At Buffer, we’ve agelong aimed to default to transparency, a believe we judge helps destruct inequality and gives everyone a greater chance of succeeding. Financial transparency is particularly adjacent to our hearts, which is why we’re proud to stock Open Books, a bid of mini business owners giving america a peek wrong their books successful nan tone of being unfastened astir finances arsenic well. Join america arsenic we research nan highs, lows, and hard-won financial lessons that person paved their paths, and observe really you tin use their insights to your ain mini business journey.
Kat Boogaard’s travel into freelance penning isn’t each that unique: She was moving full-time successful trading but yearned for much flexibility, creativity, and power successful her work. Reflecting connected her past projects and assignments, she noticed that penning was a communal thread. So, she discontinue her full-time occupation to build a freelance penning business.
Her maturation path, however, has been beautiful uncommon. For one, she has built a unchangeable and viable business, achieving six figures successful gross each twelvemonth for nan past 5 years and moreover bringing successful multiple-six-figures successful 2021 erstwhile she expanded her business pinch subcontractors. But, she’s besides made nan intentional determination to standard backmost complete nan past mates of years, stopping her activity pinch subcontractors, cutting down customer projects to what she could negociate connected her own, and reducing her gross by complete $100,000.
Below, she shares much astir this caller direction, nan ways that determination has helped her life grow, and her proposal for anyone trying to turn arsenic a freelancer—on their ain terms.
Years successful business: 9
Number of employees: I subcontracted really heavy a fewer years ago, but now it’s conscionable me.
Location: Appleton, Wisconsin
Initial superior invested: Very little! All I really needed was a machine and a reliable Internet connection. Investments successful things for illustration accounting software, my LLC paperwork, and immoderate first agency supplies my first twelvemonth successful business added up to only $1,629.43 (and that included wellness insurance).
Financial support for business: I had family support while I sewage my business disconnected nan ground. (I was surviving pinch my boyfriend—now husband—who covered rent and food, and my parents sounded successful wherever they could, including paying my car costs for 1 month.) I besides received a $20,833 PPP (paycheck protection program) indebtedness during nan pandemic.
- Freelance penning blog posts and ebooks for package clients successful nan “world of work” space
Creating resources and publishing proposal for chap freelancers (a humble portion of income, $4,000 to $11,000 per year)
What’s been your proudest financial accomplishment arsenic a business owner?
I’m astir proud of nan twelvemonth that I paid complete six figures to different freelance writers done subcontracting. This was 2021, erstwhile location was a batch of uncertainty and struggle successful nan freelance community. I was thrilled that my business had nan credibility to successfully thrust those waves—while besides pulling different freelancers onto nan vessel pinch me. It was truthful rewarding to spell beyond sharing proposal and connection existent opportunity and income to different freelancers.
Subcontracting was thing I resisted for a agelong time, some because it seemed intimidating and besides because I felt for illustration I was taking advantage of different freelancers by getting a portion of nan activity they were doing.
But I recovered ways to make it activity for my business and different freelancers by:
- Only taking assignments that warranted a precocious capable complaint that I could salary subcontractors much than reasonably while still keeping a percentage
- Raising my rates pinch clients that were overdue for a value hike
- Creating defined processes truthful that subcontractors could attraction connected nan imaginative activity and not nan logistics
It besides took a while to fig retired nan rate travel because I’m a cash-based business that does chiefly Net 30 costs terms. That meant I was often paying subcontractors for their activity earlier I really sewage paid. But my accountant (and my actuary husband) were ace adjuvant successful figuring retired really to group capable speech truthful that I could salary my subcontractors wrong 24 hours of receiving their invoice, moreover if nan customer took respective much weeks.
What person you recovered is worthy paying for to thief you grow, and what person you been capable to execute much scrappily?
Some things I’m ever happy to put successful include:
- Qualified master help: I rather virtually don’t cognize what I’d do without my accountant. From quarterly estimated taxes to income taxes connected my products to my end-of-year return, he makes that full process a breeze. Plus, nan bid of mind I get from knowing it’s each taken attraction of correctly is priceless. I besides person 2 lawyer contacts that I tin scope retired to for proposal and resources. One helped maine group up a statement template that I usage erstwhile onboarding caller clients, and now sell for different freelancers to use.
- Accounting software: I’d besides beryllium mislaid without QuickBooks. I usage QuickBooks Simple Start, truthful it’s reasonably affordable (even though it felt for illustration a hefty finance erstwhile I was starting out). At $320 per year, it costs much than an Excel spreadsheet but is good worthy it for nan level of statement (and really master it makes maine look pinch my clients).
- Desktop computer: I spent nan first twelvemonth aliases 2 of my freelance profession moving connected my tiny, slow laptop. I yet sprung for a large iMac aft that. Considering really overmuch clip I walk hunched successful beforehand of a screen, I person zero regrets astir getting a accelerated and reliable machine setup.
As acold arsenic wherever I’m beautiful scrappy, I’m not personification who gets swept up successful a batch of different package and gadgets. You won’t find maine pinch a fancy ringing ray for video calls aliases a ton of specialized software
How do you determine really overmuch to salary yourself versus put backmost successful nan business?
I’m an LLC (not an S-corp), truthful immoderate is near aft I screen my expenses is technically mine—to past salary taxes on, of course. Groan.
I don’t person a refined strategy for deciding really overmuch to put backmost successful nan business. If things are going well, I mightiness beryllium much inclined to outpouring for a caller laptop aliases motion up for a people aliases conference. But successful caller months, nan freelance scenery has felt shakier—plus there’s ostentation to contend with—so I’m trying to support expenses arsenic debased arsenic possible.
Plus, since having kids, my ain individual expenses are higher (particularly pinch childcare successful nan mix). Keeping our first kid location during nan heavy of nan pandemic showed maine that it’d beryllium intolerable to support my activity complete only naptimes and evenings, truthful accordant childcare was a non-negotiable for america (even pinch nan hefty value tag).
A fewer much things I’ve recovered adjuvant erstwhile reasoning astir investing successful my business:
- Plan for taxes first: I person a abstracted savings relationship group up specifically for taxes. When my invoice payments rotation in, I group speech a ample chunk (usually astir $16,000/quarter, though I don’t ever request nan full amount) earlier I walk money connected thing else. That measurement I cognize I’m fresh to salary taxes erstwhile nan owed day rolls around.
- Spend intentionally: Especially if I’m facing a larger disbursal (like a caller computer), I’ll scheme for it up of time. Intentionally mounting money speech to screen it makes nan acquisition wounded a small spot less.
- Log your expenses: My accountant tells maine he’s ever shocked astatine really overmuch money business owners time off connected nan array by not logging their expenses. If you walk money connected thing for your business, that’s a deduction! Log it and support nan receipt, gosh darnit.
Tell america astir your team. At what constituent did you determine to prosecute labor aliases contractors? How do you deliberation astir erstwhile and who to bring connected now?
I don’t person overmuch of a squad correct now—I’m flyin’ solo! But erstwhile I was subcontracting successful 2021-ish, I knew it was clip to bring much group into nan fold because I recovered myself turning down opportunities I was really excited about.
It wasn’t moreover really a conscious maturation aliases financial determination for maine astatine nan time. It was much that I was getting contacted astir projects I’d emotion to activity on, but I conscionable didn’t person nan capacity. After talking it done pinch a fewer different freelancers who subcontracted, it seemed for illustration a reasonable measurement to grow my business’ output and opportunity “yes” to much without needfully burning myself out.
It worked really good for a play of time. But aft welcoming my 2nd boy successful January 2022, I wanted a simpler and much streamlined business. Subcontracting was incredible, but it came pinch challenges and administrative tasks (onboarding writers, creating briefs and outlines, editing assignments, paying invoices, fielding revisions, etc.).
I realized I felt astir “at peace” and successful power erstwhile it was conscionable me, truthful I decided to standard backmost to a solo business—at slightest for nan clip being. That’s fixed maine backmost immoderate much power complete my ain schedule and workload, since I don’t consciousness unit to beryllium signed connected and answering questions connected days erstwhile I different wouldn’t beryllium working. It intends I look for illustration I went “backwards” connected my equilibrium sheet, but it feels very overmuch for illustration guardant advancement to me.
What circumstantial strategies aliases trading techniques did you employment to pull your first customers aliases clients? What are immoderate of your astir impactful trading strategies now?
My first clients came done acold emailing and applying done occupation boards. Those strategies tin person a beautiful debased occurrence rate. But, considering I didn’t person a batch of existing connections aliases erstwhile work, they were nan only viable options. Once I sewage 1 aliases 2 “yes” responses, things sewage easier because I started to build up credibility and a portfolio.
These days, my apical strategy is to do high-quality, coagulated activity for my clients and present it on-time. That’s it. The immense mostly of my caller clients and projects travel done referrals and recommendations.
If and erstwhile things are slow, I besides find it adjuvant to scope retired to clients and inquire for referrals. I’ve landed immoderate unthinkable projects done existing clients who cognize personification other who needs penning help.
I’m reasonably progressive connected societal media arsenic well. While nan bulk of my online beingness is geared toward different freelancers, I’ve precocious started to stock much of my published activity and accusation astir my services connected LinkedIn. Those posts get a decent magnitude of traction, and since a batch of my target clients are connected LinkedIn, that level of visibility doesn’t hurt.
What’s a turning constituent that really impacted really you thought astir your business aliases approached growth?
Babies. Kids. Children.
It feels for illustration specified a cliché erstwhile I opportunity that—like I “mommy tracked” (I loathe that term, by nan way) myself successful my ain business. But there’s a logic that each of the, “kids alteration your priorities!” sentiments are oft-repeated: they’re true. So dang true.
I had 2 kids successful nether 2 years during a beautiful chaotic clip successful history (my first was calved successful April of 2020). And, while nan pandemic forced everybody to reevaluate their careers and priorities, I had nan added complexity of becoming a mom and emotion this basal displacement successful my identity.
I was ever very career-driven. And, while that’s still existent to immoderate extent, I now deliberation astir what my business tin do for me, not what I tin do for it. My business is very overmuch a intends to gain money and supply for my family, not nan halfway of my self-worth and personality nan measurement it was successful nan early years.
Today, “success” looks for illustration earning a decent surviving while still having clip and intelligence power to dedicate to nan things that are acold much important to me—like my family, a bully book, aliases an day locomotion pinch nan dogs. Sure, nan twelvemonth that my business earned nan astir was financially rewarding, but I was stressed and dispersed thin. It felt for illustration much of a nonaccomplishment than a gain. After reflecting connected that, I realized that “growth” for maine meant moving less, but connected projects I really enjoyed. Now, I activity a three-ish-day workweek and enactment narrowly focused connected nan clients that are nan champion fresh for me. I bask my business measurement much now than I did erstwhile it brought successful $300K.
I deliberation much and much group are emotion that aforesaid displacement (cue nan headlines astir “quiet quitting” aliases “lazy woman jobs”), and I emotion seeing truthful galore professionals rethink really activity fits into their lives—rather than continuing to talk astir it for illustration nan halfway of our lives. Regardless of your situation, it’s truthful important to fig retired what “growth” really intends to you alternatively of getting boxed into reasoning it intends a dependable incline connected your equilibrium sheet.
What person been nan top maturation aliases money challenges you’ve experienced? How person you worked done them?
Without a doubt, getting started was nan hardest. It feels embarrassing to opportunity now, but I wasn’t moreover alert of “content marketing” arsenic a point erstwhile I started my business. I assumed a profession arsenic a writer meant penning columns for glossy publications.
I quickly realized those publications weren’t going to respond to me. After landing a gig penning blog posts astir retention units for $40 a pop, I had a lightbulb moment: “Oh, companies request contented successful bid to get successful beforehand of their customers.” That’s erstwhile I pivoted and started focusing connected penning SEO contented for brands, earlier yet uncovering my niche successful nan world of work.
But oof, those first mates years were unsmooth financially. My first twelvemonth (actually a half year), I only brought successful $5,300. The adjacent twelvemonth (2015), I grossed $32,000, which matched what I had been earning full-time. And past successful 2016, I recovered my footing and my niche, bringing successful conscionable nether $80,000 successful gross income, which felt huge.
What are your adjacent maturation goals? What do you scheme connected investing successful to thief you execute them?
I cognize this is erstwhile I’m expected to opportunity I person my oculus connected immoderate awesome targets—like spinning my services into an agency and launching much passive income streams. But honestly, nary of that is connected my radar correct now.
My attraction is this: Earning a decent income without spreading myself excessively thin. For me, that intends earning location successful nan scope of $8,000 to $10,000 per period while maintaining my three-ish-day workweek, being selective astir nan projects I return on, and redeeming plentifulness of my time, patience, and power for my family and different interests.
Is that going to make for a ace grabby LinkedIn station aliases headline? Probably not. But it’s wherever I’m at. I’m looking astatine maturation done nan lens of my wide value of life.
Based connected your experience, what proposal would you springiness personification who had a business for illustration yours for increasing successfully?
Commit to immoderate proceedings and error. In business ownership, you want to get everything correct immediately. It’s scary to make mistakes aliases study reliable lessons—it feels for illustration there’s truthful overmuch connected nan line.
But honestly, nan champion lessons are learned nan difficult way. I wouldn’t person known that subcontracting wasn’t nan correct fresh for maine correct now if I hadn’t tried it. I wouldn’t person known to prioritize redeeming for taxes if I hadn’t had 1 quarterly estimated taxation costs sneak up connected me.
By each means, devour nan advice, inquire questions, and study from others. But don’t fto that clasp you backmost from moving forward, experiencing things for yourself, and evolving based connected that.
At nan extremity of nan day, that’s what maturation is, isn’t it?