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A Day in the Life of a Freelance Writer & Podcast Host
Since I started working from home and freelancing a few years ago, I’ve been very interested in how people spend their days. I know that for me, the idea of having a flexible schedule is nice, but I still feel like I should be at my computer during what most people consider to be regular working hours.
Over the past few months, though, I’ve started to realize that I’m most productive in the early morning and in the evening. I’m productive when no one is bothering me, emailing me, or otherwise requiring me to activate do-not-disturb mode.
I definitely don’t take advantage of being freelance as much as I could and should. Last year, I was so sick for so long that I couldn’t leave the house. Now, I can, but the cold isn’t super motivating. So I’m looking forward to spring, summer, and fall, when I’ll be super psyched to take Ellie for a midday swim or hike.
So what do I do for a living?
I am a freelance writer. I write primarily about women’s health, fitness, and wellness, and dance, for various digital and print publications. I still write for Dance Spirit and Dance Magazine all the time, and I write for outlets like Well+Good and Women’s Health. Sometimes I pitch stories, but usually my editors come to me with assignments.
I’m also a podcast host (slash editor / producer / publicist / crisis manager). You probably knew that. You probably knew all of this already! But this is like Ali on the Run 101, which is fun to say. I’ve been hosting the Ali on the Run Show podcast for a little more than a year now, and I am thrilled to say it is now officially an additional source of income for me! The plan is to reverse the current ratio, so the podcast is the job and the writing is more of a when-I-have-time-for-it (or when I really love the subject) side hobby that happens to make some money.
My days are split up between podcast things and writing things. On the writing side, that means sending and responding to zillions of emails every day, interviewing sources for stories, writing said stories, gathering art for those stories, and finally loading those stories into whatever CMS that publication uses (WordPress, a custom CMS I’ve been trained in, or good old-fashioned Microsoft Word — my favorite!). It’s a lot of back and forth with editors and sources, and then various things like invoicing, touching base with editors about their current needs, and setting up calls with new editors.
I used to go to a lot of press events (Broadway shows, the ballet, fitness classes, events where brands debut their new lines and you get a sneak peek and some swag, stuff like that), but I go to far fewer now. I’m still always down for a trip to Broadway or the ballet, but the fitness-related press events are less enticing to me now than they used to be. (Free shoes! Cool! I know! But this might be a topic for another day.)
On the podcasting side, there’s the planning, the prepping, the recording, the intro and sponsor spot recording, the editing, the thank you note sending, the show note writing, the blog post writing, the graphic making, the uploading, the sharing, and the promoting. I love the prep and the recording, and actually enjoy the editing, too. The show note writing and graphic making are the first places I plan to outsource when the aforementioned income shift happens.
And then there’s my little bit of a personal life! Brian works a lot, which bothered me when I was sick because I was sad and lonely, but now doesn’t even cross my mind. Some nights I eat dinner alone. Other nights we eat together at 10 PM. And other nights he’s traveling for 10 days straight and I order sushi every single one of those nights. I tend to Ellie and make sure she’s fed and active and happy, and I try to exercise almost every day.
It all sounds really glamorous and exciting, right? So last Wednesday, I decided to lightly keep track of A Day in the Life of Ali on the Run. (I don’t call myself that at home, I swear.) Here’s a look at my life in sweatpants.
5:30 AM: Brian gets home from work! I am obviously asleep, but Ellie hears the door and starts tapping her tail like a maniac. Brian gets into bed, I get up to pee, and when I return to bed, Ellie has stolen my spot. She never does this to Brian. She loves my spot that I spend all night keeping warm. I can’t be mad. So I sort of slide in on the edge of the bed and try to snooze for another hour. It doesn’t really work.
6:30 AM: I’m up. I grab my phone and start doing all the things you’re not supposed to do as soon as you wake up: Instagram, email, Twitter, Facebook, The New York Times. Whatever. (I went through a nice, long phase where I was waking up, meditating, and then going for a sunrise walk every morning. I’m not sure why I stopped doing that, but I should probably bring it back. I was so mindful then!)
7 AM: I’m at my computer doing email things and eating a Superhero Muffin.
7:30 AM: If Ellie had her way, she would sleep until 1 PM every day. But today is a school day, so I wake her up to take her out for a quick potty walk, then give her breakfast.
7:50 AM: The day officially begins. I get Ellie in the car and drive her down the road to school, which is doggy daycare, but I like to think she’s learning all day, so…it’s school. She goes to school a few times a week so she can get some energy out and socialize, and so I can work uninterrupted. And every single time, she’s a little hellion when I drop her off. She runs in the room with all the dogs, and tries to tell everyone she’s the boss. Thank god her teachers like her.
8:10 AM: I make it to Orangetheory early, so I have time to run into Trader Joe’s to buy clementines. They only have mandarins, so I buy those. I don’t think they are the same thing.
8:30 AM: Orangetheory! It’s a power day, which means we’re doing lots of all-out sprints on the treadmills, and lots of jumping and explosive movements on the floor.
9:40 AM: Orangetheory is only 10 minutes away, which is great. I’m home soon after class, I take a quick shower, and I’m back at my desk by 9:50.
10 AM: I’m covering for Well+Good‘s news writer, who is out this week. That means I get newsy assignments from my editor and it’s my job to report on them and write them as fast as I can. It’s news! It’s urgent! I file (that’s writer talk for “finish and send to editor”) my first two stories by 11:30, jump on an interview for another at 12, and then final my third story for the day at 1:30. The nice thing about doing news stuff is there’s no time for writer’s block or procrastination.
1:30 PM: Housekeeping things. Emails. Invoices. Switching laundry from the washer to the dryer. More laundry in the wash. It never ends.
2:30 PM: I realize hey, I haven’t had lunch! The fridge is in rough shape, so I run to the grocery store across the street and pick up some carrots, pita chips, and a frozen gluten-free dairy-free pizza. I told you this was all glamorous!
3 PM: I have a call with an editor at a publication I haven’t written for yet. I finish the call excited to have a new client. Yay!
4 PM: More housekeeping. Confirming podcast guests. Making a crappy graphic for that week’s episode. (I wish I had graphic design skills. Ugh.)
5 PM: Record the intro, sponsor spots, and closer for the following week’s podcast episode. I try to work as far in advance as I can while still keeping everything relevant. Because freelance work can pile up fast — one week a few weeks ago, I had to write 32 stories in five days — I want to always make sure I’m on top of podcast things. Lately I’ve been in a good groove. That’s not always the case. (It also depends on guest availability, which can change last-minute.)
6 PM: I drive to pick up Ellie from school. When it’s warm out, I walk. But it’s cold out, so I am lazy and I drive.
6:30 PM: I make frozen waffles for dinner. I put strawberries and blueberries on top, so it’s basically just a fruit salad.
7 PM: It would be amazing to someday hit Inbox Zero. I know that will never happen for me, but right now I’m at Inbox 182, and I’d at least like to be closer to Inbox 100. Or Inbox 180. For every email I send, I get three more. It’s never-ending.
8:30 PM: I realize I haven’t made the bed. I had asked Brian to strip the sheets in the morning and he threw them in the wash and I left them in the dryer and now it’s 8:30 PM and I haven’t made the bed. So I do that. Exciting!
8:45 PM: I upload this week’s episode of the Ali on the Run Show for the world to hear. This week’s (last week’s) guest is Desi Linden, and we talk all about her Boston Marathon buildup and how she’s feeling about the race. It was a super fun conversation (despite nonstop Skype issues), and it’s always satisfying uploading a new episode. I upload it to my podcast host site, then embed it here on my blog, and I update the master podcast page. I make sure the show has successfully uploaded to its additional destinations — Apple Podcasts / iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud, Overcast, Stitcher, and Google Play — but I won’t promote the episode until Thursday morning. I just like to have them up and running (running!) Wednesday night so they’re there for your Thursday morning run or commute.
9:30 PM: I take Ellie for her last walk of the night. When Brian’s around, he usually does this, but it’s just the girls tonight, so we go for a little cruise around the neighborhood before coming inside, cleaning the paws, and eating a bedtime snack (a Greenie, for her — they’re not really my preference).
I didn’t keep track of what time I went to bed that day. When I’m home alone, I usually go to bed around 10. If Brian’s around, it’s much later. I usually do the same social media routine in bed. Sometimes I read. Other times I play Two Dots until my eyes start to glaze over. We don’t have a TV in the bedroom, so I don’t do that. I never meditate at night. I don’t put on moisturizer or fancy face cream. I should start establishing a better bedtime routine.
Exciting stuff, right?!
In summary: I sit at my computer all day most days! Sometimes I get to talk to really cool people. It’s a good life, even if it’s not super fascinating on internet paper. I like writing. I love talking to people. I love podcasting. And I love you.
SO I WANT TO KNOW: What’s usually the best part of your day? What’s something you do every single day that makes you happy and fulfilled?