As soon as you start thinking about working as a freelance Ruby on Rails developer, you’re faced with some important questions:

  • How much time should you spend billing?
  • Will you have time to take care of normal daily tasks?
  • What about a social life?
  • What does a typical day look like?

I started freelancing about five years ago, and so I’ve had to answer those questions for myself. My daily routine breaks down into three categories:

  1. Personal stuff
  2. Client work
  3. Business development

Here’s how a typical day looks for me:

Early morning: Personal stuff

There’s no point in freelancing if I don’t get some say over how I spend my day! I make sure to start my days for me… that means getting outside to walk the dogs, reading and writing, and playing a bit of piano. Sometimes I call my dad, who wakes up even earlier than I do. I also usually throw some food in the crockpot for dinner later. I eat a quick breakfast, shower up, and get ready for my client work.

Morning through afternoon: Client work

I usually do client work from 9am to 5pm or so. This consists of planned meetings (standup, feature demos, and planning), “heads-down” programming work, and ad hoc mini-meetings that pop up throughout the day. I typically work 45-50 minutes and then take a 10-15 minute break. I take a 90 minute break to have lunch, play with my dogs outside, and clear my head. The lunch break is also a good time to make any important personal calls, like setting up a doctor appointment.

Early evening: Business development

The best way to make sure I have client work to do the next day is to plan it out months in advance. Once I’ve finished my work day, I do the unpaid work of finding new leads and building relationships with them. I use a service called Workshop to send me leads, and once per week I email leads that I think are interesting. Each day, I respond to prospects (people who have emailed me back) and try to book them as clients.

Evening: Social / community life

I am active in various local community organizations, and that’s pretty much how I spend my time after I’m done working for the day. This is also when I chow down on the crockpot meal which has been smelling better as the hours go by :) I end my day by calling family and friends, and then it’s time to get ready for bed.

All days are not created equally

Life is always throwing me surprises that I have to adapt to. But I’ve found that by planning out my average day – and especially making sure to prioritize my personal goals – I’m able to meet my professional commitments, adapt to changing situations, and stay happy.

Are you thinking about freelancing? Are you wondering how your days would look? Now you know how at least one Ruby on Rails freelancer goes about his business.