Where were you a year ago? Chances are your life didn’t look a whole lot different than it does today. Maybe you lost some weight, got a new hairstyle, heck maybe you even changed jobs. But did anything happen one year ago that was so profoundly positive it changed the entire course of your life?
If you were fortunate enough to experience something like that, then I salute you. Because I’m in the same club. In August of 2015, I opened my first project as a freelancer.
Now, if you’re familiar with my story at all, you know that I’m a full-time freelancer these days, meaning I don’t have a 9-to-5 job tying me down. Last August, though, I was still working at a desk during the day and burning the midnight oil doing development projects on the side. I didn’t quit my desk job until January of this year, after I realized that I would be able to live very comfortably with just my freelance income.
If I would have approached my transition into freelancing casually, or haphazardly, taking on clients here and there but not having an organizational thought around goal-setting, then I can guarantee you I’d still be at that desk job, and I’d have half the money in my bank account I do now.
The point of bringing up money, and putting that six-figure phrase up in the headline, isn’t to brag. It’s honestly amazing to me that I pulled in the revenue I did in such a short time. I emphasize the dollar amount because when you’re talking about your own career, why wouldn’t you set a number and see what you have to do to reach it?
Here’s what I knew last August: I knew I wanted to make $100,000 a year, and I was willing to work 365 days to do it. What’s a weekend? I was prepared to ask myself that question. This sort of lifestyle change isn’t for everyone, but you can still set goals and do the math to figure out how to maintain your preferred work/life balance (or if that’s even possible – maybe the 9-to-5 is for you, I’m not knocking it if it is!).
For me, I needed to take home $275 a day, every day, to reach my goal. If that were a salaried job, I’d be making $34/hour assuming 8-hour days. But I didn’t (and still don’t) want to work 8-hour days, so I knew I had to charge more and work less to make that happen. Nothing wrong with that, right?
Once you’ve decided on your ideal schedule, then you can answer to how many hours you’d like to work. From there, you figure out your hourly rate. Then, go find the clients. That last part is the hardest, and probably a good topic for another post entirely. But don’t be afraid to take ownership of your hourly rate! It may be much, much higher than what your salaried friends are making, but remember, you’re not working 40 hours/week at the same company every day. Each client is responsible for a percentage of that $100k, or whatever your goal is. Don’t feel like you’re overcharging if you really believe in your own worth and expertise.
So how did I do on my quest for $275 a day?
Spoiler: not as well as you might think!
Look at this chart of my goals. On a daily basis, I’m less than a 50% success. But because I stuck to my rates and opened some bigger jobs, my success rate climbs over time, and I was 100% successful meeting my yearly goal, which is all that matters.
Breaking it down even further, you’ll see that I actually pulled a goose egg on a whopping 108 of my first 365 days freelancing on Codeable. That amounts to basically a full year’s worth of weekend days – which I already told myself I was willing to forego. On 93 other days, I made some money, but less than my $275 goal.
That means I was only able to hit or exceed my goal on 164 of 365 days. And there’s the lesson for new freelancers right there: get ready for the financial rollercoaster! Don’t get discouraged, especially at the beginning. During my first month, I only hit my daily goal a quarter of the time, but as I learned more and became more efficient, I was up to 61%.
The most important piece of wisdom I can provide is to remind you not to stress over reaching 100% of your small goals. It’s not realistic, and “failure” can discourage you. But try to see the big picture. Success in 3 out of 10 at-bats over a long career gets a baseball player to the Hall of Fame – each at-bat might not be a success but it’s the accumulation of hits that looks impressive in retrospect.
It’s also imperative to track your progress. I don’t make charts just because I like the colors; I’m referencing my progress reports all the time, especially during a down spell. If you don’t track your progress you’ll lose your perspective on the small gains you’re truly making, and you’ll feel like giving up.
We all want that magic pill or powder that will just work.
We think reading that blog post on productivity will make us more productive.
We think going to an industry event will get us new clients.
We think reading this blog post (ha!) will give us a profitable freelancing business.
But all that thinking does us no good if we don’t have a plan do go with it, the confidence to stick to our guns and the accountability to keep at it. Freelancing is an island, and the only life raft is the work you’re willing to put into it.
On to Year 2. Things have never looked better.
One year down, and I’m just getting started. I’m a WordPress expert who, in just a year as a freelancer, has completed nearly 600 projects and risen in the rankings of most productive developers on Codeable. My clients love the work I do for them, and I would be more than happy to add you to the list of satisfied customers. Get in touch with the form below and let’s start building your website today!