A Day in the Life of a Blogger and Comic Artist (in Japan)

When I tell people that I make my living writing about my life on the internet, they’re usually skeptical. Or envious. It’s fun seeing people’s reaction – especially when most assume I spend all day in my pajamas playing on social media, which is only partially true.

Creating content online is a real job, albeit one that leads to some uncomfortable and awkward questions. I’m here to shine some light behind the curtain and show you what happens behind the scenes, on a day-to-day basis.

Basically, this is a typical day in my life:

7:15AM – Wake up

Even though I work for myself, I still keep a schedule.

Working from home means I don’t have to commute to and stay at an office day, though, so on days when I wake up feeling sick, I will roll over and go back to sleep.

Ever since we moved to the countryside (and I got out of the office), that only happens once or twice a month, luckily.

7:30AM – Coffee, Breakfast, and Social Media

By this time, I’ve rolled out of bed and am on my first cup of coffee, scrolling through Social Media.

I check Twitter, Facebook, my blog stats, blog comments, my Etsy shop, comments on Tapastic (I recently joined), and YouTube comments, replying, liking, retweeting, and responding to people. I love interacting with people online; even though I don’t have coworkers, it feels like I have a community.

DIML DIML day in my life working from home drawing comics writing self employ

My husband is usually awake before me; he gets up anywhere between 5:00AM and 6:30AM (he’s weird). By the time I wake up, he has usually made breakfast and started a load of laundry.

When we moved out of Tokyo, we realized that I enjoyed working more than housework and he enjoyed housework more than working. Ryosuke freelances part-time, helps out with the YouTube channel, and takes care of most of the housework now, which has freed up time for me to spend on my blog, making videos, and drawing comics. We do laundry nearly every day, cook every meal from scratch, exercise together, and get plenty of “couple time.”

Our situation seems odd to people who don’t know us, but we’re happy. What we have works.

8:20AM – Email

Email… sucks (usually). Most the email I receive these days is from companies cold-calling and about 95% of those don’t pan out. A lot of it is something like:

“Dear blogger,

I read through your site and am very impressed by the writing you do. I was wondering if you would [give me ad space on your blog at a severely discounted rate OR write something for my magazine/blog/website – for “exposure” OR let me put a guest post on your blog full of affiliate links back to my product OR be an unpaid extra on my reality TV show OR let me send you a box of things and have you write about it on your blog OR promote my book/product/podcast/blog/website/seminar on social media].

Thank you,

-***Person who has obviously not read my blog”

Those are fairly easy to weed out. I get about 10 – 15 of them a day, from a number of companies. General rule of thumb if the email doesn’t have my name in it, it’s not worth reading. My name is prominent on the “About me” section, not using it is careless and lazy.

The rest is fan mail (which I LOVE) and offers from companies that require further action because they might actually pan out (but rarely do).

Between my company email, my personal email (which I used before I got a company email), and inboxes on social media, I get about 30 – 40 emails a day. It’s overwhelming and stressful and the longest I can check email without going crazy is about 20 minutes. If I have anything left after my 20 minutes, I tackle it later in the day.

8:45AM – 12:30PM Work (45 min on, 15 min off)

Before officially starting my “work-day,” I will change into comfortable, yet still semi-professional clothes like a nice shirt and jeans.

DIML day in my life working from home drawing comics writing self employ

My work changes every day.

Sometimes I write for my blog. Or research/brainstorm new posts. Or draw comics. Or make videos. Or write for one of my freelance projects.

I don’t freelance as much now as I did two years ago. I have an established income from blog, YouTube, and book sales now, and don’t need to write as much for outside sources in order to pay the bills. I kept some of my favorite clients (mostly magazines) and gradually stopped writing for everyone else, while still leaving on good enough terms that I could come back if my income from writing about my life on the internet suddenly tanks.

I split my “work time” between writing, drawing comics, and making videos for YouTube. I have a new book coming out in February and I’ve thrown myself into drawing more comics for it.

My trick for motivation is simple: I do 45 minutes of work and take a 15 minute break. 

During my breaks I nap in front of the window while listening to music, or read a book in the hammock, or go on a short walk around the block, or chat with my husband. The trick is to pick a “break” that you really enjoy and look forward to, so that you’re motivated during your work. I use the timer on my phone for breaks.

12:30PM – Make lunch

Ryosuke is in charge of breakfast and dinner; I do lunch. Right now I’m working my way through a cookbook I got from my dad (I can’t do about 60% of the recipes because our lack of oven, time constraints, and the inability to be able to find non-Japanese ingredients at the local grocery store).

On particularly crappy or particularly slow days, I spend 30 – 60 minutes cooking up a storm. It relaxes me.

One of my go-to “I hate my life” meals is breakfast tacos, fish tacos, and Thai peanut sauce over chicken.

I made this after a client screwed me over for 2 months of work - also the last time I did anything without a contract

I made this after a client screwed me over for 2 months of work – also the last time I did anything without a contract

If I’m busy or not in the mood to cook, I will throw something together in 5-10 minutes.

Popular meals are cooked fish & rice, raw sashimi fish over rice, yakisoba, yakiudon, dipping soba, ramen, pasta, fried rice, stir fry over rice, PB&J, ginger pork sandwiches, or a tuna sandwiches. Most days my husband is also at home and therefore I have to put a bit of extra effort into whatever I’m making. On days when he happens to be working outside the house, I get really lazy with the cooking.

1:30PM – 4:00PM – Work 

Same deal, 45 min on and 15 min off.

4:00PM – 5:00PM – Exercise

My current exercise of choice is brisk walking (laugh all you want, it’s great exercise!). There are a few nice biking/walking paths near my house that I take advantage of. I try to time my walks to when the sun sets, since it’s winter, that’s around 4:30PM. In the summer, of course, it’s much later.

Sunsets are one of my favorite of nature’s miracles and, unless I am buried in work, I make time to witness it every day. Some days are pretty. Other days are lame. It’s a coin toss.

5:00PM – 7:00PM – Work

Since it’s later in the day, my concentration is shot and I switch to 40 minutes on and 20 minutes off.

DIML day in my life working from home drawing comics writing self employ

7:00 – 7:45PM – Dinner

My husband is an excellent cook.

7:45PM – 8:45PM – Work things I hate

Most of the time, I like my job… but there are some things I hate.

Recording receipts for self-employment taxes, writing up contracts, chasing down websites that have ripped pictures of me from my blog and using them without permission/credit and filing DMCA takedown notices, replying to business emails, etc. I save everything I hate doing for the end of the day.

8:45PM – 10:30PM Work or leisure time

If I’ve been productive all day, I will reward myself with drawing comics while watching TV. If it’s a heavy work day or I have deadlines coming up, I will keep working well into the evening.

And, on the rare days I’ve finished everything, I will play card games or watch a movie with my husband, or each of us reads books on the couch.

As you can tell, we don’t get out much. We meet up with friends most weekends, visit my husband’s parents or siblings at least once a month, and “cowork” with other freelancers/self-employed people a couple of times a month… but the majority of our working life is spent in this room, working side-by-side. In the beginning, I was worried working together might destroy our marriage but, while it certainly does add complications, we can both say with full confidence that we love working together.

 

And there it is! Hopefully this has given you a better window into what my daily life looks like.

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

39 Comments on A Day in the Life of a Blogger and Comic Artist (in Japan)

  1. Thanks for letting us into your daily life! Do you work Monday-Friday then, and generally take the weekends off? It’s interesting because your work day is very similar to how I structured my days when I was writing a Master’s thesis. If you don’t have the structure made for you, it’s really essential to make your own structure so you keep on top of everything and not go crazy. Husbands who cook are the best ^^

    • I usually work 4-6 days a week, regardless of what day it is. If I’m hanging out with friends/going into Tokyo for stuff on a Wednesday, I will make up for it by working on Saturday. It really depends on how much work I need to get done, though.

  2. Eric Janson // 24 December, 2015 at 3:03 am //

    Thanks Grace! You and I have found different paths – I usually start with the things I don’t like and get them out of the way. But I am starting to think that maybe you have found a better approach… more energy on what I do like and too bad for the rest.

  3. Great blog post, thanks.

    The time-management during work (focus for 40-45 min, relax for 15-20 min) is not too too different from the Pomodoro cycles that are becoming popular in some circles (especially programming).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique

    The Pomodoro “cadence” is: work 25 min, rest ~5 min…repeat four times, then take a long rest (15-30 min)…then do 2-4 sets/day depending on your stamina.

    Also I’m wondering how comfortable your desk setup is…this month in Korea I was surprised to see a couple sit/stand desks; they have been popular in the U.S. for a few years now but I had not seen them in Asia before this month.

    The breakfast taco pic looks ridiculously good. Probably better than any place here in Austin (excluding the homemade/fresh tortillas here).

    • Hmmmm, pomodoro technique sounds interesting! I’m going to try that out. I’m always looking for new ways to boost productivity (and decrease boring-ness of work).

      Ryosuke and I did buy a standing desk (ish – it’s really a kitchen appliance that happens to be the perfect height for standing), but it hurts my back to use for more than an hour or so, so I don’t use it as often as I should. Oops.

  4. I feel your pain on taxes. I worked in Europe for a few months a couple years ago, and it screwed up my taxes so badly I went to H&R Block to figure it out for me. Best $100 I ever spent. I’ve always gone and seen an accountant to help me do my taxes ever since! Prior to that, I’d always done taxes on my own. I’m moving overseas for work next year, but I still have this year’s taxes to do, and my taxes are a big pain in the ass since I hold down three different jobs at the moment, one of which is freelancing. I’ve been putting off having a meeting with my accountant, but I need to soon because I move in less than a month. ==;;;

    Walking is one of my favourite exercises, too! And I also try to go out for a walk around sunset as well! I live right next to the ocean right now, and I am going to miss it when I move! Walking-as-exercise solidarity!

    • Ugh taxes. We’re looking for a good accountant this year, because trying to figure it all out on my own last year took a solid 3 weeks. It was so freaking stressful.

      Trying to find someone in Tokyo who speaks English and Japanese AND understands self employment taxes in both Japan and America is proving… difficult. But I will keep hunting till I find one!

  5. I love this post! Usually I like watching your “Day in Life” videos but this is more informational. I’m envious that you’re so disciplined, lol. I’m currently working a 7 to 4 job during the weekdays, and I’ve tried being productive in my free time, but it seems like all my body wants to do is watch Netflix and nap.

    But thank you for sharing!

    • Gha. 7am is early! Good luck.
      Being productive is… hard (especially trying to focus after a long day of work). I’d recommend just sticking to 30 min a day and going from there?

  6. Hey, I love my walks! Who is knocking walking? Silly people. It’s the best exercise there is, next to yoga. And dancing. But I need a partner for dancing and when I am walking, my partner is usually my dog. (You could not ask for a more enthusiastic walking partner.)

    I’m a person with a schedule, too, even if I’m not making money from my blog. The schedule keeps me grounded.

    Thanks for sharing your tricks of the trade!

    • Right? Who knocks walking. Walking is awesome.

      I do really want to get into dancing, though. It seems like a great (and FUN) way to exercise. It’s awesome that you and Andy can do it together~

  7. Great read ! I was sad when I went to Webtoon and saw you decided to slow down over there as well. But happy to see you are on tapastic. I created an account but have been too lazy to post anything there since ( ´ ▽ ` )ノ

    • Hahaha, good luck on Tapastic! User-wise, I like the layout of Tapastic MUCH more, because they allow you to schedule things to post ahead of time. I’m about to be in the hospital for two weeks, so it was nice being able to set everything up to post while I was gone.
      Webtoons still doesn’t have that feature, so Ryosuke will have to go in an manually post the comic at the right time. It’s little things like that, that make the Webtoons application difficult to commit 100% to…

  8. I want to thank you for taking your time to lay out your daily schedule for us and explaining the reasoning behind the choices you’ve made. We all work differently, so it is important for us to know how and why other people schedule their lives. For me, this blog entry was really inspiring. As others have said, personal time-management is not a strong suit of mine, so to see how often you take breaks and still get the work done was important for me to read. Again, thank you for opening up your life to us~!

    • Thank you!
      I think everyone struggles with time-management (well, except for those people who are just naturally gifted). But it’s kinda embarrassing to admit it.

      I’m a big fan of peeking into people’s life – so I wanted to let people do the same for me~!

  9. You have a work ethic that I envy! I recently had to cut way back on blogging because I just found it too stressful, because I set myself a schedule that basically allowed for no breaks, no stuff that didn’t pertain to my blog, so between that and the guilt of actually sometimes doing non-bloggy stuff, I just cracked and had to stop. I like your idea of working for 45 minutes and then taking a break for 15; if I did something like that when I go back to blogging, it might save my sanity.

    I’m just terrible at time-management.

    But it was really interesting to see this glimpse into how your days go, and how you manage to keep up doing so much with your blog and comics and YouTube. Many thanks for the inspiration and advice!

    • Ah! The guilt!!!
      That drives me crazy. Even cutting back to one post a week makes me feel SO FREAKING guilty. But trying to keep up with a regularly schedule is unbelievably stressful… And don’t even get me started on time-management. I’m the master at procrastinating on the tasks I hate and only working on the things I like (which, of course, messes with my schedule).
      Good luck with blogging in 2016!

  10. My whole life, my parents were self employed (and still are) and they’re constantly working so I can totally understand. One thing that I really liked is that when I was sick, it was fairly easy for my mom to keep working at home and not going to the office so she could take care of me, perhaps in a standard job it wouldn’t be so easy.

    I decided that for now I’m happy with my 9-6 job (even with lots of unpaid overwork time). Sometimes I dream about being self employed but I know that it’s not easy, specially money wise. And I’m not so talented as you are!

    Anyway thanks for sharing, I believe that people don’t really understand how much effort you have to put keeping all this. It’s definately not easy.

    • I think that’s what I like the most about our current jobs. When either of us is sick, it’s so easy to take time off. When we have kids, it’s going to be a lifesaver.

      I’m with you on the difficulties of self-employment, though. I wonder if it’s worth it somedays, because our income varied wildly month-by-month and it’s really stressful trying to figure out self-employment taxes, savings, insurance, etc. I wonder if I’d be better suited for a more regularly structured job.

  11. Wow you work long hours! I do love the results though!

  12. Anyone who thinks you have it easy, because you are self employed, would be so wrong. Your day is super filled with work and such. Even though you are self employed, I think you work quite a lot during the course of the day, probably more than most people do. Well, thank you for all the effort you put in, it makes me happy to read your comics, read your blog, follow your YouTube channel and read your books also. Truly, thanks for making my day always.

    • Thank you! That really means a lot when people say that.
      Ryosuke always jokes that we work more (and harder) at home than we ever did working with other companies. We love the work we do, though, which is probably why we work so hard.

  13. This was the perfect post to keep me company on my lunch break! :D
    I think it’s funny (your) Ryosuke gets up early to get stuff done, mine usually sleeps in till the afternoon if we don’t have anything pressing to do. :(
    i will definitely be trying this 45 on, 15 off method while studying during winter break!

    • Good luck with it! The 45 min on 15 min off method has really saved me. I wish I had learned about it when I was still in college, it could have made doing assignments SO MUCH more productive.

  14. Grace, Can you explain how you do taxes overseas? I know that American citizens/aliens must do taxes when they work overseas. I am an alien and I am about to go work in Shanghai, and I don’t know how to do taxes alone, nor do I know if I can get any american tax help in Shanghai.

    • I feel like [whatever country you’re a citizen in] embassy can help you with taxes. Have you tried google? Just to get a bird’s eye view?

    • I’m not Grace, but I have some experience doing US taxes from Japan. My uncle is an accountant in the US, so he has always done my taxes. I send attachments of what he needs (mostly just a translation of my income statement) as well as information such as bank account balances and what days I was in the US for that year. It works well for me, but if you don’t currently have a US accountant already it might not be the best choice. Finding a US accountant in Shanghai might be the easiest/best choice for the first year at least. You should be able to find some people in your area if you search for it on Google or another search engine. You might have to contact a few people before you find the right fit, but it will probably be worth not having to stress about filing your first overseas taxes incorrectly. In Japan, at least, most of the US accountants had e-mail contacts on their pages, so it’s likely that you can find an accountant even before you go to Shanghai.

      I did a little bit of searching and found this page: US Taxes Abroad for Dummies (update). It has some basic information so it might be useful.

      Anyway, good luck with everything!

      • Eric Janson // 24 December, 2015 at 3:12 am //

        Ditto that, Anonymouse! I have worked 15 years outside of the US in three different countries. Despite the tax treaties, foreign tax credits and such, you need an expert to help you pay what’s due in each country but not more. I have a physics degree and and MBA and I tell you truly that I cannot understand all the forms required of an expat on the US return, let alone the ones from the host country…. hire The Man and pay him, and don’t worry the cost! And good luck with your projects, may you (and Grace, too) be so successful that you need a Big Eight firm to help you ;-)

    • Anonymouse has the right idea – I highly recommend trying to find a tax accountant to do the taxes for you. Short answer (at least in my case) is that yes, you DO have to file taxes. Since a portion of my income comes from Japanese companies (what I pay taxes on) and self-employment income (that I pay taxes on in both Japan and America), it’s really complicated and after spending several weeks trying to do it myself (and paying WAY too much in taxes) last year, I’m going to hire someone to do it for me this year.

  15. It sounds like an awesome life! Thanks for sharing with us!

  16. People have no idea how much work and energy go into freelancing. I’m glad that you are honest with your readers. Keep on blogging and making YouTube videos!

  17. thanks for the snapshot of your life, very interesting and somewhat slice of lifeish…very japanese!!!

  18. I love reading your blog Grace x] I can really relate to some of your stories… Haha my hubby is also in charge of cooking dinner xD

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