Over the past few months, I’ve gotten a lot of requests to talk about my freelancing – where my money is coming from, how I approach potential clients, and how I got started. I’ve talked about it before, but figured I c...
Over the past few months, I’ve gotten a lot of requests to talk about my freelancing – where my money is coming from, how I approach potential clients, and how I got started. I’ve talked about it before, but figured I could go a little more in depth here.
Related: Time management for the freelancer
As some of you know, my freelancing business started in 2005 when I was in my first year of college. I don’t actually think I had any paying clients – but I did a lot of volunteer work in order to build up my portfolio. Kind of hard to get business without proof you can do the work, right?
In 2006, I started this blog. It was a way to keep me accountable for my personal finance goals, and my professional goals. I barely made any money from my blog for the first three years, and minimal amounts of money through freelance graphic design work. Every contract I got was through word-of-mouth advertising, and I didn’t really do much to grow my business.
I kept going like this until about 2010, making about $2,000-3,000 each year through mostly graphic design work. I was writing a lot on this blog, but didn’t make a single cent through any sort of freelance writing project. I wanted to make more money freelancing, but I didn’t really know how. I wasn’t confident that my graphic design skills could carry me further, so I decided to focus on growing my blog instead. At that point (the spring of 2010), I had been blogging at GMBMFB for over 3 years, and I still wasn’t sure how I was going to make the leap from being an amateur blogger, into someone who could actually generate a decent income (without becoming super spammy).
In the summer of 2010, I was offered my “big break” which also proved to be the tipping point of my career as a freelance writer/blogger. The financial editor of the Toronto Star contacted me, and offered me a job as a blogger for a new website called Moneyville (which launched in September 2010, but folded back into the Toronto Star website earlier this year). Of course, after verifying that it wasn’t an elaborate prank, I accepted. I would have been crazy not to. A job writing for the largest daily newspaper in Canada? Yes, please.
Writing for The Star taught me a lot. I went from obscurity to being read by tens of thousands of people every week. And of course with that came a lot of criticism. That definitely affected my writing here at GMBMFB. I was self conscious, and aware that whatever I said on my blog was likely going to be used against me in the comment section of Moneyville. Or in discussion forums on other sites. It was really tough at the beginning. Yeah, I know. I knew what I was getting myself into. People can be really mean, and that’s definitely something to think about if you want to become a writer/blogger. Do you have thick skin? Can you let the insults and criticisms roll off your back? Or will you brood and get sad/angry about it?
Anyway, by the end of 2010, I had made about $8,000 freelancing. It still wasn’t a lot, but it was triple what I had made in the previous year, and it gave me that push I needed to challenge myself to see how far I could go. This was also around the time I started working 70-75 hours/week.
In 2011, I made $32,000+ in freelance income, and it was at that point I knew I had a shot at being able to work full-time as a freelancer. As my income increased, I had a huge decision to make because I was going to burn out. Do I do what’s scary, and try my luck at freelancing? Or do I play it safe, and continue to work a steady FT job? And as you may know by the end of 2011 I got the extra push I needed to quit my job.
Related: When does a freelancing career take over?
This year is a little bit different. I’ve spent so many years trying to increase my freelance income, that it seems weird to scale back. It was extremely difficult to leave my job with the Toronto Star earlier this year,