Behind the scenes at my location-independent business, Q3 2019

by gigigriffis
workstation for a digital nomad

This post is part of a series about how I make money while traveling the world. I’ve been on the road for over seven years. For a deeper look at how I started my business and began traveling full-time, start here.


Hey there, sports fans,

If you’re a regular reader, you already know that this is where I share a quarterly behind-the-scenes peek at my location-independent freelance business. If you’re not a regular reader, here’s the background story on how I started freelancing, left my little Denver rental for a life of full-time travel, and kept running my business along the way. 

Every quarter, I take a look at business earnings, how I’m making my money, what my sales strategy looks like, etc. and I share it here with you. So, if you’re thinking about freelancing or just interested in knowing how it works for someone else, here’s the lowdown…

From a banner Q2 into Q3

As you may already know, in Q2, after several years of working part-time hours for health reasons, I increased my workload. I was working with the kinds of clients I love. They all have a good track record of paying on time. And they all trend toward low-stress/no-panic – which is vital for me and not always a given in the marketing world. 

Which is why even with an increased workload, I found that my health and stress stayed manageable. And so when the client who’d contracted me for a single quarter (Q2) asked if I was willing to sign on for the rest of the year, I said yes. Committing to another two quarters of full-time instead of part-time work.

I still kept my No Technology Fridays (you can pry those from my cold, dead fingers). But beyond that, I maxed out my hours.

In the end, this meant another banner quarter for earnings. But it also meant I was pretty stressed by the end of September when I went on vacation.

One of my clients has some budget limitations coming up in Q4 and I’m looking forward to hopefully dialing back my hours to keep within their budget constraints and get myself back to a more sustainable part-time schedule.

Income sources: How I made money in Q3 2019

So, now to the usual breakdowns.

If you’ve been reading these quarterly reports for awhile, you already know that I used to make money in a variety of content- and marketing-related ways. But this year I’ve let go of some of the kinds of work I don’t like as much and that don’t pay as well. 

The majority of my income was always copywriting and content strategy. But now it’s so far beyond any other category that I might have to re-think even including this section in the next report. Because how helpful is it really to know that I made 98% of my money on that and 2% on web consulting?

That said, until I decide on a better way to share these figures with you, here’s this month’s breakdown:

:: Copywriting and content strategy (96%)
This has always been the primary way I earn my living. But, as I mentioned above, this year I’ve been shedding my other business offerings in favor of focusing almost entirely on content creation and strategy. Which is why in Q3, less than 4% of my income came from other sources.

So, what exactly does this category include? This quarter, I worked on long-form SEO-focused articles, blog posts, white papers, and website content. I also managed social media for my biggest client on an ongoing basis, so I spent a fair amount of time crafting tweets and social posts and reading the latest industry news. 

:: Affiliate sales/advertising/donations here on the blog (2%)
This blog is here mostly just because I love it, but I am part of an ad network and I do use some affiliate links, which means every month a small amount comes in. Like with my travel guides, I’m grateful for this extra cash, but I’m not relying on it for my living.

:: My unique series of local-centric travel guides (1%)
It’s been awhile since I’ve published a guide, but they’re still relevant and people are still buying. This is a small (and dropping) percentage of my income, but it’s always nice to have that extra coming in.

:: Travel writing (1%)
Payment came through for an article I wrote in Q2. I didn’t actually do any travel writing this month. 

:: Website consulting (.16%)
I did one tiny consult this quarter, mostly because I wanted to help the person out who asked for the consult. It is, as you can see, a very small contribution to the overall whole. 


Sales & marketing in Q3 2019

As I noted above, Q3 was epically busy. I’ve responded to inquiries for new work and I have occasional calls with prospective clients, but overall I’m not spending any real time on my sales funnel at the moment.

New business: How I actually got new clients in Q3 2019

No new clients this quarter! I’ve been sending new business over to capable colleagues, which I see as both a nice thing to do and a way to keep strong relationships and potentially get referrals in future.

My location-independent freelance schedule

As I alluded to above, this quarter was busy and that started out feeling good. I was maximizing my hours, but clients were mellow and everything was fitting in pretty nicely. That said, over time, I started to feel overwhelmed as sometimes work would bleed into a weekend and one of my clients, which has always been the busiest of the bunch, began to grow beyond what I could take on.

I started seriously thinking about how I could cut back my hours in Q4 to maintain my health – and so it was a bit serendipitous when one busy client ran up against some budget constraints and had to cut their workload back by about 25% starting in mid-October. I’ll talk more about how that shaped up in my Q4 review, but for now I’m pretty happy with choosing to take on more work temporarily and equally happy with the serendipity that offered me a reprieve just as I was starting to need one. 

Savings: Did I hit my quarterly goals?

With another banner quarter under my belt, the answer is hell yes. My goal this year is to save 75% of my income before taxes. This quarter, I hit 80%. Barring financial disaster, it should be easy to hit that end-of-year goal.

Location independence: Where I worked

As you know, my business is location independent. Which means I can work from anywhere in the world as long as I have a laptop and a good Wi-Fi connection.

In Q3 this meant time spent working from Uttigen, Switzerland, and Tallinn, Estonia (where we now have our visas!). Plus time not-working during a July vacation in France (Paris and Alsace) and a September vacation walking the coast of Latvia. 

Need some content, strategy, or web help?

As of this writing, my schedule is full through the end of the year. But you never know when things will change and I’ll have an unexpected opening (and if you’re looking for help in the new year, you may be in luck). So, if you need someone like me, please reach out

I’m particularly great at:

:: Writing content about technical topics for a a non-technical audience

:: Inbound marketing/content marketing

:: Developing writing guidelines for your team

:: Organizing navigation and site content

:: Helping experts translate their knowledge for the layman

:: Coming up with headlines, taglines, and brand campaigns

:: Making your website clearer, simpler, and more strategic

:: Optimizing content for SEO

:: Managing blogs 

Tech businesses I’ve worked with include Dell, BestVPN, ComplyData (oil and gas compliance software), miiCloud (face recognition software), Atlassian, and Lytics Customer Data Platform. Agency clients have included Atlas Advertising, Fractl (the infographic masters), Catalyst Marketing, and Cowlick Appeal.

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.

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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2 comments

Willow November 12, 2019 - 2:24 am

It’s so nice to hear that things went so well for you! 80% savings is nothing to sneeze at, either. Congrats!

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Samantha Brown November 17, 2019 - 11:29 pm

Hey Gigi, I was really interested to find your blog and read this post. Thanks for being so open with how you generated income. I also freelance as a marketer and when I get too much work in, I do the exact same thing as you – refer it on to trusted ex-colleagues, but with a small management charge on top (nothing extravagant). Look forward to connecting more, Samantha

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