Hi friends!! Happy 2019!
2018 was the first full year I was a freelancer full-time. There were lots of ups and downs, moments of panic when I thought my hair would fall out and the world was ending, and of course the highest of high moments when I felt like Steve Jobs.
I asked you guys back in October (around my 1-year business anniversary) what questions you guys had regarding starting a full-time freelance career and that is what this post will center around.
I also wanted to cover some big wins, touch on the losses, and go over my income too! So, let’s have at it.
*if you’re new here, these blog posts will help you get caught-up*
- I’m Self-Employed!!!
- How I Got Started As A Freelancer
- Places to Look For Internships, Jobs, and Freelance Gigs In Social Media
The Wins in 2018
- Started working with some really awesome clients who actually had real marketing budgets!!!! Who would have thought idk
- Hired my first round of interns
- Hired my first employee
- I was interviewed on social media on several podcasts
- I was asked to speak to PR students at ASU on building a freelance career
- I started working with Dames Collective & Bumble
- Went on a 2-week vacation to Hong Kong & Bali and my business didn’t collapse while I was gone
- Went to my first New York Fashion Week
- Started a newsletter
- Started a YouTube channel
- Started outsourcing things like finance ! what’s a p&l?
I hate to focus on the lows BUT I don’t want to make it seem like my year was all candy and lip gloss. Here are some losses:
- Fired a client
- Got fired by a client
- Hired a crappy intern
- Never got paid by a client, even after sending a demand letter (I still haven’t lost hope though)
Taking The Plunge
How did I make time to work on self-employment/freelancing when working full-time?
Freelancing on the side was basically something I had done since graduating college, so I always did it when I had a full-time job. I just kept up with current clients and just passively applied for new gigs whenever I had time or needed more money.
What was the deciding factor for taking the plunge to work solo?
I just wasn’t happy at my full-time job anymore and I saw the potential to make more money by being self-employed.
What was the hardest part about making the self employment leap?
Convincing myself I wouldn’t fail. IT WAS SO HARD. I essentially hired a remote therapist/coach to coach me to quit my 9-5 lol. I starting telling friends my intention to leave my job and the universe responded. Sounds weird but it worked lol. I secured 2 more clients before I put in my two weeks.
How did you overcome the stress or fear of breaking the news to your boss? My biggest fear is telling my boss!
This was scary, and it’s especially hard to do at a small company when your absence will go noticed and will affect your co-workers (who may also be good friends). My anxiety revolved around my co-workers being inconvenienced by my leaving and I was afraid they’d resent me for it (because all of my work and responsibilities would fall on them after I left). My therapist/coach reminded me that it would be even worse had my leaving not affected anyone. The fact that people had to pick up pieces after I left confirms that I was a valuable part of the team. It seems so obvious but hearing that really helped.
Pros and cons of self employment vs working at an agency?
Self Employment Pros:
- Freedom to call the shots and decide who you work with
Self Employment Cons:
- Health care costs
- Often spend the work day alone lol
- Consistent pay
- Associated and back by a trusted name (hopefully)
- Benefits (hopefully)
- Surrounded by others at work
- Often feel like your success depends on how good you are at selling your ideas, not how creative you are
- You can get stuck with really boring accounts
- Having a boss lol
Managing Work & Life Balance
Tips for staying motivated?
Switch up your workplace every now and then. Work with other freelancer friends. Go to as many networking and panel events as possible to see how people who are succeeding at what you’re doing are living and operating their businesses. Listen to podcasts that interview successful entrepreneurs (and learn from their mistakes, too).
Tips for managing work & life balance?
SHOCKER! This was the most asked question.
Try and set work boundaries. Only work 9-5 (especially if you’re planning on getting in some quality time with others). Delete your email app after 5pm. GET OUT OF THE HOUSE EVERY DAY. Find friends & a significant other who can understand what you’re going through. Eat meals at a normal time. Shower. Text your friends back. Go to the gym. Live a little.
Tips for setting realistic expectations at the beginning?
Know what you’re capable of. Track how much time you spend on certain clients or tasks so you can calculate your burn out point. Be easy on yourself.
Apps & Software
What apps do you use?
Um. I have about a million apps I subscribe too. This is the most expensive part of my Quickbooks expenses each month lol.
All of them are listed in depth here!
What do you use for contracts? Did you buy a template or work with a lawyer?
I started with PandaDoc (they have templates you can customize) and now I use a CRM system to send out my contract automatically. I’m working with a lawyer to customize contracts moving forward.
Taxes! I’m at a loss
Same lol. Get a good accountant who can help you understand loopholes to save you money come tax-time. She set me up as a S-corp (I’m an LLC) which means I take a salary from my business and that apparently has big tax-savings. I never would have known to do that if it wasn’t for her.
Also!! Everytime a client pays your fee or sends you a check, automatically put 25% of it into a savings account. Your accountant will help you determine the amount you owe in estimated taxes each quarter, and hopefully at the end of the year you’ll have plenty saved up to invest back into your business.
Also, as of November 2018 I began investing in a Finance Coach each month to keep me on track as I grow my business. This has also been extremely helpful with planning for taxes.
Staying In Business
How do you gain new business?
I’ve been really lucky that all of my business has come from Instagram, referrals/friends, or free press (ie. they listened to one of my podcast interviews). I haven’t spent a dime on advertising – which is weird since Facebook advertising is one of my services ha.
I know it’s harder to grow an Instagram following these days, but I think having a blog and showcasing your work and what you do on a day-to-day basis helps. I also think that my monthly income & traffic reports helped to show social proof behind my work. It showed I was making money, often growing my business from month-to-month, and readers could just click to learn more about my services while they were on my website.
How did you know how much to charge?
This is a little dance you’ll have to do when you first start out. Do your research and figure out what other people are charging, then ask yourself if your services provide the same value. THEN ask yourself – will this income allow me to live the life I want?
If not, double it 🙂
Not having consistent clients is my biggest fear. Did you ever have a second job?
Nope! I read You’re A Badass by Jen Sincero (highly recommend reading this if you’re considering self-employment) and there is a part where she mentions how having a second job to fall back on sets you up for failure. It doesn’t force you to go balls-to-the-wall trying to grow your business and clientele because you have a safety net.
My advice is to save up 3-6 months of income just in case things don’t work out. The good news is you’ll probably never be at a point where you aren’t receiving any cash flow, especially if you have multiple clients.
Also, set up a 3-month minimum contract with clients. I’ve found that during the first month of working with a client you will put in BY FAR the most hours communicating with them and working on their account. It’ll save you time and money to have a 3-month “test period” for both parties to decide if they like working together. This way, you won’t be scrambling every month to find new clients.
What’s something you weren’t ready to invest in for your business this year?
An office space! I currently work out of Deskhub in Old Town, but there was a period mid-2018 when I thought I’d be moving to California eventually and was really against having my own office space. After all, I can work out of Deskhub when I meet with Haley or my interns and I can work from home when I don’t. However, I’ve been on the hunt for some office spaces recently and think I’ve found one that I love!!
What were some of the biggest lessons you learned when it comes to working with clients?
- Make sure it’s a good fit for you!! Don’t say yes to every lead that comes through just because of the money
- Over communicate and be overly accessible
- Be shamelessly YOU in all of your client communications and sales decks. Afterall, there are so many other people who do social media management, so your personality is the only thing that can differentiate you.
What were the 3 best investments you made in the 1st year?
- Online Facebook Ads Course – technically I took this in 2017 though
- My CRM System Dubsado – Its platform allows you to streamline your business through invoices, contracts, proposals & more. Get 20% off your first month with code “bbooks”
- My Assistant Haley. She’s an angel.
2018 INCOME: $111,833!!!!!!
AHHHHHH! You guys. I can’t believe I’m writing that!!!
My goal was $100k for the year, and there was a point in November when I was meeting with my finance coach and going over my books, and it looked like I was going to be short of $100k by a few grand by the end of 2018.
I realized some of my transactions in QuickBooks that should have been categorized as income were automatically/accidentally categorized as “transfers” AND I HIT $100k IN NOVEMBER!!!!!
I called my mom and dad in Safeway because I was so excited haha.
Obviously I didn’t take all of this home lol, but I’m so so proud of it!!! Can’t wait for what’s in store for 2019!
Thanks to all of y’all for reading my nonsense and keeping up with me. Thanks to my mom and dad. Thanks to my roommate for putting up with my late night work seshes. Thanks to my clients for being awesome and having dreams bigger than mine. Thanks to my team for making it all possible!!