The Freelancer’s Laundry List: What We Really Do

in-the-dryerPeople think being a freelance writer means you grab your laptop whenever you feel like it, lay down some words and the work is done. They’re wrong. Very wrong.


If you also have this oversimplified view, it’s time for a reality check. For starters, more goes into creating content than people realize. And furthermore, writing is just one of many tasks on a writer’s laundry list.

Here’s a broader view:

Checking and responding to emails:

Email is a primary means of communication for writers. Since we deal with so many people, a lot of us check our email regularly, meaning throughout the day and night.

The first thing I do in the morning, before eating and before bathing, is check my inbox. I also check it if I wake up in the middle of the night. And in those early hours of the morning, if there is something pressing, or a client or interview subject in another time zone needs my attention, I take care of it right then.

Applying for and bidding on jobs:

In my ideal world, a mysterious man would slip manila envelopes under my door in the middle night and I’d wake up to lucrative assignments in the morning. But in the real world, I have to hunt for work, write cover letters to get that work, tailor my resume to the jobs I’m applying for, calculate rates, etc. And some freelancers also write test articles to prove themselves to potential clients.

Researching and composing pitches:

Some clients require writers to submit detailed pitches for approval before writing. For regular contributors, this can mean outlining a week or month’s worth of content. That usually requires some degree of research so you can generate ideas and determine what’s newsworthy or trending. Plus, you’ll need extra time to summarize your topic, your approach, your resources, your interviews, etc.

Reading and listening:

You can’t excel in a bubble. You need to know what’s trending in freelancing industry and the industries you work for. An investment writer has to keep abreast of the markets. A tech writer need to know what’s going on in the tech world.

Staying informed means you”ll have to read articles, books and blogs. You have to watch videos and listen to podcasts. You have to invest time in being an authority.

Meetings and interviews:

Some clients request a lot of interaction. They want to call, chat and video conference to stay in the loop or keep you in the loop. Then, for some assignments, you need to interview one or more people. Pre-production communication can consume a lot of time.

Photo hunts and formatting:

Taking or finding the right images for posts and setting up submissions in content management systems like WordPress extends the amount of time a project requires. And you may have to do this for your personal sites and your clients’ sites.

Getting acquainted with new tools:

Innovation doesn’t just happen, you have to make it happen. So, there are a lot of times when the freelance laundry list includes tasks like shopping for new computers, printers and cameras. From time to time you’ll add and update your apps and software. Some clients will have tools they want you to use to communicate and manage your projects, which may be new to your. These things take time to set up and master.

Social media:

Setting up, posting and replying on social media accounts is leisure for some people, but for freelancers, it’s often an important part of the business. And it’s not one to be taken lightly.  A lot of freelancers have social media strategies, which include a schedule of what they’ll post, when they’ll post and when they’ll interact with their audiences.


Since writing is a business, like any other, it requires an array of administrative tasks, such as invoicing, logging expenses, reading or writing contracts, ordering marketing materials and exploring new marketing avenues. Plus, you have marketing admin tasks like updating your portfolio and tending to your LinkedIn profile.

Seminars, classes and networking:

If you want to rise and remain in the top echelon, you need to sharpen your skills, develop new ones and make connections. A lot of freelancers do this by taking courses, participating in groups and online communities as well as attending networking events and seminars.

I’ll conclude here, but want you to understand that depending on the freelancer and his or her business strategy, this laundry list could be a lot longer. If you don’t have a realistic grasp of what’s involved, you won’t have realistic expectations of the time commitment, skills and resources you need.