January 1, 2018 was my first day as a full-time freelance copywriter. And I have to tell you: it’s been a pretty crazy past year.
Before I quit my full-time corporate position I took the time to write down my goals for the year. They were modest, sure, but I didn’t want to set too high of expectations. I honestly just wanted to try.
Well, try I did and guess what? It went pretty damn stellar.
By the end of January 2018 I was already settling in (read my blog about it here).
Three months in I knew I had made the right choice.
Now I’m one year and I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner. But then I remind myself that I wasn’t ready until I was.
My first year of freelancing went better than I could have possibly imagined. I worked my absolute toosh off, failed a lot, met so many talented and inspiring people, and am still alive!
Now it’s time to review those initial goals and set more for year two.
Here are my markers for success in 2018
Goal one: make my full-time salary
Granted, this wasn’t a lofty goal. I wasn’t earning all that much in my corporate job (just above living wage, actually). I figured if I could pull living wage off in year one, just imagine what I could do in year two!!!
Well, I’m happy to say I smashed my goal by over 60%.
Lesson learned: set harder monetary goals
Goal two: not work 40 hours a week
I can work pretty damn fast. If I’m focused and alert I can easily get 8 hours of work done in 3 or 4. That left me sitting twiddling my thumbs most days in the office.
And I hate it when I feel like my time is being wasted. Life is too short and too full of incredible things to be a thumb-twiddler.
I built into my schedule assurances that I wouldn’t become a burn-the-candle-at-both-ends entrepreneur. I themed my days (see this post), joined a kickboxing gym, and taught myself how to say no when I was getting close to overworking myself.
Lesson learned: Themed days are my bread and butter. Whenever they started bleeding into each other my quality of life plummeted.
Goal three: Get consistent and good clients
From all my research and plain common sense I knew I had to find a great client base that would offer recurring and well-paying projects. Freelancing is stressful and can be a total crapshoot. Working with great people severely lessons the chance of falling flat on your face and eating nothing but canned beans for a month.
Lesson learned: Not all nice people make great clients.
Goal four: Build a cabin in the woods
My pet project is rejuvenating land my grandpa bought back in the 70’s. I’ve got a lil’ blog that’s sorely needing updated you can read here. It’s 80+ acres of woods, a pond, and a creek and only one hour from my house in the city. A major goal was to build a serviceable get-away cabin so my partner and I could run away and stare at trees whenever we wanted.
I have quite a bit of building experience but have never constructed something from the ground up. This was a major chance to learn something new!
Lesson learned: Building takes SO MUCH LONGER than you’ll ever think.
Goal five: Read 40 books
Netflix has ruined my reading habit. It’s just too easy to open up my laptop and zone out for a couple hours, with my delicious fiction lying right next to me. I decided to make a Goodreads challenge to hold me accountable for my reading. And no, I didn’t read any “business books,” because I strongly believe adults have forgotten how to practice imagination. And that’s the most important asset we all have.
See my reading list and reviews here.
Goal: Met - I even read 41.
Lesson learned: I need to set numerical and determined goals, not just “I should read more…”
Goal six: Hire a graphic designer for my visual brand
At the very beginning I decided not to break my bank going all in on a visual brand. It just didn’t make much sense. I needed to work on my cash flow before I go investing that much. Debt is something that terrifies me, and I’m a huge saver. My goal was to be able to hire a graphic designer by the end of the year.
And I did! Last month! Katie Chandler has been my #1 pick since last February. I’m so glad I waited because I understand more of what I do, my values and beliefs, my goals, and my services. I could give Katie better direction and she’s already come up with a fantastic concept.
Lesson learned: Sometimes it’s good to wait.
Goal seven: Afford to do a workcation in Europe
Fun fact – I lived in Spain and Andorra a cumulative 2 years. Catalunya is like my second home and I have close friends that live there. My corporate job only gave me 10 days of vacation a year, which for someone who likes to travel, was terrible. I felt trapped and I wanted to build into my business a way to work from anywhere, because my community is everywhere.
Goal: Met! Flying out in mid-January!
Lesson learned: It’s ok to have fun. You can still do the work when you’re not at your desk.
Life is constantly changing and it threw some great surprises at me that helped me reach my goals.
Quitting my job, I was left worried that I would be isolated and alone. My only work companion would be my dog and my coffee cup.
But I found a wonderful community – two actually!
Each month I go to Rise & Design, a meet up for creatives in Columbus. To be honest I learned more from those meetups than anything else. And I’ve made phenomenal friends (and business) from it.
In February I joined the Unreal Collective, a 12-week intensive incubator. I was thrown together with 4 other aspiring entrepreneurs and met weekly via video to discuss progress, rotate who was on the hot seat, and generally be each other’s support. I am happy in giving Unreal Collective a massive weight when it comes to determining my success.
The Powerful Mind Podcast Interview
Alex asked me to hop on his podcast and damn was it fun. I listen to podcasts like it’s my side hustle, so being on one was a dream come true.
Having the chance to talk with such a great human about traveling, drive, and my work was a blast.
Columbus Society of Communicating Arts (CSCA) and the Starting Line both asked me to be on panels about freelancing, and I’m totally hooked. It was terrifying at first, but then I realized it’s like having a conversation with friends…just in front of an audience.
Donating my skills
Not everything has to be paid. In fact, the unpaid writing I’ve done has brought me more work than the paid. I write the blog recap for Rise & Design each month, which offered me better relationships with the graphic designers in the room (and they always need a writer). I also write some of the promotional copy for the visiting artists CSCA has each month, which means I get to interview successful creatives and get my name in front of even more people.
So hey – don’t be stingy with your talents.
Going to a conference
I didn’t realize this was a goal until I hit the “Confirm” button on my buying my tickets to The Copywriter Club IRL conference in NYC this coming March. My business could afford to send me somewhere! And it didn’t give me a panic attack to buy it!
CLE (Continuing Legal Education) Workshops
One of my cohort buddies, Brad, is a small business lawyer who is super passionate about branding. He invited me to come in and do a 3 hour CLE class with him and it made me realize: WHOA. I LOVE THIS.
The biggest lesson
I’ve been doing this for a year. I’ve f-d up so many times, stumbled blind into too many situations, and ate my own foot.
What’s the biggest thing I’ve learned?
To know what success is beyond the paycheck.
Success should NOT be just defined by how much you make in a year.
Great, you made $100K – what are you doing with that? Are you fulfilling other dreams? Are you traveling? Are you spending more time with your family?
Once I defined success not just for my business but for my life (I know, I know, overwhelming…) I was able to say ‘no’ easier to things. I was able to focus more. I was able to hone in on my services, my pricing, and my clients.
The biggest pivot
When I first started out I was offering website copy, email copy and sequences, and ad copy.
Now I’m no longer offering ad copy and hardly write emails anymore.
I’ve pivoted to brand strategy and website.
I love brand work. I love getting to sit a team down and take them through a workshop, help them make connections, and put their ideas into something that’s actually understandable and ACTIONABLE.
Brand strategy lets me do all of my favorite things: research, customer interviews, audits, workshops, strategy, writing, and giving a team something that’s useful for years to come.
Money – I’m pretty happy with what I managed this year. I’m not really driven to grow much more, because honestly I don’t have much need for more. We don’t have kids, our mortgage is pretty low, and I still live like I’m making $17K a year (and don’t regret it at all). Why work harder when you don’t really need to?
Clients and projects – Columbus, my home city, is growing rapidly. Shoot, I’d love to be the go-to copywriter for new local business or ones who are looking to take it to the next level. I’m looking at ways to productize some of my services and other opportunities for multiple revenue streams.
The Farm – I want to finish the inside of the cabin so it’s a 3 season place to stay. It’d be nice for it to be a bit more comfortable too. As for the land I’m hoping to plant a few native berries where they will actually produce, learn more about the plants already growing on the land, and be a better steward.
Other business goals – Workshops and speaking have been a surprise love of mine this past year and I’m hoping to cultivate that. I’ve got a couple ideas of how I can offer a branding workshop to more people than just a small team and a few local conferences that I might try to get a small speaking gig at.
Reading – Read 40 more books! That’s an easy one to explain.
Other life goals – I have a place I want to workcation for every quarter next year. Europe, Denver, Chicago, and Boston here I come!
Run in a race longer than a 5K – My partner and I signed up for a 9 miler in April to get us back into a healthy workout routine. One week in and it’s going great! I missed running last year, focusing most of my workout efforts at my kickboxing gym. But 2 weeks ago I realized it’s not making me feel as good as running does, so I’m going back to my roots.
…bet you were expecting more than this, huh?