How to work at night

I love the word “free” in “freelancer”. This means you can have location freedom, financial freedom, and time freedom. Let’s talk about time freedom (you can work at any time).

I’ll zoom in to the freelancer’s night shift. Here are my suggestions:

1. Show up prepared

Take a shower. Eat well. Basic stuff. But it helps when you look, smell, and feel good.

2. Start with something that will pump you up.

Studies show some good things about things like music, motivation, and spirituality. For example, I can:

– start with faster paced gospel music

– read the bible

– read a motivational book

– read a compelling blog post

– take one lesson in a course

– pray

Such things get you ready for the heavy-lifting ahead.

3. Plan your work batches

You’re now looking, feeling, and smelling fresh.

You’re energized and in the right frame of mind.

Aim to have 3 batches of deep work (90-minute spurts of high energy work).

You can choose how you’ll do it. You can even start with something a bit shallow before going deeper.

4. If you start with shallow work (things that don’t spend so much cognitive energy)…

…you can tick off things like reading emails and responding only to the most important ones. You can do the same on social media.

You’ll reply to the casual stuff later when work is done (note that if you finish work late, you’ll skip responding to the casual ones altogether).

Here, the only shallow work you’re allowed to do is responding to your clients, trainers, and trainees only.

5. As you still do some shallow stuff, you can evaluate the previous day’s achievements

Note down the gaps. This will help you come up with a checklist of what MUST be done tonight.

For example, let’s say your team delivers 10,000 words daily (so maybe you each write 2,500 words). And yesterday, you delivered 6k words total.

You, therefore, need to find out how you can deliver way more per day so that you meet that deficit.

Here’s the very first thing you’ll do to take care of it…

6. Get into your first BURST of deep work — 90 minutes of intense, cognitively demanding stuff

I’d recommend you start with client search. Look for clients even if you already have clients.

Let’s say I’m doing Upwork tonight.

I’ll turn off my phone, close all tabs, and just open Upwork.

I’d then scan multiple jobs and open so many in new tabs (usually 32 to 36 tabs).

I then read each job post and select 8 to 15+ that I’ll apply for.

If you’re top-rated, you can apply for as many as you want. If you’re a total beginner, just apply for 3 carefully selected jobs in Upwork per day, then apply for the other jobs in other platforms.

Overall, always go for 10 job applications per day. Back to my example:

After selecting the best possible jobs from the many tabs, I intensely apply using a fresh, customized proposal. This is so deep it literally drains your mental energy. But it’s the most rewarding here in terms of $$$.

7. Take care of the music

Music still helps you with confidence, creativity, and productivity.

But you need full concentration when applying for jobs.

When in this BURST of work, if you usually listen to music, tune in to slower music, and reduce the volume. If music distracts you, turn it off.

Or if you’re like me, you can even put one song on repeat. Just keep the focus on work, and not music.

8. After those 90 minutes on Upwork, you can take your first break

And by a break, I mean a break, not social media or anything that will involve your mind.

Here’s the problem with social media:

You may get that KOT have trolled you, and it messes up your night.

Or maybe your crush has blue-ticked you.

So, please don’t do social. Keep your phone off.

Pace around the house. Stretch. Eat some fresh grapes. Anything. Just go away from any screen.

9. Go into your second BURST of deep work

This can be writing articles.

For example. I’d start with research, open multiple tabs, take it all in, then start writing in my own words.

I like writing on the Notepad software so that I don’t see these distracting red, blue, or green editing marks. I write first then edit later.

I keep saving as I write then paste the final thing to MS Word, insert any necessary graphics, and do intense editing.

Even when writing on Notepad (I’m writing this on Notepad, too), I save it all in Google Drive. That way, even if lights go or my computer fries, the work is still available online in an instant.

If like some of you, I’m blessed with different machines, I can just turn on the second machine, open the Google Drive folder, open the file, and continue working.

I nowadays edit using Grammarly and MS Word’s Editor. That’s exactly how I’ve edited this post.

I then use MS Word’s Read Aloud feature to ensure it all “sounds” well. Sounding well is very important. That’s why someone may say something like, “Walter, you write like you’re speaking to me face to face!”.

If it’s not urgent, I can let it “sit” so that I read through again later with fresh eyes.

10. Take the second break

You can allow yourself to check one or two things on social media or reply to one or two casual emails. Or you can do an off-screen break. After all, you’ve knocked down 2/3 of what you’re to do tonight. Congrats!

11. When done with the break, you may want to lower the volume some more if you’re listening to music.

Go for the really slow type now. If possible, you can even just go for instrumentals. You’re, in essence, getting ready to sleep after your third BURST.

For example, if you love Hillsong music, you can go to YouTube and search for “Hillsong 2-hour piano instrumentals”.

12. You’re now going to your final BURST of deep work

Let’s say you’ll take this time responding to emails from your trainees.

Read every email carefully. Answer all questions. Feel free to include screenshots and examples to make it all clear.

Share the latest tips you’ve learned from actual client work.

And remember to always encourage people. These are tough times.

Your aim is to see so many of your trainees succeeding in the profession.

13. You’re now literally drained. And the slow music has made you a bit sleepy.

It’s around 7am to 8am.

You’ve applied for 10 jobs.

You’ve hit your target word count.

You’ve sorted out all your trainees.

You can now work on some of the shallow work you still have pending (only if you have time). This includes responding to casual emails, texts, social media comments, etc.

If you don’t have time for these, you’ll do them later since they don’t have much impact on your productivity.

Working at night is fantastic. No distractions since everyone is asleep. It’s super-quiet.

It can be the most productive for some people. Only do it if you’re not one of those who will sleep in the middle and waste it all.

Remember, you’re a freelancer. So, when schools re-open, you can go back to your morning routine. Or you can shift to an afternoon routine. You have total time freedom. You can work any time you want!

Just keep being super-productive, hitting your goals, and helping others. That’s the aim. Not to enslave yourself to only one routine.

Enjoy your night shift 😊