Welcome back to the monthly behind-the-scenes peek at my on-the-road freelance business, in which I discuss how I make money while traveling full time.
July was a very quiet month on the billable work front.
My big client goes through phases where they need tons of projects on a tight deadline and then phases where they disappear for a couple weeks or just have something little here or there. This month was mostly the latter. A project here, a project there.
And since I wrapped up my big spring project and my DIY Website Workshop last month and am currently waiting for my other big client to finish A/B testing my work on their site, the billable workload has been a light one.
Perhaps I should pause here for those not familiar with the term “billable work.” Basically, billable work is any work you can directly bill to a client. Hourly work. Work on a fixed-price project. Anything you’re going to send the client an invoice for at the end of the week/month. Non-billable work is all the other work tasks freelancers or agency employees do. Filling out time cards. Preparing invoices. Advertising, marketing, and sales. Accounting.
All that to say, there is always plenty of stuff to do, but in July most of that work was non-billable.
I spent my time revising my novel, getting ahead on blog posts, planning the timeline of my next DIY Website Workshop, reaching out to potential affiliates for the DIY Website Workshop, researching WordPress themes to recommend to future clients, throwing my hat in the ring for new gigs, and catching up on non-work stuff like travel planning. All important stuff and stuff that often gets pushed to the back-burner when there’s client work to be done, so it was rather nice to be able to tick it all off my list, even if the lack of billable work did make me a bit nervous.
Of course, there still was some client work going on (just less than usual) and payments still rolled in from last month’s work, so here’s the skinny on that:
July 2017 Income Sources
:: Copywriting and content strategy (61%)
As you may know, this is my primary income source (and has been for most of the last 15 years). I develop content strategies and write content for websites, brochures, billboards, headlines, etc.—mostly for companies in travel and tech (like Xanterra Parks and Resorts or Best VPN). This month’s earnings are mostly from content marketing work (writing blog posts and articles for companies).
:: My unique series of local-centric travel guides (18%)
Every month, I make money from my 11 travel guides. I don’t spend much time promoting them these days (just the occasional mention on the blog or in a guest post or interview), but happily they continue to be a fairly steady source of income.
This month, sales on my site were up while sales on platforms like Amazon were down. The latter is pretty typical of the summer months. You’d think it would be a big sales time for travel guides, but my big sales months are actually winter (which is, I suppose, when people are planning ahead). Summer tends to be slower.
:: Website consulting (10%)
From time to time, I help clients with everything from WordPress customization to SEO questions or even build start-to-finish websites. This month, I was paid for three small consulting gigs.
:: Travel writing for magazines/websites (10%)
I don’t do this as often as I used to, but I do still occasionally write travel articles for magazines and websites. This month, I did a few short pieces on various European destinations.
:: Affiliate sales/advertising here on the blog (1%)
As usual, the income I make from the actual blog is pretty low. Just a tiny bit of affiliate income from people who were kind enough to click through my site to Amazon.com and make their purchases. (If you want to support the blog, that’s one good way to do it: use one of my Amazon links to click through to the site before you buy and no matter what you buy, Amazon will give me a little commission, at no extra cost to you.)
:: My new DIY Website Workshops (0%)
The DIY Website Workshop is a seven-week course where I walk small business owners, entrepreneurs, and creatives through the process of creating and launching a smart, beautiful website for their business or blog.
The first session wrapped up and I haven’t opened up a second session yet, so this number will continue to be 0 while I figure that out. Right now, I’m debating between opening up a second session just like the first with weekly Q&A calls and personal support from me at a higher price point OR doing a tiered program where you can purchase just the course materials (videos, worksheets) at a lower price and then pay for additional support if you need it along the way.
The second option feels interesting to me, so in August I’ll be sorting through all the course materials to see if there’s an easy way to turn it into a tiered program. If that’s something you’re particularly interested in, let me know. If people are more intrigued by a tiered option, I’ll probably go that direction.
(And, if you’re interested in knowing about either the tiered or regular workshop once it’s announced, just hop on my mailing list).
A Note on Payment Schedules
The percentages above are based on the month when money arrives in my checking account, which isn’t always the month in which the project finishes. Some clients are quick payers, turning payments around in a week or two. Others take the full allotted time (a month).
When I bill clients, I do so with the following terms: payment is due in 30 days. Late payments are subject to a 10% late fee (which the clients agree to up front when they sign my contract), which compounds for every 30 days they’re late. For fixed-price projects, I usually bill 1/2 up front before the project begins and 1/2 on delivery. For smaller hourly or ongoing consulting, I bill monthly at the end of the month or the end of the ongoing consulting. Occasionally a client request a different schedule (one client asks for weekly bills) and I comply.
For book sales, payments come in on a bit of a wonky schedule as well. When I sell a book through my own website, the payment comes in immediately. When I sell it through Amazon or elsewhere, there’s a delay of about a month before that payment hits my bank account.
So, what does this mean for my numbers? It means that what I make in a month doesn’t necessarily reflect what I actually accomplished in that month. Consider it a mash-up of things I did that month and things I did the month before (which is why on months that I take vacation, I generally still see high numbers and don’t notice a drop until the month following the vacation).
July 2017 New & Ongoing Business
This July, clients I was actively working on projects with included:
:: A US-based content marketing agency (writing work)
:: An Australian travel magazine (writing)
:: A fabulous dog blogger (consulting)
Work-Life Balance & My July Workspace
As you may already know, I run this whole copywriting, content strategy, and web consulting shebang while traveling the world full-time. In July, I was still in the Bosnian mountains working from our big third-floor apartment with a view of the hills.
Not including my novel and the blog, I probably only worked 10 – 25 hours each week, mostly (as I noted above) on non-billable stuff that will hopefully make my life easier or bring in more clients in the long run.
And speaking of novels: It’s always hard for me to categorize the time I spend on mine. Mostly, it falls somewhere between work and play. I love doing it. I love the writing process. I’ve come to love the editing process. I desperately love talking to people about it after they’ve read it. And while there are a few frustrations along the way (writing query letters, for instance, and dealing with trolls – because that definitely happened), overall I’m doing this because I love it. And while I’d love to get it published and I’m working toward that, I wrote it for me and my soul first and foremost, so it’s really not the same as my other work projects, which are definitely 100% going out into the world.
Savings, Expenses, & Long-Term Financial Planning
So, what do these percentages mean in terms of supporting my lifestyle of full-time travel? What do they mean for my ability to save for retirement? Can you travel full-time and still be a financially responsible adult?
If you’ve been reading awhile, you know the answer – at least in my case – is yes. Financial sustainability is all about making more than you spend.
I don’t have the final savings numbers for this month yet, but I know I made more than I spent and I suspect I saved somewhere around 30% – 40% of my income (my goal for the year is 50%), since it was a lighter month for income.
Are you a freelancer (or hoping to become one)? Tell us about your month! Feel free to drop any questions you might have in the comments and you’re welcome to join my Facebook business group where we talk all things entrepreneurship, business, and web.
Is there something you wish I’d cover in these monthly reports? Please let me know! I want them to be as useful as possible, so if you have a suggestion, drop it in the comments or reach out to me on Facebook anytime.