A Day in the Life | Freelance Tour Guide

     I realised recently that I’ve mentioned the fact that I’m working as a tour guide in a few posts, but I’ve never really written about it properly or anything. It’s been a long time since I did my last ‘day in the life’, back when I was working multiple jobs, so it seemed like a good time to update with my current situation.

'Free Tour Guide' text on background of Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

     My schedule is pretty similar day to day, as the company I work for is pretty new, so groups are often small or can cancel, so I work lots to make up my income. It’s also owned by a couple of friends, so I’m happy to help them out. Also worth explaining, technically I don’t work for the company, as I’m a freelance guide. I can choose my work rota, alongside the other guides. I pay the company a marketing fee per person on each tour, which they use to attract customers, and then people donate at the end of the tour what they think it was worth, and I keep my profits. So some days are more profitable than others, but that’s just part of the deal! Anyways, here’s a typical day:

9.00am – Wake up

9.40am – Actually roll out of bed. I’m not a morning person, I need multiple alarms to get my butt out of bed. And I don’t do anything else in the morning other than the bare minimum to get ready for work!

10.45am – Arrive on the Royal Mile. It’s only a twenty minute walk from where I live, which is convenient. Normally I’m there fifteen minutes before the tour, to make sure we start on time, and to potentially talk to customers, or I end up discussing stuff with the boys.

11am – City Tour. This is a two hour tour of the Old Town of Edinburgh, and it covers a little bit of everything. There’s sightseeing and lots of history, but also recommendations, Scottish culture in the wider sense, literature, and some funny, interesting stories. It’s my favourite of the three tours, as the content is the most diverse, so I don’t get bored of it, and it’s all stuff about my country and my home, which I’m very proud of! This is the tour I do every single day for now, though we do have another guide who’ll start doing one or two a week soon, so I get a day off.

1pm – Finish tour. I then have most of the afternoon free. First, I’ll normally do my tour admin, recording how many people I had and my income and such – necessary when you’re self-employed! I often do errands and shopping on the way home if needed. Some days I’ll meet a friend for coffee or lunch. If the weather is nice (so more in the summer months!), I might grab a lunch to go and head off somewhere else in Edinburgh for a walk or a hike, especially if I’m not working in the evening and therefore don’t have to rush back. Or, most of the time, I go home, have lunch, and try to do some writing, whether for this blog or the other, or the longer projects I’m now trying to work on. This is usually interspersed with breaks – i.e. me getting distracted and watching too much Netflix!


1.30pm – Harry Potter Tour. I only do this a couple of days a week, as we have two other guides who do it most of the time, so I only cover when they’re unavailable. I have to grab a quick lunch between tours as well! It’s an hour and a half, covering places J.K. Rowling went to in Edinburgh. I enjoyed Harry Potter growing up as a child, but I find this tour a little bit boring and I think the Potter stuff is overdone in Edinburgh. So I do it when required, but it’s not my favourite. I’ll finish by 3pm, and then go home and relax a little or do some writing etc.

6pm – Ghost Tour. So I’ll have wound up home again eventually after either of the two listings above, and then most evenings I head back to the Royal Mile for the ghost tour. This is also an hour and half, and goes down the other end of the Royal Mile. There’s ghost stories of course, but also generally gruesome stories about criminals and murders and the like. This one is hit or miss for me. Sometimes I do enjoy it, especially when people get into the spirit, and I get to be all dramatic and focus on storytelling; other nights I’m just not in the mood, or it’s hard to go for the performance if the group aren’t responding so well. It’s also usually the least well paid of the three for some reason. I go through phases with this one!


1pm/3pm – One of the other guides does the ghost tour an average of twice a week, so sometimes I finish for the day at 1 or 3pm, depending on which tours I’m doing that day. In which case, the afternoon will be as described above, and then just spill on into the early evening! These nights off are also when I’m likely to catch up with other friends – especially those who work Mon-Fri day jobs – usually over dinner out somewhere.

8.30pm – Yoga. I’ve been in the habit of daily practice (at least as many days as possible) for the last few months, and am doing my best to continue. I’ve found that evenings are my preferred time to do it, after I’m back from work  – not always bang on 8.30pm mind, and I’ll do it earlier if I’m not working and have other plans for the evening. I use low lighting, and it’s the time when the heating is on in the flat, so I’m comfortable and relaxed, and it just helps me wind down at the end of the day and clear my head for a while.

9pm – Depends on how long the yoga practice is, but usually by this time I’m more or less done. Sometimes I might still be out for the evening, or I’ll be going for drinks or a night out, especially at the weekends. Otherwise, this is the time when I’ll have dinner (earlier if I haven’t had the ghost tour), and then chill out with some Netflix for a couple of hours before bed. Sometimes I randomly start writing again if the mood strikes, or if my flatmates are in the living room then we’ll catch up for a bit.

12am – Sleep. I try not to stay up too far past midnight most of the time, it just depends on how I feel. 1am has to be the very latest if I want eight hours!

     Overall, I’m pretty happy with how things are. Some days I don’t feel like doing the tours, of course, but that’s just part of life and any job I think. I’m grateful I don’t have early mornings, and I make a good amount of money considering how short my hours are most days, though of course, there’s no guarantees given the way free tours work. I don’t have days off right now – I did five months solid without a break up until Christmas – but that will change soon, and it’s not like I’m exhausted and burned out by it.

     I like the job overall though, as I think I’m good at speaking in front of groups, and making it funny and engaging, and I’ve gotten so much more interested in history myself since starting this. Meeting all different people can be interesting – again, depending on my mood, as some days I just don’t feel like chatting much. I get on super well with the boys who own the company – we regularly socialise and go drinking together outside of work – and I have plenty of free time to see other friends and for my other interests.