Freelancers, Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Jefferey Spivey, Freelance Writer, Author & Blogger

July 25, 2019

Jefferey Spivey is a Freelance Writer, Author, Blogger, and Founder of Uptown Bourgeois.

More recently, Jefferey also wrote a great article on work-life balance for Medium’s The Startup publication ‘It’s Time to Rethink Work-Life Balance.’

Balance the Grind spoke to Jefferey about his freelance career and what’s involved on a day to day basis, how he keeps track of all his projects, scheduling in time for breaks as a freelancer, and plenty more.

This conversation is brought to you by HelloFresh, delivering delicious ingredients and simple recipes straight to your doorstep each week.

1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your background and career?

This is my fourth year as a full-time freelance writer and editor.

I’ve found my greatest success via Fiverr where I’m a Top Rated freelancer and vetted Fiverr Pro; however, I’m also a Top Rated freelancer on Upwork and I’ve generally had a great experience building my career through the freelance marketplaces.

But I had a more traditional start. I published my first political op-ed in the Pensacola News Journal at just 16 years old, and I went on to cover local politics and events for a few Florida papers. Then I took an 11-year detour into retail management before pivoting to blogging and web content.

2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?

As a freelancer, I really enjoy the flexibility of not having a traditional role or title.

I do a lot of content writing for small businesses; my specialty is bringing a journalistic edge to blog posts to help them stand out in a crowded field of generic content. I also edit and critique books for self-published authors. And I dabble in copywriting.

No two days are the same. I could spend all of Tuesday editing a short e-book about salmon fishing and Wednesday writing several pages of copy for a men’s grooming startup and Thursday researching an article about fertilizer dust.

My workweek has a lot of variety, and if my days have anything in common, it’s that they require me to wear different hats quite frequently.

3) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I’m not accountable to a boss or a single organization but I don’t take that freedom for granted. I’m really deadline-driven, and I need some semblance of structure to feel productive and keep my projects on track.

A typical day for me starts at 6:30 a.m. – I walk my dog, meditate for 10 minutes, write a page or two in my journal to empty my head, and then I listen to a few news podcasts while I make breakfast.

I put in a couple hours of writing, then I head to the gym for a mid-morning workout. When I’m back at home, I have a few solid hours of writing or editing. I usually break around 3 p.m. or so to take my dog on a longer walk and grab a late lunch.

From 4-7 p.m., I try to reach a stopping point on the day’s project and take care of housekeeping duties. If I’m lucky, I can squeeze in a little creative writing time (to develop a novel I’m working on).

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

I have an iPhone, and I love the basic calendar app. Once a week, I sit down and plan out each day in detail. I create blocks for work, for the gym, and for my breaks. This helps me visualize what each day looks like, and it also reinforces that, though I work for myself, I still have a schedule.

I also created an Excel spreadsheet to manage the specifics of my assignments. It’s a detailed breakdown of what the assignment is, when it’s due, who it’s for, and how long it will take to complete.

Every day, I toggle back and forth between my calendar and this spreadsheet to keep track of what’s going on.

5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

Scheduling time for breaks and dog walks really helps. That way, work doesn’t seem like the most important part of the day. The more enjoyable activities are scheduled right alongside my freelance duties.

I also work with my husband to create and maintain schedules for the non-work duties we need to tackle. We have a date night every Thursday; we do our grocery shopping on Fridays and household chores on Saturdays.

Though it might not sound fun or freeing, scheduling time for everything outside of work is really helpful and ensures that I don’t give myself over to work 100% of the time, which is easy to do when you work from home.

6) What does work life balance mean to you?

To me, work-life balance means not feeling overwhelmed by any one part of my life. It’s not a 50/50 split between my work and personal lives. It’s the split that works best for me on a given day or in a given week.

Every morning, I ask myself two questions, “What’s most important to me? How do I want to feel at the end of the day?”

The answers to these questions vary by the day. Some days, work productivity might be the most important thing to me, and I may spend the bulk of that day on a big work project.

But other days, my family might be the most important aspect of my life, and I’ll only work a few hours so that I can fulfill my familial obligations. My balance comes from being able to focus on what demands the most attention and not abiding by a strict set of guidelines.

7) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

The best habit I have is my weekly reflection. Every Friday, I set aside 15-30 minutes to recap the week. What worked? What didn’t? Did I achieve everything on my to-do list? This helps contextualize the week.

For example, there may be a week where I feel rundown and unproductive, but recapping my achievements for the week can help me see that I need to give myself more credit. It can be a big mood booster.

It can also help me pinpoint why something’s not getting done repeatedly. I can prioritize a delinquent task for the next week or I can reevaluate its importance altogether. I also do this at a higher level each month and quarter.

Ultimately, these reflections help me keep my yearly goals front and center, and they keep me focused on the right tasks.

8) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

Every year, I read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. It’s a short, impactful book that helps creatives remove the obstacles to their work. It illuminates the reasons behind procrastination and really serves as a swift kick in the butt. It reminds me that the only way to be a better writer is to write, plain and simple.

9) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

I follow my calendar religiously. It’s my guide to the day; it’s the structure I need to succeed. Without it, I have no way of knowing if I’m on target or if I’ve been productive.

10) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I’d just like to encourage people to find a work-life balance that works for them. It’s truly an individual concept, and each of us will define it differently. It’s important not to feel pressured to subscribe to a generic meaning or to pursue a type of balance that works for someone else’s life. Do what’s best for you.

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