On January 11th, 2020, I walked out of my office building for the last time.
I didn’t really know what to expect, and felt a little crazy to be honest. But I set goals and got to work right away (actually, a little before).
As I approach my one year anniversary of going my own way, I’m taking some time to reflect on my first year in business.
I made a total of $21,900 revenue in 2020 from freelancing.
Honestly, I missed my goal by about $2,000. When I left my job, I set out to bring in $2,000 each month in freelancing income for the year.
If you live in a metropolitan area like me, you’re probably thinking that $21k isn’t enough to live off of — and you’re right. Freelancing wasn’t my sole source of income this year.
I was lucky to be able to teach part-time in various capacities throughout the year to round out my schedule and income, and also built a safety net of savings before leaving my job (yet to be touched!)
And of course, I drastically reduced my spending. While I had a plan in place for this from the start, COVID restrictions and my own health-neuroticism really helped me here.
Here are some of the types of projects I’ve worked on this past year as a freelancer:
- Writing contributor blog content in the form of company, service, and product reviews
- Ghostwritten blog content for companies and authority websites
- Wrote articles for branded magazines
- Sourced experts and did original reporting for websites
- Developed a blog strategy for a local business owner
- Editing e-books by independent authors
- Content editing for niche blogs
- Writing summaries of professional development books
- Academic editing
- Social media management
I point these out because prior to leaving my job, I could only honestly say I’d worked on two of these types of projects. One of the best feelings this past year has been the opportunity over and over again to be entrusted to learn and execute something new.
This last year has been a whirl of learning by doing, but I invested time and money in other concrete learning.
- Paid online courses: When I first gave my notice at my job, I felt very overwhelmed by everything I thought I had to do to get started. I found an online course that gave me a solid checklist and path forward, turning my overwhelm into action.
- HubSpot Academy: I am honestly so impressed by the wealth of resources available on HubSpot’s platform. I finished the Inbound Marketing certification in November 2020 and got such great perspective on what’s going on behind the scenes of content planning, sparking a fire in me to learn more about content strategy and management. I can’t wait to dive into their Social Media and SEO trainings early this year to round out my foundation.
- Slack and Facebook networking groups: Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know, and that’s why learning from others through exposure is so important. I’ve had great inspiration for resources to check out, and learned about new types of work I didn’t even know existed. Plus, it’s really empowering to ‘surround’ yourself with others who are making their dreams come true — a reminder that what you’re working toward is possible!
Opportunities freelancing brought me:
- In May I was honored to be a speaker at the Rebel Boss Virtual Summit, where I shared how other freelancers like myself could use freelancing as a foundation to enter the world of digital products. This helped me connect with other aspiring and working freelancers and creators, and served as a major learning experience as well.
- I spent more time teaching than I have since I first graduated college. Freelancing let me spend three months teaching adults ESL on weeknights, Saturday mornings teaching writing to high schoolers, and a few weeks this summer leading a language arts enrichment class for middle schoolers. This fall, I was able to join a local synagogue as a Hebrew teacher, helping me explore my Jewish roots and share my love of Hebrew language. Most of this would never have been possible while I was working full-time due to the hours alone.
- I saw more of my family. With lower COVID rates and isolating time this summer I got to spend a total of 4 weeks with my grandparents, shifting my working schedule around their hours. Not being tied to meetings or a schedule meant I got to spend more time with them than if I were simply working for my office job remotely.
- Rejections: I had the pleasure of working with many different kinds of clients this last year, but many more rejected me. This is where my grandpa’s favorite saying always pops into my head: If you throw enough mud against the wall, something’s gotta stick. Any rejections I’ve faced this year haven’t stung too badly because I know there are plenty of *right* opportunities for me out there.
- Missed revenue goal: When I started this journey, I set a goal of making $2,000 every month. And I did that every month except for November and December. For personal reasons, I had to scale back my business for a few weeks. Between that and the holidays my bank account didn’t grow quite as much as I’d have hoped. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to exceeding my even loftier goals this years.
- Time management: This year brought back nightmarish memories of struggling to get work in on time in college. While I’ve definitely come a long way (knowing my clients are relying on me + there’s $$$ at the other end helps), this is one aspect of my work I’m really looking to improve this year with tools that better fit my working style.
There are two main lessons I learned this year:
- Don’t be afraid to say no. I said yes to several opportunities that weren’t a good fit, and stuck with them for longer than I feel like I should have. Those decisions were rooted in fear; fear of not making enough money, of not having a robust enough portfolio. Looking back, I realize those assignments sucked up valuable time that could have been spent building my business other ways.
- Rejection is an opportunity to say yes to something better. I was told no a lot, and ignored even more. Some potential clients seemed ready to commit, but then would drastically change their budget or their needs. All I know for sure is, as soon as I mentally let go of those, I was able to find better opportunities.
Looking back on the choices I made and the work I did this year, I feel proud and inspired. 2021 will be full of reaching higher goals, learning new things, and connecting with more likeminded folks.