Diana Kelly Levey

Successful Freelance Writers Swear by These Morning Routines

A woman working on her laptop outside.

November 22, 2023

Ever wonder how some freelancers seem to get a whole lot more done in the morning than you do? (Or, at the very least, they post on social media that they did and you start off your day feel guilty about what you didn’t accomplish yet.) Some of them have iron-clad successful freelancer morning routines, God bless them!

When I went full-time freelance in 2013, one of the first things to go out the window was a steady morning routine. Isn’t that the point of freelancing and working from home? I thought.

I can sleep until 11 a.m. and work until 11 p.m. at night and no one is expecting me to sit at my desk with the computer on while I scroll through news headlines and email.

Eventually, I realized that not having a schedule wasn’t good for me, my business or my health. Between 2013 and 2017 I took some in-house part-time jobs that helped me stick to a freelance routine.

Besides having a steady paycheck direct deposited into my bank account every two weeks with these in-house editing jobs, part of the reason I appreciated these roles was that they added structure to my week.

I tended to be very productive on the days I wasn’t in the office because I had to be in order to tackle freelance assignments. I had to go to bed at a certain time so I would be able to wake up early and accomplish tasks for my small business. (How many hours do freelancers work each week?)

Now that I’ve been full-time freelance writing from home for several years, my weekday freelance morning routine is better than it was when I first started freelancing, but it could still use improvement.

This Freelance Writer’s Morning Routine (updated 2023!)

  • Wake up around 5:30 a.m. (Thanks, kids!)
  • I take care of my kids, the dog, make breakfasts, pack meals and snacks for the kids if they’re in daycare, try to shower, get kids dressed, clean up.
  • After dropping the kids off at daycare, I’ll try to start work by 8 a.m. I know that I’m most productive when I start off the day writing an assignment that’s due soon—even if it isn’t a good first draft—but sometimes I get sucked into email responses from the day before. (BTW, here’s how to come up with article ideas.)
  • I make sure I spend time in the morning reviewing the to-do list I created the night before so I’m accomplishing the most important tasks, like turning in an article and prepping for phone interviews, or responding to editors so I don’t waste time in the morning. I often updated a paper list using my Notes app at night as I thought of more tasks I want to do during the workday. Notes is one of my 35+ Perfect Apps for Writers I recommend to all freelancers.
  • I try to complete one assignment before 10 a.m.
  • I’ll send out some freelance marketing emails to prospects and follow-up on emails and pitches.
  • I save my phone interviews and administrative and freelance business tasks for the afternoon when I can since I’m not as productive then.

(This freelancer FAQ will answer all of your burning questions about this career.)

Morning is a time when many freelancers say they’re most productive, some even waking up before the rest of their household rises and “eating the frog” or writing the assignment they need to get out of the way so they can be more productive with the rest of their time during the day. I think that’s because morning is one of the few times of the day that you can somewhat “control,” especially if you get up early enough and don’t allow external factors (traffic, children, spouses, TV) to derail you.I get “writing” done that isn’t emailing in the morning, I always feel more energized and productive the rest of the day because it isn’t hanging over my head.

Since a morning routine is an area that I can always improve upon, I asked freelance writer friends to share their optimal morning routine is when they want to have a productive day. (You’ll want to steal these pro tips on how to write a pitch for an article, too.)

Successful Freelancer Morning Routines:

Learn more about why this is the best time to write for certain freelancers and how to build a successful. morning routine.

Freelance morning routine: Wake up early.

” I’m a morning person by nature, so that’s when I get the bulk of my work done, and then I spend the rest of the day as a stay-at-home mom to my 3-year-old (the 5- and 7-year-old are in school). I follow a pretty detailed morning routine most mornings, though I’ve fallen out of the routine the last few weeks due to a cold. Maybe emailing it to you will get me back in the swing!” – Steph Mickelson, founder of The Practical Pen

Here’s Steph’s early freelance writing morning routine:
  • 3:45-4:30 Get up, drink Red Raspberry leaf tea with 1/2 a lemon, meditate for 10-15 minutes, stretch, do 23 push-ups, and a 20 bicycle crunches (this used to be the pilates 100, but I wanted to switch it up).
  • 4:30-5:30 Get coffee and start working on whatever is on the schedule for that day. I set up my weekly schedule on Sunday (I’ve posted about it on Twitter) and then add throughout the week as necessary.
  • 5:30-6:00 My youngest wakes up, so I get her something to drink and set her up with a show. Then I keep working.
  • 6:00-6:15 Get dressed in workout clothes and start waking the big kids up.
  • 6:15-7:00 Make breakfast and help kids get ready for school. The bus comes at 7:00.
  • 7:00-8:00 Workout while my daughter plays or “works out” with me.
  • 8:00-9:00 Shower and get dressed in regular clothes. Tidy the house and clean the kitchen. If it’s Monday and/or Friday, I’ll typically do a full house clean.
  • 9:00 Get started on whatever activity we have whether it’s hanging out, errands, house projects, or something else!

Freelance morning routine: Write before reading emails.

“On my best days, I wake up around 6 and am at my desk by 6:30 a.m. I fight the urge to check emails and instead dive straight into writing something, whether it’s an article for a client that requires fresh brainpower or a creative nonfiction essay of my own. If I can write for two hours straight, or even one, before checking my emails, chances are I’ll have what I consider a successful day. This is definitely a ‘best case’ scenario! My worst days are when I’m reactive to my inbox, as opposed to doing the actual work I love.

One of the reasons I wanted to work for myself was to be able to reclaim commute time and turn it into something productive. It’s a lot of time when you think about it! This is an upgrade that benefits my clients (because I can now capitalize on the time of day when I’m most creative) and keeps me more in the balance as an individual. I think a lot of freelancers can probably relate to this.” – Laura Vrcek, Freelance Brand Journalist. (Here’s how to find freelance money in your inbox.)

Freelance morning routine: Start with a walk.

“On my best days, I go on a morning walk first thing. It used to be to the coffee shop to pick up a hot cuppa for the energy jolt, but it’s become a longer, non-caffeinated more peaceful walk through a local park along the waterfront. I find as a writer it is key to allow yourself time to daydream, soak in life experience, see, feel and think. I watch furry tails at the dog park, cooing (or crying!) babies with their nannies, sunbathers, execs on frantic calls, speedwalkers, and most importantly, breathe in nature’s unfathomable beauty. It’s a lot of positive stimulation and think time with which to jumpstart the day. When I want to get serious work done and have a productive day, I always make a healthy but fast breakfast (oatmeal, yogurt and fruit, maybe a few scrambled eggs), put on music, light a candle and sit at my desk. I’m very big into rituals and mindfulness and find making my breakfast is a peaceful time of using my hands and senses and preparation. Our brains need fuel! (Especially if you’re devising article pitches that worked.)

I spend a half hour responding to any new emails, check in on the news of the day, then feel ready to dive in and do a good three- to four-hour session attacking the assignments in the cue. I try hard not to answer emails or calls or check social media when working—this can drive my mother and husband crazy, but my work is best without distraction. I’m one of those people who can disconnect for a whole day and feel blissfully tranquil.” – Julie D. Andrews, copywriter, creative strategist at JulesInk.com

Freelance morning routine: Exercise and meditate.

“I am very routined and always do the same thing every morning: I wake up at 7, work out at home, and then meditate for 20 minutes. The first thing I do is check email. I know you’re not supposed to, but I have to see who has replied, as far as editors and sources, so I can make any adjustments to my schedule if necessary. I work out in the morning because otherwise it often doesn’t happen (I get too tunnel-visioned on work), and it really sets my day off right. The meditation then gives me a bit more ‘me’ time to find some quiet before the chaos of the day starts.” – Brittany Risher Englert, Digital Strategist, Editor, Writer at BrittanyRisher.com

What’s your freelance morning routine? How have you improved it to become more productive? Feel free to share in the comments below and I’ll include some in a future blog post!

Ready to tell the world—and your mother—that you’re a successful freelance writer? Take my Freelance Writing Weekend Jumpstart course and kick-start your freelance writing career in a weeken

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