Freelance Living: How Quickly Things Change!

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Regular readers will be pleased to know I’m not going to be a “Debbie Downer” about freelance living this week!

Although I’m committed to sharing the rough as well as the smooth when it comes to making a freelance living, I am conscious that things have leaned a little towards the rough recently…

First I was moaning about cash flow, and then last week I was ranting about my run-in with a troll. Then, just before sitting down to write this, I shared the latest instalment of our ongoing case study with a new freelancer, and I found out that he’s had a tough week too!

So, “enough with negativity,” I decided! If I don’t share some of the good parts of making a freelance living, my readers will desert me and go and find someone more encouraging!

Well, I’m glad to say I can genuinely be that encouraging person again this week.

As I put it to a friend the other day, “things feel like they’ve turned around.” And when that happens only a couple of weeks after you’ve started fretting about cash flow, that’s always a good thing.

Freelance Living is a Rollercoaster Ride

When people say the freelance life is a rollercoaster, they’re not exaggerating. For people in charge of their own destiny, the highs are always higher and the lows are always lower. But after this much time, it takes an incredibly long “low period” to make me even slightly tempted to swap this life for the consistent “medium” of being an employee. After all, where’s the fun in having no surprises?

Obviously, the examples that follow relate to me specifically, but they are typical of what happens when a freelancer pulls out of a dry patch and things swiftly start looking brighter. (As another example, the same friend I mentioned above, who’s been a freelance IT consultant for less than a year so far, is also having a good spell right now, thanks to a surge of work and an unexpected tax rebate!)

Freelance rollercoaster

Anyway, here’s what’s happened in the last week or so that’s all combined to “turn my frown upside-down:”

Rare Good News About Tax

In 14 years of doing annual accounts, I’ve never once been given a tax bill figure by my accountant that wasn’t slightly worse than the worst-case-scenario I’d envisaged. But this year it finally happened!

My wife and I had a particularly busy year back in 2016, before I started HomeWorkingClub. She’d been involved in organising a huge conference, and I’d been doing a lot of work abroad (something that made me really unhappy and culminated in me throwing the towel in and launching this site!)

It turns out that as we made rather more than usual that year, we’d made “payments on account” based on it, which put us in a position where we’d overpaid our tax. For the first time ever, we are a step ahead and our tax bill is less than we anticipated. This obviously makes a huge difference.

Good Progress for HomeWorkingClub

I’d like to thank YOU for the second thing that cheered me up, because by reading the content here, you contribute to it!

I’m now nudging 40,000 page views per month on HomeWorkingClub, and thanks to some ad clicks and commissions, that means the site’s starting to break even and deliver some reward for the effort that’s gone into it over the past 18 months.

While I won’t be giving up any of my own freelance work any time soon, this has meant I’ve been able to put some money back into the site. I’ve commissioned some articles from new writers, several of which are as a result of pitches made by members of the site (for pitching guidelines read this). I’ve also hired a virtual assistant to get the site established on Pinterest, and hopefully bring me some more readers!

I must add here that the Pinterest VA I hired was someone I came across completely randomly on a business Facebook group. I saw her discussing something related and approached her via Facebook Messenger. This really does go to prove that, as a freelancer, you never know where your next surprise job may come from. If this relationship works out, that means guaranteed income for months or years to come for the person involved. 

Hopefully, with this extra effort, and with more content from more writers, I can see the site continue to grow and help more people.

SIte traffic

The Clients Woke Up

When I had my little moan about cash flow recently, I said that I had projects that were “taking a little while longer than I’d like to move off the starting blocks.”

Well, surprise surprise, as is always the case, they all came through at once! Practically overnight, my calm and quiet calendar and task list turned into something a lot more hectic.

I’ve been doing all this for far too long to be surprised by this pattern of work, but it does remain quite maddening when it happens! You go from worrying about how little money’s coming in to being able to completely forget about that. Instead, you’re suddenly having to worry about meeting all the deadlines that have rapidly stacked up.

I’m not complaining (I’ve done enough of that recently!), but it is very much “Sod’s law” how this happens every time. It also always seems to happen when:

  • There’s gorgeous weather outside you’d like to enjoy.
  • You’re about to go on holiday.
  • The World Cup in on.
  • You’d made your peace with things being quiet and had just started to enjoy the relaxation!

Obviously, in an ideal world your clients would all chat amongst themselves and ensure they gave you a steady stream of work throughout the year, but we don’t live in an ideal world! Instead, freelance living has to be either hectic or deathly quiet, and rarely hits any kind of balance in the middle.

After a number of years, there’s nothing you can really do but find this funny. The other thing that comes with experience is that you learn not to panic, and have faith that “what goes down must go up.”

Side Gigs Pay Off

I love side gigs, whether it’s decluttering with eBay, doing website usability tests, or even filling out occasional surveys.

HWC Side Gigs

My recent lean patch pushed me to redouble my efforts, and one outcome of that was that I reviewed a few new opportunities for this site. The other outcome was that these efforts resulted in little trickles of money appearing here and there – £40 for an item sold on eBay, £15 from a survey site, $30 for a few user tests.

Just this morning I was invited to a scientific survey on Prolific – review here – which was really fascinating and earned me £7 for a few minutes of time where I’d otherwise have been browsing Facebook.

It’s always good to have some side gig options open. Yes, there are always times where I’m far too busy and just delete requests for surveys and user tests, but when I have time, the effort feels like it pays off. I demonstrated this in my side gigs earnings report at the end of last year.

A Decent Cash Flow Meeting

It will probably sound awfully formal, but my wife and I have a “cash flow meeting” once per month. We look at what we’ve earned and what we have to pay out, and it acts as a bit of a “financial appraisal” for us.

As we’re both freelancers, there’s NO guaranteed salary for either of us, so it’s essential to do this – both to keep sane and to keep our heads above water.

We had a new baby at the end of last year, and as an unsurprising result, these “cashflow meetings” have left us feeling more fearful (tearful?!) than happy of late!

This month, with our youngest son now in part-time childcare, we were able to conclude our huddle around the laptops by saying, “yeah, that’s not too bad.” My wife pointed out we hadn’t been able to say that for a while!

All in all, this combination of things has led to me feeling dramatically more positive than I have recently. I’m sharing these minutiae to demonstrate the ups and downs of freelance life. There’s no point in me relentlessly pointing out how hard things can be if I don’t point out some of the highs as well.

Life is never easy: We have plenty of challenges still to face, including the fact that we are still chasing some money owed to our business. But I hope this article proves that all you need is a little run of good news, and freelance life can turn around incredibly quick.

So, for anyone who thinks I’ve been overdoing the “doom and gloom” recently – there you go 🙂

SUGGESTED READING: Are YOU cut out for making a freelance living?

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About Author

Founder of HomeWorkingClub.com - Ben is a long-established freelancer with a passion for helping other people take control of their destiny and break away from "working for the man." Prone to outbursts of bluntness and realism.