We’re beginning a new year — which, in my case, means it’s time to tally up everything I earned in 2016.
It also means it’s time to think about what I want to do with this column in 2017, and get ready to ask some new questions.
First, the numbers for December:
Completed pieces: 41
Work billed: $5,707.81
Income received: $9,638.88
What about my numbers for the full year? I ended up writing over 527,000 words in 2016 — more than 700 individual assignments, ranging from a 60-word blog post to a 10,000-word ebook — and earning $87,709.33 in freelance income.
As you might remember if you’ve been following this column, I earned $63,571.12 in 2015 — which means that I increased my freelance income by over $20,000 for the second year in a row.
Do I think that’s sustainable for 2017? Should I look forward to my first six-figure freelancing year? It could happen, but I’m not planning my budget under the assumption that I’ll earn $100,000 as a freelancer this year.
How I grew my income, and what might happen in 2017
In 2015, I increased my freelance income by setting myself the goal of earning $5,000 per month. I achieved that goal by building my network and taking on every assignment I could, which often meant working long hours.
In 2016, I wanted to keep my income sustainable while working fewer hours.
Instead of writing a bunch of smaller pieces to earn $5,000 a month, I wanted to raise my rates, find higher-paying clients and earn the same amount with less work.
Because I had done the work of building my network and my reputation, I was able to negotiate higher rates with several of my clients. I was also approached by a new client who was offering recurring, high-paying work. I got put on a large project that helped push my earnings to the $10,000-per-month level, but I knew that was only a short-term deal. After the project ended, my monthly earnings dropped back down to between $5-$6K per month.
That’s where I predict my earnings will stay, at least for the first quarter of 2017.
I’ll continue earning around $5,000 or so per month, while maintaining a 40-hour workweek. By the end of the quarter, I should know a little more about what the next few months of my year might look like.
Building my career by asking the right questions
I don’t yet know whether I’ll earn as much in 2017 as I did in 2016.
I do know that having a high-earning year has allowed me to prepare for a variety of financial possibilities.
With that in mind, I’m going to change up this column for 2017.
After two years of monthly income check-ins, I’m switching to a quarterly income round-up, in which I’m going to ask all of us to consider five questions:
- How much money did I earn this quarter?
- What was the best thing I did for my freelance career this quarter?
- What was my biggest mistake (or, what am I going to do differently next quarter)?
- What do I want to achieve as a freelancer next quarter?
- What steps am I taking to get there?
Every three months, we’ll check in with each other and with these questions, and I’ll share whether I’ve met my earnings goals. See you all at the beginning of next quarter!
How much did you earn as a freelancer in 2016? Did you grow your income this year? If so, what do you think prompted that growth — and will it continue in 2017?