Welcome back to my series of behind-the-scenes peeks at my location independent business.
In case you’re new around here, a quick primer: I’m a location-independent writer and content strategist. I’ve been self-employed for about seven years now and I’ve been traveling full time for about six. And this series of blog posts is where I talk about how I make my money, find new clients, etc. while on the road.
It’s about time to talk about the last quarter of 2018.
Q4 was, by far, the best quarter of 2018 for me. I was busy with work from my big ongoing client. I tackled small projects along the way for other clients. And the income and projects were relatively steady.
I also had a conversation with another potential big ongoing client that would be a great fit, but their decision process has been a bit slow and I’m still waiting to hear if Q1 2019 will find me completely booked. Cross your fingers for me.
Income Sources: How I Made Money in Q4 2018
:: Copywriting and content strategy (94%)
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, I did a lot of white papers, blog posts, case studies, and social media work.
:: My unique series of local-centric travel guides (3%)
Every month, I make money from my self-published series 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 and the information in the guides has aged really well, so I’m keeping them out there and available.
:: Affiliate sales/advertising/donations here on the blog (2%)
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.
Last 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. After almost two full quarters with ads up, only one person has complained (at which time I tweaked the settings to have slightly less ads) and I’ve started making a little money.
Ad networks tend to pay out 2 – 3 months after you earn the cash, so I’m just starting to see those payments in Q4. But I’m really thrilled to be making something on my passion project. This has gone from being $20 here and there to several hundred at a time, which isn’t a huge number but is a huge jump.
:: Website consulting (1%)
It was a slow quarter for web work, as all client sites seem to be chugging happily along and my current ongoing website project isn’t quite finished and ready for their final bill. Expect an uptick in the percentage of income in Q1 2019, as I should be launching the current big site project and sending them their final invoice.
:: Travel writing (Less than half a percent)
While most of my writing is for businesses these days, I do occasionally write articles for magazines and other publications. This quarter, I had one small article payment come through.
:: My DIY Website Workshops (0%)
I’ve officially opened this series up to the public and made it free! I’m hoping it will A) become a source of traffic here on the blog and pay me via ads and/or B) be helpful to people and lead those who need a little extra help with their websites to my services.
Sales & Marketing
I went relatively quiet on the sales front this quarter. To be honest, I probably should have been looking harder for new clients, since I’d like to bring on one more on an ongoing basis, but it was nice to take a break and focus on existing work, so I kept my sales activities to a minimum. I am waiting to hear from a really perfect prospect whether they need some ongoing help in the new year. So hopefully that will end up signed in early January and I’ll be completely booked!
(Still, it’s not a sure thing, so I’ve got tentative plans to do some more sales and marketing for myself in January.)
Savings: Current Goals & How I’m Doing
As you may already know, 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.
I did not do well with this goal in the first two quarters of 2018, but I exceeded them in Q3 and now in Q4. My total savings this quarter was 68%. And that’s with some unexpected medical expenses and vet bills. So overall, a banner quarter.
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. That includes both billable and non-billable work.
Location Independence: Where I Worked
As I mentioned above, I’m running my business while also traveling full-time. I’ve been on the road for 6.5 years now and this quarter I spent time in Romania (Brasov), Croatia (Zagreb), Austria (Innsbruck), and Switzerland (Interlaken).
During October in Brasov, I settled in most days to work from a big comfy chair in front of our floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the town (our apartment was epic). In Zagreb, I actually worked from my bed (something I don’t normally do and wouldn’t recommend, but it was the best option in that particular space) and occasionally popped over to the local coffee shop. In Innsbruck, I had a desk with mountain views. And in Switzerland, you’ll find me on the couch in our very sunny living room with views out to the balcony and the mountains beyond.
Need Some Content, Strategy, or Web Help?
As of this writing, I’ve still got space for another client (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.