This year started quite amazing and overwhelming, that’s why I’m writing this income report after 4 months in. I’m sorry for the delay, but I learned some incredibly valuable lessons, that I definitely want to share with you in this income report.
2014 started with me quitting my job and becoming full-time employed. I was working part-time until December ’13 and spent the December with doing research and strategic thinking on my self-employment - and assuring myself that I was doing the right thing.
Now that I’m 4 months into self-employment, I can say that I never experienced more freedom in life. Though it’s definitely been a roller coaster ride so far, but that’s how it is when you’re an entrepreneur. Take it or leave it.
Back in 2013, most of my money came from web design projects and that didn’t change. I’m working with some very interesting clients all over the world, as well with local businesses and I’m having a blast managing all these projects.
My freelancing business is quite successful, pays my bills and would support a location-independent lifestyle with lots of travel. The reason I’m still living in Northern Germany is that my girlfriend has her job in this place and honestly, that I don’t want to travel around the world yet - but that will change in the future 😉
I also launched my first online training course called Restart Academy, to help employees build a profitable business on the side to either boost their income or quit their job like I did. It’s a great project, though I don’t have time to promote it like I’d want to, due to web design projects. Luxurious problem I guess…
Systemize Your Business
Probably the most important lesson I learned since starting out manifested itself in February and March this year. My business wasn’t performing as expected and I had no idea what to do to change the situation. Knowing that something is going wrong, but not knowing what exactly is it was definitely a scary situation.
I didn’t have systems in place, no structure that lead my daily business routines. Because of that I had to try lots of different things to see what worked, what gets me clients and - in the end - what’s earning money.
Since I started reading Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port (the best book on building business I ever read!), I knew that I need to systemize my business. Although I was making pretty good money, I wasn’t using my full potential.
Just blogging and barely promoting my content, I’m not leveraging my blog to the fullest - and still I do make enough money to pay my bills. So when I systemize my processes, I should be able to increase my income significally!
Let me give you one example:
We all know that “the money is in the list”. Your subscribers are a valuable asset, because you can share your content with them, offer your products to them and get their feedback on their problems.
But I’m not doing a good job at list building yet. I barely get subscribers, because my site isn’t focusing on list building. Yes, I wrote an extensive 7-part autoresponder series for the Restart 101 as lead magnet, but that’s useless when I don’t get new subscribers who read it.
So I’m going to step up that game. Over Easter I’m going to create a brand new lead magnet to gather more subscribers. I did massive research on my target audience, which are people who want to start a business online, either while being employed or working on their own. I researched their pain points and crafted crunchy solutions for those pains - which I’m going to offer in a free guide as lead magnet for new subscribers.
Those new subscribers will receive a 2-part autoresponder series, where I follow up with valuable information based upon the lead magnet. Then in a third autoresponder, I’m offering a membership in Restart Academy. This is a fully automated circle, yet it’s valuable for my subscribers, because I did heavy customer research on my lead magnet and I’m answering the exact questions of my target audience.
The idea is to deliver so much value that you think you’ve shared too much and then to go another step further before asking for someones money.
Of course we all have heard this mantra before, it’s nothing new. Yet I didn’t fully implement it into my business so far and that’s about to change!
Launching Restart Academy
Launching my first course called Restart Academy definitely was one of the most exciting moments this year. This online training is for those who want guidance in starting a business online on the side, by leveraging their natural talents. It also comes with a global mastermind group, where members can engage with each other.
It took me countless hours to do the necessary research for it, to record the hours of audio lessons and to create the workbooks inside the Academy.
What I learned is:
- We all have natural skills and talents that we can leverage to make money online
- Creating an information product isn’t as easy as everyone tries to tell you
- Successfully promoting an information product is even more difficult
To be honest, even though there are members in Restart Academy, I didn’t have as much time to promote it and to take care of the community as I’d like to have.
This is about to change as I’m currently streamlining and systemizing my business processes. I want Restart Academy to become the #1 resource for starting online businesses on the side and I’ll share the process of getting there with you!
I’m also planning a post on the technical aspects of creating an online training like Restart Academy, let me know in the comments if you’re interested in a post on that topic 🙂
Efficient Project Management is Crucial
Being always aware of your open to-dos is crucial in order to be successful, especially when you’re a freelancer and doing project-based work. That’s why I wrote a post on project management skills before, which got interesting comments and was featured on PM Hut as well.
I mentioned before that I’m using Getting Things Done to track my tasks and manage my projects, though I fell out of this scheme and didn’t follow through consistently. GTD only works when you follow that system everyday, otherwise you’ll loose the overview and won’t know what’s going on in your business.
To be productive every day, I started to define 3–5 tasks every evening that I needed to complete on the next day. I check email in the morning after waking up and process my inbox to empty. Then I’m tackling the predefined tasks and don’t let anything get in the way.
That’s working pretty good for me and since today I’m using Toggl to track my time. It’s a free time-tracker that comes with incredibly good usability and just does what it’s supposed to do. I’m curious to see how I’m spending my days and how much I’m actually working.
When you’re working in your own business, you need to grow it every day, one step at a time. Even though you won’t always take the right step, being productive instead of being busy is key!
Managing Clients as Freelancer
The last lesson I’d like to share with you is for all freelancers. I learned the hard way that you shouldn’t calculate with the money you’re invoicing until you have it on your account.
In the beginning of the year I started a web design project with a local business which was estimated to require 3–4 weeks. Now we’re in 3–4 MONTHS and it’s not finished due to a variety of reasons (which don’t matter in this context).
What I want to say is that you need to educate your clients if you need them to provide information. Especially web design clients (in Northern Germany at least) tend to say „I just want a nice looking site“, without giving the feedback necessary to create that site.
Once I understood this problem, I’m focusing way more on communication and client education - and now my projects run smoothly and clients are satisfied.
Being a successful freelancer requires more than just being good at what you do. You also need communicate clearly with the client, because you both come from different perspectives and have varying assumptions when discussing certain topics.
Be as clear and concise as possible and schedule feedback loops to keep the client posted on the project status. Include delays in your planning and give yourself at least a week before the deadline to make final adjustments in the project.
Ok, enough lessons shared, let’s get straight down to the nitty-gritty. I screwed passive income and only focus on active income, because I love the work that I’m doing.
The amounts I’m sharing with you are aggregated for January - April.
Web Design: $ 4,840.85
Business Coaching/ Training: $ 491.00
IT Services: $ 428.76
Restart Academy: $ 77
Total: $ 5,837.61
As you can see, this averages around $ 1.460 a month, which is ok since I’m still living with my parents. However, my plan is to move into my own apartment and to buy a new car, so I hope that I’ll increase my income by implementing systems into my business.
We’ll see how that goes, for now I can say that I’m pretty happy with the first 4 months of being officially self-employed. The biggest leap is taken, now it’s all about scaling my business!
How’s your business performing currently? What’s holding you back from growing your business to the next level? Let me know in the comments!