How I Made $10,500 in 31 Days (After Freelancing For Four Months)

A few months ago, I stumbled upon a spreadsheet of my 2012 freelance income. On August 2, 2012, I started freelancing full-time. That December (my fourth month freelancing), I had pulled in $10,595 within a 31-day window. I remember looking at that number in amazement.

I had made $10,000 just the year before, in 2011, freelancing as my side hustle while working 30 hours a week at my day job.

I shared some of these numbers briefly on my Instagram story and got a lot of responses back. A lot of people felt encouraged and that’s when I knew I had to write more on this topic here on my blog. I don’t like it when people act like making 5 of 6 figures is “easy.” There are a few important parts to this $10,500 story that I want to point out:

1. This Didn’t Happen Overnight

I started freelancing in college back in 2007. I was designing logos for Etsy shops for $20. I graduated in the midst of a recession (REMEMBER THAT?), tried freelancing when I quit my soul-crushing call center job, failed and then worked for the state government for about two years. I was thankful that I had found a flexible 30-hour a week job. My paycheck was about $680 every two weeks. I pretty quickly began to make more as a side-hustling freelancer. The first month of freelancing full-time, I brought in $5,500.

September 2012: $5,025
October 2012: $8,225
November 2012: $8,400
December 2012: $10,595

By the end of the year, I had brought in a little over $52,000 on my own.

2. The $10,500+ wasn’t earned by designing beautiful logos and working on dream projects

Actually, here’s exactly how I earned it:

Obviously, I changed the client names + project description. Big Client #1 was a dream client. That client project was what really propelled my career. But I didn’t profit much on it because I offered a lot of things for free (things that I had never done before but wanted to be hired to do). It paid off in a lot of other ways.

The other larger payments were earned because, while I might have been freelancing full-time, it wasn’t while I was sitting on my couch in my PJs drinking matcha and Instagramming. I was hired on as a contractor for 10-30 hours a week at a local suburban agency and at a hip start-up. I was mostly brought on to create internal designs for them (or to work on things like wireframes). I designed things like their holiday cards, worked on the CEO’s passion projects, took photos of their team and kept up on things that never got prioritized by their own employees due to their own client work. I had set hours with both companies, sat in a cubicle one morning and drove across town to work in an open concept office with people I didn’t really know. It was flexible, paid well and helped me find my footing as a freelance designer.

Lastly, my very boring corporate client was everything you can imagine and more. My point person was very kind and nice, which made it okay. But believe me when I tell you: I was designing the most boring documents you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Very tedious. Not beautiful at all.

If you’re at a place in your freelance career where everyone’s life looks sexier than yours, it’s probably a lie. Focus on your goals and what you love doing. Who are you here to help? Do you have a financial goal? Does this flexibility allow you to stay home with your kids? Travel more? Be less stressed? Love your ground or move.

3. I Owed $19,000 in Taxes That Year

Yes, a $10,000+ month is rad. We paid off personal debt that year. We went to Jamaica. We started The Wonder Jam five months later. You know what wasn’t fun? My $19,000 tax bill that I paid via check. Thankfully I was a Very Good Girl that year and actually put 35% away for taxes. I didn’t write anything off (I don’t advise doing this). I didn’t pay quarterly (I don’t advise doing this). I took every last penny home (I don’t advise doing this). I didn’t have anyone doing my taxes for me (I was trying to “save” money hahahaha). So, if you’re a freelancer reading this, ask for help if you don’t understand finances.

4. I Had No Support or Community

I am proud of what I accomplished on my own. But I was ON MY OWN and I worked all the time. 24.7. Besides Adam (who worked at a regular 9-5), not a lot of friends or family really understood that I was planning on working for myself for the rest of my life. I couldn’t ask questions. I took the hardest, longest way of accomplishing anything within my business. Plus, none of my friends owned their own business. Now? Almost all my friends do!

It’s honestly why we started The Diamond Membership. We wanted a place where people can ask questions and where we can throw all of the knowledge we’ve gained through trial, error, coaches + pure luck/time. If you’re someone who is interested in owning your own business, already own one or are in the midst of that side-hustle, we’d love to have you. That’s about as sales-y as I’ll get. If you have any questions about it, comment below or email me at allie @ thewonderjam dot com.

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Comments (17)

  • The most honest $ post I’ve read…maybe ever? Thank you for sharing. I’m still in the side hustle space and this is so inspirational. Also seriously appreciate the tax realness.

    • Thank YOU for reading, Lara. It feels good, for me, to be really honest after I’ve had time to process and assess. 6 years later on this one…. HA

  • Love this post! And love your honesty. You’ve always killed it in my eyes and it’s something I always look up to you for. x

  • I just discovered your blog and this post is exactly what I needed to read. I’m a self-taught web designer, self-taught freelancer… I had 2 years where I merely did 10 000$ annualy, even though I worked 60++ hours a week (with 2 young kids!). Now, I feel that I reached a point of stability, balance. I work 20 hours a week, and earned 25 000$ this year (but still have to give 30% back :(
    I’m at the point where I don’t know where to go from here… I want to keep my 20 hours a week, but would love to increase the income. Anyway, hope you’ll have a Part 2 about this subject ;)

    Thank you!

    • Hi Joelle! Well, first of all, CONGRATS. You brought in all of that ca$h on your own. I know that feeling, though. Where you feel overworked and ask yourself if it’s worth it. Working 20hr/week and bringing in $25k is AMAZING. I’d love to know how much you WANT to make annually and what kind of projects you work on…

  • Thanks for sharing Allie. It really does help to see what others have gone thru in a really transparent way.

    • Thank you for reading (and commenting) – I’m glad it helps. I always love transparency and sharing.

  • Tara Zinser

    Love. This. That one day I spent at the wonder jam probably inspired me / gave me a better sense of direction than any other experience yet! I know I’d love to work for myself someday and this was an awesome read.

  • Allie! This is so amazingly helpful and encouraging. Thank you so much for sharing. I want to start working for myself as well (for many reasons), and I’d love to talk with you more about this! Im curious, where/how did you get your new clients back when your we’re just starting out?

    • I’m so glad to hear that, Alexa!! We really need to get coffee then :)

      As far as how I got my new clients when I was starting out: blogging here was a HUGE part of that. I had a readership where I would get clients or referrals. I got my big client from them inquiring at a larger agency that Adam worked at (and they could afford their package so he recommended me). I got my smaller clients via social media/blogging. I got my contractor positions from networking and meeting the creative directors or owners directly!

      • Good to know! I had started a blog a couple years ago just posting once a week I think, and then I got very self-conscious about things I wrote (as I do with all things) and took it down haha.
        I would definitely love to grab coffee sometime to chat more! :) I feel like I’ve done a decent amount of things to help prep myself, but I keep getting overwhelmed when it comes to just STARTING lol. Its hard having to be the one to make all decisions all the time haha. I’m not used to that! But I’m just beginning so I’ll get better at it I’m sure!

  • I love this! So encouraging and honest that side hustling isn’t always as sexy as people think it is – sometimes posts are boring. But, at the end of the day, it’s your business! Thanks for sharing lady.

  • You’re amazing. Finances is so hard!!!! I had to hire an accountant this year and hearing him talk is like listening to Minions. I have no freaking clue what he’s talking about and he’s left brained so he can’t communicate in right brain and I’m right brain and can’t hear his left brain. So frustrating. Any advice on how to get it together for someone who can’t think in numbers?

    • They really are. I would suggest finding someone else, honestly. We have worked with some amazing finance-related people who can speak our language and be really human.

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