Reflecting on my first year as a Freelancer
This past year has been a wild ride, to say the least. In May last year, I finished working for Realmac and started working as a contractor for a low-key B2B SaaS company.
Officially, I’m working like an employee, working the whole week on behalf of this one of a kind small business. They’ve been around since 1991, as old as I am, which is something to celebrate in this fast industry. And they cater to a very specific niche: offering a desktop software licensing & analytics solution for ISVs (independent software developers).
I’ve learnt a lot in this past year, and in the past few months, I’ve even managed to find the time and discipline to take on more client work and work on new projects.
As a contractor, my #1 problem is: What happens if Primary Client is unhappy about my work? The answer is simple: I will need to find a new opportunity very very fast. Of course, living in Western Europe, there’s always plan Z: being unemployed for a couple of months until I figure things out, but I’m proud to have avoided any form of unemployment so far and would like to keep it that way.
To try and bypass this, I’m trying to save a little bit of money every month, as a safety net. At this point in time, let me tell you that the net is not nearly as comfortable as I’d hope it would be. Then again, I don’t think one would ever be satisfied about the size of a financial safety net.
Thankfully, I already have a few things going for me: I don’t have any debt, I’m able to pay my bills, and I’m slowly trying to get more money and experience from side-projects, missions, and other client work.
But this is not enough: I won’t always be in good health, or working for this client. And as someone who’s very pragmatic, I know that if I continue working as a freelancer, there likely will be some hard times where I won’t have either work OR an income. Thankfully, this is a risk I’ve acknowledged from Day One and I’m working on a generic roadmap, setting things up to try and avoid the downfall of freelancing.
So, at the time of writing this article, here are my short, mid-, and long-term plans:
I’m continuing to work for the B2B company. It provides me with a lot of responsibilities, and I’m still learning a lot. It pays me moderately well, enough to afford to pay the rent and bills.
I want to take on more client work. I’ve come to realise that for sole-traders such as myself, there’s a wealth of opportunities offering marketing services to smaller companies. The hard part is landing those early gigs.
Originally, I was thinking about working with local businesses: they clearly don’t have the money to afford a new website designed by a marketing agency, and they don’t have the time to spend on marketing campaign, social media, ads, SEO and all of these different topics. But maybe I could handle it for them, for a smaller fee. However, I’ve come to realise that most of the time, they aren’t willing to spend the money on those services, even at a discount compared to industry standards. And most of them are looking for an old-school “webmaster” to manage everything for them. My goal was to teach them how to manage their ecommerce websites or social media presence, not make a commitment for months (or worse, years to come.) It didn’t work out for me, but I have other things I can find and do.
In the short term, I have found some new clients that require my services, for completely different things that I handle day-to-day with the Primary Client. This helps me diversify my income, which is the single biggest threat to my existing working life.
Oh, and if you need some help with your website, marketing, or customers support, get in touch!
That’s a very good question.
I’m trying to build an audience for my podcast, and I’d like that to start making a little bit of money on the side. It doesn’t have to be my full-time job, but I love having and sharing these conversation for the Digital Digest podcast, and I love hearing what people think about these interviews. My dream would be to have a financial complement, at the very least, if not relying on podcasting as a business.
I know it’s a long shot, but with patience, continued efforts, and good content, I’m confident that I can make it. It just might take a couple of years, and I’m OK with that: I knew it coming in, and, as Josh Long would say: “for every overnight success, there’s 10 years behind that.” I’m hoping that learning from the best helps me accelerate my learning process and avoid a few mistakes along the way.
For the rest, I really like the freedom that comes by being a location-independent freelancer. And I truly think that the what has been the hardest part so far, is now behind me: finding new clients and projects to work on. For the rest, I’m hoping to follow in the footsteps of my other independent friends (like Adam, Greg, Axelle and Paul) and trust that my passion, reputation, network and current gigs are enough to help me find some new work in the future.
And there you have it, a not-so-certain 5-year plan that could change today or tomorrow. Times are a-changin’, hey?