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My First Year As A Full-Time Freelancer

December 3rd, 2014

I have made it, I am alive, and I was able to pay all of my bills on time. Today marks exactly one year from my last day working for someone other than myself. I felt it necessary to sit down for a couple of minutes and just enjoy this point, because this has been a long time coming. Also, it feels pretty freaking good too!

I quit my full-time job of working as the Director of Customer Service for a company that provides high end ecommerce websites on December 3, 2013. I did this with the plan of freelancing full-time and working from home. I had been freelancing for about 5 years at this point at night and on the weekends, and my ultimate goal was always to be able to do it full-time, but to be honest it almost always felt like a goal that I could just never get to. I always needed the security of consistent paychecks that a job provides simply because I was not making anywhere close to enough money to pay my bills with the income from freelancing. I found some great traveling jobs at http://www.fulltimenomad.com/best-travel-jobs/.

My motivations were clear from the beginning, but as I continued to work not for myself other reasons to keep pushing forward and increasing my freelance work made themselves apparent. I worked at a place that just didn’t fit me as a person. It simply took more from me than I was getting back in return (and I am not talking about money here).

This is Stupid You Won’t Make It

Doubt is a bitch, and it keeps us down. It kept me down for quite a long time. Heck, I still battle with doubt all the time. How could little ol’ me make it out there in the real world all by myself. Especially when I have a wife and daughter to support. That thought alone was daunting enough for me to think it wouldn’t be possible most of the time. Every freelancer deals with doubt and I was no different. Would people hire me and pay me for the skills that I have? I knew the answer to that was yes because I had clients that were already doing that, but could I scale that to a point where I could make enough money to keep the lights on? That is what I was unsure of.

While the doubt still pipes up every now and again, I had to chose to still push forward. About a year before I decided to give my notice I chose to start working harder and learning a whole bunch. What happened was I started putting out better work and became more capable than I was. Slowly but surely I started to get a little more work, and also the work I was getting was larger than what I was use to so I was making more money. I have to say that this didn’t happen overnight obviously. Often times when you hear about people’s successes it sounds like a very linear climb upwards to success, but we know that is not the case. The struggle is real and I work my ass off to get better.

Let’s Talk Money

Something that you don’t read about too often when someone recounts their freelance journey to success is money. I get why. Money can make people sound braggy if they make a ton, and is also a pretty personal thing. With that said though my aim in this post is to be honest and hopefully be a real account that a freelancer can look at who might be wanting to make the jump into full time freelancing.

At the time I left my job I was making $65,000 a year. In my opinion this is a pretty great salary. It allowed me and my family to improve our lives from what I was making previously. It was scary to leave a guaranteed $65k a year for the complete unknown of working for yourself. You can imagine the doubt that kept popping up. As far as my freelancing income was concerned I was only making about $15,000 in my most successful year. Clearly a pretty large discrepancy that I would have to make up.

So how did it all work out? Well there is still a month left in the year and I have work that will be billed (and hopefully paid) by the end of the year. At this moment in time I have made $46,197.98 with $3,667.50 in unpaid invoices for work that has been completed. So by years end I should just break the $50,000 mark. I gotta be honest here, this is better than I thought I would do. When looking at the dollars I would gladly give up $15k again to work on my own and actually do what it is that I love.

Why Do I Think I Was Successful?

You may be reading this saying to yourself “I don’t know if I would say you were successful“, but I respectfully disagree. I consider my first year as a full-time freelancer a tremendous success. How did I do it, you ask? What is the little gem in this article that will help you be a successful freelancer? It’s simple – take pride in what you do and nurture the relationships that you have that bring you work. Looking for something more profound or easier? Sorry.

What made me feel confident about leaving my job even though there was a large gap between what I was making at my job vs freelancing was that I had a small number of really great relationships that were bringing me work. I had started to make a shift about midway through 2013 in really delighting in the details of my work and making sure the stuff I put out there was great. Nothing life changing mind you, but I was happy to put my name on the things that I would develop and put online. It was because of this I started to get more work from the people I was working with.

In the end I felt that the work was going to be there, and lucky for me it was. I haven’t had too much downtime this year.

Still Working

I don’t have everything figured out, and there are a lot of successful freelancers that enjoy more success and have for a longer period of time. My experience has made me excited to help those who work a full-time job, but want to make the jump into full-time freelancing. I’m not saying I am going to write a how-to book, but instead I just am making a point to start putting out some content for that section of freelancers.

The Freelance Podcast

A month ago I started The Freelance Podcast just for those freelancers. It’s been fun and I look forward to continuing it. Doubt and confidence were the two major roadblocks for me, and I imagine that is the same for most freelancers. The whole point of the podcast is to give base level advice and information that a freelancer could implement in their business right now and not only if they have a mailing list with 5,000 people on it.

Gotta Prove This Wasn’t A Fluke

2014 is coming to an end and a new year brings a clean slate. Just because my first year as a full-time freelancer was a success does not mean it is going to be roses from here on out. I can’t rest on my laurels and just think 2015 will be successful. So I continue to work my ass off. I continue to take pride in what I do. I continue to learn and grow. Hopefully this time next year I can report back that I had another successful year.

If you are a freelancer and looking to make the transition to full-time freelancing you probably have some questions. Maybe you just are looking for someone you can bounce ideas off of. Well I am here to help. Email me, get in touch, let’s talk shop. I get excited when I talk to other people looking to push through and do things on their own. Shoot me an email at [email protected] or fill out the form on my contact page. There are many benefits to being able to talk about what you are going through with someone who is/has been there so don’t be shy.


Also published on Medium.