Q3 Check-In: Saying ‘No’ in Order to Grow Your Freelance-Writing Career

Q3 Check-In: Saying ‘No’ in Order to Grow Your Freelance-Writing Career

How has 2017 gone for you so far? Has it been anything like you expected?

Now that we’re beginning the last quarter of the year, it’s time to start thinking about where we want our careers to go in 2018 — and doing the work that will help us get there.

It’s time for our third quarter check-in.

1. How much money did I earn this quarter?

Between July 1 and September 30, I earned $18,700 in freelance income and received $21,097.37 in freelance payments. (As you might remember from my Q2 check-in, I ended the second quarter with some money owed me.)

I also received $657.80 in ebook and paperback sales for my self-published debut novel, The Biographies of Ordinary People. I’ve made $1,214.65 in total sales, but the payments don’t arrive right away.

My total freelance income for 2017 (not counting book sales) is $50,241.12. I’m a little over $5,000 ahead of my $5K monthly income goal, and that’s before you factor in what I’m earning from my novel.

2. What was the best thing I did for my freelance career this quarter?

I wanted to spend the summer earning as much money as I could, and I did.

In Q2, I started writing for Lifehacker and was invited to take on some new responsibilities at The Billfold, where I’m currently a Senior Editor.

This additional work meant that I was earning more money, but I was also putting in more than 40 hours of work each week. That’s okay for a short-term sprint, but I didn’t want it to become a full-time workload — so I knew I would have to make some changes in the fall.

freelance writing3. What was my biggest mistake (or, what am I going to do differently next quarter)?

After earning more money in Q3, I had planned to spend Q4 cutting back on the number of assignments I accepted so I could focus on a few core clients, earn my monthly $5K and spend the rest of my time revising my second novel.

However, I’m already finding out that Q4 will be a little different than anticipated. Which brings me to the next question:

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

Like many freelancers who are at this stage of their career, my answer is “launch a project  I can’t talk about yet.” Right now I am working with people on a long-term project that, if it is successful, will help both my career and my income. If that sounds really vague, I’m sorry — trust me, I’ll tell you all about it if/when it happens.

I can say that I am not undertaking this project alone; nor is it designed to just benefit me.

Although “freelancer” is often synonymous with “solopreneur,” I’m lucky to be in the position where I get to work with other talented people towards a shared goal. It’s one of the benefits of having five years of experience working in the freelance and publication industry.

I’m also revising my second novel with the goal of self-publishing it in May 2018. So… this quarter is going to be pretty busy!

5. What steps am I taking to get there?

Remember that post I wrote about time-blocking? I’ve blocked off time for my clients, time for my projects and time for my novel revisions.

Yes, this means I’ve had to say no to some other opportunities. I am well aware that I could be making a little extra money each month that I am turning down in order to pursue these bigger goals — and to keep my workload as close to a 40-hour week as possible.

Part of me feel anxious about saying no to paying gigs, because up to this point my freelance career has been about earning as much money as I can, every month. But I’m hoping that my work this quarter will help me achieve something that’s better for my career than a $200 article — and will help me earn even more money in the long run.

We still have three months until the end of the year, but I’m already thinking about 2018 — what I might be working on, how much I might be earning and how I can continue to grow as a freelancer and an author.

2017 has been an unpredictable year in many aspects; I barely hit my earnings goal in Q1, got a bunch of new responsibilities in Q2 and hustled for more money in Q3. Now it’s time to spend Q4 building what might come next — and, of course, keeping up with my daily freelance and editing work!

So I’ll turn it over to you: ask yourself these same five check-in questions and, if you feel comfortable, share your answers in the comments. How has Q3 gone, and what are you looking forward to in Q4?

Filed Under: Freelancing


  • Hi Nicole, this is very exciting to see how people can build own dreams by themselves. I wish I could read more such stories and biographies of bloggers and writers for further creative inspiration.

    I am personally is someone who works on the other side of a wall: I am an International PR manager who is looking for qualified writers. If you or your friends are interested in project jobs related to creative writing about technologies and online business, feel free to contact me via [email protected]

  • Olumide says:

    It is good to have an analysis like this so that we can keep track of performance over a period of time and make changes where necessary.
    I’m a new Freelance writer. I started a self-help blog about two months ago. Currently, I’m in the phase of improving my work as much as possible and chasing paying work.
    So when you turn clients away Nicole, I won’t mind you turning them to me ?
    Thanks for sharing Nicole.

  • Halona Black says:

    What a great exercise to remind you to stay focused and follow through. Committing to share your success with the public can certainly light a fire under you.

  • I love seeing these income reports! I’m only working part-time because I’m home with my kids, but I’ve found myself pulling back from client work this fall so I can focus more on creative writing. It’s so freeing to be in a position where you don’t have to chase every dollar that comes your way. Good luck moving forward with your new project!

    • Nicole says:

      Thanks! Yeah, it’s about going in the direction that you want your career to go. Sometimes it’s “earning as much money as possible,” and sometimes it’s “building something that might pay off later.”

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