Behind the scenes: September recap

Behind the Scenes: September recap

We’re almost halfway through October, but here’s my September recap!

How I spent my time:

September time report

In September, I tracked just shy of 125 hours again–pretty much the same amount of time as August (August was 124.95, September was 124.23); so this might be my new normal/average. Again, it breaks down to about 30 hours a week. October’s time might actually be slightly lower, because I’m doing less pitching/hustling now that I have several longer-term clients acquired.

Out of that time:

  • 72.98 hours (about 58% of my time, slightly down from August) were spent on my business/internal work
  • The other 51.25 went to my clients (including the email, meeting, and admin time for each client, not just writing time)
  • I spent less than an hour meeting with prospective clients (less than half of August and July), and 2.29 hours pitching (which is slightly over half of August, and August was half of July). It makes sense that these numbers are trending downwards, since I’ve put my focus on acquiring longer term/repeat clients.
  • Slightly less email time than August (just over 16 hours instead of nearly 17), about the same amount of time on social media (4.5 hours), 5.27 on marketing (instead of almost 3), and about 8.5 hours on admin work (down about four hours from August)

The marketing and social media time increases were, I’m guessing, due to both the onboarding time of my ZA and the fact that I was launching a course. But the decrease in admin time is solid and a good sign (especially as that should continue to decrease now that my assistant knows the ropes more). I also anticipate my email time going significantly down since I FINALLY worked through my entire 6+ month backlog of email, which took several hours, but now it’s mostly a matter of maintenance and I’m doing much better at staying on top of it.

If you wanna see the whole breakdown of my internal work, here’s a screenshot. (If you notice a discrepancy with the total internal hours, it’s because I have a few projects set up that are internal but not strictly Bombchelle Industries related; my fiction trilogy, my nonfiction book, etc.) It might be useful if you want to set up time-tracking for your biz (which you totally should! Harvest is my jam). I like to drill down and be really specific about what I’m spending time on, which comes in handy for things like client audits.

How I made my money:

  • Total invoiced for freelance writing services in August 2014: $5,044.97 (whether paid or not by EOM; I got tired of doing all the math instead of running one report in Harvest, heh)
  • Products/courses: $219 (slight decrease on the product front, and skewed on the course front because of payment plans)
  • Kindle: $21.24 (also a decrease)

Total income: $5,285.21

Which is insane to me (because it’s like, a $1,500 increase from LAST month, which was a big increase on the month before…what?! I guess all that hustle paid off) and makes September one of my best months of self-employment ever.

Business expenses:

  • SAAS tools (Google Apps, Coschedule, Harvest, Clicky): $32
  • Coffee shops/meetings: $151.77
  • Web hosting: $15
  • Transcription and audio editing services: $193.04 (see “Thoughts” for more on this)
  • Accounting: $200
  • Administrative assistance: $450 total (in between Zirtual and Alexis; double-billed this month, because of payment periods)
  • I also did an experiment with Facebook ads that wasn’t a total failure, but wasn’t what I’d call a rip-roaring success either

Total: I don’t even want to do this math. I know it’s part of a growing business but dang y’all. My coffee expenses went back up again because I had a lapse in my Entre membership due to a minor processing error (part of using an in-beta service), and also because I started hanging out longer and getting food to eat so I didn’t have to go back home; I expect this to level out again. And I’m not experimenting with any type of ads for a while–thank goodness I did that on a month when I did exceptionally well.

My personal expenses were up too–it’s weird, because even though the tracked time is pretty much the same in September as it was in August, I just have this memory of especially the last two weeks of September being crazy-can’t-hardly-stop-busy. I ordered out a lot. I’m already trying to curb that cycle (because I expect September to be an outlier of the last half of 2014, though it’d be nice if it wasn’t…minus the stress) by preparing a little it more and being all strategical about leftovers and shit.

Thoughts:

  • The numbers for these reports are getting a little more complicated, because I’m starting to have expenses related to clients. For example, I have one client where I’m paid on a per-post basis, and my per-post fee includes me managing/acquiring a transcript and audio editing. Another client, the transcript isn’t required but it makes me work so much faster that it’s worth it.
  • At this point, admin assistance is a must, but at the moment, I’m not quite blown away by Zirtual. It’s hard to say though, because the onboarding period is always a pain in the ass. You can definitely tell that it’s intended more for personal use than business use, but the assistant I was paired with is certainly competent and quick to learn, so I think it’ll be fine (until it’s not, at which point I’ll have to decide what the best solution is).
  • I need to be better prepared for the next ungodly busy month I have, which I’m working on now.

September client audit:

I did this last month, and the results were so helpful that I decided to do it again and make it part of my monthly routine from here on out.

Last month, when I did the audit taking into account June/July/August, my hourly rate varied from $45-117 depending on the client and project. Way too much variety. And, interestingly, most of my time went to the two clients that I had the lowest hourly rates with. I stopped working with both of those clients and replaced that income. In September, my hourly rate ranged from $57-164–an improvement, but still quite a lot of range. More notes:

  • The lowest rate ($57/hr) was for a new retainer client during the onboarding process; I’m already seeing a big jump there now that we’re past that (I did the math for October thus far and we’re averaging more like $85/hr now). Which means that I don’t need to take further action here.
  • New average hourly rate: $85.50 (if you factor in for the closer-to-normal average with the aforementioned client, it’s $113 now; last time it was $69 or $88 minus outlier clients)
  • Though the range is still wide, it’s narrowing quickly now, and it’s an increase overall on both the low/high end of the range and as far as the average hourly goes.

Looking ahead and lessons learned overall:

  • I’m finally starting to see the results from the strategy mentioned here where I wanted to up my Youtube ad revenue. I’ll get a decent payment this month and they should be far more regular going forward. Of course, part of the problem was that I realized about halfway through August that I didn’t have the damn ad revenue enabled for my last six months of videos. And I’ve also fallen behind on doing the video reviews lately, which is because I wanted to do a few round-up posts (i.e. Quoteroller vs. Bidsketch, email app round-ups…) and they take substantially more time than doing a one-off review video.
  • Probably my biggest lesson from this month is that something’s gotta give. I had this whole plan going in to September about how I was going to post three times a week and be SUPER-ON my social media game and do all my client work and have an incredibly successful launch of Six Weeks and have a book proposal done and…yeah. I did all my client work, had an okay launch, did 6 blog posts (so about 1.25 a week on average, hah) and got v1 of my book proposal done (and pitched it), and I could tell that I was bordering on being seriously burned out by the end of the month. I have no desire to be stressed out or anxious or burned out. I can’t do it again after the tailspin that was last year, and I won’t; so even if it means less product/course income, my social media activity and blog posts here might get fairly minimal.
  • The sister lesson is keep it simple. I’m still going to do the review-roundups as previously mentioned, but I’m aiming for “done + helpful” rather than “insanely thorough and detailed.” I’ll probably be experimenting more with video or audio posts in general, and I might seriously consider (since I have a very fast + reasonably priced transcriptionist) doing audio blog posts with an accompanying transcript instead of writing out the posts.
  • These two lessons are especially important because the message I keep getting whacked on the head with is that I need to devote my time to my art. (I feel like that sounds pretentious, but it’s verbatim, so *shrug*) For my continued sanity, creativity, and longer-term happiness, it’s necessary for me to make it a priority, even if it isn’t income generating right now. And my art is writing; I love teaching and speaking and I have no plans of stopping, but the realization that’s dawned on me over the last few months is that those are things I do. Writing, being a writer, it’s part of who I am. Given that, I’m going to plan on taking the time I would normally spend

Given those realizations/experiences, my current plan for the next six months or so is: 

  • Tweak/refine products (I have plans for another Kindle book which shouldn’t take too long to do, the existing shop items will be narrowed down/consolidated/refined into 4 products, one of which is a larger/more comprehensive/expanded version of the Kindle book)
  • Let the freelance writing stay where it is, with no intentions/plans of combining it into an agency style model with Bombchelle (which is something I considered, but I want to spend my days writing, not project managing)
  • Finish book one of Worldslip (zomg I’m already 5-6k words in yay yay yay) next month for NaNoWriMo; I’ll edit it in December (probably with outside assistance) and start publishing it serially in January (as well as making it available to buy on Kindle)
  • Spend the next 4-6 months refining the proposal and pitching the nonfiction (productivity) book and if I get like, no traction whatsoever, I’ll self-publish the mofo anyways
  • Not sure where the classes/workshops will go; I love them and I’d like to keep doing them, but launches take a lot out of me (and a lot of time/energy away from writing); I think I’ll do 2-4 one-day workshops for planning in December and January again

Action steps: 

  • Plan for writing time for personal projects on at least Mondays and Fridays–I’d like to block these out almost entirely, which might be doable now that I’m not in launch mode and the ZA is onboarded
  • Plan on being pretty minimal as far as unnecessary online time in November (NaNoWriMo!)
  • Work on systems for editing/scheduling/sharing blog posts and get my ZA up to speed on that so she can take it over (and other systems as necessary)
  • Prioritize my writing projects over nice-but-not-super-necessary tasks (which, unfortunately, for now blogging here falls into that category, at least as far as text posts go)
  • Keep outsourcing/delegating wherever possible

Whew! So…there’s my September notes and some planning notes going forward. How was your September? 

Previous monthly recaps:

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