Behind the Scenes at My Digital Freelance Business, Q4: October – December 2017

by Gigi Griffis

This post is part of a series about how I make money while traveling the world. For a deeper look at how I started my business and began traveling full-time, start here.

Welcome back to my behind-the-scenes peek at my on-the-road freelance business, in which I discuss how I make money while traveling full time.

For awhile, I was doing these roundups monthly, but I thought it might be easier (and more interesting) to make them quarterly. Thus, this is the first quarterly installment—a look at Q4: October, November, and December 2017.

After a slow, nerve-wracking early fall, things started to pick up again in Q4. I landed a new ongoing client, signed a full website re-launch project, and finally saw some outstanding payments trickle in.

I was also commissioned to update a travel guidebook for one of the big guidebook companies. It turned out to be more work than I’d anticipated and basically swallowed my November whole, but I did get to do lots of cool things (climbing Mayan ruins in Coba, eating at just about every restaurant along Tulum’s beachfront, zip-lining through the jungle up near Cancun) and it was nice to have work again after that very slow autumn. (Though that payment hasn’t yet come through, so you won’t see it reflected in these numbers.)

In December, things returned to a more comfortable pace. Enough work to more than cover my expenses, but not so much that I was breaking my commitment to work part-time only. Both of my big December projects were were new clients: the first a new ongoing travel client who has hired me to write three articles a week for the foreseeable future and the second a referral client who wanted to re-do their whole website and launch something basic by January first.

So, what did the numbers look like in Q4 and was I able to make my savings goals?

Here’s the breakdown:

Q4 2017 Income Sources

:: Copywriting and content strategy (57%)
As usual, copywriting and content strategy work make up the bulk of my monthly income. In Q4, I did a lot of writing and a little strategy work, mostly for brand new clients.

:: Website consulting (31%)
As you know, from time to time, I help clients with everything from WordPress customization to SEO questions or even build start-to-finish websites. In Q4, the bulk of this income came from some site updates for a fellow blogger and the first half of a website re-launch for a client who was referred to me by another client.

:: My unique series of local-centric travel guides (8%)
Every month, I make money from my 11 travel guides. I don’t spend much time promoting them, but happily they continue to be a fairly steady little source of income.

:: Travel writing for magazines/websites (4%)
This is not income I actively pursue anymore, but I still have good relationships with a magazine or two, so I somewhat regularly write travel articles for those. This quarter, I did a handful of fun travel articles.

:: Affiliate sales/advertising here on the blog (1%)
As anyone who’s been reading for awhile likely knows, this blog is more of a passion project for me than a money-maker. Certainly, it has led clients to me and supported my business in a variety of ways, but in and of itself, it’s not really an income source. This month, I made a little money via Amazon’s affiliate program, likely due to people clicking through from the site and doing some Christmas shopping.

:: My new DIY Website Workshops (0%)
In September, I put the final touches on my new tiered DIY Website Workshop course. It launched on October 9th, but honestly didn’t go anywhere (yet). This may be because I didn’t spend any real time or energy promoting it this quarter (both because I got swamped with other work and because after working on the whole curriculum, I was a little tired of looking at it) or it may just not be the kind of thing people want. I still get plenty of clients who want me to help with their sites, so maybe the reality is that people don’t want to “Do It Yourself” and just want someone else to do it for them.

That said, if you’d like to prove me wrong and need to launch or re-design your own website, definitely take a peek. The program is excellent. Just my marketing hasn’t been.

I’m going to reevaluate this in the coming months and see if it’s something I want to spend time marketing or if I think perhaps websites are just not something people are willing to DIY.

New Business…

One of the most common questions I get from those just starting out as freelancers is this: how do you find your clients? 

For me, the answer is usually referrals, conferences, and (recently) Facebook groups. This quarter, new clients I picked up came from:

:: Facebook groups (2 new clients)

:: Referral from a colleague (1 new client)

:: Referral from a happy client (1 new client)

Savings Goals…

My extremely ambitious savings goal for 2017 was 50%. In part, this is because saving is obviously the key to financial independence. In part, it’s because freelance life is unpredictable. Some months you make much more than you need; other months things get lean. Clients disappear or go on vacation. Payments get lost in the mail. Regular gigs dry up. And so if you don’t save aggressively during the up times, those down times can feel dire.

So, how did I do on my savings goal in Q4? The answer is that I saved about 27%. Not really near my goal, but the caveat is this: if the guidebook payment came in as expected, that number would have been over 61%. (And unexpectedly late payments are part of the reasons my saving goals are so aggressive in the first place. Because getting that payment later may still be annoying, but it didn’t force me to dip into savings.)

Where I Worked…

As you may already know, I run my freelance business while traveling the world full-time. In Q4 of 2017, my roving office based in Grenoble, France, and Paris, France, in October and Tulum, Mexico, in November and December, with short stops in Miami and Albuquerque before and after Tulum.

Lunch at the Real Coconut Tulum
Working lunch at The Real Coconut, Tulum

Are you a freelancer or business owner? Tell us about your quarter! 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 quartly 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.

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Forrest Webber January 30, 2018 - 7:49 pm

Love your big-picture perspective Gigi, I can tell you are seasoned just reading your posts.

Thanks for vulnerably opening up, inspiring, and being a leader in your field.


Leo Tat February 11, 2018 - 4:48 pm

It gives me a feel-good feeling to see you being able to work anywhere. Have you been going to co-working spaces or cafes?

For my quarter, I decided to join a display ad network. Display ads were installed on my site in November. It’s doing well as I getting rewarded by writing content people like to read. The rpm’s over $15 which is beyond my expectations.

Gigi February 12, 2018 - 9:11 am

I prefer working from home, so usually I do all my work for the week from whatever apartment we’re renting. Very occasionally I go to cafes for a change of pace.


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