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Q4 Check-In: End of the Year Business Tips for Freelance Writers

by | Jan 11, 2018

The end of the year may have come and gone, but I know a lot of us are still processing what we learned in 2017, planning what we want to achieve in 2018 and getting ready to pay our fourth quarter estimated taxes. (Due January 15!)

With that in mind, let’s do our final quarterly check-in and answer the five questions.

1. How much money did I earn this quarter?

I’m writing this post before the end of the year, so I can’t say for sure how much money I’ll have earned between October 1 and December 31. (I still have one more pitch I’m hoping will get picked up — gotta keep that hustle going!)

However, I can say that so far I’ve earned $15,143 in freelance earnings and $717 in book royalties this quarter — of which I’ve received $14,942.80.

I also recently launched a new podcast called Writing & Money, which is designed to help people earn more money from their writing. Since it’s a subscription-based podcast, I’m earning money as well; subscribers have given me $50.84 this quarter. (It’s a very new podcast.)

My total freelance income for 2017, including book royalties, looks like it’ll hit $68,000.

2018 business tips2. What was the best thing I did for my freelance career this quarter?

The best thing I did for my freelance career this quarter was anticipate that a client would pull back on assignments. As soon as I got the hint that one of my clients might be cutting back, I went ahead and secured more work with a different client.

There are a couple different ways you can anticipate a client loss. Sometimes an editor will let you know in advance. Other times your regular editor will become slow to respond to your emails, or won’t offer a new assignment as soon as you turn one in. You might see your client put out an ad for staff writers; that’s a good sign that they might be cutting back on freelancers.

I actually had multiple clients pull back on assignments this quarter — and Pronoun, the indie publishing service that distributed my novel, shut down. It was a tumultuous few months, to say the least, but being able to anticipate at least some of these shifts and start reaching out to other clients helped me maintain steady work and grow my income.

3. What was my biggest mistake (or, what am I going to do differently next quarter)?

My biggest mistake was not buying a pop filter until after I had published the first few episodes of my podcast. My audio got so much better afterwards.

Next quarter is going to be very different for me because I moved from Seattle, Washington to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This means I’m going to need to get a new CPA, potentially set up a new business and figure out what I’m going to need to set aside for 2018 taxes. (Unlike Washington, Iowa has state income tax.)

My freelance career is likely to stay the same, but the way I approach my finances is going to change. My Affordable Care Act health insurance plan is a HSA plan, so I’m going to start setting aside pretax money for my HSA. I want to talk to my CPA about the benefits of opening a traditional IRA along with my Roth IRA, so I can contribute pretax money to the traditional IRA as well.

If the new tax plan passes, I’ll also ask whether I should consider becoming a LLC.

4. What do I want to achieve as a freelancer next quarter?

I want to keep growing! I’ve got this new podcast, I’m doing more work for some of my clients, I’ve got a big project that might launch next quarter, and I’ve got my novel and its forthcoming sequel.

In previous quarterly check-ins, I’ve written that I want to maintain my career — and I did. Now I’m ready to push myself to the next level.

5. What steps am I taking to get there?

I launched a podcast, I am about to turn my novel in to another distributor, I booked additional client work… I just kept hustling, and I plan to continue that hustle in 2018.

What about you? What are you planning to do in the new year? Answer these check-in questions or share your thoughts in the comments.