For the past year or two, I’ve been sharing a series of behind-the-scenes peeks at my location independent business. First, they came monthly. Now, I tackle them quarterly. Today, it’s time to talk about Q3 2018.
First, the really good news: I landed a client I LOVE.
After a couple slow quarters in the early part of the year, a colleague I’ve known for years but never gotten a chance to work with reached out. She was handling content for a tech startup (one of my wheelhouses) and looking for someone to write blog posts and social media posts. The topics were interesting and challenging in all the right ways. The team was a pleasure to work with. And the work was ongoing.
In other words, it was exactly the kind of client I was looking for.
I jumped onboard and have been happily tackling blog posts, case studies, and social media every week since.
Said new client is making up the bulk of my workload at the moment, though I do still have a handful of other clients who need me from time to time. Best case scenario for me would be to land a second long-term client like this, so if you know of any tech, healthcare, or agency clients who need some content help, send them my way!
Income Sources: How I Made Money in Q3 2018
:: Copywriting and content strategy (81%)
This is (perhaps obviously) my primary skill set and the primary way I make money (though web consulting in general has been on the uptick this year). This quarter, this included everything from blog audits to social media management to ghostwriting. Big new dream client falls into this category.
:: Travel writing (7%)
While most of my writing is for businesses these days, I do occasionally write articles for magazines and other publications. Since the very beginning of this quarter was slow-ish, I took on a few small travel projects. Some of the payments have come through; others will show up in Q4.
:: My unique series of local-centric travel guides (6%)
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 is slowly dropping off (no surprise there, since people want to buy recently published guidebooks as 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 (6%)
This quarter, my consulting clients were rather quiet, though I did do a little work here and there helping clients update Google Map entries and add videos to their websites.
Right now I have a lot of new client inquiries for this kind of work, so I expect Q4 will probably be a bit higher percentage-wise.
:: Affiliate sales/advertising/donations here on the blog (.25%)
As you probably know, in the past my blog has not been a real income source for me. I write here because I love it and because I think it’s helpful and because it benefits me in other ways. That said, I do use affiliate links, I do take donations (so if I’ve helped you out and you want to buy me a coffee, I’ll take it!), and I do occasionally get paid.
This quarter, I decided to do a little experiment and try joining an ad network. I wanted to see if A. people would be bothered by the ads and B. I’d actually make any money. I’ve had ads up on the site for about half the quarter and so far no one has complained and I’ve started making some income from the blog.
I won’t see any of this money hit my account until Q4 (ad networks tend to pay out 2 – 3 months after you earn the cash), but I’m a little delighted that so far no one seems bothered and I can make a few bucks from something I already do and love doing. Though the paychecks haven’t yet arrived, according to the records, I’ve multiplied my average blog earnings by about 2000% (if I’m doing that math correctly), which is kind of insane.
:: My DIY Website Workshops (0%)
I’m still figuring out how to best make this work for me. Which is why in June I decided to do something totally different: I made the workshop free for the month. I got somewhere around 150 sign-ups and all I asked for was some feedback at the end of the program.
Honestly, I didn’t get much feedback at the end of that experiment, so if that was my primary goal, this was a bust. Luckily I also felt a lot of satisfaction having so many people go through the course (and hopefully learn something from it) and having so much interest in the free version made me wonder if there was a way to continue offering it for free and still somehow pay myself back for the time I spent developing it.
The answer, I think, is to provide the course for free and fund it with ads, so watch for a free version of the course here on the blog in Q4.
Sales & Marketing
I’ve been focusing on keeping current clients happy and ramping up Big New Client and taking a much-needed break from the fervent sales activity of the early year. This quarter, most of my sales activity was just checking Facebook and Slack groups for leads and occasionally sending out a resume when something looked intriguing.
New Business: How I Actually Got New Clients
:: Conferences (1 new client)
I’m actually not sure how to categorize this client. The colleague who hired me is someone I’ve known for years and years. We met at a conference and connected because we were both running content strategy meet-ups many years ago and have kept in touch online and in person during conferences. I was really delighted to hear from her when she needed some ongoing help with her super interesting tech employer.
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.
If you’ve been following along, you know that I did not do well with this goal in the first two quarters of 2018. It was a slow start to the year and while I did break even, I wasn’t anywhere near hitting my savings goals.
The good news is that finally dream client swept in with ongoing content needs and steady weekly work, so in Q3 I started hitting my goals again (saving 53% of my income). I’m hoping to play catch-up in Q4 and save even more aggressively to make up for the dismal early year.
Keep in mind that this is all based on a part-time work schedule. After a pretty epic illness a few years ago, I realized I couldn’t work full-time and take care of my physical and mental health. My hours have varied since then, but I shoot for a half-time schedule of 15 – 25 hours per week.
Location Independence: Where I Worked
Finally, as you probably already know, I’m running my business while also traveling full-time. I’ve been on the road for 6+ years at this point and in Q3 I based in Prague (July and August) and then Brasov, Romania (September).
In Prague, I mostly worked from home, though I did occasionally find myself in a coffee shop drafting articles. In Brasov, I drug one of the big leather chairs over to our floor-to-ceiling windows for an “office” with a view. I also worked on train rides in between the two places.
Working on a train
Need Some Content, Strategy, or Web Help?
As of this writing, I’d love to find one or two more ongoing clients (especially if you’ve got fun, techy, challenging work). So if you need someone like me, please reach out. I’m particularly great at:
:: Writing content about technical topics (tech, software, healthcare, dentistry, economic development, history, etc.) for a a non-technical audience
:: Inbound marketing/content marketing
:: Developing writing guidelines for your team
:: Helping experts translate their knowledge for the layman
:: Coming up with headlines, taglines, and brand campaigns
:: Making your website clearer, simpler, and more strategic (or building you a new website from scratch)
:: Managing blogs (from the writing to the tech side to everything in between)
Tech businesses I’ve worked with include Dell, BestVPN, ComplyData (oil and gas compliance software), and Lytics CDP. Healthcare clients have specialized in orthodontics, vein care, and sexual health. And agency clients have included Atlas Advertising, Fractl (the infographic masters), and Time for Cake.
If you’d like to chat about what I can do for your business, drop me a line.
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 quarterly 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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Thanks for the shoutout!
— Susannah at Mediavine
Glad to be on board!
Wildly off current topic.
Sorry this is so late life has been crazy. I realized that I never thanked you for your advice and words of wisdom on what to wear while vacationing in France.
I know this is off topic as well. My daughter and I had a blast and it was THE best Birthday I have had in awhile. Everything was really great except for almost feeling like I was getting stripped searched at Charles De Gaul.
So glad to hear the trip went well!
I just want to say how happy I am for you and to let you know: the ads look just fine. Your site still looks clean, calm and pretty–a terrific example of what’s possible when it comes to blending a site one loves with ads (and making some well-earned money!). Congratulations.
I love these insights into the lives of other bloggers and freelancers. This is the best way to give back to the community and help others. Thank you for showing us behind the scenes.
Glad it’s helpful!