The Secret Sauce Behind My Best Year Freelancing Yet
Last night I ran some financials (translation: plugged invoice values into a Google Sheet).
Thereupon, I discovered that my annual turnaround is up 69% year on year. And there’s one full month, from today, to increase that gap even further.
Two caveats need to be added here:
- Last year was dismal. It somehow took me an entire year to figure out just how bad. Work out your annual turnover more than once per year.
- While I don’t feel comfortable disclosing how much I’m earning, bear in mind it’s a reasonably modest amount. Enough to live on? Thankfully. Will I be posing with my Ferrari on Instagram soon? Probably not.
A few things accounted for this year’s growth — at least as far as I can tell. Here are those key activities.
I Cut Out Distractions
I posted recently about my crazy experiment: To the aggravation of many delivery drivers, I have been unreachable by telephone for a sizeable chunk of this year.
I Went Into Flight Mode For Six Months. Here’s What Happened.
Back in January, I wrote an excited Medium post about how being slightly less responsive was going to be the motto of…
I’m not sure how to feel about my flight mode hack — and it’s still very much under internal evaluation. I get that it drives people crazy. If you work with clients that love to call you up randomly, it probably won’t work for you.
But equally it’s been responsible for my best and most focused periods of writing and client work.
I made some other pivots along the way. Actually, I try to make small pivots all the time.
Last night I determined to take a more strategic approach to my (offsite) guest blogging efforts, honing in on publications that I felt offered a fairer deal when working with authors:
I’ve also set up a Google Calendar for marketing so that I can try to make some effort in that department every year:
A Daily Marketing Keep Fit List For Writers
Marketing is a fascinating field. There’s so much to learn. So many emerging practices and technologies to keep up…
A few weeks ago, I realized that I can get a lot more value by reading books and listening to podcasts than I can (often) by checking out my LinkedIn feed. I think that quality non-fiction has a high ROI. So I’m trying to do more of that:
Why I Really Can’t Do LinkedIn Anymore
Is Content Curation The Key To Staying Sane In Today’s World?
I Worked Long Hours
If there’s some magic secret to make freelancing work, then I’m sorry to have to convey that I haven’t figured it out.
My hours this year have been long.
I don’t want to support the culture of humble-bragging about being busy or working a lot so I won’t elaborate on how many hours I have worked. Let’s just say that the Four Hour Workweek it is not.
For what it’s worth, I also don’t see this as either desirable or sustainable and one of my objectives for the short term is to do more walking.
Being one-dimensional isn’t good. No doubt about it.
I Chatted A Lot With Other Freelance Writers
Check out the freelance writers’ subreddit:
I know that "where do I find gigs?" and "how do I get started" is a common question here. People also want to know…
In general, I have issues with Reddit. Anonymity can breed toxicity.
Equally, however, there are good and wholesome parts of it. I think that the freelance writers’ subreddit is one such place.
I see very high ROI in talking shop with other writers.
We help each other figure out resolutions to common problems and to see things differently. Participating there has been a rewarding experience.
I Started Taking Client Bylines
For those not in the writing biz:
- Ghostwriting = writing under somebody else’s name
- Byline = Literally the ‘By’ line that precedes an article
For years I turned down all client bylines reasoning that if I was being paid to content market for somebody the writing wasn’t really my own.
I’ve flipped perspective on this.
In most instances bylines are good. I struggle with this. Part of me loves being a behind the scenes ghostwriter. But equally I have to be pragmatic in order to survive. If people Google you and find nothing — then you may seem like a big spoofer.
Show people who you are and what you do. Transparency breeds trust.
I Got Into Learning Mode
I’ve been working with content marketing teams for years and yet it wasn’t until recently that I started to fill my Kindle with books about sales and marketing.
The hardest part of all this these days is figuring out where to turn to for info. We’re literally drowning in content. Just about anything you want to learn (and are capable of learning) can be learned with a combination of:
I Started Inbound Marketing
I’ve wasted way too much time on outbound marketing over the years. Outbound marketing that yields results — yes — but which has a spotty ROI.
There’s nothing wrong with outbound marketing in my book. So long as — if you’re cold emailing — you’re reasonably tailored in your approach and you follow email best practices.
However, it’s a lot of work and it’s neither fun for recipient nor sender.
I still think that it has its place and that freelancers need to deploy a diverse article.
BUT I think that inbound is a much more wholesome way to market.
I’ve recently begun paying more attention to my long neglected writing website blog. Even adding some pages for the niches I write about has resulted in a couple of inbound queries.
It takes time. But it works.
I’m Focusing On Authenticity
Finally, one that is going to sound incredibly cheesy.
If there’s one value that I’ve been trying hard to cultivate it’s authenticity.
I see this as very closely allied with inbound marketing.
You need to show the world who you really are in order to attract the right kind of people — and clients — into your life.
For me, this is a work in progress.