Here’s Everything I Earned — And Learned — In My First Year as a Freelancer

I’d just about landed my dream job.

I used to be a employees author at a well-read, worthwhile weblog — a job that got here with duties and challenges I beloved, in addition to a great deal of soft advantages. (And no, I’m not simply speaking it up as a result of that job occurred to be proper right here at The Penny Hoarder.)

However I’ve all the time had itchy toes, and the highway was calling — as had been my getting old mother and father, who lived a couple of hours away and will use extra assist round the home than they had been able to admit. I needed to be there for them earlier than that “may use” changed into “wanted.”

So after I took a deep breath and hit the ship button on my official resignation e-mail in December 2016, I used to be greater than somewhat nervous. And never simply because was I testing of a place that had quite a lot of promise (and had been a enjoyable strategy to spend 15 months).

I had no thought what my life as a full-time freelance author would have in retailer for me. Properly, apart from the promise of working in PJs and yoga pants the overwhelming majority of the time.

Right here’s Precisely What I Earned in My First 12 months as a Freelancer

Because it seems, I used to be appropriate on that entrance… however that was about the one factor I predicted. My first 12 months as a full-time freelancer got here with quite a lot of surprises, and never all of them had been good ones.

However in the long run, I didn’t simply survive the W-9 world — I succeeded. I cleared $50,000 in my first 12 months as a contract author and scored greater than a dozen new bylines. That’s a number of thousand greater than I used to be making whereas I used to be engaged on wage, though it doesn’t embrace the advantages I now pay for completely out of my very own pocket, like well being care and retirement.

What I realized alongside the best way is more durable to quantify, after all. However for these of you who need to construct your personal freelance enterprise and are experiencing the identical nervous pleasure I did, right here’s a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of my earnings — and the even-more-valuable insights that got here together with them:

Quarter One: $eight,298.75*

This isn’t a horrible complete, particularly since at this level, most of my shoppers — all 4 of them — had been both blogs I’d already written for (like, um, this one) or connections I’d made by my present community.

I used to be additionally working a part-time coffee-shop job for the primary couple months, principally with a view to safe well being care, but it surely quickly turned an unjustifiable time expense as my net of shoppers expanded.

Quarter Two: $14,827.25

Fairly a bounce, proper? Largely, my potential to tug in nearly double what I earned within the first quarter was because of a compromise — one I used to be fairly not sure about at first.

Considered one of my most important anchor shoppers, who paid me ten cents per phrase for pretty simple copywriting, requested if I’d be prepared to put in writing for eight cents per phrase… however with the reassurance of a sure minimal quantity of content material every week. Briefly, I’d be writing extra for much less cash, however I’d have an all-but-guaranteed, dependable stream of revenue.

Even with the pay lower, I earned a fantastic deal extra from that shopper in Q2 than in Q1, when a number of weeks glided by devoid of assignments completely. I’d additionally been busy in Q2 pitching new concepts and retailers — retailers who paid a better fee per article than most of my present contacts. Though I solely scored three new bylines, these shoppers alone accounted for $2,000 of this quarter’s earnings.

Quarter Three: $13,975

Though I earned barely lower than I did in Q2 earnings, by Q3, I used to be cooking with gasoline. I’d taken up some work I hadn’t anticipated, together with retail-website copy and an e-book, and I’d additionally garnered thrilling bylines with recognizable publications like SELF and VinePair. (The right way to land dreamy publications, you ask? Persistence and thick pores and skin. About 85% of my 2017 pitches had been rejected — or ignored completely.)

Quarter 4: $12,945

Because the anchor shopper I discussed above is within the journey and hospitality area, fall and winter are thought of their sluggish seasons. Thus, my weekly copy quota obtained in the reduction of a bit. I wasn’t tremendous happy to get this information, which got here simply in time for the vacations… and my pricey, already-booked, months-long abroad sojourn.

However fortunately, by this level, I’d constructed up sufficient momentum and common shoppers to have a stable base revenue. Actually, the cutback ended up working in my favor, since I had extra time to discover my international locations.

First-12 months Complete: $50,046 (!!)

After all, I didn’t even have Scrooge McDuck-style stacks to roll round in. Freelance earnings are available in matches and begins and don’t account for taxes, which it’s essential to withhold your self.

After paying Uncle Sam his lower — roughly 35% of my gross complete together with revenue and self employment tax, which is barely greater than I’d been taxed as a staffer — my internet revenue was right down to roughly $32,500, about $1,500 of which I caught straight into my IRA. I do know, I do know, I ought to have maxed it out; with my earnings, $5,500 was completely doable. However I used to be concurrently constructing my emergency fund, which at present is over $10,000.

I additionally paid somewhat over $500 in month-to-month medical insurance premiums, an expense that might have been a lot larger — like, 1000’s of larger — if I hadn’t certified for that nifty Obamacare subsidy I’m completely undecided I really qualify for anymore. (Be aware to self: Name accountant.)

Even so, I touched extra money this 12 months than I did as a salaried employee, and I didn’t must rely trip days or go into an workplace. I additionally solely labored about 25 hours per week on common.

I believe that requires some Champagne, don’t you?

Wish to Begin a Freelance Enterprise? Right here’s My Recommendation

That #freelancelife isn’t all the time simple, but it surely’s worthwhile and completely achievable if you happen to’re devoted. Right here’s what I want somebody had informed me earlier than I’d began:

1. Nothing is a positive factor, so don’t spend cash you don’t have.

Bear in mind how I stated I went a number of weeks with none assignments in Q1? Properly, I didn’t go any weeks with out having to purchase groceries.

Freelance shoppers are sometimes late with funds, and tasks are often mentioned that by no means come to fruition. There’s no assure till there’s a assure — and typically, not even then. So if in any respect doable, don’t spend cash until it’s really bodily current in your checking account. (This implies you, Q1 Jamie, expensing a visit to Portland on credit score.)

2. Make the most of long-term agreements — even when it means a decrease pay fee.

Clearly, this rule gained’t work in each scenario; you’ll have to assess what your work is price based mostly by yourself private topography of accessible time and shoppers.

That stated, I’m so glad I stated sure to that two-cent pay lower, particularly because the shopper in query pays on time and on a weekly foundation (bless). These sorts of preparations will pay dividends in the long term, so don’t overlook them!

three. Say sure as typically as doable, at the least at the start.

I undoubtedly took some work that wasn’t actually in my wheelhouse in 2017 — together with writing an e book on courting —one which was directed towards serving to single males turn out to be… extra profitable of their efforts to… woo girls. (Discover I didn’t write “choose up chicks.” I did all the pieces in my energy to attempt to use the chance to de-sleazify the courting scene just a bit.)

After all, writing towards the sorts of content material you wish to pursue is one of the simplest ways to construct the shopper base and profession you need. However while you’re first beginning, each penny and byline counts — so don’t be too picky about who you’ll write for.

four. That stated, DON’T WORK FOR FREE.

Or if you happen to do, don’t make a behavior of it. Sure, you want clips and bylines, however “publicity” doesn’t put meals on the desk.

5. Simply maintain swimming pitching.

It’s time-intensive and infrequently thankless; you’ll be rejected tons and listen to nothing in any respect much more.

However pitching — or regardless of the outreach equal is in your freelance enterprise of alternative — is completely important to increasing your shopper roster. Though it’s indirectly incomes you cash proper now, it’s best to undoubtedly think about it an everyday duty. Put aside time to do it and rely these hours as a part of your work week.

6. Separate out your taxes IMMEDIATELY.

Simply make an entire separate checking account and funnel a 3rd of your earnings straight into it. Take into account it Uncle Sam’s cash: It doesn’t belong to you, so don’t contact it. Don’t even go there.

(Till, after all, quarterlies come up and also you get to put in writing four-figure checks to the IRS. Like I stated, freelancing’s not all rainbows and unicorns.)

7. Max out your IRA if in any respect doable.

I actually, actually want I’d accomplished so this 12 months — and to be trustworthy, I undoubtedly may have if I hadn’t prioritized journey. It’s solely $5,500, in any case.

Should you can’t max out your IRA contribution, at the least arrange automated weekly withdrawals and issue them into your regular finances. Relying in your revenue and bills, even $100 every week can turn out to be unnoticeable after a month or two, and also you’ll be thanking your youthful self while you’re arising on retirement time.

Taking the freelance plunge was scary, but it surely’s among the best choices I’ve ever made — and you are able to do it, too. Now to see what 2018 will convey. My purpose: to gross $60,000, earn at the least 5 new bylines and focus extra on enjoyable, artistic tasks.

Good luck, you entrepreneurial Penny Hoarders!

*Creator’s notice: These figures symbolize complete revenue generated in a given quarter, relatively than complete revenue really obtained. One other essential factor you be taught as a freelancer: Even when your deadline is in June, you may not see the cash till August, so all the time be certain you’ve a hefty security cushion!

Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) has written for VinePair, SELF, Ms. Journal, Roads & Kingdoms, The Write Life, Barclaycard’s Journey Weblog, Santander Financial institution’s Prosper and Thrive and different retailers. Her writing focuses on meals, wine, journey and frugality.

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