What do self-employed people do all day?

Here’s what I did yesterday, in excruciating detail.

I got up and made coffee and tea, and got to the computer around 6:00 to answer emails, blog, and apply for jobs that came via alerts. During the application process, I wondered whether this was a waste of my time, but I currently have three interviews, including the physical interview for the large plum job, a conversation with someone in the United Arab Emirates who wants to skype, and a website owner whom I can definitely help. I sent him some suggestions, in fact. It didn’t take much longer than a normal cover letter would, and it ought to show that I can be helpful. I also corresponded with three people who have expressed an interest in my services. I spend at least an hour a day doing this kind of stuff.

At 8:00 I put on a DVD and did a weights workout for half an hour. I have only slightly sore muscles today, but I plan to stretch well so I won’t be too sore tomorrow. I like a little muscle soreness, though. One of my new Amazon review books advocates making yourself a little card that says “NO CHOICE” to remind you that you are determined to exercise, not just deciding it based on how you feel at that moment. I haven’t made a card, but I’m going to try taking that position with myself and see how it works.

At 8:36 I checked my Analytics, alerted everyone who had anything interesting going on with their stats, and responded to the assignments my students had sent me. My rule is, if they get the assignment in my email before midnight on the day it’s due, it’s on time, so I always get a little rash of papers like that. The ones who send it in Word get it marked up and returned, a process which I like a lot.

I did my work blogs and spent some time trying to guess what software the prospective New Big Client might want me to use and running through tutorials. I also had my special Dark Art software rebuild the Aussie’s link profile. Then someone arrived for a meeting.

This person is writing a book on a subject about which I’m quite knowledgable. She asked what I’d charge to help with research and I suggested that I collaborate with her instead. Yesterday was our preliminary meeting. I had lentil soup in the slow cooker, and we sat down with paper to block out a structure for the book.

There followed two hours of vague thought and random discussion. I have some students in my writing class who are having trouble coming up with a topic. I sit with them and ask questions designed to help them marshal their thoughts and clarify their goals, and that’s what I did in the meeting, too. In this case, though, I couldn’t say, “You have to make a decision by Thursday. Next!” I can see that collaboration may be difficult.

However, Chanthaboune and I collaborated quite well on our book proposal and got it in by the time they’d specified, and have heard nothing about it for months. I even wrote saying, “Did you decide against it?” and had no response. So the meeting and the collaboration may both be fruitless.

After two hours of that, punctuated by lunch and the arrival of my Amazon review books for the month, I got back to the computer by about 1:30. I did the week’s stint of linkbuilding for Client #4. I got a small assignment from Client #2 and did it, called the niece of the subject of my latest encyclopedia assignment to arrange a visit with her, and responded to an email from the encyclopedia’s editor saying an archaeologist wanted a revision in a piece I wrote last year. Fine with me, said I. The editor mentioned that he had really enjoyed my hookworm article and hoped I’d continue writing for them, which made me think that maybe some people respond huffily to suggestions about revising their stuff.

Along about then my family came home, and once that happens it’s all downhill where work is concerned. They want to talk to me. I tried to be pleasantly responsive while also getting in some link requests. By then it was nearing 5:00, so I headed off to the church, where I copied some music for the choirlet, had a pleasant conversation with the IT guy, led the class, played the bells, and sang in the choir. Then I came home, made omelets for dinner (my menfolks had not made dinner. They had decided instead to wait for three hours for me to come home), answered some more emails, and went to bed with a book.

So basically I worked all day, and got in about three billable hours. I think this is normal. I think that I have to spend quite a bit of time working on future projects and following up with past ones. I want to spend more time improving my skills so I’ll stay up to date. If I don’t land the plum job, then I want to increase the billable time to maybe 50%.

Yes, well, this post is for my future self. I keep looking back to last year when I was learning about SEO and trying to see what issues were frustrating to me so I can write about them at my marketing blog, and I never specified anything. So I’m hoping that next year I can look back at this and see how much progress I’ve made and what I ought to do next.