I believe that this blog has become a tad more personal with this second “how much money I made in 20xx from freelancing” post. Yet we’ll once again keep things professional, and not delve into the very specifics. In this post, I’m going to be focusing on the pros and cons of making money in 2021, the second year of the pandemic, from freelancing.
Specifically, the focus will be on content creation the old-fashioned way, with clients from all over the world and how many I’ve won or lost this year. Also, the website creation company that I’ve launched this year, Magic Agency, will be featured, as this little company is slowly getting some speed and starts wow-ing me every day. Finally, we’ll feature other sources of income as well.
Content creation – 55% of 2021 income
Despite being a calmer year than 2020 in terms of content creation, this has still been my main source of income, specifically from two whales, or big clients, in layman’s terms. In general, income in 2021 was about 3-5% higher than in 2020 with freelance writing, but that was to be expected. I was shocked at how good 2020 was, the best year of content creation for me.
In 2021, the main issue was the ending of contracts with my two main clients that I’ve been working with for years. These people were out of things to task me with, so naturally, they moved on to other businesses and we parted ways. It was not easy but surely, I’m very grateful for being able to help them out for so long. And enjoying the finances from it as well, surely.
This year, my focus was on one client who’s working in the video gaming industry, running one of the largest online stores in Europe. I can’t tell you who, because of an NDA, but working with them has been GREAT, and very financially rewarding. The money I’ve made from two clients in 2020 is just around 4% less than in 2021 from one client. For half the work, which let me into some other projects!
Upwork – 0.5% of 2021 income
I’m still running a profile on Upwork and have been “enjoying” a Top Rated badge for years now. Yet in 2021, Upwork gigs have been at an all-time low. It’s been the worst year for Upwork work over the past 6 or so. I’m going to be extremely honest here and tell you that in 2021, from Upwork alone, I’ve made $490. Before taxes. It’s the worst Upwork year I’ve ever had, period.
That’s just BAD! In its years of glory, I’d do 20 times that solely on Upwork! Hei, 2018/19, what’s up?! This alone is tragic, and not unique to me, as the platform is simply starting to feel like a place where you’d get hustled with job proposals but never actually get hired if you’ve passed a certain level of prices. I’m not sure where Upwork is heading, but it’s not doing so well today.
Direct work – 10% of 2021 income
Sometimes, people just come to me with job proposals, either through Facebook, Instagram, or my blog. This year, my blogging, posting on the ‘gram, and other online adventures have paid off in DOUBLE the clients from last year. And more than triple the income from direct clients. I won’t go into details on sums but in all honesty, it was a great year for direct work for sure!
Referrals and former clients
I want to point out the idea of referrals and the notion around returning former clients in freelancing. Bottom line is, this rarely happens. Referrals don’t happen because once your client is out of the picture, they’re usually focusing on anything else but talking about you to their friends or colleagues. When was the last time you recommended someone to anyone? Yes.
And naturally, former clients don’t usually return for more services from you because, once again, they’re done and away from that very targeted type of work you’ve done for them. If you’re over with a website about astronomy and are very good at that particular topic, you won’t be able to do a website on flowers, even though the client might need one. Hence the goodbye.
Agency earnings – 20% of 2021 income
Magic Agency is my new challenge. Do you know how people say they miss motivation after a while when they’re freelancing? No, what they miss is a new challenge. Writing, although creative, can become a linear process after a long period of time. You wake up, make some coffee, sit at the laptop and write. The writing itself is creative, but the monotony is hard.
This is why having a new challenge once in a while, even in your domain, is healthy for the mind. Opening a boutique creative agency for web development was the next logical step for me. It’s so much more than just writing. It’s a nebula, and a different one with every new website, social media account, and so on. And surely, there’s a market for it. And a big one!
Most of the income from the agency came from our main service, website creation. We address the uninitiated, the people who do good in business but have no clue how websites work. Because of this, we install only WordPress on all websites, since it’s the easiest to work with and explain to the client. We’re about to beat our goal of 10 delivered websites with 3 months to spare until the end of 2021.
We charge anywhere between $500 to a couple of thousand dollars for a website, based on how complex the site is, what the client needs from it and how well prepared the client is in terms of managing it. That is, we manage most of the websites so far. My plan in 2022 is to double the income generated in 2021, as well as reach out to more quality clients, rather than loads of smaller ones.
The rest of our income at Magic Agency, which by the way is open for work with English-based businesses as well, not just Romanian speaking ones, comes from the rest of our services. This includes content creation, social media management, design and advertising. Although not much has been earned from these, we’ll do better next year for sure. I have no doubt about it.
Local media gig – 10% of 2021 income
For those of you who don’t know, I’m a journalist at heart. I’ve been working in the media for over a decade now, and I regret nothing! I love it. I’m still hired as a local news editor in my hometown, and our website generates over 5 million hits every year. It’s great having a trusted website to work at, and doing what I love while setting the facts straight for the people.
Other income sources – 5.5% of 2021 income
I’m always at 3-5% loss when it comes to these summaries, in the fact that I am always left with a few percentages of the total income that I don’t immediately know where they’re coming from. They might be bits and pieces from the other categories, or from investing, and so on, but I can’t put my finger on it. This year it’s quite high at 5.5% so I’ll take a closer look to see what’s up.
Investing – 40% of all 2021 income
Although it’s just October, I know what the rest of the year will look like in terms of income and finances. This is why I’m writing this article now in the year, not in December. It’s so comforting as a freelancer to know exactly how the last third of the year will play out! This is why I’ve been able to put almost half of my income in investments this year. What’s my investment plan? Not really a plan…
Simply put, I bought an apartment. This accomplishes three things at once. Number one, it puts my money into something that’s always going to be valued at a little more than when I’d bought it. Real estate, go figure. Second, it gives me a stable, passive income from renting it out. And third, it gives me a place to stay when I’m going to the city where the apartment is.
Most of the money I’ve made in 2021 that had no other target went into buying this apartment. It was A LOT of money and effort to get it done. But it’s probably the smartest thing I have ever done in my entire life, period. I’m not planning to turn into a real estate guy. I’m just trying waters, and so far, the investment is paying off well enough to keep me happy. I’m proud!
Savings – 10% of all 2021 income
Because of my investments this year, I couldn’t put as much money away as last year, for example. In fact, I’m positive that, with my travel lifestyle, I will never top 2020 in terms of money put under my mattress. Yet money invested is in some way saved, and actually better, so in the end, it’s still good! In 2021 I only put away about one-third of the money I did in 2020.
The main difference here is the actual figure. If I were to compare, 10% of the income of 2021 is the same money as about 25% of the total income of last year. This means that, even if in 2020 I had put away half my income, roughly, and that was sum x, in 2021, with 10% of the income under my mattress, that is roughly x/2, which to me is INCREDIBLE! I’m proud when I make smart choices. And look at me doing MATH, what?! Mr. Orbulescu would be proud.
Corporate job offers
Just about every month or so, a pretty girl on LinkedIn messages me for a job interview. Some are from the automotive industry, some from companies working in health, research even. Most of the time, I politely decline the offer but sometimes I get curious. For example, just a few weeks ago an offer from Pirelli, the tyre company, came in. Pirelli makes tyres for Formula 1.
I LOVE Formula 1!
Naturally, I got very excited at the idea to write content for something that has to do with Formula 1. And start my journey towards my dream job, being a press officer in the paddock. In reality, though, corporate jobs need you to relocate although you don’t need to, as well as work 10-12 hours a day and make one quarter the money you’d normally make for so much work.
I had to decline the offer, not because of the relocation, as I could’ve done that. It was because of the time-value aspect, as in, my time at the job wasn’t valued enough. Money, it was about the money. I guess companies aren’t aware that everyday prices of food, gas, and other things have gone up. Really up. And you can’t live with 10$ an hour anymore. I guess I’ll have to find another trail that will get me into the F1 paddock. I’ve not given up!
Freelancing in 2022 and beyond
Next year, I’ll change the game a little bit in my freelancing work. I’m still going to have a few whale clients as my base income source, but they don’t have to be my main. Instead, I’ll be focusing on 1) growing Magic Agency and all that this entitles, and 2) putting more of an effort into local media, and somewhat making our products better, and the revenue therefore as well.
I’m aiming for 20 websites in 2022 with Magic Agency, so 2 every month minus August and December. If I can have this turned into reality, this would turn the agency into my main source of cash. Naturally, I’ll be hiring more people for it, but it would still pay off. This is not going to be easy, since we’re a boutique agency, but not impossible. Word of mouth advertising works!
Finally, I’ll leave you with my non-freelancing goal for 2022. And that is, I want to open my sandwich shop here in my hometown. I know this is out of the blue, but I love food. And frankly, it’s almost 12 when I’m writing this last paragraph of the article, and I have no idea what to eat for lunch today. I’d absolutely love a cold cut on rye with some mustard and sauerkraut!
Unfortunately, there’s no sandwich shop in my city that would deliver that. In fact, there are very few options when it comes to food, lunch orders, and pick-up. I want to change that. I want to make some sandwiches so great, people go to sleep at night thinking about having them the next morning. I know I can do it. If there’s someone who knows sandwiches, that has to be me.
Hi! Just a quick thing before you leave:
First, nice of you to read thus far, it means that you’ve enjoyed my writing!
I’m not here to ask you for any likes, shares, or comments, although that would be cool of you! Instead, I’m offering you a chance to have an even better piece, sort of like this one, but better, written for you by a content creator. That would be me! Check out my Services, Portfolio and Testimonials pages for details. And then shoot me an email at the address you’ll find on the Contact page.
If you’re a freelancer like me and are confused about learning how to make money online, especially through writing but also programming, design, or social media management, you can buy my book. It’s called “From 0 To $2543 A Month With A Crappy Laptop – The Freelancing Course From A Self-Made Content Creator Boss” and you can find it on Amazon at 50% off!