#147: My Q3 Audit—Grief, Brain Fog and Better Times Ahead

This week I’m excited to recap the third quarter of my business. Some great news first: I’m starting to feel like myself again, after a summer of grief and anxiety. Even before that, I was definitely languishing through the pandemic, and I’m not sure I’ve felt this great since before the pandemic—almost three years ago! 

As for quarter three, you might have noticed there was no Q2 recap, in the midst of my horrible summer. So, I’ll mention it briefly here, as it relates to Q3. 

In quarter two, I averaged working 26 hours a week and I exceeded my monthly goal. I spent the most time on non-income work: preparing for attending the AM&P Network AMPLIFY membership association conference in June; then on my new podcast, Association Station; followed by administrative work; work on this podcast; and doing networking and marketing. 

In quarter three, I took four weeks off, but only one of those was a true vacation. I averaged 24 hours of work a week (this does not include those four weeks off), but I think that is probably inflated because I felt so sluggish and slow in getting things done. 

My average monthly income from Q2 to Q3 dropped 42%. In fact, I only billed for $800 in July! Assignments already established in August and September brought that number back up, but my average was still way below my financial goal. 

One thing I did in my analysis this time was go back and see how much I was earning per project. This is where I think I am very successful with my business and how I’m able to earn six figures and not have to work 40 hours a week. If you hear nothing else from me, please hear this: Charge per project!

Know your secret hourly rate that you are trying to hit and go back and see if you actually earned that. If you charge per project and never evaluate it, you might be underpricing yourself and spending way too much time on certain projects or clients. This is where time tracking is so valuable.

If you track your time and find out you are spending too much time on a project to earn your goal rate, something needs to change—if earning more is your goal. I know there are other goals sometimes—times when getting in with a client or learning a new skill or getting something for your portfolio that is more prestigious that you can use to get other clients. Those are all goals too.

Listen to this episode for some examples of what I earned per hour. All of my projects this year (except for small copy editing jobs) averaged out per hour to more than my secret hourly rate, which is great news. 

If you want to work “faster,” as I’ve heard some freelancers say, I think the key is figuring out how to improve your processes and be more efficient. You’ll get faster with more experience, and you might need to learn some new skills or take some classes in a particular area. But I also encourage you to focus on efficiency.

And don’t do a $5,000 job if they’re paying you $500. What I mean is don’t be so precious with your work and spend extra time on making it perfect, if they’re not paying you for that. Do a good job, of course, but keep in mind how much they’re paying you. 

One way I’m more efficient is by recording my source interviews and having someone else transcribe them. I recently started saving a lot of money by using Otter.ai rather than paying for a person to transcribe. Artificial intelligence transcribing has improved, but even so, Otter lets you listen to the recording online and check and edit the mistakes. You only have to correct the parts you’re going to use, not the entire transcription. 

In today’s episode, I answered this listener question from the Deliberate Freelancer Facebook group: How do you determine how much work to take on to balance multiple clients’ various deadlines and the amount of time you want to be working. I feel like I constantly say yes to too much! Do you have a goal for how many clients or larger projects you take on versus one-offs?

I’m very analytical, so I typically have a sense of how long something’s going to take. And I also try to think about how much energy something’s going to take. Time tracking also helps here. When I get a new project I try to map out—based on experience and data of the time it takes from previous similar projects—how many hours it might take.

And then I look at my calendar, where everything exists, and I try to figure out where this project will fit in. It’s not just about available time. It’s about realistically looking at when you will have the energy—maybe not after another big project or a lot of Zoom meetings that day, maybe not in your lower productivity time slots. Be honest with yourself and really examine this!  

Go ahead and block off the time on your calendar. There’s this phenomenon in which we always think we have more time in the future because very little is scheduled yet. But time is finite, and we rarely have more time because it will get filled up too. So, take care of your future self and put those chunks of time on the calendar now. 

As for larger projects versus one-offs, I don’t have a goal. I treat it the same way I just described, seeing if and when I can fit it in my schedule.

Of course, before any of this, first and foremost, I ask myself if I want to do the project and then I ask myself what the price would have to be for me to do this project. That all comes before I take a look at my schedule and consider fitting it in to my schedule. 

You have to be willing to walk away. You have to be willing to say no. And if you want to do the project for whatever reason—whether you think it will be fun, or a good learning experience, or it’s just a lot of money—there are ways you can negotiate getting more time. Two examples: Ask for a longer deadline or negotiate a smaller scope of work. 

Biz Bite: Schedule your holiday breaks now. 

The Bookshelf: The Haunting of Maddy Clare” by Simone St. James 


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