7 freelance graphic designers take us through their daily routines

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The beauty of freelance life is that it looks different for everyone. As your own boss, you get to dictate your schedule, manage your own time, and figure out what works and what doesn’t work for you as an individual.

Today, we hear from seven freelance graphic designers in our community as they give us a glimpse into what a typical workday looks like for them. Get inspired by some of their tried-and-true habits, productivity hacks, and general advice for working for yourself.

Whether you’re considering full-time freelance or looking for some ways to strike a better work/life balance in your own schedule, these designers have some awesome insights to share!

I’m a total creature of habit, so my workday has basically been the same forever. I start work at 8 am, but I’m not ‘on the clock’ until 9 am. This gives me an hour to get work done uninterrupted and it’s easily my most productive hour of the day. I work until noon, then go to the gym for an hour. It’s such a great way to break up my day and I feel completely rejuvenated and ready to sit at my desk again afterward.

When I end my workday is dependant on how I’m feeling. If I’m really into a project or have a tight deadline I’ll keep going until I’m done—which could be quite late at night, but I try and wrap things up before 5 pm. That’s also Glen’s dinner time (my disgruntled wiener dog) so he never lets me forget when it’s quittin’ time.

My goal is to complete 5.5 billable hours a day, so if I achieve that before noon, I reward myself with the rest of the day off. It’s a great self-motivator for me, and I almost never work weekends. Life’s too short for that nonsense.

  1. Quality Tea Room

  2. Get 'em Tiger

  3. True North

Right now, my routine looks like this: I wake up, make breakfast for my daughter, pack her lunch, and walk her to school. I come back to have some coffee and look at my ongoing list for the day.

I like to start with emails and paperwork to get them out of the way and then I do about thirty minutes of drawing/painting. These usually turn into my personal projects. I have lunch and start my freelance projects. I take a break and walk to pick up my daughter from school. We have an art session together before dinner, bath, and bedtime happen.

The majority of my work gets done at night. I’m a night owl and there’s just something about having complete silence and uninterrupted time that gets me in the zone. Having said that, I’d love to work on getting all my work done during the day so that I can sleep a normal schedule at night.

  1. Real Simple Magazine

  2. Oregon

  3. New Business Cards

I prefer to work nomadically from any place that has a Wi-Fi connection and a good vibe. This year I’ve already worked from Thailand, Bali, Sweden, Tuscany, Russia and more to come. Some days I work for 12 hours straight and other days for only an hour (though not that often).

I wake up usually at 8 am and check emails, then I go out for breakfast and make a plan for the day while having a cup of coffee. The plan consists of a list of small tasks that I really need to focus on. I think this is the most important thing to do because depending on these tasks the day can be either productive and you feel happy in the end, or not productive and you may feel stressed out with no progress done.

After I’ve planned my day, I find a place where I can focus on work. It can be Starbucks, any other coffee shop, or my hotel room. I can visit a few different places to work and have lunch and dinner in one day—it really just depends on the mood. If I feel like I want to go to a party, go on a hike, take a trip somewhere, etc. I just go for it because the happier I am the more productive I am, and the other way around. I don’t try to find the work/life balance because I enjoy this lifestyle. That’s actually what freedom is for me—to be able to continue living this way.

  1. Mark Catckerberg

  2. Google Pigeon Icons

  3. Taco

Something I’ve been learning about myself lately is that I’m not a huge fan of routine. As a self-employed person, it actually comes in handy—allowing me to work all sides of the business without getting bored or feeling stagnant.

Some days I wake up feeling uninspired which is when I sit down and work on the bureaucratic side of things; answering emails, sending invoices and working on proposals. Other days I’ll spend 8+ hours in the studio drawing and finishing up projects. Some afternoons are for lunch meetings and others are for taking the dog to the park and stepping away from screens for a minute.

  1. Pete's General — Menu Creative

  2. Ruby's Clams

  3. Fontacular Poster

No days are the same, but I try to schedule my workflow in a way that is most efficient to my working style.

I am a night owl who is most productive after the sun has set. I like to spend my mornings and afternoons doing admin work like answering emails, doing paperwork, or scheduling client meetings. I do most of my creative work at night when I know the productivity is high! I enjoy being able to work on projects without interruptions during late nights as most people are asleep by then.

I try to keep one day a week free of any work to avoid burning out. I believe sometimes to take two steps forward, you have to take one step back. Knowing when to stop and rest can keep the creative juices running longer rather than going full steam ahead.

  1. Under The Sea

  2. Defy the Sun Book Cover

  3. Birds of Paradise 2.0

I like routines and try to be at work by 9:30 am every weekday. Working from home can feel a bit random sometimes, so I have made up a simple routine for myself to keep my day structured.

This is what I do: I first fill a pitcher with water and place it next to my desk with a glass. Then, I switch on an aroma diffuser I have next to my desk. It makes a sound that helps me concentrate and also works as a timer for me. It runs for three hours and then beeps when it’s over. That’s my morning session after which I’ll have lunch. I’ll repeat the same session in the afternoon and continue to work until 6:00 pm or so with a few breaks.

At the end of the day, I check what I should be doing on the following day. It’s pretty much the same process every day when I’m creating new work.”

  1. Paper Cat

  2. Cover illustration for M2

  3. Fika Cookie Box

I’ve never done well with a set schedule. I like to plan, but I always roll with the punches. I am not a morning person, so my mornings usually move pretty slowly. I’ve set my alarm to go off at 9:00 am each morning. I get on my phone as I gradually get up, moving to my desk where I put on some music, check emails, make checklists, and work on projects.

I often start working before getting ready for the day, so showering and getting changed ends up getting postponed until the moment before I go out to meet friends for dinner. I aim to be in bed before midnight but usually end up drifting off around 1:30 am. I am a complete night owl. I seem to be the most motivated and productive at 11:00 pm. There’s some kind of magical freedom in the night. After the sun goes down, the possibilities feel endless and time seems to slow down a bit.

Even on nights when I know I have to get up early the next morning, I’ll remember something I meant to do as I am brushing my teeth before bed. I then get distracted trying to complete whatever the task is, and when 2:00 am rolls around I remember I was supposed to go to bed hours before. Luckily, my schedule lets me work as late as I want/need.

  1. It's Nice 2 C U Again

  2. Garbage Person Zine

  3. Awesome


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