I became a freelance writer on October 10th, 2020. I spent the first few hours of my newfound freedom panicking that I’d made a dreadful mistake. At that point, I decided that when I made $10,000 a month — and only then! — would I consider my new career a success that nobody could take away from me. I would know, at that point, that I was on the right path.
Eight months after I launched into my freelance lifestyle, I accomplished my goal: I earned $10,495.33 in May 2021.
Here’s how I did it and where it all came from:
1. I was not an overnight success story
Let nobody tell you success happens overnight, because it doesn’t. In May, I earned $4,999.26 from my blog and YouTube combined, but that was not a random one-off occurrence. That was the result of 2 years of working, writing, filming, editing, networking, and learning.
Long before I even started freelancing, I was working on my side hustles. That platform I built for myself was enough to further build on when I went fully freelance and finally had the bandwidth to spare. I posted less to both my blog and my YouTube channel, but I had a much better understanding of what my audience wanted and how I could give it to them.
Crucially, I also had an audience. If I had tried to go fully freelance without that backing, I would have struggled. Instead, I flourished.
2. I had a backlog of clients
I had a rare experience last week: someone asked me to work for them, and I said no because I was too busy. In hindsight, I should have set that as my “You’ve Made It” milestone. I had the luxury of turning down paying work! I could barely believe it.
Part of me thought I was stupid to turn down any paying job, but the other sensible part of me realized that’s the benefit of successful freelancing: I can say no to work and keep my free time for myself.
In May 2021, I had five clients and earned $4,475.00 from them altogether.
What’s more important is that I did work I loved, and enjoyed every bit of writing I did for these clients. Those did not all come together overnight but rather showed up one by one. Some stayed, some left, some referred me to other clients. It was a relief that half my income came from sources I controlled, rather than relying on the algorithm of a wishy-washy platform.
3. I failed to sell myself
The final bit of my big $10k month came from selling myself and my services, $1,021.07 in all. I was disappointed — less than 10% of my bumper month was value I provided directly. For most of it, I relied on other people or platforms.
When I started my journey, I wanted to split the income evenly between my three streams: platforms like YouTube, clients who paid me to write for them, and my own products and courses. It was a little sad to realize that I hadn’t managed to sell myself as much as I originally intended.
It’s hard to promote my courses and services. I know so many other writers, freelancers and entrepreneurs feel the same. Sales are not natural for most of us.
But I should be better at it. And I know I can be. While I’m disheartened by my failure to market myself, I recognize it as an area to improve for future months.
4. I worked 16 hours per week
The real success, of course, is not the money I made. It’s the time I spent not working.
In May 2021, I spent a grand total of 65 hours, 40 minutes, and 39 seconds working. (I use Clockify to track my time.) I spent countless hours reading books, playing video games, hanging out with my cats. My husband and I went to a Braves game, to Six Flags, on walks around the neighborhood.
My lifestyle is valuable for the money it gives me, but also for the time it gives me. I’ve written before about how I love working as little as possible, and how I believe the true value of the freelance lifestyle is the free portion of it. In May, I realized just how right I was.
5. I allowed myself to experience downturns
Remember how I said I turned down work last month? I could have said yes, and I could have had a bigger income in June. Because June did not come near to May’s income, unfortunately. Still, I said no.
In June, I was stressed out due to unforeseen life events. I wasn’t sleeping well. I was anxious and nervous and had no motivation to work or create.
Part of me wanted to push through and try to secure a higher income. I felt like I’d hit that $10k milestone, and should be hitting it every single month from now on. Instead, I took a month to relax and recuperate from the pressure.
June’s income was more modest. It was not five figures. And I’m glad I let myself go with the ebbs and flows not just of work, but of my own mental energy. Again, the real lesson I’ve learned is not that the income matters — although of course, it does! — but that the benefit of freelancing is I can take a month to simply be a vegetable and nobody will die, not even me.
You could read this article and say that it took me 65 hours of work to earn $10,495.33 in May. But the honest truth is that it took me nearly three years to reach this milestone. I started writing, blogging, creating, and freelancing in September of 2018. That first month earned me just $3.32. Now, two and a half years later, I’ve become a success by any of my old definitions. I have a job I love, with so much time to do the things I enjoy, earning enough to be more than comfortable.
My success also depended on me learning a lot of lessons that I’ll continue to grow from. I had to learn the hard way how to price my services, for example. My first freelance writing client paid me just $30 for a blog post. Today, I know I can charge much more than that.
And it takes continuous effort and improvement moving forward. I know my income streams are variable, so I need to improve where I’m weakest. Today, that’s at selling myself. Tomorrow, I’m sure I’ll uncover new weaknesses to address and improve upon.
I made $10,495.33 in a single month of freelance writing, and anyone else can do the same if they’re willing to work as hard as I did.
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