A Year of Coasting (2022 Freelance Year In Review)

December 21, 2022

I started my eleventh year freelancing with a bang. I made a new video for the first four months, I was checking off to-do’s, and meeting my workout goals. Then the motivation came to a crashing halt.

Looking back, there was no specific reason for the crash and burn of my motivation. It just fizzled out and my goals got pushed back month after month until they fell off.

For the majority of 2022, I was on cruise control with no destination in sight, and that was my downfall. I didn’t make daily to-do lists. I wasn’t setting deadlines for myself. I let procrastination take over when client work was slow. This was a recipe for failure.

Going into 2023, I’m going to make an effort to combat procrastination. Create goals that fuel better habits and become a more active artist and creator.

Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of how my year went as a freelance graphic designer.

These posts are long, so feel free to jump to the section that interests you most using these handy-dandy links:

Part One: My 2022 Year In Review
Part Two: My Top Freelance Projects of 2022
Part Three: My 2022 Freelance Income Breakdown
Part Four: My Goals for 2023

Part One: My 2022 Year In Review

I came into 2022, wanting to let my passions fuel my creations. I wanted to create more—as I do every year—but unfortunately, I let procrastination get the best of me.

My go-to excuse for procrastination and something I don’t talk about is that I’m also a stay-at-home dad. While maintaining my business, I’m also taking care of our rambunctious toddler. Balancing the two is difficult, to say the least. This has led to a lot of procrastination whenever I get a spare moment. But, my daughter started preschool, which has opened a two-hour window where I can focus in the mornings, uninterrupted. This will be my opportunity to get back on track!

Also, my greatest fear has been lurking in the shadows. Something I’ve been trying to avoid worrying about … my fear of losing more client work.

In 2020, when the pandemic hit, I lost one of my biggest clients. Their company dissolved—Thanos-snapping a third of my income.

I’m worried because I’ve noticed my workload decreasing. Some clients are doing more in-house or passing projects to newer, fresher designers. It made me realize how expendable my job is as a freelance graphic designer. I’m a small cog in a huge machine that is the music merchandise industry. The scary realization is that I can be replaced. That’s why it’s so important that I don’t put all my eggs into one basket. Unfortunately, my procrastination has led to my baskets consolidating.

When clients do more in-house or choose not to pass certain projects my way, I’m left to scrape by on what little diversified income I have. (Which has also dwindled due to my inactivity online.)

I could reach out, connect, and land more work with new merch companies. But the outcome will be the same … I’ll become a cog in a machine that can (and will) be replaced.

Client work is how I’ve been able to make my living. It pays better now but doesn’t scale and uses all of my direct time.

Moving forward, I have a couple of options: spend my life seeking ways I can sell my time to other companies, or pivot my entire career and find an employer.

I’d be lying if I said the second option didn’t sound appealing at times. And if an offer came along from the right company that matched my values, I’d consider it.  But it’s yet to happen.

So I’m going to go with sneaky option three: use my downtime to share assets, knowledge, and my own art. Which doesn’t pay much right now but scales and is uncapped.

My focus for the new year will still be client work. But alongside it, when work is slow, I’ll stay productive and push myself to create more for my personal brand.

The best thing I can do right now (and forever) is to always be creating. It will keep my skills sharp and help me stay excited, and it’s the only way I find my next big move in my career.

My office vibes have improved a lot this year and has been overtaken by books.

Fun stats from my year:

  • I had roughly 75 designs approved from client work
  • I spent 21,457 minutes listening to Spotify (lo-fi, pop-punk, and rock)
  • I surpassed 1 million total views on my YouTube channel
  • I read every single day, finishing 11 fictional books (mostly fantasy), totaling 5,488 pages

Part Two: My Top Freelance Projects of 2022

I had the opportunity to work on some meaningful projects this year. Even after doing this for over a decade, I still have to pinch myself over some of the projects I get to work on.

A project for a great cause / A project of a new favorite / A project for an old favorite

This is only a small selection of art from projects I worked on this past year. If you want to check out the latest work I’m doing, head over to my Instagram!

Part Three: My 2022 Freelance Income Breakdown

Onto everyone’s favorite section: my freelance income report! It’s also my favorite section to look back on and compare past years. Hopefully, by sharing how I diversify my income, you can find motivation and learn from what’s working for me.

Quick note: the graphs represented are gross revenue, meaning before taxes or expenses.

My 2022 Monthly Freelance Gross Revenue

Seeing this graph is a real eye-opener. My inactivity and procrastination show just how much it affected my overall monthly income. I barely outperformed my worst year as a freelancer, when the pandemic hit.

I didn’t have that one or two big projects that skyrocketed my earnings for one month. Rather, I was scraping by on the few client projects I had, and what little diversified income trickled in.

Seeing these numbers from a bird’s-eye-view is tough but also very motivating to do better next year. Because if I don’t, I’m going to have to start making some very big changes.

My 2022 Freelance Income Streams

  • Client work: client work remains the foundation of my freelance business. I hope to continue working with the awesome clients I’ve been working with, as well as connect with some new ones and create awesome work next year!
  • Creative Market: selling my mockups and textures packs on Creative Market has been my safety net whenever client work is slow. Being a quarter of my entire income, it deserves my attention and I need to prioritize creating new products next year.
  • Monotype: this was a new one for me. Since I put out my first font, Corpus Typewriter, I decided to put it up on one of the biggest font foundry websites to capture an entirely new audience who are actively looking for new fonts. This was a surprising success because I did no marketing for the font, but it brought in more money than some of my other passive income strategies which took a lot more time and effort.
  • YouTube: I started the year strong, and as a result of just four new videos, my AdSense revenue jumped up to a full one percent of my income. If I actually stick to my game plan this next year, this number could rise significantly.
  • Merch: I again failed to add any new products to my shop. However, my Art Dept. hat continued to make sales sporadically throughout the year.
  • Affiliate links: I haven’t put any additional effort into using affiliate links. Any minuscule earnings I make are from links on things like YouTube video descriptions or blog posts. How does it all work exactly? I use Amazon affiliate links when recommending products I use, as well as Creative Market referrals when recommending them to other designers. It’s all very organic and built slowly over time.

Part Four: My Goals for 2022

To become the best version of myself, I need to create goals that form better habits, set deadlines for myself, and step outside of my comfort zone.

I want to be a more active creator. To achieve this, I will plan, schedule, and create one unique piece of content each month. That could be a YouTube video, a design for my shop, a new blog post, or a digital product. I’d love to create several of these a month, but I’m trying to be realistic so I can achieve the tasks I set for myself.

I want to find my voice as an artist. To achieve this, I will create one piece of art, outside of client work each month. For years I’ve focused on designing for others but I struggle when it comes to creating for myself. I’m hoping that once I shake off some rust, I’ll be able to produce more than one new personal design each month.

I want to be a better writer. To achieve this, I have to write consistently. I’m aiming for 2–3 times a week, but ideally, it should be every day. For me, writing is a marathon goal. I dream of one day getting a piece of fiction published. But, writing is also essential to every aspect of my career. Everything starts with writing: emails, video scripts, blog posts, social media, and the list goes on.

These are all pointless aspirations if I don’t take action. So to set myself up for success, I’ve already been planning. I’ve got video ideas in the pipeline and compiled a huge list of post ideas. So when I’m feeling stuck, I have a resource to snap me out of decision paralysis.

In summary, every month I will:

  • Create one unique piece of content (e.g. a YouTube video, merch design, blog post, or digital product)
  • Create one piece of art outside of client work
  • Write consistently in the form of creative writing, blog posts, video scripts, and journaling

Every month I’m going to add a new goal to my bullet journal, then break it down into small actionable goals on my daily to-do list.

The ultimate goal is to focus on creating something each month and revitalize my motivation to stay productive when client work slows down.

That’s a wrap for this year’s review! If you’ve read this far, thank you! Hopefully, you were able to pull inspiration from all this.

Have a healthy and happy 2023!

Here is my past Year In Review posts for comparison: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021.

See my latest work and more on Instagram @BrentGalloway