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2018 Year in Review: My first year as a full-time freelancer

I had an epiphany today. In a little over a month, I’ll have been freelancing full-time for a whole YEAR. Already! As they say, time flies when you’re having fun…

I posted year-in-reviews on my Facebook profile and Instagram stories, but not my blog. Those mostly focused on travel excursions, of which there were many!

And since it’s still freshly 2019, it’s the perfect time to reflect on what went well, what didn’t, and my goals for this year. So here goes!

Highlights

  • I worked with 25 different clients last year!

  • Increased my “salary” by 25%.

  • Paid off my student loans and car.

  • Took control of my health. (See “not so great” part below)

  • Traveled more than I ever have before! (Cities include Philadelphia, Austin, Tucson, Flagstaff, Telluride, and San Diego)

I worked with a lot of different clients and industries last year. Some were one-off projects, but I’m proud to say that most of my income came from a steady stream of retainer-clients.

Most came from referrals from previous clients or coworkers. People also found me through Facebook Groups and freelance job sites. (Side note: Most of the traffic to my website came from Facebook, then Instagram then LinkedIn, even though I primarily focused on LinkedIn!)

Transitioning into Freelancing

I started freelancing on the side while still working full-time at my agency job. I picked up my first freelance client from a freelance job site. She reached out to me, and we worked together for over a year! My second and third client came from networking.

I worked full-time through the end of February. I technically put in my notice in October (!) but offered to stay on part-time and help train the new person. And to make sure I had all my ducks in a row. It’s definitely not a process you want to rush. So yes, it took THAT long for them to find someone to replace me, but I’m glad I didn’t burn any bridges. As a freelancer, your connections (especially past coworkers and bosses) can make or break your success.

I had everything for my business set up before I took the leap — I had a separate bank account, accounting software, my LLC set up, my portfolio complete and an EIN filed. That makes things 100x easier.

What I Love Most About Freelancing

To be honest, I didn’t start freelancing for the income. Yes, making more money is always nice, but I really chose to do this because I want to control in who I work with, the projects I do and have flexibility in my schedule. I didn’t quit my full-time job to work 60 hour weeks! It’s all about balance. And I’m proud to say MOST of the time I was able to get everything done in less than 40 hours a week.

Right off the bat I felt better than ever. I used to have insomnia when I had a full-time job and I always felt EXHAUSTED. Now, I actually have a good routine. I wake up every day naturally, and then hit the ground running. I may do morning yoga, but I like to work through the mornings and then take a break later in the day.

This year, I started using ClassPass and tried pilates, barre, yoga, bootcamps, you name it. (ClassPass is amazing if you haven’t tried it and your first month is free!)

I also started using meal delivery services like Gobble, Green Chef, and Plated. Plated is my current favorite. This saved me a lot of time not having to grocery shop, look for recipes and meal plan, so I could focus on my business.

The Not So Great Parts…

I did get ghosted by a client. But only 1 out of 25, so that’s a good ratio right?

Y’all, I get LONELY. I miss water-cooler chats, lunches and happy hours with coworkers and just having someone next to me I could ask a question or bounce ideas off of. I have to make a conscious effort to be social now and go outside. Haha.

Also, healthcare is expensive. I pay $500 a month, which includes short-term disability insurance in case I ever get too sick to work for a few months (really hope I never have to use this) and then my COBRA healthcare. Even though it’s more expensive, I decided to go with the healthcare plan from my former employer because it’s really good. And I’m so grateful I did, because I ended up needing to use my healthcare a lot this year. You can stay on COBRA for 18 months. Options on the ACA marketplace range anywhere from $250+, or you could bum off your significant other’s healthcare.

Sidenote: healthcare isn’t something I’d recommend skipping. In August, I started experiencing health issues that I am still dealing with today. Doctors appointments and tests took up a lot of my time and money. Although this isn’t the reason I wanted flexibility in my schedule, I was grateful that I could go to appointments without having to call off work (like I would have in a traditional 9-5), and that I had the extra cash to spend on tests. (Another side note: I am basically a naturopathic health coach now. Lol. Just ask Greg how many supplements I bought this year. I need an intervention.)

Income & Expenses

My income was pretty consistent throughout the year. In Q1, I only had a couple clients. In Q2, things really picked up and I quickly doubled what I was making. Since I paid off my student loans and car and made every effort to get my bills as low as possible, I saved so much this year. As in, quadrupled my savings. Overall, I increased my pay by 25%, while working less hours. I’d say that’s a win!

I didn’t go insane in 2018 because I invested in help! I hired a few contractors to help me with things like social media engagement, content curation, scheduling and more. I thought about hiring interns, but didn’t want to invest too much time in training(and then having to re-train). In my opinion, it’s better to hire someone who already knows what they’re doing and can really help you build a solid marketing strategy.

Another great purchase was my proposal template from Golden Whimsy studio. Proposals were one of my least favorite parts of freelancing because they used to take up so much time. I was always tinkering with how they looked. With my new template, I can easily swap out services, export and send to the potential client. Yay!

I also invested in social media scheduling and reporting tools, a website, and branded email address.

This year I also sent out some gifts to previous and current clients. I used Greetabl. I felt good reaching out to past clients and letting them know I’m thinking about them, but I probably won’t do it again.

Although it’d be nice to have an office space, I’m actually saving up for a house that will have a dedicated office area. I personally feel that most coworking spaces are too expensive for what you get ($400+ a month for a tiny desk?!) and fortunately I have the self discipline to get my work done at home.

Who I worked with

Here just a few! Airloom, Business of Story, Slay It, The Foundry Yoga, Culture Conscious, Aesthetic Assets, Kerrie Droban, VirTrial

Goals for 2019

  • Niche down. I’m leaning towards health/wellness and travel/tourism.

  • Delegate more.

  • Network more.

  • Travel more. On my list is New Orleans, Seattle, Portland, D.C., NYC and Spain.

  • Sign more clients for other services besides social media management. There’s only so much time in a day! Ugh.

  • Blog more. I was really bad last year - I stopped blogging in May! I’d like to write more about freelancing, but don’t offer services to freelancers. But if any of you want to learn more about it I’m an open book!