A few months ago, I stumbled upon a spreadsheet of my 2012 freelance income. On August 2, 2012, I started freelancing full-time. That December (my fourth month freelancing), I had pulled in $10,595 within a 31-day window. I remember looking at that number in amazement.
I had made $10,000 just the year before, in 2011, freelancing as my side hustle while working 30 hours a week at my day job.
I shared some of these numbers briefly on my Instagram story and got a lot of responses back. A lot of people felt encouraged and that’s when I knew I had to write more on this topic here on my blog. I don’t like it when people act like making 5 of 6 figures is “easy.” There are a few important parts to this $10,500 story that I want to point out:
1. This Didn’t Happen Overnight
I started freelancing in college back in 2007. I was designing logos for Etsy shops for $20. I graduated in the midst of a recession (REMEMBER THAT?), tried freelancing when I quit my soul-crushing call center job, failed and then worked for the state government for about two years. I was thankful that I had found a flexible 30-hour a week job. My paycheck was about $680 every two weeks. I pretty quickly began to make more as a side-hustling freelancer. The first month of freelancing full-time, I brought in $5,500.
September 2012: $5,025
October 2012: $8,225
November 2012: $8,400
December 2012: $10,595
By the end of the year, I had brought in a little over $52,000 on my own.
2. The $10,500+ wasn’t earned by designing beautiful logos and working on dream projects
Actually, here’s exactly how I earned it:
Obviously, I changed the client names + project description. Big Client #1 was a dream client. That client project was what really propelled my career. But I didn’t profit much on it because I offered a lot of things for free (things that I had never done before but wanted to be hired to do). It paid off in a lot of other ways.
The other larger payments were earned because, while I might have been freelancing full-time, it wasn’t while I was sitting on my couch in my PJs drinking matcha and Instagramming. I was hired on as a contractor for 10-30 hours a week at a local suburban agency and at a hip start-up. I was mostly brought on to create internal designs for them (or to work on things like wireframes). I designed things like their holiday cards, worked on the CEO’s passion projects, took photos of their team and kept up on things that never got prioritized by their own employees due to their own client work. I had set hours with both companies, sat in a cubicle one morning and drove across town to work in an open concept office with people I didn’t really know. It was flexible, paid well and helped me find my footing as a freelance designer.
Lastly, my very boring corporate client was everything you can imagine and more. My point person was very kind and nice, which made it okay. But believe me when I tell you: I was designing the most boring documents you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Very tedious. Not beautiful at all.
If you’re at a place in your freelance career where everyone’s life looks sexier than yours, it’s probably a lie. Focus on your goals and what you love doing. Who are you here to help? Do you have a financial goal? Does this flexibility allow you to stay home with your kids? Travel more? Be less stressed? Love your ground or move.
3. I Owed $19,000 in Taxes That Year
Yes, a $10,000+ month is rad. We paid off personal debt that year. We went to Jamaica. We started The Wonder Jam five months later. You know what wasn’t fun? My $19,000 tax bill that I paid via check. Thankfully I was a Very Good Girl that year and actually put 35% away for taxes. I didn’t write anything off (I don’t advise doing this). I didn’t pay quarterly (I don’t advise doing this). I took every last penny home (I don’t advise doing this). I didn’t have anyone doing my taxes for me (I was trying to “save” money hahahaha). So, if you’re a freelancer reading this, ask for help if you don’t understand finances.
4. I Had No Support or Community
I am proud of what I accomplished on my own. But I was ON MY OWN and I worked all the time. 24.7. Besides Adam (who worked at a regular 9-5), not a lot of friends or family really understood that I was planning on working for myself for the rest of my life. I couldn’t ask questions. I took the hardest, longest way of accomplishing anything within my business. Plus, none of my friends owned their own business. Now? Almost all my friends do!
It’s honestly why we started The Diamond Membership. We wanted a place where people can ask questions and where we can throw all of the knowledge we’ve gained through trial, error, coaches + pure luck/time. If you’re someone who is interested in owning your own business, already own one or are in the midst of that side-hustle, we’d love to have you. That’s about as sales-y as I’ll get. If you have any questions about it, comment below or email me at allie @ thewonderjam dot com.