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A Day in the Life of a Full-Time Writer. Read This If You’re Thinking About Doing the Same.

by | Jul 17, 2023 | Writing

This ain’t gonna be pretty.

And it’s not what you think. Let me take you behind the scenes at the request of a reader who emailed me to find out the day in the life of a full-time writer.

I suspect they’ll expect it to be all laptops on park benches and green smoothies at 5 A.M. Not quite.

How it feels

Every day is stressful.

That might sound bad, but it’s a good type of stress. It’s the stress of a fluctuating income that’s at the whim of economic conditions.

When the economy is bad, writing online is harder. When the economy is booming the way it was in 2021, it’s somewhat easier to get paid. The days when you get to research your favorite topic are some of the best.

You can go for long walks and listen to podcasts for inspiration. Those days are contrasted with the harder days when you get some fake lawsuit, have to reply to admin emails, lodge quarterly business tax, or deal with a LinkedIn influencer who wants to destroy your reputation for empty ‘likes.’

Like anything, there’s always bad that comes with good.

It just comes down to how many sh*t sandwiches you’re comfortable having thrown at you before you decide to quit.

Time flies when you write online. It’s a deeply intense process that takes every ounce of concentration, creativity, and imagination one has. There are days when I feel empty, like I have no ideas.

That’s why it pays to be an obsessive note-taker so there’s no excuse.

There are other days when flow comes easily and articles go viral out of nowhere. A few back-to-back hits can make you feel like Tarzan king of the jungle. Then there are the dry spells.

The platform changes its algorithm. Or views go down for some random reason. Or the moderation police grab you by the curly ones for using an accidental slur that’s not a slur in your Aussie homeland.

Then there are the times you decide to publish something vulnerable.

Where you bear your soul for all. It feels scary. You hit publish and then go to bed. What you wake up to can either be a storm, a ray of sunshine, or a nothingburger.

Should I have written that? you think to yourself.

The days aren’t short either. To cram in all the research, editing, pitching, photo searching, networking, and selling that happens on the back end takes more time than most think.

That’s because as a writer you’re also a business. Few understand this. Writing is a business. Words have to lead to something. Maybe it’s a book, an affiliate link, or a business.

But if the writing leads nowhere then you can’t support yourself financially.

That means you can’t do it full-time anymore. So money has to be a focus whether you like it or not.

And that’s where a lot of the daily stress comes from. It can occupy more of your thoughts than you care to admit.

When the income amount goes up and down — unlike a salary — sometimes you feel rich and other times you feel poor. All it takes is a few interest rate rises and a new baby, and wham, bam, thank you man, you can feel like a whole new person.

Not in a good way.

That’s why mental health is key. You have to unplug from writing or it’ll consume you. The best way is time away from all the screens.

The internet is maddening. After a while everything can feel same-same. Or the dark parts of the internet like the news and trolls can come find you in your sleep and give you nightmares.

Or you can become full of hatred or envy for other people’s success.

It’s why I don’t pay much attention to what every other writer is doing. They have their strategy and I have mine. It’s none of my business what they do, really.

The typical schedule

6:00 A.M. — Wake up

I’m an early riser.

When I wake up late it makes me feel like someone stole part of my day. Everything becomes a rush and that stresses me out.

The wake-up time does vary some days, though, if I didn’t sleep the night before because of my baby daughter crying all night.

6:15 A.M. — Check emails

Tim Ferriss says don’t check emails first thing in the morning.

Well, I’m not Tim Ferriss. The email inbox of a writer is full of surprises. You get pitched a lot of PR crap. You end up on a lot of lists of companies sending resumes to you for weird jobs, such as marine biologist.

There are emails from readers too.

Some good, telling that you’ve inspired them. Others bad, telling you that you’re a piece of dirt human and if they knew where you lived they’d throw a stick of dynamite at your dog (true story, except I don’t have a dog…please mommy buy me one for Christmas).

Emails aren’t fun. It feels like a full-time job. It’s the type of writing no writer loves doing even if they’re afraid to admit it. But you do it anyway.

7:30 A.M. — Eat breakfast

I’m vegan so I’ll skip this part so I don’t offend anyone.

8:00 A.M. — Maybe exercise

Writers are like hermit crabs. We don’t go out much.

That means if we don’t exercise or at least walk, then our backs will get destroyed from all the sitting writing forces us to do.

My goal is just to move.

If it’s at the gym then that’s ideal. If it’s just a walk then I’ll scratch that up as a win and move on. The other trick is to use a stand-up desk. This lets you alternate between sitting and standing and saves your back.

Beds for bad backs can be helpful too.

Photo of my new stand-up desk (supplied by author)

9:00 A.M. — Think about what the hell to write or read

These are the two main tasks a full-time writer does.

Each day I either focus on one or the other. Finding good stuff to read is harder than you might think. The AI evolution has increased the amount of garbage content.

My solution is just to read timeless books. Or to look back on interesting lessons from history to bring new life to these stories.

If it’s a writing day then I tend to procrastinate a bit more. I find it’s part of the process. I’ll scroll through other writers’ work or pretend to get ready to write by watching a Youtube video.

Then eventually I’ll start to write.

To make the process easier, I write headlines and rough dot points a few days before. This helps me avoid the dreaded blank screen of death.

But sometimes those ideas will suck and I’ll have to come up with something fresh on the spot. This never gets easier.

I like to do deep work for at least 3 hours without stopping. It helps me get into flow and save time later on.

12:00 P.M. — Lunchtime

I’m uncool.

So while I eat a quick lunch in front of my computer, I watch silly talent shows to access cheap dopamine. I can’t resist a dishonest magician or a singer that’s never gonna become a pop star and nobody’s told them.

Broken dreams help me not give up on my dreams.

The food goes down fast. I’m normally starving after all the concentration and endless reading/writing.

12:30 P.M. — Another deep work block

On reading days I’ll get heavy into the weeds.

I like to read several books at a time. I alternate between them. Right now I’m reading the Prince Harry Book, The 10X Rule, and Shoe Dog.

They are full of funny stories and interesting lessons that bleed into my writing. The key with this block of time is I don’t want to get distracted. As soon as that happens I find it hard to refocus again.

The process of getting into flow takes so long that I don’t give up on it easily.

3:30 P.M. — Big daddy time

Multiple times throughout the day I see my daughter.

One of those slots is roughly around 3:30. It’s a privilege that I can stroll to her daycare or walk a few steps to her playroom and say hello.

I find these few minutes help remind me why I write in the first place. She always smiles big at me because she can’t wait to see what silly faces I will make. I then go back to my home office all happy.

4:00 P.M. — Speeding up for the end of the day

I always try to get too much done in a day.

It’s a problem I can’t seem to fix, so I accept it. I aim to finish work at 6 P.M. so at 4 there’s a bit of a hurry to wrap things up. This is the time I’ll finish reading the book or writing the essay, or I’ll get into the admin work of my business.

The pressure to finish early is great motivation for me. I tend to deal with the new batch of emails faster and do those painful tasks I’ve been putting off, like finishing the profit and loss spreadsheet for my wife to review.

5:00 P.M. — Networking

At 5 P.M. I like to do calls.

The biggest mistake writers make is they don’t talk to people. But this is where our stories come from. It’s also where we learn new things that apply to online writing.

I try to jump on calls with people smarter than me for an hour each day. It doesn’t always happen but I do my best.

They tell me about the latest newsletter trends, or people I should collaborate with, or new AI advancements that affect writers.

Sometimes it’s just a good chance to let off some steam.

There can be more drama in the writing world than I’d sometimes like. Having a few people in the trenches to share those thoughts with can be helpful. For the most part, though, things are pretty chill.

6:00 P.M. — Day ends

Dinner. Family time.

9:00 P.M. — Social media tasks

Writers must always have new content being posted.

I use the time right before bed to post on the main social platforms and reply to a few comments. I take a pretty laidback approach to it as I don’t want to be stressed before bed.

I’ll often send a list of tasks to my virtual assistant, too, so she can work on them while I sleep. I also have a business partner who I work with on my writing academy, and I send him stuff as well.

Saturday/Sunday

I used to work every Saturday and Sunday for 8 years.

In the last 8 months I’ve slowed down a bit and stopped doing that. I still read a few newsletters on Saturday mornings to relax, but nothing serious.

I find when I have two days away from the online world it makes the start of the following week easier. I come back to the computer with fresh ideas and a different perspective.

Daily writing commitments that never die

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t try to build my email list.

It’s the one part of my writing career that I control and that gives me most of my readers. I currently have 163,000 subscribers and do my best to write to them once a week.

I also commit to never dealing with unreliable people. Often as writers we have to work with freelancers — editors, illustrators, book formatters, etc.

The quality varies a lot.

I find the average freelancer is terrible. If I accidentally meet one, I try to get rid of them as fast as possible. Life’s too short to deal with idiots.

I also commit to always learning new skills. This year I’ve mastered ChatGPT, ConvertKit, and am learning how to prompt Midjourney.

Writers who don’t upgrade their skills rarely make it. The internet moves too fast to stay stuck in the old, slow ways.

The final thing I always commit to doing is building a new revenue stream.

That’s because the money a writer makes changes constantly. If you’re not working on a new way of earning money, then you risk having your current income decimated at some point.

I’ve seen it happen many times.

Closing

This is what it’s like to live the life of a full-time writer.

It’s certainly not glamorous like Hollywood, but I like it. It fits my personality and it helps me feel free. No one tells me what to do and I march to the beat of my own techno song.

If you’re thinking about writing full-time, I suggest you write full-time after work, first. It’ll help you see the pros and the cons. The pros far outweigh the cons from what I’ve seen over the last 9 years.

Go forth. Write online daily.

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