When I was seriously thinking about going freelance, I did a lot of research. I followed people on social media who had already done it. I listened to podcast about how to do it. I read what felt like a million blog posts about dos and don’ts. Like most situations in my life, I wanted to be prepared for the absolute worst scenario. So after consuming all that information, I was fully prepared for freelance to be less stable financially than my full-time editorial job. I was prepared for late payments and chasing invoices (to an extent, anyway), and I was totally prepared to make less money. In fact, part of the rationale behind moving out of New York was that my cost of living would be less and would finally give me the extra cushion I needed to dive into freelance and, inevitably I thought, make less. What I did not expect, in any way, shape, or form, was to be almost seven months into freelancing full-time and be on track to make nearly 40% more than I made at my full-time editorial job. But that’s exactly what happened.
Remember all those freelancers I followed when I started thinking about making the career switch? I have a vivid memory of reading a tweet from one of them that said something along the lines of, “… my worst month was $3,000, and my best month was $10,000” when talking about her yearly freelance income. I remember reading that and laughing, because the idea of making $10,000 a month while essentially being your own boss seemed quite literally impossible to me. But within my first seven months of running my own show, I’m currently on my third month of being within $500 of a $10,000 month. Granted, all of this is before taxes and before business expenses — and I certainly respect and accept the fact that at any point, I could lose a few anchor clients and be on track to make a yearly income that’s more similar to my full-time job. But I can also say that that’s already happened. I’ve lost anchor clients and survived. I’ve had months where I’ve made less than I was making monthly as an editor. But even with all of that, I’ve still stayed on track to make much more money than I was before. But honestly, even if I wasn’t, freelancing would still be the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
For the first time in my life ever, I feel truly in control of my finances. I feel in control of how much I make, how much I save, and I feel motivated to invest the money I make back in to my business and skills to keep going. It’s exactly why I want to encourage everyone to consider creating their own business or company or freelancing career or personal brand, because while I was making a good salary in my old job (especially for media, though not particularly for New York), I feel like I really own my money now. I know exactly the amount of work that went into every single dollar, and that’s a really powerful feeling. Here are a few ways that freelancing changed the game for me financially:
It grew my social following.
As soon as I went freelance, my following on social started growing at a quicker rate than it had before. Part of me had expected the opposite to happen — that people would be bored with a less glamorous version of things. But instead, more people started showing up. I think this is two-fold: One, because I believe people are inherently interested in stories about people who do the opposite of what they’re expecting them to do and two, because I had more time to put thoughtful time and effort into my social presence. At first, I will say that Instagram and blogging took a back seat to finding clients. Now, though, social is very much built into my workflow and I feel I’m able to connect with my audience that much more. This means that now more branded content opportunities present themselves to me, but also that more editors than ever find me. I’ve had multiple writing leads come to me via editors reaching out on social.
It expanded my areas of expertise.
As a fashion and beauty editor, I already had a good deal of background and experience writing about… well, fashion and beauty. But I also had an interest in home decor and lifestyle content. I loved writing about travel and weddings. I was interested in branded content. Now, I get to do it all. And because of that, I’m making that many more contacts and taking on that many more clients. And more clients equal more money. Fashion and beauty is still my bread and butter, but it’s only the beginning of what I can write about.
It allowed me to solidify my personal brand.
I already had what I would consider a fairly strong personal brand when I was an editor, but going out on my own forced me to be extremely thoughtful about how I branded myself. I thought about everything from my Instagram bio to my website ‘About’ section to my SEO presence much more intensely than I ever had before. And while you don’t have to have the strongest personal brand in the world to be a successful freelancer, it makes a world of difference. I can’t say exactly how many of my clients and gigs are thanks to my personal brand and online presence, but I can say fairly confidently that it’s at least half.
It gave me confidence.
I didn’t consider myself someone who lacked confidence before, but the experience of going freelance has taught me I can do anything. I wrote for Bustle for my junior and senior years of college and then started full-time at Bustle less than a month after I graduated college. I loved it there, but it also was very safe to me. When you don’t expand beyond your safety zone, you are stunting your own growth — no matter how supported or successful you are in that safety zone, or how cool it may seem. Now, I know I can pitch anywhere. I still get rejected a ton, and I’m still learning every day, but I have the confidence to do it. I am fully, 100 percent confident in my personal brand, social presence, and skills — and charging accordingly for all of the above.