Based in Chicago, Illinois, The Freelance Beat is a blog exploring the triumphs and challenges that freelance journalists encounter in their early and mid-careers.

5 tips for making a new freelance work routine

5 tips for making a new freelance work routine

My first few days as a freelancer were a bit strange. I have a love-hate relationship with Chicago’s public transit system. I love that it doesn’t cost that much and it’s mostly reliable. But I hate how cramped it can be during rush hour. And who’s idea was it to have cloth seats on the buses and trains?

So while I didn’t miss being squished up against other 9-to-5’ers, my muscle memory took some time to get used to life without weekly rides down Clark Street into downtown.

The beautiful thing about freelancing is you can set your routine however you like. The downside is you don’t have the accountability that comes with working in a “real office.”

I think the key to creating your own work schedule is to balance between how you and your clients work best. Here are some tips for making a new work routine work for you.

Know when your clients will need you.

Okay, so maybe you don’t have to wake up so early. But your clients will probably need you during normal work hours. It’s probably best to establish what days they’ll need you most and what deadlines you must meet. Some people are night owls or early birds, but the reality is most people still work between 8 am and 6:30 pm.

Stick to your lunch break.

Go for a walk. Pick up food or cook some at home. Take a moment to eat away from your desk. It’s easy to forget that there’s an outside world when you work from home. Give yourself time to eat and decompress.

Go outside.

Some people work better around other people. If your budget allows, try a co-working space. No money to pay for that? Try going to the library or a coffee shop. Or maybe find a bench at a nearby park, weather permitting.


Establish work hours.

Unless there’s a pressing deadline, I stop working at 6:30 pm every day. I may check social media, but I avoid looking at work emails. I don’t schedule or take work calls before 8 am. You have to set your boundaries and stick to them. Otherwise you—and your clients—will be working 24-7.

Take a day or two off every week.

If you have an urgent Monday deadline, it’s fine to work on the weekend every once in awhile. But at least try to take one or two days off every week. It’s important to relax. You don’t work well when you’re tired and stressed.

How did you set up your freelance routine? Tell me in the comments or email me at

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