I am working on and that their dog is brown.
Then perhaps I shall write, either a blog entry or a chapter in my book. Or perhaps I will surf the Internet or chat on IM with a friend. It might be someone from my old job and I will laugh to myself when I see that the home page is broken and it is not my job to fix it. Ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha! Happiness is HTML you don’t have to fix.
Oh my, it’s evening now and I am tired. I might go to my bedroom and read a book or watch some TV in the living room. I might make some dinner, but I’ll probably just zap something in the microwave. Then I’ll check my email before bed and respond to people if it’s easy or sort messages to reply to tomorrow if it requires thought. Perhaps I didn’t get as much done today as I wanted to because I felt tired and unmotivated, but oh well, got to work. Got to pay the bills. Got to cash the checks.
It is fun though. And exciting. And new. And I know why the word “freelancer” starts with “free.” (Hint: It’s not my hourly rate.)