A few weeks ago, I put out a call to readers to tell me about one of your Big Goals, and I offered to design customized, mini action plans to help you get started on the first few steps. This is part of that series.
My one big goal is to make enough money in the next 6 months to quit my day job and start loving the freelance writing, editing and authoring life – for good. My biggest obstacles are: making enough money on the side to come close to my current management consulting salary so I can justify taking the leap, and weeding through the writing and editing clients that think having a blog post written for $5 is a good idea.
This is a scenario that anyone who has struck out on their own in business (including me!) can identify with. How do you ramp up that side-gig income to full-time levels, without being able to give it full-time hours?
1. Figure out what your “I Quit!” numbers actually are.
I can’t tell you exactly what the math will look like, because I don’t know what your day job pays, what your freelancing pays or what your expenses are. But if you want to quit your job to freelance full-time here are the three numbers you need to determine:
- Your monthly living expenses. Figure out how much you actually need to live. While you’re at it, see if there’s anything you can scale back or eliminate to lower this number. This post is all about determining your monthly expenses and includes a handy spreadsheet.
- Your “Escape Fund” total. Take a look at those monthly expenses and decide how much money you would need to have set aside to feel safe that everything can be covered if freelancing doesn’t completely pay the bills for the first few months. If you already have some savings, decide if you can separate out some of that money for this purpose. I think it’s really smart to have a separate bank account for this, so you’re not dipping into money that’s meant for retirement or a true emergency fund.
- Your percentage of hours spent vs. money earned. Right now, you’re not dedicating full-time hours to your freelancing. Of course you’re not making a full-time income yet! But when you quit your day job, you’ll be able to give it more of your time. Figure out how many hours you’re freelancing per week and how many dollars you’re earning. If you multiplied that to full-time hours, what could you be making? This is just an estimate, but it’s good to put it in perspective. Even if it doesn’t rival your income from your day job yet, it might come closer when you’re able to give it your full attention.
2. Determine a realistic timeline.
Once you have all of those numbers on paper, you can hash out a real timeline for putting that Escape Fund together and switching over to Freelance as your primary income source. You said you want to be out in six months. Does the math work based on your numbers? If it doesn’t, what needs to change?
You can adjust your expenses if you’re willing to cut back or do without some things, move to less expensive housing or go without some discretionary purchases for awhile.
You can adjust the timeline if a few extra months of your full-time gig will give you a savings cushion that you’re comfortable with.
You can adjust your freelance hours vs. income if you can carve out a little extra time to throw at your business, bring in a few more clients or raise your rates.
Figure out what needs to be tweaked and tweak that shit.
3. Find other places to publish your work online.
You have a blog that showcases your writing to the world and that’s awesome!
Now here’s the dig: The people who would benefit most from your services probably aren’t reading it.
That’s just the reality of being a beginner in online business. You need an audience to sell your services, and to get an audience you need to give away some of your best material.
In the world of online writing, that means guest posting.
Imagine your top two or three ideal clients. Are they bloggers, authors, online entrepreneurs or brick and mortar businesses? Where are they going for help and advice? Do they hang out on sites like Problogger, writing communities or sites dedicated to small business? Find these sites where your ideal client hangs out, determine whether they accept guest posts and pitch to them.
Then, start writing a few info-packed pieces in your niche – crafting delicious copy that makes readers hungry for more – and send them to those outlets. It’s a hard reality, but the best way to find your people on the internet is often to publish your best material somewhere else with a larger audience.
Don’t be afraid that you’re going to give away too many ingredients in your special sauce. While you’re telling people how to bend words to their will, you’re positioning yourself as an expert and drawing in clients who may not have the time or desire to personally practice what you’re preaching. And those people will pay you!
Here’s a great post on Guest Blogging Strategy.
4. Publish your rates!
This can be a big, scary thing. I know that because I had serious anxiety around posting the pricing of my own Coaching packages! Even when you know that you’re worth it, slapping a pricetag on your time for everyone to see can be terrifying – what if they don’t agree that you’re worth it?
But that’s the problem you’re already staring down, right? Potential “clients” who don’t understand the value of your writing.
Set the bar to scare those people off and make room for the ones who get it. If there are no prices on your website, I don’t know if I should expect you to charge $10 an hour or $200. Some very motivated people might inquire to find out, but many people will move along to someone with easily visible dollar signs.
You don’t necessarily have to cover every possible scenario. I imagine it probably depends a lot on the specific client and what they’re asking you to do. But could you make up a few example packages with a rate for each?
- A package for someone who wants you to revamp the static pages on their website, like About and Sales pages. (Full disclosure: Jacq is helping me with this right now, and she is absolutely worth every penny!)
- A package for someone who wants a certain number of blog posts written. Sarah Von Bargen no longer offers her Blog in a Box package, but it was exactly this – one month of blog posts of a certain length for a set price. The price was high enough to run off the bargain-hunters while still being a tremendous value for professional writing.
- A package for ghostwriting an ebook of a certain number of pages, perfect for someone to use as their opt-in incentive?
Include a nice disclaimer that actual cost may vary based on additional hours required and that custom quotes are available for any project by request.
The point isn’t really to sell people on these specific packages, although that might be nice. The real goal is to communicate up front that this is what your writing is worth so that the people who come to you are ready to work with you and the ones who aren’t stop clogging up your inbox.
Girl, you are in the home stretch. Work out the numbers, work out the timeline, put your name out there and tell people what you’re worth. The hardest thing about starting your own business (besides ohhhhh, everything) is creating a plan for yourself and sticking to it when you’re the only one holding yourself accountable. (That’s why I do what I do!)
But you’ve got this. And a year from now you’ll wonder how there was ever any doubt!
How about you, readers? Any businesses blooming?