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The return to freelancing, month two: July recap

Behind the Scenes: the July recap

I wasn’t going to keep doing behind the scenes/monthly recap posts but last month’s got a fair amount of positive feedback, so I thought I’d keep going!

How I spent my time:

Harvest Report: 7/2014

As you can see, I tracked 103 hours on the nose in July – which breaks down to about 25 hours/week. Towards the beginning of the month I wasn’t working as many hours a day as I’d like, because I got an imminently-adorable-but-distracting-and-troublemaking kitten. So towards the end of the month I was working more like 30-40 hours a week. I was a lot more religious about time-tracking this month, so these numbers should be way more accurate.

Out of that time:

  • 67 of those hours were spent on my business/internal work
  • The other 36 went to my clients (including the email, meeting, and admin time for each client, not just writing time)
  • I spent slightly less time meeting with prospective clients than I did in June (2 hours), but I spent roughly the same amount of time pitching (9.8 hours); however, I wasn’t near as on-the-ball about time-tracking in June, so I suspect I actually spent a lot less time pitching in July than in June
  • Roughly 12 hours on email, 9 doing social media (that’s actual social scheduling or posting, not dicking around in Facebook groups), 8 hours marketing (including the email newsletters), and 5 on admin

If you wanna see the whole breakdown of my internal work, here’s a screenshot. It might be useful if you want to set up time-tracking for your biz (which you totally should! I use & love Harvest). Anyways, it shows all the tasks I’m actually using/tracking time for, so that I can drill down and be really specific about what I’m spending time on.

How I made my money:

  • $541 from the (currently running) guest posting course
  • $57 from other products
  • $25.31 from Amazon
  • $2,199.86 from services

Total income: $2,823.16

A note about my service income: Technically, I didn’t actually get all that money in July. One thing I didn’t anticipate for when it comes to tracking and doing these sorts of reports is the payment delay that comes with working with larger companies (or, for example, even smaller companies that pay when the post is published, not when it’s submitted). So this means that as of end of day on 7/31, I had $350 worth of work that was done but not invoiced yet because of publish dates, and $679.24 of my invoices for July were still outstanding. I’m still counting it as income for July just because that’s when I did the work and that makes it easier on me, tracking wise.

Other than that, my service income went way up from last month, my product/class income went way down – but that’s to be expected since I wasn’t having a sale this month like I did last month. My service income should also be higher in August because due to my continued pitching efforts and momentum built up/referrals/etc. I got or started several ongoing gigs that will seriously bolster my income and let me lay off the pitching some.

Still falling just shy of my $3,000/month income…but notably, aside from one clusterfuck at the beginning of the month that made me pretty broke until the 10th or so (caused by me overestimating how quickly some invoices would get paid), I didn’t have any major money stress this month. I’m getting caught up and for pretty much the first time ever as a freelancer, I paid my rent for August on time with more than $5 left afterwards, even with two later-than-expected payments.

Business expenses:

  • SAAS tools (Contactually, SendOwl, Google Apps, Coschedule, Harvest, Clicky): $112
  • Paypal Pro: $20
  • Coffee shops/meetings: $93.42
  • Canva images: $5
  • Web hosting: $15

Total: $245.42

Thoughts:

  • I need to review what exactly I’m paying for with Paypal Pro, because it doesn’t seem to be cutting down on my percentage that’s taken.
  • I’m going to be canceling Contactually, SendOwl, or both in the near future; I want to give Contactually a second chance but given that most of my clients are longer term now instead of one-off service packages, I just don’t know how much I need it. I even talked to one of their account managers and he sent over some case studies (which of course I haven’t reviewed yet), but whatever he did to my follow up reminders just kind of turned them into a huge clusterfuck. Streak seems to have mostly taken its place, and it’s free. I might sign up for Capsule or Insightly and use them to manage the product/class purchases and CRM related to that, but as of right now, I just don’t feel like I’m getting enough out of Contactually to keep paying $20/mo for it.
  • I only still use Sendowl because that’s where Productivity for Multipotentialites is hosted, so there has to be some better/more cost effective way to deal with the logistics of that.
  • I like Clicky, but I’m not entirely sure I can’t do everything I need inside Google Analytics, so I probably will downgrade back to the free version and just work on setting up conversion tracking/etc. inside GA.

Even though I want to cut down these expenses some, I’m also looking at strategically adding other expenses. I’m still weighing if it’s too soon and if I’ll see the benefits soon enough to justify taking on the expenses now instead of putting them off, but the two things I’m looking at are:

Coworking space: This would be $200/month. So it’s only $100 more than I’m already spending on coffee/food at meetings a month, and it’s 100% tax deductible instead of 50% tax deductible (which pretty much all my coffee shop work is since I’m always meeting with people and coworking).

The main issue I have with coffee shops is that I can spend maybe four hours there before I’m hungry and have to go back home. On Monday, I worked at a coffee shop from 9-1, went home for lunch, came back at 2 and worked until 4, and I got an INSANE amount done. But I also spent more than usual, something like $8-10 – if I did that every day, I’d have paid for the coworking membership by the end of the month.

So by working at a coworking space from 9-5 and just eating lunch there, I should be able to get enough billable work done to more than pay for the membership. This analysis also doesn’t include the other benefits of a coworking space, like:

  • easy access/discounted rates on space for in-person workshops
  • working at a place where I can hide in a private room and do a Skype call instead of having to go home
  • networking with other people
  • the general benefit of having friends and not being isolated

Admin work: Looking at my time-tracking, I spent about 15.5 hours on social media (mostly scheduling social posts for either posts on Bombchelle, or shares of client work on their site and tagging the outlet + people I quoted on Twitter/FB), admin work (which is my catch-all category for any task that doesn’t fit into another category and that someone else could be doing), and website work (things like creating images for posts, setting them as featured, updating or installing plugins, etc.). I spent another 12 hours on email, too.

At least half, if not more, of that work can be done by someone else, and doing that would free up my time for marketing my own products, product creation, and doing more billable work – which would help me get past that plateau that I mentioned in this post, where once you take into account the admin work I have to do to keep my business running, my service income is going to plateau at around $3,000-4,000/month. Currently, I’m able to dedicate enough time to make $150-200 a day from service work, so if I could spend twice as much time on billable work (or even marketing my products) and half as much time on admin, that’d kill the plateau. KILL IT DEAD, YO. (Sorry. Dunno who I was channeling there.) 

Currently, I’m talking to one or two people about the possibility of admin work, and also considering signing up for Zirtual. I’ll probably start with someone else hourly though and then move to Zirtual if that doesn’t work out, because I’d like to slowly scale it up instead of just starting at $200/month. That way, my business will hopefully be seeing the positive side effects of outsourcing before I’m at the point of spending another $200/month, so it’s more of a give and take than a “I’m spending money on this and hoping it works out okay!”

Looking ahead:

  • I’d like to run the guest posting course one more time in 2014, with less hectic-ness caused by travel and life adjustments, so it’s going to be available to sign up for again in September and I’ll start in October, which will put it wrapping just before the holiday madness starts.
  • I don’t think I’m going to do a Kickstarter for paper versions of the planners. Not sure what I’m going to do with that, because at the moment, I probably don’t have the $700-1,000 to pay out of pocket to have them printed up, unless the round two of the guest posting class goes really well. I could do a Kickstarter in September, but I’ll be promoting the guest posting course then. I could do the Kickstarter in October, but I’m not sure if that’s too late in the year. I have managed to whittle down the amount of money I’d need quite a bit, and I think the success chances at $1,000 needed are a lot higher than at $7,000-10,000 needed, I’m just not sure when I can (or if I should) run it to keep from overwhelming and confusing people.
  • I’ve mentioned it in the newsletter, but not here, that I’m going to combine most of the products in the shop and add to them, and create some sort of group-work-product hybrid with two flagship products (systems for solopreneurs & the freelancer’s survival kit). The Client Follow Up Action Kit & the planners will still be available as standalone products because they’re far and away my most popular products and I think they function as super-useful entry level products, but everything else will go into those two and they’ll be pretty comprehensive products. I’d like to make them available in October or November.
  • Based in my income projections for this month, by the end of August I should have made enough in August to meet or exceed my monthly take-home pay at my day job. Going to have a whole post around that, watch for it soon!

And that’s it – my exhaustive (f’reals) behind the scenes breakdown of my second month back at full-time freelancing. Hopefully it was at least somewhat interesting/useful to you; I know I love reading stuff like this from other biz owners (because I am a data nerd), and it’s great for my accountability! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.

Photo Credit: mayrpamintuan via Compfight cc

10 Comments

  1. Michelle, I’d love to chat with you on Skype sometime about the outsourcing… I’m in the same place. I need somebody… but I don’t know that I want to commit the whole shot. Trying to figure out the best way to make the transition painless. Maybe we can bounce ideas off each other?

    Reply

  2. Tracking money is one of the KEY ways to make money grow. When I track, it expands. When I don’t track, it shrinks. So glad to see you’re tracking!

    And yes, you absolutely must outsource the non-billable tasks, or you will hit that plateau. And while it’s not a bad plateau, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for future planning and savings and such.

    Reply

    • TOTALLY agree on both counts. And yup that’s what made me decide to outsource – TBH, I am perfectly comfy at $3k a month in income, as far as day-to-day stuff goes…but it doesn’t leave a lot of room for planning as far as travel, savings, paying down debt, etc. So I gotta get past it!

      Reply

  3. Thanks for sharing. I love the way you break everything out. There is a lot of good information and good practices being shared there! – L

    Reply

  4. Nice!!!
    Exactly what I was looking for.

    Copying your harvest setup in 3, 2, 1…

    Keep up! Looking forward for August!

    Reply

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