2018 Year in Review: Freelance Wins, Disappointments, and Goals

Dec 31, 2018

You know, I’ve never actually written one of these “year in review” style posts.

I’ve seen plenty of other people do them—and, full disclosure, I always find them interesting.

But, I get a little stuck when it comes to writing them personally. I never want to seem braggy, and I know these sorts of posts can quickly tiptoe into, “LOOK HOW GREAT I AM!” territory.

With that said, there’s so much that happens in a year—ups (ahem, my niece was born!), downs, and lessons learned—that I think it’s well worth the reflection. And, if I’m going to do that anyway, why not share it here, right?

So, here we are. My very first “year in review” post looking back at some of the big things (both good and bad!) that happened in 2018.

Freelance Recap: 2018 By the Numbers

Before we jump into the peaks and the valleys, here’s a quick look at some key digits from the past year.

Not all of my numbers from 2018 are in yet, so some of these are estimates. But, I think they’re still helpful—and they shouldn’t be that far off from reality!

  • Number of Years as a Full-Time Freelancer: 4.5
  • 2018 Income: ~$96,000
  • 2018 Expenses: ~$10, 500 (see my note below about investing in my business this year!)
  • Number of Clients: 28
  • Clients Who Were New This Year: 10

Things That Went Well in 2018…

It’s all too easy to lose sight of the positives when you’re wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of daily life. But, in looking back at 2018, so many wonderful things happened.

Let’s cover a few highlights, shall we?

I made way more space for interests outside of work.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Building a freelance business is a lot of work. In many ways, it can be all-consuming.

That means that the past several years have been dedicated almost entirely to my career, which meant so many of my other passions and interests slipped to the back burner—or off the stovetop entirely.

One of my lifelong passions is music. I actually began my college career as a vocal performance major, and singing was a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember—until it wasn’t.

This year I finally realized it was something I missed desperately, so I took action. I auditioned for an amazing choir in my community called NewVoices. And, to my surprise, I made it in!

I’ve been loving participating in the weekly rehearsals and performing with these amazing vocalists and musicians, and it served as a great reminder how important it is to have things outside of your work that you enjoy doing.

year in review

I relaunched my website.

That’s right—this little website right here got a major revamp and officially launched in July of this year.

I’m so proud of it. My website designer, Rachael Earl Design, did such a phenomenal job transforming my nonsensical ramblings into something that captures my personality and the messages I want to send out into the world.

She did such amazing work, in fact, that my website was actually selected to be featured in Showit’s Spark Creative Inspiration Anthology—a hardcover book that features only 50 beautiful websites. Woo!

year in review

I really invested in my business.

A shiny new website was a pretty hefty investment. But, fortunately, that sort of became a theme this year. I felt more financially stable as a freelancer than I ever have before, which led to me making some other investments that I had previously put off.

I finally purchased a media insurance policy to give me a little added protection. I worked with a real lawyer for a few different legal needs. I also got some more professional headshots taken.

Was it a little painful to fork over hard-earned moolah for these things? You bet. But, I’m also realizing the importance (and benefit!) of putting some money back into your business.

I started a Facebook group for freelancers.

Slowly but surely, I’ve been chipping away at forming a community of creative freelancers through my blog posts, newsletters, and social media.

Anytime I asked for feedback through those channels, so many people told me they’d love an outlet where they could connect and get advice from other freelancers.

So, during a surprise snowstorm in April, I jumped right in and started 1…2…Freelance, a private Facebook group where creative freelancers can converse and commiserate. In that group, we frequently have different freelance-relevant discussions. And, I even got over my awkwardness in front of the camera to host my first Facebook Live and answer questions that were submitted by group members.

year in review

I accepted a part-time position.

Gasp! This might be the biggest news of all. I’m still very much a full-time freelancer, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t also itching for a way to get myself out of the house to be around some real, live people every now and then.

So, here we are: I’m now adjunct faculty at Fox Valley Technical College, working as an Employment Advisor.

It’s only a few hours each week, but so far it’s been awesome to work with students to polish their resumes and cover letters, level-up their LinkedIn profiles, and do mock interviews to help them find and actually land jobs they’ll love.

Plus, it’s a great way to maximize all of the knowledge I’ve gained after years of writing so much career advice!

I took some awesome trips.

I can be sort of a homebody, so I used to convince myself that I didn’t particularly enjoy traveling. However, I’m realizing that’s definitely not the case.

2018 involved several amazing trips, including:

  • Two trips to Las Vegas
  • One trip to New York City (pizza and bagels…mmm!)
  • One trip to my favorite place on earth: The Porcupine Mountains
  • One trip to Duluth, MN (another favorite for both me and my husband!)
  • Numerous trips to lower Michigan to visit Ty’s family


While we didn’t head anywhere too exotic, it’s still so nice to get out of your normal routine and explore somewhere new. We always have fun—no matter where we go!

year in review


Things That Didn’t Go So Well in 2018…

All in all, 2018 was a great year. But, like any other year, it wasn’t all highlights and positives (believe me, anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you).

This was a year filled with a lot of personal and professional growth—with a few different challenges and roadblocks thrown in for good measure. Here’s a real look at a few of the things that didn’t go so well this past year.

I didn’t earn as much as last year.

In all honesty, I hesitated to even include this fact on this list—because it’s really not all that negative.

Sure, I came in several thousand dollars under what I made in 2017, and I’d be lying if I told you there wasn’t a small part of me that feels a little disappointment with that fact.

I think that’s easy to do when you’re a freelancer. You don’t have a standard career development plan or traditional promotions and raises in your future, so your income is the simplest thing to look to for an indicator of how you’re doing—which makes it easy to think you failed if you come up a few dollars short.

But, I’m trying to keep perspective and remind myself that falling a little short of what I made last year isn’t really that big of deal. Seriously, I wouldn’t even have noticed had I not looked at the numbers (which, my friend, is proof that hitting that six-figure milestone doesn’t necessarily mean your life is drastically different).

year in review

I didn’t follow through on some bigger-picture goals.

Sigh. This is an area I always struggle with. Particularly when you’re a one-person show, it’s so easy to fall into the routine of your daily tasks—which means those larger objectives constantly get pushed to the back burner.

I had some pretty lofty ambitions for this year. I wanted to launch a shop and some digital downloads on my site. I wanted to incorporate more regular exercise into my daily schedule. I wanted to do a better job of taking advantage of the flexibility I have.

I ended up completely abandoning those types of goals. That’s frustrating. But, there’s always next year, right?

I dropped the ball on some administrative tasks.

Ugh. I consider myself a pretty organized person, but that still doesn’t mean I’m always on top of the administrative side of my business.

Now that tax time is rolling around, I’m being hit with that rude awakening that I have a lot of expenses to log and paperwork to catch up on.

Every single year, I vow that I’ll be better about that. Obviously, it has yet to happen.

year in review

I wasn’t great about my work-life balance.

Alright, before I jump into this one, I want to give myself a little pat on the back: I was way better about work-life balance this past year than I’ve ever been. I shut down for the majority of each weekend, which was a huge step for me.

But, I still worked way too late many nights. I tend to bite off more than I can chew with my workload, which means I need to work long days if I actually want to dedicate the weekend to resting and recharging.

I’m definitely taking steps in the right direction (when I was getting started as a freelancer, I worked 70-hour weeks!). However, this is still an area I’m hoping to improve. I’d actually love to develop a schedule where I can take Fridays off or dedicate them only to business development—rather than client work.

year in review


What I’m Looking Forward to in 2019…

I’m signing up for piano lessons.

I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with my love for music so much, that I’m aiming to sign up for weekly piano lessons this year. I’ll admit that it feels a little scary to jump back into that as an adult, but I’m also really looking forward to working hard on something that isn’t related to my work!

I’m planning to travel more.

While I took quite a few great vacations this year, I’m hoping to travel even more in 2019.

We have a couple of standard trips we take every year (Duluth, Porcupine Mountains, and several trips to lower Michigan), but I have a few other ones in the works as well—both professionally and personally.

I’m looking at another work trip to NYC either this January and February, and am also seriously thinking about attending a conference (it’d be my first one as a freelancer!) outside of Austin in April.

My husband and I also have a trip to the Pacific Northwest in the works. We’re aiming to visit three (!!!) national parks in the spring.

year in review

I’m going to grow this community.

I’ve said this so many times, but I mean it this time—this is the year that I’m really going to focus on developing this side of my business.

I’m working with a marketing expert (she’s the best!) to develop a plan for launching a shop with digital downloads, templates, and other resources geared toward freelancers just like you. And, I’m really looking forward to doing more with my newsletter list and Facebook group to better serve y’all.

year in review

I’m going to listen to my gut.

After a few years of freelancing, I’m now discovering that I know more than I give myself credit for. I have good instincts that are almost always right.

Yet, too often, I ignore them. I find that I talk myself into things I probably shouldn’t be doing, and out of things I probably should be doing.

This is a goal that’s tough to quantify, but this year I want to trust myself more. After all, sometimes that little voice in my head has something worthwhile to say.

So, How Was Your Year?

Well, that’s it—a not-so-quick look at some of the big things that happened for me in 2018.

What about you? How was your year? I want to hear about it, so drop a comment below and let me know some of your own highs and lows—as well as your goals for the coming year.

I have a feeling 2019 is going to be a good one, my freelance friend!