If you’ve just started your journey as a freelancer, congratulations! Working for yourself is incredibly rewarding, but it can also be daunting when you get started. Or maybe you’ve been freelancing for a while and are just starting to realise how difficult it is to keep track of your incomings and outgoings. That’s okay, knowing how to budget as a freelancer is a tough gig!
Whatever brought you here, I’m excited to share with you everything I’ve learned. If I can help just one person de-mystify the complexities of budgeting as a freelancer, this post will be worthwhile.
And if you’re new here, welcome! My name is Brooke and I’ve been travel blogging since 2012 (yikes!) Over the years I’ve learned a lot about being a freelancer, a lot about budgeting and most importantly, a lot about myself. These tips will help you get your freelancing career underway and make the most of your newfound freedom!
1. Keep personal and business expenses separate
Separating your finances is as simple as going down to the bank and opening a new business account. In the digital age we live in, you can probably even do it online (depending on your bank).
Once you’ve opened an account, be sure to request a separate card. Label it immediately (I have used a permanent marker on mine which reads “business”).
Now, use this card for everything and anything that relates to your business.
If you’re a blogger, this can be everything from your new Macbook computer to your pens and calculator.
And as a travel blogger be sure to keep track of every expense on the road like hotels, gas, insurance and activities. By using your business card and transacting through your business account, it will be easy to keep track of your incomings and outgoings, which is especially useful come tax time.
2. Create a budget
Creating a budget as a freelancer is quite different to an ordinary budget for workers on a salary. Some months you might make $10,000 and others you might make $2,000. There are also dreaded periods of time known as “dry spells” where you can go days or weeks without any money coming in. That’s just all a part of the freelancing game.
The best way to budget as a freelancer is to always save for a rainy day. And by rainy day I mean a dry spell as dry as the Atacama Desert.
It will take a few months to get an idea of how much money you will make and even then, it will fluctuate a lot in the early days. But if there’s one thing I know for sure, it is the more you blog, the more opportunities come your way. So be sure to keep on top of your content calendar and constantly update your blog.
How much you should budget for living expenses really depends on the individual. But as a general rule, I try to save at least half of everything I earn. So if a brand pays me $10,000, I break it down something similar to the below:
30% goes to tax
30% I put into a savings account
40% I consider mine to spend
3. Track your expenses
Making money in any industry is really simple: you need to save more than you spend. It is a constant consideration of incomings vs. outgoings. And I promise you the sooner you know how much money you are spending when you add up your $5 lattes, the sooner you will cut down your expenses. It’s that simple.
4. Manage your taxes
The biggest problem freelancers face is not managing their taxes correctly from the day they start. As a freelancer (and as a sole trader), you will need to pay your own taxes at the end of the financial year. So the best way to approach this is to save money as you go, immediately deducting a % of your income for a savings account that will be later used to pay your tax bill. The % will vary for each individual, but I put aside 30% of my income for tax.
5. Invest in an invoicing software
Last but not least, a little investment in tracking your invoices will go a long way. I recommend Bonsai for freelancers as I love the interface and they offer really competitive pricing. It is sort of my secret weapon! What I love about this software is that you’ll get a notification when someone opens your invoice (so you know they’ve seen it). You can also automate reminders to make sure your bills get paid.