April 5, 2023
This freelance question of “how many hours do freelancers work?” is one I see posed on work-from-home message boards and a question I receive from blog readers and freelance coaching clients. “How many hours does a freelancer work” is very individualized and it’s one that depends a lot on goals. Before you decide the number of hours you want to work as a freelancer, you have to consider your financial and personal goals–and limitations.
(It’s a common freelance FAQ).
Quite honestly, the number of hours freelancers and freelance writers work each week (and how many hours freelancers work in a day) can be all over the place as it’s different for each freelancer I’ve met and come across online. It’s also probably different depending on how many clients they’re juggling that week.
I find that the number of hours a freelancer works also depends on their other obligations like caring for family members or whether they are holding down a full-time job running a freelance side hustle. In this post, I’ll share how many hours a freelancer works each week–and earns a six-figure salary.
Here’s a sample day in the life of this freelancer.
If you’re ready to kick-start a successful freelance writing career, download my e-Book for 100+ Tips for Beginner Freelance Writers.
The answer to how many hours does a freelancer work each day and how many hours do freelancers work each week depends a lot on their current clients and projects, experience level, and hourly pay rate. Believe it or not, most of the six-figure freelancers I know work less than 30 hours a week, usually closer to 20 billable hours. (If you’re ready to earn $100 an hour or more freelancing, check out my online course.)
I’ll answer this question about how many hours freelancers work for myself and share some posts that work for other freelancers. (Note: This was originally written in 2019 before I had a child. This updated blog post on how I scale my freelance business and earn six figures working 10 hours a week is the latest post on my weekly freelance hours.)
What’s considered “normal working hours of a freelancer” can change from week to week!
Before jumping ahead to the number of freelance hours worked in a week, it’s helpful to look at how many hours freelancers are working in a day. (Here’s a post on setting daily freelance rates. If you want to know how to set hourly freelance rates, I’ve got you covered.)
The number of hours I work as a freelancer each week for most of my freelance years is usually about six hours of paid work for five days a week. (Update as of 2022: Now that I have a toddler and an infant, it’s closer to three to four hours, three days a week.)
Sounds pretty sweet, right? Let me be clear. Those freelance hours are the “billable hours” — which means they are the hours that I’m working on freelance assignments I’m getting paid for. I’m probably working a total of 36 to 42 freelance hours weekly but I am not getting paid for those hours that aren’t spent on client work. (Ahem, so writing this freelance writing tips blog post doesn’t pay.
As of November 2022, here’s an update on how many hours freelance this freelance business owner works each week:
This year, I averaged about five to 12 hours of paid client work each week.
Overall, I worked *about* 15 hours a week total most weeks, according to my time-tracking tool, Togg.l. (It’s one of the best apps for writers I recommend.)
Even with those limited hours, I’m on track to pull in an income that rivals my last full-time senior editing job at a national publication.
Three years ago, I was freelancing full time before children (aka when I had “all the time in the world”) and working about 30+ hours a week. I earned about 35 percent more at the end of 2019 than I will this year but worked twice as many hours.
The reason I’m able to work fewer hours and still earn a great salary?
Since having kids and working limited hours, I did the following:
✨ Found higher-paying clients (I like to search the best high-paying freelance writing niches for work.)
✨ Looked for more anchor clients
✨ Created systems and processes that maximize my time
✨ Learned how to be laser-focused when doing client work
✨ Hired help for business tasks that *I* didn’t need to do.
✨ Ensured that almost every time I sat down to work, I had a plan. (Make sure you’re working during the best time to write.)
I also acknowledge that my husband has a good job that’s able to cover benefits and allow me the flexibility to have more time at home with our kids while they are young. I’m very grateful for that!
Before you quit your job to become a full-time freelance writer because working 15 or even 30 freelance hours working from home sounds much better than 40-plus at your current job, think back to the last time you really worked for an hour at your day job. I mean you didn’t stop emailing, writing, interviewing, researching (not scanning social media), analyzing content and generating ideas for 60 minutes and you felt pretty spent after that hour. That’s what I mean by working one hour as a freelancer.
This is one of the 10 challenges of being a freelancer I mentioned in this blog — you aren’t able to daydream and still bill clients for it. If you don’t produce work–particularly paid work for clients–you won’t get paid.
According to a 2016 study, the average full-time freelancer works 36 hours per week, reported this article.
While that number might have been accurate for a certain cohort six years ago, I would guess that if the survey asked six-figure freelancers how many hours freelancers work per week it would be about half of that–particularly billable freelance hours.
Some weeks I do freelance work on weekends—I find Sunday mornings are quiet and I can get a lot done that day, like writing feature-length articles, blog posts and scheduling social media. I’m often more productive at that time than on a Monday morning.
If I’m very busy with a ton of deadlines — and most freelancers know that the workflow can be ‘feast or famine’ mode — the number of hours this freelancer works a week has been six days a week for 10 or so hours a day in the past. I try not to do that too often because I’ll get burned out and I fear that my creativity and work quality is compromised.
During those six hours I’m working as a freelancer about five days a week, I’m probably working for about 10 clients so I have a variety of projects and assignments to keep me busy. I also might work 10 hours on one day and only two the next day if I’m traveling, attending events, or taking the day (somewhat) off for personal time.
Last week I worked on a weekend day so I could spend some afternoon time in the middle of the week with my husband. Sometimes I’ll look ahead at the weather for the week and plan to get up earlier on nicer days so I can take the afternoon off or plan to crank out more work on rainy days so I have the freedom to leave my desk when it’s nice out. (This is one of the many perks of being a freelancer.)
In this LinkedIn post, I share how much I enjoyed being a bridesmaid in a cousin’s wedding that was on a Thursday night–and I didn’t have to worry about asking for time off.
But I also try to stay in touch with previous editors who gave me freelance assignments and continue to pitch ideas to the editors I’m turning in assignments to, so that “touching base” and “researching new ideas” for clients I’m turning articles in for averages about three hours a week as part of the how many hours freelancers work per week. That’s referred to as “marketing” in the freelance world. You need to constantly be pitching new ideas, finding new freelance clients and marketing yourself as a freelancer. Having a freelance marketing plan is so important, I created one as a download
If you want to forego “getting ready for work in the morning,” or “dragging yourself through a long commute” and “working at a job you hate,” I can show you how to freelance as a side hustle, or how to become a full-time writer and get your business started. Enroll in my freelance writing online courses and learn how to become a successful freelancer.
Tags: article writing advice, content marketing, freelance, freelance rates, freelance writer, freelance writing, freelance writing advice, freelance writing tips, freelancing, online course, productivity, time management, work at home, work from home
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