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Over the past several years I’ve traveled and lived in places like New York, Seattle, Dallas, San Francisco, Denver, San Diego, New Orleans and countless other cities across the United States.
And I did this all while running a freelance business that pays the bills for my small family.
While having the freedom to travel is one of the perks I love about being self-employed, it’s far from a stress-free experience. Balancing your work and freelance finances on the go is never easy.
But as a business owner you have to be able to prioritize taking time off from your freelance work. Otherwise you risk missing out on family events, or even burning out.
And what happens if you’re sick, or simply want to take a well-deserved vacation? These events, and other social and family gatherings are times when you shouldn’t feel guilty about unplugging from work.
And one of the most difficult things to do when you’re out of town is to properly manage your money. Activities like sending invoices to clients and staying on budget often fall through the cracks.
Here’s how to properly balance time off and your freelance business while traveling.
1. Set up recurring invoices
The upside to being a freelancer is that you have unlimited income potential, but the downside is that when you’re not actively working you’re not making money. And then there’s the part about actually getting paid.
This is prompted by sending clients invoices that state specific terms required to get paid on time. Most freelance bookkeeping programs, such as QuickBooks or FreshBooks, offer features where you can set up recurring invoices that will automatically invoice clients on your behalf.
This means you can still bill clients for work you completed, and get paid, even when you’re not sitting at the computer. Plus, you’ll get access to much-needed cash flow while you’re traveling.
2. Go paperless with financial statements
One way to organize your freelance finances when you’re on the go is by opting into paperless bank statements, bills and other important financial reports. Sign up to access your credit and debit card statements online instead of in the mail, and monitor them every few days.
You don’t want these items sitting in your mailbox while you’re gone, but you still want to be able to access them wherever you are. Nearly all financial institutions offer paperless statements and it only takes a few seconds to enroll.
3. Sign up for fraud alerts
Not a month goes by where I don’t receive some sort of text message or email alert about a possible fraudulent purchase. Nearly all of the purchases are made and authorized by me, mind you, but credit card companies will flag still any transactions that are out of the ordinary.
I’m very thankful for this because there have been a few times, especially when traveling, where someone got a hold of my credit card number and used it to make purchases. That’s not something you want to be worrying about when you’re on vacation.
So take a minute to make sure you’re signed up for account alerts so your bank is able to notify you of any suspicious activity. And make sure your contact information is correct so there’s no delay in contacting you right away.
4. Put your credit and bills on auto pilot
I use one credit card for my business expenses and a separate credit card for personal transactions. Not only does this help keep my business and personal expenses separate and organized for tax time, it also allows me to build credit without going into debt.
And yes, that is actually possible. Even if you’ve been in credit card debt, (I have too!), you can create better credit habits by paying your balance automatically every month.
Simply start by switching over just one of your monthly utility bills, or business-related subscriptions, and then create a recurring credit card payment for that amount.
No more charging up purchases you can’t afford to pay off. Plus, you’ll start building a solid history of credit by proving you can rack up the balance and pay it off every month. This was the first step I took to start using credit cards responsibly after being in over $14,000 of consumer debt.
5. Start using mobile apps
I do most of my freelance financial management with various mobile apps. I have enough on my to-do list without adding other tasks like going to the ATM or having to balance my checkbook. So I use apps to save time on tasks like depositing checks via my Chase mobile app.
If you aren’t used to doing your banking and budgeting with a mobile app, give it a try. There’s basically no limit to the apps and digital tools you can use to manage your freelance life. With mobile apps I’m able to accomplish the following:
- Stash away extra money with a text message
- Deposit a check with my bank’s mobile app
- Track time spent on client projects
- Verify invoices and bank statements
- Cash in credit card rewards
- Categorize all transactions for budgeting
- Upload copies of receipts for taxes
If you haven’t already, download your bank’s mobile app and check-in with your money on a regular basis. This is especially helpful during the holidays and other busy shopping seasons when you’re conducting a lot of transactions.
6. Automate saving and investing
I know, I know. This advice seems a bit overdone, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned during the years I’ve been full-time self-employed it’s that your freelance income is a roller coaster. You’ll never receive the same amount of money two months in a row, which makes it extremely difficult to progress on saving and investing goals.
After experimenting with multiple saving strategies the only one I’ve found to work is to set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your saving/investment accounts.
The less time you spend fiddling with stashing away money, the higher chance you’ll have of actually saving it. At least, that’s what my experience has been as a freelancer with inconsistent income.
7. Organize your finances on the go
It’s not easy to properly manage your business finances on the go, especially if you go offline and unplug for a few days. But after experimenting with different strategies during my travels, I’ve learned exactly how to organize my freelance business and money no matter where I am at.
Give these tips and try! They’re bound to work for you too. That way you can actually enjoy your vacation and not worry about going over budget or into debt when you’re supposed to be relaxing.
Before planning your travels during the holiday season, click here to learn more about how Chase can protect you against fraud.