Earlier this year I dedicated the entire month of May to my #nomorejobboards campaign. And since that was such a huge hit, I’m dedicating October to Loving Your Freelance Finances. This is part one of the series so stay tuned throughout the rest of the month.
I’ve been a full-time freelancer for nearly 4 years. Prior to that I ran this blog, and my freelance writing career, as a side hustle for 2 years. So to say I’ve been doing this freelance thing for awhile is a bit of an understatement.
Even with all that experience behind me, not to mention the 11 years I spent working as a small business bookkeeper, I was not prepared for the what the freelance finance world would bring.
In fact, (confession time) I absolutely HATED my financial situation up until this year. I could never seem to get on top of my finances.
From hating to loving your freelance finances
That is to say that I could pay the bills and keep my business afloat without issue, but I still ended up taking on more debt and not making headway with other goals.
I could only save about $50 a month towards my retirement account. The basics were covered, but my goal of financial independence still seems a very long way away.
Over the years I tried all of the financial strategies I knew:
- Sticking to a budget
- Increasing my prices
- Invoicing clients more frequently
- Enforcing a payment process for late or non-paying clients
- Offering discounts for bulk freelance work
- Using an automated payment reminder system
- Keeping accurate financial records
- And lots more…
But none of them seemed to work. That is until…
I admitted that I was stuck in a financial hole and didn’t know how to get out. I experienced first-hand that expert advice doesn’t work on its own. You have to find a way to apply it to your life that will work for YOU.
I had an epiphany and because of this ended up changing my mindset about how I viewed money. Since then, I’ve learned to a bit more relaxed with my finances, and let them teach me what to do.
In other words, I went from hating my money and the limitations it was giving me, to loving my freelance finances. If you’re struggling with the same money issues, here are a few things you can do to change your mindset and start loving your freelance finances.
Use one bank account for business transactions
Yeah, yeah, this is basic financial organization advice but nonetheless important. If you haven’t separated your business income and expenses (even if you’re a sole proprietor or single member LLC) from your personal bank account, now’s the time to do so.
Falling back in love with your money means reducing the stress and headaches associated with it. And one of the biggest stressors is mixing your business and personal transactions.
So stop doing it! You’ll thank me later…for real.
You won’t have to give your accountant or bookkeeper access to your personal info and household transactions. You won’t have to keep answering bookkeeping-related questions and feeling like your accountant is judging you for your spending. Any business costs will likely be legit and won’t come with any major inquiries.
Need some recommendations for what the best checking accounts are for freelancers and small business owners? Check out this comparison post so you can figure out the best choice.
Switch to weekly income projections
Traditional money management doesn’t always apply when you have irregular income as a freelancer. I tried managing my money on a monthly basis since that’s what I was used to at my day job and it worked so well.
But when you’re self-employed and at the mercy of freelance clients paying the bills, you have to change up your financial management. In an effort to help you avoid the time and mistakes I’ve made, the absolute best way to project your freelance income is to switch to a weekly bookkeeping process.
I had to stop trying to budget a month or two ahead and switch to projecting for this week and the next. The best way to do this is with the Freelancer Planner’s daily income tracking feature. It’s just a piece of paper with the entire month’s calendar on it.
Then you fill in that day’s income (that you either expect to earn or actually earned) and can color in the progress bar to help add it up at the end of the week. This helps me see if I need to increase my weekly assignment workload or increase my overall freelance writing rate.
Reward yourself with an allowance
In case you need a refresher, I’m basically a bank account hoarder. Between all our accounts (both business and personal) and our investment accounts, my husband and I have 17 separate bank accounts.
But one of the most important ones are the personal checking accounts we set up for ourselves that funnel a small allowance into them every month.
These bank accounts aren’t connected to our joint accounts, or any money management tool like Mint.com. They’re simply for our own enjoyment to use the funds however we like, with no questions asked. Sometimes we use the money on ourselves and other times we save up for a birthday present or anniversary gift for each other.
However your allowance is kept, make sure you’re rewarding yourself with some fun money every month. It doesn’t have to be anything large, even just $50 or $100 will suffice.
But the point is to enjoy the money you’ve worked hard for, without worrying about your spouse seeing the transaction, or having to categorize it in your monthly budget.
Reward yourself with a judgement-free allowance — you deserve it!
Focus on saving money not paying off debt
I know you’re probably gasping at this advice. I was a bit ashamed to admit this to myself, too. But the success of the strategy can’t be denied! When you’re self-employed, you have to change up your debt repayment strategy and focus on saving money instead.
For the past year, I haven’t been able to make much headway on any debt payments since I’ve been focusing on other savings goals. Unlike traditional debt payoff advice, the first to getting out of debt isn’t to make a plan or increase your income, it’s to stop the bleeding.
You have to stop the cycle of adding to the debt mountain. Doing this can take many, many months.
Think of it this way; your debt is a huge snowball that’s easily rolling downhill and collecting more debt as you swipe your card. To change direction you must first stop the momentum and then push the ball uphill.
That’s freaking hard!!! So don’t get discouraged if you’re not debt free by tomorrow.
Set up different savings accounts for emergencies and other expenses that impede your debt payoff progress. For us this means setting aside money to pay for travel expenses out-of-pocket, and saving up money to cover all the car maintenance expenses. No more putting these things on credit cards and hoping the funds show up.
Make saving money the priority so you can establish a lifelong habit of not going into debt again. Then once you’ve reversed the debt momentum, you can begin paying down your debt and becoming financially independent.
Delegate your books to the right person
You don’t have to do everything yourself. Let me repeat that in case you didn’t get it the first time.
You don’t have to do everything in your business yourself. You can ask for help and actually afford to do so. A bookkeeper or accountant is one of those things that will pay for itself time and time again.
Delegating your finances to the right people is key to not stressing out over your money. As long as you keep a good pulse on your income, expenses and business transactions, a trusted expert can take care of everything else.
This means you can fall back in love with your admin tasks because you no longer have to carve out hours of your life to do them. And I know some smart and trustworthy people who can help:
- Eric J. Nisall is an excellent accountant and tax consultant for business owners. He’s been a colleague/friend of mine for years and we’ve hung out in person many times. You can find him at his website, AccountLancer where he can help with the monthly bookkeeping as well as quarterly reports and year-end tax prep. Plus, he’s SUPER smart and extremely detailed with the tax stuff!
- Melissa Whaley is also an awesome bookkeeper/friend of mine. She focuses on tax advising and financial help specifically for female biz owners, which gives her an edge I think. You can connect with her at Whaley Bookkeeping where she specializes in cloud accounting and knows QBO inside and out. She can do an audit/clean up of your books and give you recommendations. She’s definitely knows her stuff and is an all around fun person.
- Tai Stewart is another great money manager! She’s a bit shy and introverted but knows what she’s talking about. She runs a full service accounting firm at Saidia Financial Solutions where she offers services such as business set up, on-going tax planning and even payroll services.
If you’re more of a DIY person and just need some added help from time to time, you may want check out Bench.co. They offer on-going maintenance and bookkeeping that’s more automated. And their team is amazing as I know several people from their team personally.
They don’t use QBO or any other accounting software, as they have their own, but you’ll have a dedicated bookkeeper categorizing, managing and doing monthly reports for you. Plus, it’s only $135 for the basic service and works with stuff like PayPal. You can test out their service free for 30 days.
If you aren’t sure what tasks to outsource to a bookkeeper, or what an accountant actually does, check out this in-depth post to see if you need to hire one.
Also, if you’re looking for a book to read about falling back in love with your finances, check out Make Money Your Honey by Amanda Abella. It may just change your life (and money)!
Do you hate something about your money? How can I help you fall back in love with your freelance finances?