Freelancing Success Story: From Debt to a Successful Business

26-10-2014 | Ramona |

I would like to create a series of articles, named Freelancing Success Stories, to give you all examples of people who were able to make it in the freelancing world and maybe encourage you to also take the plunge. While I gather ‘intel’ from other successful small business owners I know, let’s start with my own story.

Can you please give us few details about yourself?

I’m a graphic / web designer, who’s been focusing on her freelancing career in the past 5 years and was able to get out of debt, travel a lot and support my family. I currently live in Romania (where I was also born), am married and have an almost 9 month old daughter.

What made you start freelancing?

freelance-web-designer‘Made’ is indeed a great word to be used, I was almost forced by my financial situation back in 2009. I’ve actually started web design 12 years ago, it was more of a hobby than anything else. I’d spend a lot of time online, learning and running my own web sites.

After a while few people noticed my talent and asked me to do web design work for them, so I started earning some money. Never pursued it seriously though, since I had a well paid job and never thought I’d come to run my own business.

Then, in July 2009, my job was gone and I had nowhere to go. One year before that I decided to take an expensive car loan and also got a .ltd for my small business, so here I was: deep in debt, owing a lot of money for my car, having to pay taxes and .. having to eat, clothe myself etc.

It was a horrible time and it’s the moment I actually thought that running my own small business might not be such a bad idea (it was the only solution anyway).

For 3-4 months I worked very waking hour, while my folks pitched in to pay for my food, utilities etc. I was still living at home, but usually, when still had a job, I’d pay my share and help them with money. Well, long gone were those times, so they made an effort and helped me get through.

How was the beginning?

As already mentioned, it was VERY difficult. I had to work a lot, for very small fees. Got myself an Elance account and did the best I could. Slowly my ranking started to rise, as I finished more jobs and got 5 star reviews from my clients. After few months I was able to increase my rates and not have to work for 16 hours/day.

Slowly, my reputation got better and I was on the first page in the search results for my chosen category, which is amazing, given the fact there are at least tens of thousands of other freelancers. As you can guess, I got to pick the jobs now (would get at least 5-6 invitations/day) and work at way better prices.

Would you consider you have reached freelancing success?

For me, running my own small home based business is THE BEST thing that happened (except for the birth of my child :)).

My small business allowed me to travel for 20 months since 2010 (while still earning a buck from any location), I have earned enough to become debt free, pay for everything I needed to give birth in a private clinic, was also able to support my husband’s business for the first year and a half, when it didn’t quite take off. We’re both working from home now and doing well, so this gives us a really good feeling about our future.

What are the 3 top things you love about freelancing / running your small business?

  1. FREEDOM – I can schedule my time as I want to, based on the deadlines and family plans. I might work for 3 days straight and then just take some days off to play with my baby or travel. It’s an amazing thing to never have to count your vacation days or try to convince your boss you need a day off.
  2. MONEY – my worst months got me at least 2 times the money I used to earn as an employee. I had some amazing months too, overall the earnings are enough for us to live comfortably and not have to worry too much about tomorrow.
  3. PEOPLE – I have worked with some outstanding people, most of my clients are really good people and businessmen. Sure, some were slow to pay for instance or tried to be abusive, but they were soooo few. The majority are absolutely a pleasure to work with and I have learned so much from them.

What are the top 3 things you don’t like about freelancing?

To be honest I really have not pet peeves, I have understood all the challenges one needs to face to accomplish freelancing success and made my peace with it. Anyway, if there should be the 3 dislikes, hereย  they are:

  1. not being able to really take a break. When I used to work as an employee, once my work day was done, I stopped caring about the company. Now, I am constantly thinking about my business (which at the end of the day is not that bad anyway)
  2. having to do all the work myself. Sure, this is good, since no one can really mess things up for me, but I also have to take all the responsibility for my actions.
  3. not having a fixed income. Work and you earn, take a vacation and you don’t.

Do you have any plans to develop your business further?

Right now I am very content with my small business and I don’t plan on developing further (hiring people, getting an office etc.). I do work on expanding my earning options though (create some digital downloads, grow few web sites to increase my advertising revenue).

Maybe, when my daughter will get older, I’ll start a web design studio in the city, but right now I get all the flexibility I need when it comes to time management and I do earn enough for a comfortable living.

What would you say is your best advice for someone to reach freelancing success?

WORK hard! Don’t let anyone convince you it’s impossible to make money. It’s not, there are millions of people from all over the world who are running their small businesses and earn a living. It’s not easy, but it can be done. Just find out what your real talent is and learn how to ‘sell’ it.

Do you have your own freelancing success story? Please contact me to have your story featured on PFToday. I’d like us to prove that, with hard work and dedication, ANYONE can achieve success. Thank you for reading Gabi’s story, please share it, if you find it’s inspiring.

If you like what you are reading, please share. Thank you :)

Recent Comments

  • Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way

    October 28, 2014 at 12:17 am

    Wow, hats off to you that you appeared on the first page in the search results for your chosen category! I have a very good friend, she has a full time job as a graphic artist BUT she also joins the contest on 99 designs and she really made a good money from it. She almost wins 5-9 times per month!

    • dojo

      November 10, 2014 at 1:08 pm

      Welcome to Personal Finance Today, Clarisse.

      I have tried 99 Designs few times, but for me it’s a waste of time. I did ‘repurpose’ some designs for a templates web site I have, so I didn’t waste too much time after all ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Ela

    January 10, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    Hi Dojo, great series you got started here and it was nice to read your story. I can relate to many of the things you’ve said. The only difference I say was that web design, the area I understand you specialize in, is more in demand, while online marketing, my area, has the advantage of automation. Even when taking a vacation you can still receive passive income. Though I think you will cover this as well with the digital downloads. Best of luck

    • dojo

      January 10, 2015 at 7:08 pm

      Hello, Ela and welcome to PFToday. Thank you for your kind words, hope to get as many interesting stories here. Looking forward to seeing you here ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • George

    March 20, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    How can I be part of a team developing on Elance? I would do that in my spare time by lead of an Elance mobilizer or small company. I have 4 years experience in .NET/C#/C++/Mobile.

    • dojo

      March 22, 2015 at 8:21 am

      Hello, George and thanks for visiting. It’s better to start your own profile. Unless you already know the people in a certain web development business, they won’t get you under their ‘name’, since it’s their image at stake. I don’t work on teams either, I just have my own account and do the work.

  • splinter

    October 20, 2015 at 8:12 am

    This is my favorite article so far! Lots of encouraging words which can really help me boost my confidence. I’ve quit my 9-5 job to taste that so-called freedom. I must say that I do miss the regular salary and the fixed number of hours when you only have to think about work.

    On the other hand, I don’t regret my decision. Having full control of my time if priceless. I’ll just have to work harder and become better at my craft. Thanks!

  • jANE

    November 19, 2015 at 8:43 am

    Aha! I was wondering what inspired you to create such a useful and impressive category! It was your own story! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I really love reading about real “bad ass” people who managed to make it on their own, despite the shaky economy that literally ruined many businesses in the last few years.

  • tabby

    May 15, 2016 at 4:56 am

    A lot of the people I know are into freelancing now. Much like you said in the end, it takes HARD WORK to be able to make it. Just like you, they also started slow until they have gained enough experience and built their portfolio that their freelance gig started to take off. Sometimes, I envision being able to do it. The thing that appeals to me about freelancing is the TIME FREEDOM as you described. One can choose to work when and wherever. The only hindrance to earning is when you choose to take a vacation, which isn’t entirely bad also. After all, you work hard to be able to enjoy many moments with your family. Congratulations on your success, btw!

  • joanne

    July 23, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    Thanks to the internet, more people are turning to freelancing as a viable alternative to an office-based job. I once come across this question in one of the sites I frequent: “Are you too busy to get rich?”. This really hit home when I was still working in an office and commuting daily for 3 to 4 hours a day. I wasn’t just too busy to get rich, I was too busy to enjoy life! Working as a freelance accountant has allowed me to indulge in my other passions such as writing. I was able to start a new career as a freelance writer for a local writing site which was great because I never run out of projects and I never have to bid for them either. Income-wise, I’m currently earning the same take home pay I get from my old job which, for me, is good enough because I get to save on expensive lunch/dinner, gas, and transportation.

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