Here’s Why You Probably Won’t Be a Six-Figure Freelancer in Year One (And That’s Okay!)

I have to admit that I didn’t really have an earnings goal when I stepped into freelancing full-time. Yes, of course, I wanted to make enough to get by, but I had a hunch it would be more of a slow burn. But just because I had realistic expectations doesn’t mean I didn’t see the posts from other freelancers shouting their secrets to making six figures during their first year of freelancing.

My Earnings Journey

In my first year of freelancing, I brought in around $23,000. Was I maxing out my potential? Was I “busy” enough? Did I take on all the clients I should have?

No.

Because I was learning.

I was getting experience, dipping my toe into different waters. I was constantly pivoting, trying new service offerings, taking on new kinds of gigs, playing around with rates, earning certifications, and the list goes on.

For the first few months, I was just trying to figure out how in the world to navigate this strange new world of freelancing.

In my first six months of freelancing, I made around $4,000. After I landed my first few “steady” clients and started to find my groove, things got more manageable, and as a result, my income got more steady. The remaining $19,000 of my first year’s income came in the second half of the year. Now a few months into my second year as a freelancer, I’m on track to bring in almost double what I did last year, if not more.

So you may see freelancers out there spouting out how they made six figures the first year. And I applaud them. I really do. Maybe they’re in a niche that charges extremely high rates, and maybe they had existing client relationships going into it, or maybe these 6-figure freelancers are really just that darn good at what they do.

That’s their journey.

This is mine.

You’ll have yours.

And no two are going to be identical. Nor should these journeys or income standards be compared to one another.

If you want to make a boatload of money in your first year freelancing, you’ll need to work harder than you did at any full-time job you’ve ever had. That’s because of these three reasons.

There’s a Steep Learning Curve

If you’re new to freelancing, like I was, there will be a learning curve. A seriously steep one where every day your brain will physically hurt, and you’ll be in awe of just how much you don’t know. But after a few months, it’ll even out, just like it does at any other job. And as you gain confidence in your ability to find and perform work, your earnings will increase too.

You’re Building a Network from Scratch

I left the world of software development, where I was quite comfortable, to branch out into the world of freelance writing. Of which I knew exactly zero people. That means that while I was trying to launch a business, I was also rebuilding my network from nothing.

Creating relationships isn’t easy, and it takes time. But since networks can get you jobs, nurturing your network is also necessary to increase your earnings.

Client Relationships Take Time to Build

In my first few weeks of freelancing, I quickly picked up work for several clients that ended up being one-offs. It took me several months to attract clients that wanted long-term working relationships.

Once you get over the hurdle of one-off jobs and get into steady work, it changes the game from an income standpoint. Not only are you getting work that you can plan for, but you can also get to know those clients, prove value, and ask for a raise when the time is right.

The Bottom Line

You might not make $100,000 in your first year freelancing. Or your second. Or the third. But if that’s a goal of yours, you can make it happen. The most important thing is that you set realistic expectations, then celebrate like crazy when you do better than you ever dreamed.

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