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


  • Freelance author and advertising advisor 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 purchasers initially of the pandemic.
  • She credit her success to discovering work by way of chilly pitching, social media, and referrals and rising stable relationships with purchasers by being dependable and versatile.
  • She additionally touts the worth of “anchor” purchasers, or companies and prospects you may depend on for constant work, and generalizing when you may to supply new companies.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for extra tales.

While I can not keep in mind how a lot I made the primary time I landed a paid freelance task as an undergrad learning journalism at NYU (was it $25, $50, or one thing in between?), I do keep 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 choose and select the initiatives I labored on and the sorts of individuals and corporations I collaborated with, however I by no means believed that I may 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 facet 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 severely as a approach to self-fund our lodging, transportation, and different dwelling 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 circulation 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 severely into a full-time writing and advertising consulting profession in August 2019.

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

Even with the beginning of the pandemic in March — which triggered me to lose three of my anchor purchasers 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 because the pandemic resulted in a lack of about 50% of my purchasers.

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

I did not notice 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 facet over the course of 15 years, gaining expertise in content material, social media, copywriting, and advertising for manufacturers like Target, the New York City Marathon, and Queens Public Library.

And, since writing about the best way to optimize your social profile to face out for job alternatives, I’ve put the recommendation of the consultants I interviewed into observe to optimize my very own LinkedIn profile to finest summarize my areas of experience and develop into discoverable by potential purchasers, 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 government at a B2B advertising firm, discovered me by way of my creator bio in an article I wrote about advertising earlier this 12 months — which simply goes to point out 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 develop into recognized for it.)

Another 31% of my complete 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 corporations (utilizing the “content” search filter and sorting to the “Past 24 hours”) for phrases that apply to my space of experience, similar 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 complete 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 exploit when including contacts on LinkedIn (Note: Always use the “personalize invite” characteristic). 

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 have [how many years] years of hands-on advertising expertise at [most relevant companies]. Thanks!

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

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

This is an space of potential development for me. As a begin, I am presently engaged on updating my private web site and planning to ask contacts I’ve labored with for shopper testimonials to checklist 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’ purchasers and repeat enterprise

Based on what I realized from members of Jennifer Goforth Gregory’s “The Freelance Content Marketing Writer” Facebook group — from the creator of the e book 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 kind of 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 purchasers, 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 in a position to pivot by taking up work with six new corporations and 5 new publications. It’s nonetheless too early to say which can convert to probably turning into “anchor” purchasers, however for now a number of of them have progressed from one-off initiatives to repeat alternatives, and that is an vital begin.

In advertising, there’s a widespread saying about buyer retention — that it is extra pricey to draw new prospects than it’s to retain present ones. In reality, some say it prices as much as 5 instances extra to realize new ones than to maintain present purchasers. Another research has discovered that growing buyer retention by 5% can enhance earnings by 25% to 95%. 

In my expertise, these are ideas for freelancers to remember as properly. Though I’ve expanded my income, workload, and variety of purchasers this 12 months, about 73% of my earnings from this 12 months has come from purchasers 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 purchasers in a few industries and specializing in a few sorts of companies — the considering being you could cost extra to your experience and get quicker and higher at what you do. Because of my diversified full-time profession and freelance historical past, I contemplate myself a generalist who occurs to have a number of years of expertise working in particular area of interest industries and honing particular abilities. 

Over the final 12 months and a half, I’ve labored for B2B and B2C corporations, businesses, and publications. I’ve delivered a prolonged electronic mail advertising evaluation report with content material technique suggestions, created the social media technique and launch content material for a new know-how firm with no present digital presence, and written about every little thing from automobile shopping for to teletherapy.

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

Similarly, I’ve benefited by gaining extra work from present purchasers 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 ultimately expanded my function to incorporate enhancing content material for considered one of its shopper’s blogs, managing paid social media adverts for its purchasers, and ghostwriting for the CEO. 

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

Between having to maneuver twice through the pandemic, having to maintain my toddler entertained at dwelling (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 increased — 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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