With more than 10 years of freelancing behind me, I’ve developed a work routine which, while the work itself differs, is pretty much the same from day to day and helps me as a WordPress developer not only get paid work done, but increase my skills and market myself.
Getting Up to Speed
I’m generally at my desk around 7 – 7:30 am and the first thing I do is check my email which GMail as part of a Google Apps account. I try to get to inbox zero by doing the following:
- Highlight all of the emails as if to delete them all.
- Click off the highlight for emails I need to read.
This immediately gets rid of the numerous emails that are basically junk. Next, I work my way from the top down:
- If it is a digest, comic or something else short, I read it
- If it is a receipt I forward it to Evernote (Hint: Add hashtag+Receipt to the subject line will file the email in my Evernote Receipt folder.) and then delete it
- If it is a delivery notice, I put the delivery date on my calendar, along with the content of the email. (I just copy and paste) and then delete it
- If it is from a client I review it quickly. If I can answer a question or perform what is needed in less than 10 minutes, I just take care of it.
What is left in my inbox is stuff that will take more than 10 minutes to do. I generally take a quick break, review my local newspaper online, check the national headlines and my personal Facebook.
Getting up to speed generally takes less than half an hour.
Social Media Time
Starting in March I’ve been focusing on Twitter to build contact and relationships. This means carving out time. I use four tools to help me with Twitter, each with a different function.
Because I have a two-monitor setup, I generally have TweetDeck running on my second monitor with three columns: my general Twitter feed, my Notifications and as activity feed that shows Tweets containing “WordPress”. When I start up TweetDeck I check my notifications to see if there is anything I need to respond to. I then check the WordPress feed for anyone needing help. As a WordPress developer I’ve found some good clients responding to Twitter requests for help, but mostly I feel that helping people get familiar with WordPress is important. 99% of the people I help don’t turn into paying clients but that is fine.
Ignitwit is a tool that helps you find people to follow. It has some issues, and I use it mainly to find people to follow. I try to follow 5-10 people a day.
RiteTag is an awesome app that coaches me to write better Tweets. Using it I can make sure I’ve added keywords that users actually interact with and add images to my tweets. With the Chrome plugin, it works with Buffer.
I use Buffer to schedule tweets. I have a schedule of 10 tweet times and throughout the day I add tweets that look interesting. I try to only retweet other people’s tweets when my Buffer is full up. First, I don’t want to overwhelm my feed with a bunch of retweets. Second, I like to actually read the link I’m retweeting, perhaps rewording the tweet, adding hashtags and an image.
During my morning social media time I will pull out 3-4 tweets from TweetDeck that I’d like to tweet and set them up in Buffer.
All of this takes 15-30 minutes.
I use Feedly to follow blog posts. I usually have around 250 posts to review, but the majority don’t interest me.
You are probably asking – shouldn’t this be a spare time activity? Not at all – the majority of the blogs I follow related to my business. Part of what I do is introduce clients to new applications and technology for their websites. Self-education is a very important part of my career, so I make time for it daily. My routine is similar to email:
- I click on “All” and then use the “j” keyboard shortcut to scroll through the articles.
- If I see one that looks interesting I will stop and review it quickly.
- If it is longer than a few paragraphs or has information I want to review further I open the page in a browser tab, but I don’t read it now!
- If it is short and looks interesting, I’ll add it to Buffer as a tweet. I can usually fill up my buffer for the day
At the end I’m generally left with 5-10 browser tabs of articles. I move these to a separate window and minimize it to look at later.
You might ask why I don’t just send those articles to Evernote or something like Pocket. I’ve found I forget about them if I do. I simply haven’t taken the time to add a “review Evernote saved stuff” to my daily routine. I might do that in the future. For now, I deal with tabs.
This usually takes an hour.
It is now about 9:00 am and I get down to work. My work is generally divided into ongoing projects and short one-offs. I return to my inbox and get rid of any junk that has accumulated in the past hour and a half. Now I review the emails from top down:
- If the email pertains to an ongoing project, I read it and respond, if necessary, otherwise I add it to my project folder/checklist in Evernote.
- If it is a one-off that should take a short time (scripting a form handler, etc), I do ahead and take care of it.
- Requests for quotes may get an immediate response if only an informal response is needed. If a formal quote is needed I add it to my to-do list, send an email with any questions or clarifications, and let the person know when I should have the quote back to them.
Next I concentrate on my ongoing project(s) until around 4:00 (I eat lunch while working) or until my concentration fails. Due to the nature of programming as a WordPress developer, sometimes I need to walk away from the project and come back later – when this happens I’ll switch to another project, write up a quote, or take a walk.
While working I will take micro-breaks to scroll through my notifications in TweetDeck or my twitter feed, help someone who clicks on the “Chat” button on my website, etc. Overall, in this 6-hour period I usually get huge amounts of work done.
During my “work time” I don’t answer the phone (unless it is a relative) and I don’t look at my email. If I’m expecting an important email I’ll set up an alert in IFTTT to text me. I generally do look at texts, but I only answer the ones that are urgent. Most designers/project managers I work with respect this and use texting only for emergencies.
My work is always feast-or-famine. Either I have too much work all at once, or not enough. When I’m not working on projects for clients I try to keep busy:
- Writing blog posts that I can schedule ahead
- Working on WordPress plugins
- Learning new programming languages, methods and applications
Social Media and Writing
By 4 pm my mind is usually fried if I’ve been doing hard-core coding, so I check my email and go back to TweetDeck, Buffer and Feedly. For email, unless it is something I can do quickly, or requires an immediate response, I save it for tomorrow.
I go back and read the articles I saved earlier and read them, tweeting them if I find them interesting, adding them to a “To Write” list in Evernote, or just writing an article for my own blog if it spurred an idea.
It is at this time I try to write at least one post for my blog. My rule is to have 4-5 posts scheduled, so if writing doesn’t happen on a day, there are still posts to fill in. I also do some writing on the weekends and on the days when between projects.
Both the social media and the writing help me wind down for the day. My husband works out of our home as well, so he is usually at his desk writing articles for his blogs as well and we share ideas or information we found on the internet.
Time: 1-2 hours, sometimes a little more if I’m writing.
A Note on Client Contacts
I have a strict rule about client contacts outside of regular work hours as a result of a client calling and texting at all hours of the day and night. While I generally review my emails in the evening and on weekends, unless it is truly urgent – urgent meaning the site is down – I don’t take action until the next work day. This has been the hardest parameter to enforce, but it is the one that saves my sanity the most.
Additionally, because phone calls disrupt my attention so much when I’m coding, I keep my phone off during the day. Clients know the escalating methods of reaching me are:
- Email – majority of all information – perfect way to track a conversation
- Text – for urgent problems – can be a “Call Me!!!” msg.
- Phone Call – by appointment only. Always followed up by an email summarizing decisions/discussion