While there is no clear-cut answer to how long it takes to become a successful freelancer, there is a rule of thumb for most businesses when it comes to profitability. That rule of thumb is that it takes an average of three years for a business to become profitable, assuming they even make it past the first year.
This seems to be in line with my own experience. While I was making a profit from the beginning, the first two years were pretty hard in terms of revenue and expenses. Most of the money would go back into the business and I had little for myself.
When I started going into year three, things changed drastically. Suddenly people were approaching me for work without me having to hustle as hard as before. About three months into the third year I’d tripled the monthly revenue from the year before. Now that I’m about to celebrate my three year anniversary as a full-time freelancer, I’m on track to double my revenue from last year.
I also had a mentor who always told me “Just make it to year three and you’ll be fine.” I now see why she said that.
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The Creative Tablet