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A 34-year-old freelancer making $200K a year describes her spending


In April 2017, I changed the course of my professional career by leaving my “normal 9-to 5” salaried job to pursue a life as a freelance graphic designer and small business owner.

What felt like a gamble at the time paid off in a big way. In just three months I was already pulling in an income equivalent to my then $75,000 salary. Fast forward two years later and I am now averaging $200,000 a year and am projecting steady growth.

After details of my journey were featured recently on Business Insider Prime, I started to receive a few questions, from both fans and skeptics alike, about how that money is both earned and spent. And so, in this article, I’ll give a glimpse into my revenue streams, weekly spending habits, and how I’m constantly investing in future growth.

One of the more common comments I receive from skeptics is that my income can’t *really* be $200,000 because I obviously have business expenses that need to be paid.

The truth of the matter is the $200K number represents my personal net profit after business expenses. My actual business grosses close to $300K annually.

How she does it

The majority of my income comes from two main revenue streams. Half of my work comes from a freelance website called Upwork, and the other half comes from contracts I’ve procured on my own, mostly by word of mouth.

I also receive a small amount of rental income from the office space that I purchased at the beginning of this year. I rent extra spaces out to other like-minded small business owners. My eventual goal is to procure enough renters to cover the entire mortgage.

So let’s start out with a breakdown of my current average monthly earnings:

Graphic Design Contracts on Upwork: $14,000

Other Graphic Design Contracts: $9,500

Office Rental Income: $800

Which equates to:

Average Monthly Gross: $24,000

Projected Annual Gross: $290,000

Of course, those numbers are based on a three-month average. My monthly income tends to range between $20,000 and $30,000. While some months are lower than others, I trend steady growth.

Before we get into expenses, it’s important to note the numbers below represent my total business expenses and my half of the personal expenses. I’m a married woman living in a dual-income household, but I have opted to focus only on my income/spending for this article.

My average monthly business expenses:

Contractor Salaries: $5,500

My Salary: $16,000

Office Mortgage/Expenses: $2,200

Software & Service Subscriptions: $150

Cell Phone/IPad Service: $150

My average monthly personal expenses:

Taxes: $4,000

Retirement: $4,000

Savings: $2,000

Rent/Utilities: $2,500

Food/Entertainment: $1,200

Clothes/Shopping: $300

Travel: $1000

Misc/Gifts: $350

Investments: $500

Health Insurance/Medical: $200

I treat my taxes and retirement contributions like expenses. When you’re a contractor, those items aren’t withheld like they would be in a normal paycheck so you have to budget for them. I believe in running my personal life like a business. I find that by budgeting for those things ahead of time, I’m not tempted to spend money I shouldn’t.

This year, I learned about the benefits of a SEP IRA, which has been a godsend when it comes to my taxes. My plan is to max out my tax-deductible contributions each year going forward to help ease that painful tax bill.

I’ve bought and sold three houses over the past 10 years (I move around a lot). I took a small loss on the first one (in 2008), broke even on the second, and netted a handsome profit on the third.

I’m very lucky to have been grandfathered in to a very basic, very cheap private health insurance plan. That’s usually the biggest risk to becoming independently employed. If I were to lose that plan, my premiums would jump to over $800/month just for my share.

I do not have student loan debt. I enrolled at a local community college (Walters State Community College) my first two years and an affordable state school (East Tennessee State University) for my bachelor’s to avoid over-priced tuition. I also applied for as many scholarships as I could get my hands on.

Neither myself nor my husband own a car. We live and work in downtown Miami and walk everywhere we go. It’s been quite freeing not worrying about the responsibility of car payments, insurance and maintenance.

My Achilles heel is food, entertainment, and travel. I’m a sucker for eating out, dine-in movies, and nice vacations.

I also believe in constantly looking for ways to grow and diversify my income. This year, my business goals include generating enough income from my office space to cover my mortgage, launching a second company with my husband and sister (a travel website: TheSmokies.com), and starting a freelance blog.

And of course, I have my sights set on early retirement.

This week, I spent $1,479 – roughly 9% of my personal monthly income.

Monday – $177

Tuesday – $117

Wednesday – $12

Thursday – $599

Friday – $105

Saturday – $339

Sunday – $130

This week was fairly normal for a workweek. Our biggest expenses were seeing multiple movies at the dine-in theatre (that food and wine tends to add up), meeting up with friends, and planning an upcoming Disney trip.



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