We made it to a new year. Congrats! Of course, the cruel circus of 2021 didn’t let us escape with our beloved Betty White—but we must (somehow) trudge ahead. I’m approaching my two-year anniversary of going full-time freelance. This is a good time to take a personal inventory of where I’m at (and where I’d like to be) in terms of income, business, and life in general.
Let’s begin with work/life balance because that was my biggest struggle while juggling a J-O-B and making websites on the side. I can’t say I’ve taken time to stop and smell the roses much this past year but I’m pretty happy with my professional life overall. Money is coming in, I feel in control of my own destiny, and I never stay the office past 5:30pm. I occasionally come in on the weekends to get ahead before Monday mayhem—but I don’t have to.
Now onto the dollars and cents. On average, I’ve billed over $16,000 each month since last January. I look at that number and think, “WHAT!? Where is it!?” Something to keep in mind when you reach the stage I’m at in freelance; clients pay on their own sweet ass time. You can tell them when you WANT the money until you’re blue in the face, but they write checks when they dang well please. At any given time, I have about $9,000 in outstanding invoices.
I happen to like my cavalcade of clients; they are easy to work with and historically good about paying. I’m not too worried about being stiffed—but I get super frustrated with the never ending slow trickle of cash. You’d think someone who makes $16K per month wouldn’t be worried about paying his bills, but I never really get that income as a steady stream or massive lump sum. It’s more sporadic (and infuriating) than that.
Okay, Accounts Receivable drama aside, how did we do in 2021? I collected about $190,000 in invoices this year. After roughly $38,000 in expenses, that leaves me with $152,000 before taxes. Then Uncle Sam has his way with my bank account and I’m left with a respectable, but modest salary hovering somewhere around the $106K mark. I’m 38, married, two kids, mortgage, day care, vehicles, utilities—life adds up. Not to mention, I’m no longer contributing to any sort of retirement fund and barely socking money away in savings. No stocks; no crypto; no Pokemon cards; nothing. The fear of having a dry month keeps me up at night because I simply don’t have the cushion. I try to remember my goal when I began freelancing was to make $10K per month—and I’ve more than exceeded that. Then the $20K month became my mystical white whale that I have since hit on a couple occasions. My web design business is making impressive income and I absolutely LOVE not having a boss, but this is nowhere near the level I believe I can reach.
What’s next? I need to take some chances, GROW my business, remove myself from the sole burden of creative production, and evolve into a real company. I’m in a comfortable little freelance cocoon right now. It’s warm and familiar and safe. However, if I want more, I have to DO more. That is terrifying. TBD on my specific plan of action, but the wheels are spinning at least.
My Year in a Nutshell
The beginning of the year started off on the quiet side, and I kinda needed it to be. Our new daughter, Fiona Mae, was born on March 30th and it’s been a whirlwind to say the least. She LOVES to cry, loudly. I’ve been enjoying a dull, constant headache since she came home. We’re so excited, though, and her big brother has been super cool about the new addition too.
I sensed early on, spring was going to be healthy in terms of billing. Old clients emerging from the shadows to request little things here and there. I also signed a couple new website projects for one of my biotech clients. They are very particular but the budget makes it worthwhile—and the end result was amazing.
Oh and I also had to start making headway on two free websites I’ve been putting off. One isn’t free per-say, but they paid me in full two years ago and I haven’t heard from them since. The other is for an in-kind trade I made last year. Blah!
The year as a whole was a pretty even split between billable hours and flat rate projects. The more sites I launch, the more maintenance tasks and add-on service requests come my way.
One big move I made during the summer was hiring some top-tier (overseas) talent to help on both the design and development of a few larger builds. After investing almost $14k in this outsourcing experiment, I didn’t walk away very pleased. This is really discouraging because I know I have to let go of something if I’m going to grow this freelance shop into an actual business. However, this was an expensive lesson learned, for sure.
Other than that, I did very little marketing or outreach in 2021. I had enough on my plate to sustain my standard of life; giving me the freedom to finally launch my pet project, MMMW!
Freelance Income for 2021
- Consulting Contracts:$57,600.00
- Hosting & Maintenance Plans:$8,360.40
- Flat Rate Website Projects:$75,266.38
- Billable Requests:$45,885.00
- Misc. Income:$3,857.64
- Professional Memberships:$149.00
- Business Development:$1,218.75
- Office Expenses:$976.91
- Phone & Internet:$1,414.92
- Professional Services:$13,101.20
- Banking Fees:$2,742.86
- Advertising & Marketing:$1,384.39
- Office Space:$9,000.00
- Travel & Transportation:$14.00
$152,428.13 (+117% increase from 2020)
* Freelance-friendly bookkeeping provided by Fiverr Workspace