Today marks exactly 11 weeks since I took on my first freelance job. Since that day, I’ve worked on just over two dozen small projects and learned a ton about my own interests and what I’d like to work on more moving forward.
If you’re new to this blog, I left my full-time corporate job in August 2016 at the age of 34 with no plans to ever return. After a couple months of decompressing, I began looking for some freelance work to start bringing in a little extra money.
So far, I’ve taken on several writing projects and lately have focused most of my efforts on editing. Initially, I thought writing would be the way to go, but I’m realizing that I don’t enjoy writing as much when the topics are provided by other people and I’m forced to write in their requested style. Plus, some of the jobs I have completed required fairly extensive background research and simply took too long for the pay. I’ll probably still do some paid writing moving forward, but I’ll be a lot pickier on which jobs I accept.
Editing, on the other hand, has actually been kind of fun. Somebody else has already done the hard work, I’m just perfecting it. I’m looking to branch out into other editing projects, but to this point all my editing has been on academic papers (journal/conference submissions, theses, etc.) covering a variety of engineering disciplines. I know, nerd alert!
While my current pay is fairly mediocre, I can see a huge opportunity in this area. I’ve done a bit of market research and competitive analysis and determined that I could make around four to six times what I’m currently making by working directly with a client instead of being subcontracted work by a larger company. The problem here is I need to figure out how to get clients. In the meantime, I’m getting great experience and my editing skills have improved immensely over the last couple months.
The third, and right now most lucrative, part of my freelancing portfolio is my Air Force Reserve job. I’ve been able to secure additional work with a unit that should be able to provide me with 2-3 projects a year. Each project would put me on orders for 15 days over a two-month time period, and my first project begins next month. Combine that with the 24 days I am required to work for my assigned unit and potential additional training opportunities, and I’m hoping to top $20K of reserve pay in 2017.
Each month, I’ll provide a freelance earnings update, which will likely fluctuate a great deal. Some months I may earn $400-500, while other months I could bring in upwards of $4,000-5,000.
Part of this variability will be due to the types of jobs worked and time off for vacation. Some will boil down to pay timing. In general, pay will often be received in the month after the work was performed, but sometimes it may be during the same month. The rest of the variability will be due to unknown circumstances that may arise throughout the year.
To give you an idea of how things are going so far, here’s a graph showing my pay during the second half of 2016. This includes the last two months of my corporate job and my transition to freelancing.
I think September was the first month since I began working at the age of 15 where I made NO money. Yes, I had zero income in September (not counting dividends, anyway)!
Overall, my average monthly income during the first eight months of the year was $10,309.24 (skewed by a bonus in February; most other months were around $8K). Since October, it has been $1,660.10.
In no way am I looking to completely replace my previous income, though I wouldn’t complain if I did. Still, I felt it could be useful to point out where I was at before compared to where I’m at now.
Because the graph’s scale obscures the granularity of my freelance numbers, here are the specifics. From academic editing through Cactus Communications, I was paid $26.26 in November and $80.49 in December. All of the projects I have completed to date through Upwork were paid in December, grossing an even $368.
Not shown of the graph is January pay from editing work performed in December. That’s another $420.14… not too bad considering we took a week-long vacation to the Netherlands and the client I’m working through didn’t begin sending me consistent work until the second half of the month.
Interestingly, on December 17 I must’ve gotten moved to a different status in their system, because since that date they’ve sent me 240 projects valued at $16,235.96, for an average of $67.65 per editing job.
And while I’m being fully transparent, if you count the editing jobs I’ve completed the first 11 days of January, I’ve earned another $323.05.
My initial foray into the wild world of freelancing seems to be going fairly well. While I’m not making a ton yet, I see lots of potential down the road. More importantly, I feel more satisfied in my working career than I can ever remember.
Obviously I’m not completely where I want to be yet (not even close), but one of the biggest things I’ve learned over the last 11 weeks is that there are opportunities everywhere. You just have to be willing to take a chance and push yourself to learn and try new things.
Adding everything together since I began my non-traditional work career in October 2016, I’ve earned $5,723.50. Here’s the breakdown:
|Air Force Reserve||$ 4,505.56|
|Cactus Communications (academic editing)||$ 849.94|
|Upwork (writing)||$ 368.00|