So, this big news this quarter is that I was on a serious hunt for new clients.
One of my big ongoing clients went inexplicably quiet late last year. I don’t know the details, but I’m guessing they hired more full-time writers and stopped using as many freelancers. Or perhaps they lost a big client themselves, which led to less freelance work. Either way, it meant a large, ongoing portion of my income disappeared overnight.
The good news about freelancing for multiple clients and having other income streams is that this didn’t leave me destitute. But they were my biggest client, so replacing them became a priority.
I picked up new clients since then, but nothing quite as big, well-paid, or ongoing.
Which is why the first few months of 2018 were way more sales-focused than usual.
Not only did I keep looking for clients through my usual channels, but I cold-emailed prospective clients, spent some time re-thinking my DIY Website Workshop, had a long sit-down with myself about what kind of projects I really want, attended tons of networking events in NYC, and contacted anybody and everybody who sounded like they might need my help.
If you know me, you know that I don’t love sales. So this quarter wasn’t my favorite. But sometimes it can’t be helped. Freelancing ebbs and flows.
The good news is that I have tried a lot of things. So I can tell you what worked (and what so did not work) for me.
The other good news is that I have a really full pipeline, so I expect my workload to reach capacity in Q2. (That said, if you’re reading this and need me, it’s a good time to reach out. I’m not at capacity yet!)
But before we get into that, let’s talk about the breakdown of the money I did make in between my massive client hunt…
Income Sources: How I Made Money in Q1 2018
:: Copywriting and content strategy (58%)
This is my primary skill set and the primary way I make money (though web consulting in general has been on the uptick this year). Now, the caveat this quarter is that two large payments came in for big web projects that include a bunch of copywriting and content strategy but also some stuff that would usually fall under web consulting. I’ve included those payments here, but really they straddle the line, so the web consulting line item is probably a bit bigger and this line item is a bit smaller in reality.
:: Travel writing (24%)
A big payment I was waiting for from last year’s travel guide project finally came through, so that’s what you’re seeing here. I actually didn’t really do any travel work this quarter.
:: My unique series of local-centric travel guides (10%)
Every month, I make money from my 11 travel guides. I don’t spend much time promoting them, and over time the income from them seems to be dropping off (no surprise there, since people want to buy recently published guidebooks since some information changes over time). They still do give me a nice little series of payments each month, though, for which I’m grateful.
:: Website consulting (4%)
The more coding and design and web consulting I do, the more gets referred to me, so this is a category that seems to be doing a lot of growing lately. As I mentioned above, several of the project payments that came in this quarter were both writing + web consulting, so this line item might be a bit larger in reality.
:: My new DIY Website Workshops (4%)
Oh hey! So I got my first workshop client with the new workshop format. That was pretty lovely.
Since one client isn’t enough to make this a sustainable source of income, though, I am doing some reevaluating. Would the workshop do better if I split each week into its own mini-workshop? The topics are already separate and that would allow people to pick and choose what they need help with.
Or perhaps there’s some other way to make the workshops more valuable and get them to bring in more income?
I’m still playing with some ideas, and I expect I’ll make some decisions next quarter.
:: Affiliate sales/advertising here on the blog (less than 1%)
As you probably know, my blog is not a real income source for me (and I don’t do much to try and make it one). I write here because I love it and because I think it’s helpful and because it benefits me in non-financial ways. That said, I do use affiliate links and do occasionally get paid. Probably just enough to cover the hosting expenses the website incurs.
Sales & Marketing
As I mentioned above, this quarter I doubled down on sales and marketing tasks. Here’s a breakdown of what I did and what actually brought in clients. Keep in mind that sometimes sales and marketing tasks take months and months to yield successes, so just because something hasn’t come through for me yet doesn’t mean it won’t.
:: Checked Facebook & Slack business/industry groups weekly for gigs.
I didn’t sign anything from these sources this quarter, but I’m currently in discussion with a dream client about a potential project and have thrown my hat in the ring for another maybe-project that a colleague is pitching. I found both through a professional Slack group.
:: Checked LinkedIn monthly for gigs
I didn’t land any clients from checking LinkedIn’s job listings, but I did get a new agency client through LinkedIn. She found my profile through mutual connections and reached out.
:: Made a list of 200+ small businesses to send a targeted sales letter out to (and sent about 50)
This yielded…nada. Which is disappointing, but not entirely surprising. Cold emails tend to have a very low success rate in my experience.
:: Reached out to several other freelancers to let them know I was open to referrals
Nothing yet, but this is a long-term strategy. Keeping in touch with people in your industry is never a bad idea.
:: Started attending in-person networking events in NYC
Nothing yet, but I’m feeling hopeful on this one. In-person networking tends to go well for me but sometimes takes awhile to yield results (I’ve had people hire me months or even years after meeting me at a conference or networking event, so consider this a long-term strategy).
:: Planned lunches and meet-ups with colleagues in NYC
Success! One such dinner connected me with a team that needs ongoing freelance writing and editing help. I haven’t taken a project with them yet, but it sounds promising.
:: Sent introduction letters to companies I’d like to work with
Nothing yet, but this happened late in the quarter, so I’m not entirely counting it out (though, again, cold emailing has not worked for me in the past, so this may be a goose egg in the end, too).
New Business: How I Actually Got New Clients
:: Referrals (3 new clients signed)
:: LinkedIn (1 new client signed)
(and don’t forget that I have ongoing clients, so the new clients are only a small part of my workload)
Savings: Current Goals & How I’m Doing
If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know that I have very aggressive savings goals. Every month, I do my best to put away 50% of my income.
There are dozens of reasons for this, from the fact that as a freelancer I have to put aside money for taxes since it doesn’t auto-deduct from my paychecks to the fact that someday I’d like to retire and having money is an obvious prerequisite.
So, for a quarter living in the US (more expensive than being abroad), how did I do with my 50% goals?
I’m kind of amazed to say that this quarter, I saved about 49%. Now, keep in mind that this is before taxes, so not all that money is staying in savings. Still, quite a good savings rate.
Location Independence: Where I Worked
And, finally, as you probably already know, I’m running my business while also traveling full-time. So, what kind of backdrops was I working against this quarter?
For most of January and February, Chad and I were holed up in the middle of nowhere in Colorado, working from his family’s vacation home. This was not particularly great for networking (unless you want to network with deer and large-ish rednecks who carry guns half-holstered in the grocery store), so by the end of February, we’d moved on to NYC – a much better option for the in-person networking both Chad and I wanted to do while we’re in the US.
In New York, I mostly worked from our little living room while Chad headed to the library most days. My workspace had views of a brick courtyard and some naked winter trees. I also did a lot of networking and occasionally worked from coffee shops, libraries, and even the subway on my way to one event or another.
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.