In media’s tumultuous job climate, there are more and more people today who seem to want to skip all of the nonsense of jobs where they are underpaid and overworked to go out and pursue other creative passions. I can’t say I blame them. From full-time bloggers to freelance writers, there are tons of careers in media and other industries where you can work for yourself remotely. The journey to get this place hasn’t been perfect—I’ve made the occasional dip into my savings and panicked phone call to my parents—but now that six months has passed since I went freelance, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier or more creatively fulfilled and I’m finally starting to see a rhythm of how this all works.
That being said, I have more people asking me than ever about the logistics of freelancing and blogging full-time (and I answered a few of these questions in a recent Q&A video) and while I get questions about how to pitch ideas to publications and what to do when a brand approaches you about collaborating, at the core of all of these questions (a.k.a what people REALLY want to know) is “how can you make this work financially?” I am nosy by nature, so I totally get the curiosity. I thought rather than going into the specifics of my own situation, I could share some actionable tips that you can use in your own entrepreneurial endeavors to make sure that you’re not only making enough for today, but that you’re making enough to support the lifestyle that you want to live. Here are five tips for managing your money as a freelancer.
1. Find a source of consistent income
I know what you’re thinking: doesn’t freelancing mean giving up a paycheck every two weeks? Well, the answer is yes and no. One of the trickiest parts about freelancing is making sure that you’re making enough money each month to live since you no longer have a set salary. The best way to ensure that you’re going to have at least a baseline income is to find some consistent clients. I have an editing gig that pays me monthly and a copywriting role where I write products descriptions on at least a monthly basis, so I can already estimate that I’m going to have a certain amount of money coming in each month, and from there I can pick up more one-off assignments like a paid Instagram post or an article for a fashion website I write for. If you can get one or two jobs like that of your own, you’ll feel much more comfortable with the idea of being a freelancer full-time.
2. Keep track of your invoices
I keep a really thorough list of all of my invoices whether it’s about articles, Instagram posts, blog collaborations, or anything else. One of the things that’s really helped me is to create an invoice template that you can just update for each specific assignment you have. You can download a template from Etsy or find one on Canva and that gives a cohesive look to your branding and looks more sophisticated than a Word Doc when you send out your invoices to clients. Make sure you keep a record of the amount due and when you invoiced—and don’t be afraid to follow up if the deadline they were supposed to pay by passes.
3. Set a realistic budget for yourself
I’ve always considered myself someone who is really careful about money but I’ve felt that way even more so lately. Even though I am a huge shopper, (I mean, have you read the blog lately?) I’ve really cut back on the amount of stuff I’ve purchased lately and am sticking to only the essentials that I think I need to buy. While I may feel like I’m missing out in the moment because I don’t have a certain new coat or pair of shoes, it’s so much more worth it in the long run. I’d rather invest in trips where I can create tons of content for my blog and YouTube channel or online courses that will help me grow my business. Take a look at what you spend and what you’re bringing in and figure out something that works for you.
4. Read up on taxes
Taxes are also different when you’re a freelancer and it’s good to read up on the differences between how you were handling taxes when you were full-time and how you’ll deal with them as a freelancer. Typically when you have a full-time job, your taxes will be withheld from your paycheck. You can either save throughout the year or look into paying quarterly taxes to avoid the shock in April when the government asks you to hand over money out of the blue. Don’t let Tax Day sneak up on you!
5. Save along the way
As hard as it can be, it really helps to keep a small emergency fund. I know that in the first six months to a year of being freelance your income may be a little less than you’d like it to be, but saving is still really important. Whether you’re putting aside money for an emergency fund or contributing towards your retirement, you should always have some extra cash set aside just in case. It will give you peace of mind for both the present and the future.
Photo above by Sarah Ratner
What is your best tip for managing your money, whether you’re freelance or full-time?