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This time last year, I was settling into my new routine. After quitting my full time office job just a few week earlier, I was able to spend every day by the lake.
It felt (and feels) absolutely amazing to live sans cubicle. The world seemed to open up and the future looked exciting instead of restricting. With wide eyes and open heart, I embraced this new chapter. It hasn’t disappointed in the slightest.
But — while I will never regret a second of the last year, it wasn’t all gravy. Self-doubt, loneliness, and other icky feelings popped up periodically (and continue to do so). I don’t think they’ll ever go away, but I know how to cope with them a little better.
So much has changed in the last year that it boggles my mind a little to reflect upon it. Although I’ve written about some of this in dribs and drabs, I wanted to share a full account.
All of you (family, friends, colleagues, clients, blog readers, social media followers, etc.) have made such an impact on this process. Without you, none of this would have been possible. This post is dedicated to you!
I remember staring at my computer, trying to figure out this thing called WordPress. I took blogging courses, watched YouTube videos, and experimented with themes and plugins until I finally had a site that looked halfway respectable.
But I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to get out of my blogging journey. And, while it’s a lot more clear than it was 365ish days ago, it’s still taking shape.
Here’s the evolution of Every Day by the Lake in a nutshell:
- Started as a journal
- Morphed into a networking tool
- Became a freelance portfolio
- Transitioning into a digital home for my business
- What’s next??
Let’s look at each in turn.
I was a blog consumer long before I started to write one of my own. Years ago, I found the Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) community and I became enamored with the idea of living life differently.
I started to tweak my finances and ultimately planned to follow suit, leaving the drudgery of traditional employment in the dust before I turned 45. However, it soon occurred to me that the rest of my life wasn’t going to wait for me to achieve this.
Family members were sick and dying. And there were so many facets of my life that I was neglecting. When my grandfather passed away, and I had a rushed three days to say goodbye, that was the catalyst I needed to act. Two months later, I turned in my notice and started to redesign my life.
The blog began as a journal for me to chronicle this process and to get back in the writing groove. It was a little nerve-wracking to be raw and candid at times. But the response was encouraging and I decided to keep at it.
Because I had prepared well for what I was then calling a sabbatical, and wrote several posts on money management, I ended up becoming heavily involved in the personal finance community. From there, everything else blossomed.
Over the first several months, I started making connections with other bloggers. We shared each other’s posts, commented on each other’s blogs, and gradually became friends.
Those connections started to lead to my posts being featured on other notable sites in the personal finance niche, like Rockstar Finance and Camp Fire Finance. Pretty early on, I was fortunate to write a guest post on Broke Millennial. Midway through the summer, I responded to a tweet from Women Who Money, and I’ve had the honor of writing for their site since.
Around the same time, I learned about FinCon. It was happening practically in my backyard and I won a scholarship to attend. I truly believe that I was meant to go.
Going to FinCon meant that I could meet many of my internet friends in real life. While I’m a shy introvert, I was so happy to put faces and voices to screen names and email addresses.
I also had the opportunity to meet with brands about business partnerships. Some of them contacted me before the event. I landed one new client at FinCon and I’m still seeing things materialize as a result of attending nearly 6 months ago. (This is me telling you it’s worth it, in case you were wondering!).
I left the conference feeling like I could really support my family with my writing. I haven’t looked back.
As I got writing clips to my credit, I added links to my website, building a portfolio. (I’m a ghost writer for some of my clients.) I started writing copy to promote myself and updated my LinkedIn profile to include my new services.
Soon after the conference, my freelance book of business grew even more. Around November, I landed my first 4-figure per month client. They found me via a tweet! (That’s the power of content!)
At the close of the year, I had 5 steady clients. 2018 ended with such momentum that I knew 2019 was going to be big.
Digital Home for My Business
At the beginning of the year, my website, though improved, was still potentially confusing for visitors. What was I? A freelance writer? A virtual assistant? A career coach? For a little while, I was all of the above.
When I started to advertise myself as for hire, I stated everything that I could offer. I appeared unfocused — because I was!
I included everything but the kitchen sink because I was stuck in a scarcity mindset. I had (and have) the very real responsibility of being the breadwinner for my household.
I thought — more income streams are better, right? Well, not if they don’t make sense together and are housed on the same site.
I could easily tell someone else that their site looked too busy or that they needed to scale their offerings back a notch. But I didn’t see it on my own platform, at least not at first.
However, after some research, soul searching, and prodding, I decided to go all in on what was working: freelance writing. I got rid of the VA and career coach pages.
The result? I had an identity and looked far more professional.
I also decided that I had to scale my operation so that I could realistically 3x my income. That led to further niching down and the birth of Content That Connects (CTC), a done for you written content solution for busy business owners.
While I’m still happily accepting a la carte freelance work, my custom service package is the future of my business and is continuing to evolve as of this writing.
What’s to Come?
It’s interesting to note that even though my blog’s life has had phases, they’re not all that distinct. I’m still using the site as a journal at times (this post is exhibit A!). It’s still a terrific networking tool. And I still host a portfolio on it.
The phases have built on one another and continue to feed each other. While I know that I need to maintain a balance in my content, I believe all of the components can continue to complement each other over the long haul.
The Remainder of the Year
I have a solid idea of where I’m going over the next several months, but I know I’ll be surprised by some of the specifics along the way.
Business-wise, I plan to:
- grow my enterprise
- promote and sell CTC
- continue to provide excellent service to clients
- create my first paid digital product to sell on my site
Personally, I plan to:
- travel twice to see family in MA
- go on at least one getaway with my guy
- get through the dissertation proposal phase of my doctorate
- restore my emergency fund to 3+ months (at 1+ months now)
- start investing again
- start making extra payments toward debt again
I Had Help
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the legs up I received a long the way. Yes, I’ve worked hard and I’m proud of myself.
But, I’ve had mentors that provided invaluable advice, connected me with clients, or both. I’d like to give a special mention to Lindsay VanSomeren, Kayla Sloan, and Amanda Abella.
Working with them has resulted in increased confidence, an abundance mindset, a better website, both personal and professional clarity, a more robust network, and a fatter wallet. I can’t thank them enough. I look forward to seeing what the future holds and perhaps working together again.
I also want to endorse the Earn More Writing (affiliate link) course by Holly Johnson of Club Thrifty. It has a lot of excellent material, particularly for writers just getting their start.
Show You the Money?
While I’m still on the fence about providing monthly income reports, I do want to share a general progression.
Here are some factoids about my income/financial situation:
- In the summer of 2018 (pre FinCon), I billed $75-$200 per month
- By the end of 2018, I was billing about $1,500 per month
- Currently, I’m billing $4,000-$5,000 per month
- I acquired 2 high paying clients within the last 8 weeks
- My income is continuing to grow and I have more irons in the fire
- My income is variable (hence the current income range)
- I opened a savings account for taxes — 30% of what I make gets put in there
- With my student loans in deferment, I’m earning enough to cover my expenses AND save
- I plan to have more income by the end of the year when the loans come due
- I’m fortunate to have financial help; though I’m the breadwinner, my guy and MIL pitch in
- My goal is to gross five figures per month by year end (net would be better, but baby steps!)
This year has been incredible. I:
- started a blog
- started a business
- attended an awesome conference
- met amazing people
- worked with great mentors
- got out of the 9-5 grind
- realized I could make money writing
- actually started making money writing
- and so much more!
I have zero intention of going back to my HR career. In fact, I’ve already let one of my certifications lapse!
I’m so glad that I changed professional gears and get to spend every day by the lake. But more importantly, I’m thrilled that I get to take this journey with all of you. Thank you for everything!
Do you have any questions for me? Happy to answer (most) anything!
If I can help your journey in any way, please contact me.
Your story is so inspiring, Laura! You took the leap, evolved in your focus & started making a respectable income as a freelancer. I’m sure it’s only upward from here!
Thank you so much, Deanna! Onward and upward! 🙂
Congratulations, Laura! I’ve enjoyed watching your growth and success! This post outlines a very clear progression and explains the process as well as the reasons and positive outcomes of narrowing your focus. Well done!
Thank you so much for the kind words and all of your support, Kathy! 🙂
Now this is a success story! You are writing really good 😉
I will follow your journey further 👍
Keep pushing, Laura!
Thanks so much for the kind words! I look forward to following your journey as well! 🙂
I’m a little late to this post, but how awesome for you! I’m not going to lie; I’d be thrilled to pieces to reach the kind of income growth you talk about in this post. I’m leaving my FT job in a week to write full-time as well. We won’t be by the lake, but working from home at my house in the woods is just as good for me!
Hi Kate! Thanks for visiting and congrats on your pending life change! I love the woods, too, so I’m sure it will be lovely. I have ebbs and flows in my income, but I’m overall happy to be able to support my family doing this. Best wishes for a successful freelance career!
Hey Laura, I’m really inspired by your work. Have great luck!