It’s been about a year since I published Year in Review: Highs and Lows of Freelancing-Full Time (in October 2019). In this vulnerable post, I shared a month-to-month breakdown of the good, the bad, and the ugly of my first year as a full-time freelance brand and web designer. Although I enjoyed writing the post and reflecting on my experiences, putting it out in the world felt “icky.” But despite my misgivings, the response I received was overwhelmingly positive.
In September 2020, I hit the 2-year mark in my design business. This goes without saying, but this year was unusual. In fact, I almost didn’t write this post because I didn’t want to share how 2020 didn’t go at all as I expected for my business. It was a fluke, I’d tell myself. But pretending this year didn’t happen wouldn’t be true to myself, or to my audience (that’s you!). I have to accept what happened and take ownership of my mistakes. And also give myself some grace, because let’s be honest, 2020 was a difficult year for literally everyone. And all things considered, I had it pretty good!
So without further ado, here’s the raw and honest breakdown of my second year as a full-time freelance brand and web designer.
My previous post left off in October 2019, as I was experiencing a major increase in my workload and income. I’m happy to say that the upswing continued through November and into December.
December was my highest income month of 2019. What a way to end the year! I celebrated the New Year in high spirits and full of optimism for the future of my business (and life in general). At the same time, I was exhausted from working really hard to hit this income milestone. I knew that it wouldn’t be sustainable in the long term. Fortunately, I was able to take enough time off to enjoy Christmas and New Year’s with my family.
After a crazy busy Q4, I felt a strong urge to slow down and ease into the new year. And that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t book any new clients this month, and I was okay with it.
In February, business picked up quickly as I booked two branding and web design packages. February ended up being my second highest earning month of the year thus far. Since things were going so well, I decided to hire my first virtual assistant (VA) to help lighten my marketing workload so I could focus on client work.
In March, my birthday month, I got sick. I later found out via an antibody test that I had COVID. In early March, COVID wasn’t yet a huge deal in the U.S. But over the next few weeks, it escalated pretty quickly and NYC (where I was living at the time) went into lockdown. Luckily, my symptoms were mild, but they dragged on for about a month.
In April, I began to notice that leads seemed far more scarce than usual. As I watched the local businesses on my street close one by one, I wondered whether people would hold off on investing in branding and web design until the economy stabilized. After just two months of working together, I had to let my VA go. I felt terrible, but she was kind and understanding given the situation. In hindsight, I wasn’t prepared to hire anyone in the first place and as of this writing have yet to hire another assistant.
Sure enough, May came and went and I still hadn’t booked any branding and web design packages since February. Fortunately, I have a number of long-term clients who provide residual income. A couple of these clients dropped off the face of the Earth, but most stuck around and had a little bit of work for me. May was my lowest earning month of the year by far. I applied for unemployment insurance in order to help cover the dip in income. Don’t even get me started on the nightmare of this process. It took a full month to receive my first payment after I was approved, and even so, I consider myself one of the lucky ones.
In June, business started to pick up again as the world began to normalize the pandemic. During this time I also began to prepare for my cross-country move to California. My boyfriend and I were tired of paying exorbitant rent for a small apartment and craving a change of pace and scenery. That said, I definitely miss NYC at times and will forever cherish my time there!
I took a couple weeks off in early July for our move. Work was still slow, but I no longer qualified for unemployment. In July, I invested in 1:1 coaching with Cat from Gatto Web. I had enrolled in a million courses and hadn’t completed a single one. I decided I needed personalized support and accountability–Cat provided this and so much more.
In August, I hit a new milestone in my business by booking my largest contract to date, a web design project with copywriting and SEO. A couple weeks later, we were forced to evacuate our home due to a nearby wildfire; luckily, it was just for a weekend. Smoke filled our neighborhood and the surrounding areas for weeks.
Last year, September was my slowest month of the year, and this year proved similar. Presumably, a lot of people go on vacation in September; but with COVID, who knows what the cause was this year.
In October, just like last year, the tide turned and work started flowing in effortlessly. I took on two new branding and web design clients, in addition to putting in more hours for my long-term clients. By the end of the month, my schedule was filled to capacity for the foreseeable future. My 3-month coaching sessions with Cat wrapped up, and I made a next-level investment in a 12-month group coaching program called Aligned Business Academy.
P.S. If you’re freelance designer struggling to grow your business, I highly recommend working with Cat! She helped me increase my rates, refine my niche and design style, implement a new Pinterest marketing strategy, and so much more. She’s the best.
November is the highest income month I’ve ever had. I started writing weekly blog posts for Flux Academy, which brings in consistent monthly income. In addition, I booked a couple other new projects, including a day rate. To be completely honest, I’m working more hours than I probably ever have at the moment, including evenings and weekends. But after a slow, tumultuous, and disappointing year for my business, I couldn’t be more grateful for how busy I am right now.
Of course, I have no way of knowing for certain if the pandemic directly affected my business; it’s possible I would’ve seen a dip in my income regardless. But the dip was pretty substantial and it seems unlikely that it was simply caused by chance.
Now that I’m two years into my business, I’m starting to notice some trends. Last year, April and September were my worst months. This year, it was May and September. I don’t think this is coincidental. Q4 of last year and this year were my highest earning quarter by far.
There’s a lot of other behind-the-scenes stuff that happened this year that I didn’t mention for the sake of brevity–things like investing in various courses, increasing my rates, re-designing and re-writing my website, and creating my first passive income products, which have yet to launch. The best way to keep up with these updates is via my newsletter or Instagram. Although the main purpose of my content is to educate and provide free value, I also like to share the personal struggles and triumphs I experience as a full-time freelancer. Even if you never purchase anything from me, I hope I can at the very least inspire or motivate you in some way!