How I’ve kept a five-figure monthly freelance income amid coronavirus


  • Freelance author and advertising and marketing marketing consultant Mary Kearl has maintained a five-figure monthly income working 20 to 30 hours a week since September 2019, regardless of dropping 50% of her key shoppers in the beginning of the pandemic.
  • She credit her success to discovering work by way of chilly pitching, social media, and referrals and rising stable relationships with shoppers by being dependable and versatile.
  • She additionally touts the worth of “anchor” shoppers, or companies and clients you may depend on for constant work, and generalizing when you may to supply new providers.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for extra tales.

While I am unable to bear in mind how a lot I made the primary time I landed a paid freelance project as an undergrad finding out journalism at NYU (was it $25, $50, or one thing in between?), I do bear in mind the thrilling feeling of making one thing, placing it out into the world, and getting paid for it.

I all the time dreamed of having the ability to set my very own hours, handle my very own workload and priorities, and decide and select the initiatives I labored on and the varieties of individuals and firms I collaborated with, however I by no means believed that I might make it as a full-time freelancer — though I freelanced on and off whereas working full time all through my 20s and early 30s, incomes at the very least a few thousand a 12 months on aspect initiatives.

It was solely after I got down to take a break from working full time and journey with my one-year-old and husband in January 2019 that I dabbled into freelancing extra critically as a method to self-fund our lodging, transportation, and different residing bills.

I hit my first month of incomes 5 figures as a freelancer whereas we have been nonetheless touring in March of that 12 months, a milestone I celebrated however was additionally quick lived, as two of the three initiatives I used to be engaged on on the time dried up halfway by way of the following month. I nonetheless hit 4 figures in income that month, then a little greater than a few hundred the next month in May.

Despite the ebb and movement of each my workload and income, by the point our world travels wrapped up on the finish of July I used to be hooked on each the challenges and rewards of freelancing, and I launched extra critically into a full-time writing and advertising and marketing consulting profession in August 2019.

I hit my second five-figure month in September 2019, and regardless of worrying that I might see a massive drop like I had after my excessive in March, it has been adopted by 10 further five-figure months. 

Even with the beginning of the pandemic in March — which brought about me to lose three of my anchor shoppers and resulted in three publications I would been writing for on a monthly foundation freezing their freelance budgets — I’ve managed to take care of five-figure months in April, May, June, and July whereas working roughly 20 to 30 hours per week. 

Here’s what’s labored for me and the way I’ve needed to alter for the reason that pandemic resulted in a lack of about 50% of my shoppers.

I’ve landed new shoppers by way of social media, chilly pitching, and referrals

I did not understand this till I got down to write this text, however about 32% of my income from this 12 months has come from inbound leads on LinkedIn. Part of that’s as a result of though I am new to the world of freelancing, I’ve already labored full time and freelanced on the aspect over the course of 15 years, gaining expertise in content material, social media, copywriting, and advertising and marketing for manufacturers like Target, the New York City Marathon, and Queens Public Library.

And, since writing about the right way to optimize your social profile to face out for job alternatives, I’ve put the recommendation of the specialists I interviewed into observe to optimize my very own LinkedIn profile to finest summarize my areas of experience and grow to be discoverable by potential shoppers, and it appears to be paying off. 

One lead got here by way of a connection to a firm I labored for 12 years in the past and one other, an govt at a B2B advertising and marketing firm, discovered me by way of my creator bio in an article I wrote about advertising and marketing earlier this 12 months — which simply goes to indicate that you just by no means actually know what actions will result in extra alternatives sooner or later. (The level is to do good work and grow to be identified for it.)

Another 31% of my whole income from this 12 months has come from making use of for freelance alternatives I’ve found posted on social channels (particularly in freelancing-focused Facebook teams).

The one addition is LinkedIn. Instead of looking for LinkedIn’s job listings, I seek for posts by people and firms (utilizing the “content” search filter and sorting to the “Past 24 hours”) for phrases that apply to my space of experience, comparable to “hiring freelance writer,” “freelance content,” or “hiring social media.” About 2% of my income has come from including this technique to my repertoire.

Another 27% of my whole 2020 income has come from chilly pitching editors at publications or the suitable contacts at corporations in my space of expertise. 

Here’s a pattern message I take advantage of when including contacts on LinkedIn (Note: Always use the “personalize invite” function). 

Hi [name], If you ever want [type of freelancer] at [company], I would love to assist. I’ve [explain types of services you’ve done] for [companies you’ve worked with], have an MBA in advertising and marketing, and have [how many years] years of hands-on advertising and marketing expertise at [most relevant companies]. Thanks!

This actual template landed me one among my latest shoppers, due to a message I despatched proper after I misplaced three of my common shoppers in March. 

Lastly, about 10% of my income from this 12 months has come from referrals from present shoppers or former colleagues. 

This is an space of potential progress for me. As a begin, I am at the moment engaged on updating my private web site and planning to ask contacts I’ve labored with for shopper testimonials to record on my web site. Last 12 months, referrals made up about 35% of my enterprise, however as my workload has grown extra of the brand new work has come from the sources talked about above.

I’ve leveraged ‘anchor’ shoppers and repeat enterprise

Based on what I discovered from members of Jennifer Goforth Gregory’s “The Freelance Content Marketing Writer” Facebook group — from the creator of the guide by the identical title — and different profitable freelancers, I’ve tried to take care of a minimal of 4 so-called “anchor clients,” or companies you may roughly plan on having the ability to get paying work from almost each month. 

Before the beginning of the pandemic, I had 5 of those anchor shoppers, together with 4 publications I wrote for on a monthly foundation, and was producing about 60% greater than my minimal monthly purpose.

In the months since, I’ve been capable of pivot by taking over work with six new corporations and 5 new publications. It’s nonetheless too early to say which is able to convert to probably changing into “anchor” shoppers, however for now a number of of them have progressed from one-off initiatives to repeat alternatives, and that is an necessary begin.

In advertising and marketing, there’s a frequent saying about buyer retention — that it is extra expensive to draw new clients than it’s to retain current ones. In reality, some say it prices as much as 5 occasions extra to achieve new ones than to maintain present shoppers. Another research has discovered that rising buyer retention by 5% can enhance earnings by 25% to 95%. 

In my expertise, these are ideas for freelancers to bear in mind as effectively. Though I’ve expanded my income, workload, and variety of shoppers this 12 months, about 73% of my earnings from this 12 months has come from shoppers and publications I labored with final 12 months. 

I’ve benefited from each generalizing and specializing and being versatile

Many freelancers select to “niche down,” sticking to working with shoppers in a few industries and specializing in a few varieties of providers — the considering being that you could cost extra in your experience and get quicker and higher at what you do. Because of my diversified full-time profession and freelance historical past, I think about myself a generalist who occurs to have a number of years of expertise working in particular area of interest industries and honing particular expertise. 

Over the final 12 months and a half, I’ve labored for B2B and B2C corporations, companies, and publications. I’ve delivered a prolonged e mail advertising and marketing evaluation report with content material technique suggestions, created the social media technique and launch content material for a new expertise firm with no current digital presence, and written about all the things from automotive shopping for to teletherapy.

That’s been a bonus for the reason that pandemic, as a result of whereas a number of the industries I used to be working in have been hit laborious by the following financial disaster — like journey — others have remained secure or grown. 

Similarly, I’ve benefited by gaining further work from current shoppers by having the ability to serve a number of wants. For occasion, one company that initially employed me to handle the social media presence of the corporate finally expanded my function to incorporate enhancing content material for one among its shopper’s blogs, managing paid social media advertisements for its shoppers, and ghostwriting for the CEO. 

The final space that is helped me for the reason that pandemic is just being versatile. One shopper that used to pay me on a weekly foundation needed to change its fee course of to each two months. That was one thing I used to be thankfully capable of alter to as a result of I’ve a security internet of financial savings and proceed to work with different shoppers that may nonetheless pay me on a extra frequent foundation. Others have needed to reduce their budgets, and I’ve negotiated for much less complicated work the place doable. Still others have had extra work on shorter deadlines. 

Between having to maneuver twice through the pandemic, having to maintain my toddler entertained at residence (the place I work), and different challenges associated to the pandemic, my income is not again to 60% above my purpose — however that was by no means the purpose. I am hitting my minimal income targets — and often ending up greater — whereas nonetheless solely working a mean of three to 5 hours a day, and proper now the flexibleness and skill to take breaks within the day are what I am most grateful for. 



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