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How do you manage your finances as a freelancer?

almost 2 years ago from , UX Designer

With income not being regular as in case of full-time employment, how do you approach your finances? Do you look specifically for clients with steady work and income? Do you track your spending and revenue? Are there any tricks that might not be obvious and that you've learned along the way?

I'm a freelancer and, besides price negotiations and making sure I get paid, have never had a defined approach to managing the finance part of the business.

16 comments

  • Cristian MoiseiCristian Moisei, almost 2 years ago

    I hope I understood your question correctly but in my experience freelancing (I did it for about 4 years), it's easy to get excited after you just got paid and have a few month's worth of cash in your account, but that will only make things more difficult later on, so I started looking at it as if I were employed full time and just paid on a weirder schedule. So you can do a simple calculation for how much you earned in the last year (and decide whether it's reasonable to expect you'll earn roughly the same this year), divide that by 12 and consider that your wage. This helped me get a better sense of what recurring payments I could commit to and roughly how much I could spend each month.

    Then it's up to you to try and meet that number.

    In terms of software, I loved using spreadsheets, because you can design a system that works for you and calculates any info you need, not what another company decided is important. I tracked revenue, profit and expenses, ranked clients by how much I earned from them and over what period of time, kept track of others I needed to pay and also had a thing that calculated my taxes in real time.

    7 points
  • Jimmy HookerJimmy Hooker, almost 2 years ago

    I've never used it, but I've always found the concepts in Cushion fascinating:

    https://cushionapp.com/

    4 points
  • Ragnar FreyrRagnar Freyr, almost 2 years ago

    I use YNAB. It's great for managing and budgeting in the future.

    2 points
  • Art VandelayArt Vandelay, over 1 year ago

    If you're down for reading (or audio book) check out Profit First.

    2 points
  • Jess EddyJess Eddy, almost 2 years ago

    I do believe that tracking finances are very important for a freelance business. You need to balance your books for taxes anyway and having a separate bank account set up for your business is vital for this. I use Bench to balance my books as this is not a task I want to do and have learned from the past that I just won't do it, I'll let it pile up. https://bench.co.

    At a very basic level, I want to know how much money I have coming in and going out during the month so I can make sure that I'm making enough overall money. Focusing on finances over time will allow you to get better at estimating work, being efficient with your time and hopefully making more money.

    I didn't seek out steady work for the sake of steady work, I was lucky to have a steady amount of different freelance projects streaming in though. I think it depends on what you want.

    1 point
  • Tom Martin, almost 2 years ago

    I've been using MoneyTracker for a long time. It's very convenient for me. Try it.

    0 points
  • Simpliv llc, over 1 year ago

    Agreed with you..... Income spending and earning within budget so tough if you dont have much for it. so try to keep maintain budget according to your work and expenses. if lot of project you have to earn more after some time no project like to earn more so balance from starting to coverup in high and low time. https://www.simpliv.com/

    0 points
  • Klark Dollson, over 1 year ago

    I am also a freelancer and in order to at least somehow track my income earlier I used a lot of tricks, wrote down on paper, then in a callendar, but eventually I installed a program for business CRM https://closer.bot/why-do-businesses-need -a-crm/. And I note my income in it and what orders I make to whom, it is very convenient.

    0 points
  • Bryan Zavestoski, almost 2 years ago

    Warning, novel incoming...

    This is definitely something I've been thinking about lately. It's not perfect, but here's my system:

    • Keep completely separate business and personal checking, savings, and credit cards
    • All deductible business expenses go on my business credit card. All non-deductible business expenses go on my personal credit card.
    • All expenses are auto-imported into my personal finance app, so I have a good idea of what I'm spending every month
    • Automatically put 30% into a business savings account for taxes (varies by state/country)
    • Keep ~20% in my business checking depending on how far subscriptions and other expenses are budgeted out
    • Transfer the rest to my personal account (this then gets allocated to personal monthly expenses, paying off student loans, saving for travel, etc. )
    • I like having ~2 months of living expenses in an emergency fund, but this greatly depends on your income, expenses, risk tolerance, etc.

    I don't currently pay my self a monthly or bi-weekly paycheck, but it's something that is probably a good idea.

    Client-wise, I'm more concerned about the initial scope/budget rather than steady ongoing work. If you find good clients and do good work, they will likely turn into longer-term projects anyway. Potentially trading higher income work for more steady work means you lose the time you could dedicate to more profitable projects or working on the business.

    My biggest challenge right now is figuring out when to invest in my business (software, hiring a CPA, courses, etc.) vs. putting towards personal debt vs. building a larger emergency fund, etc. I have a clear picture of my personal and business finances, but I'm not sure of the best way they should interact.

    The part where we talk about software, apps, etc.:

    I'm using YNAB to track my personal and business income/expenses. It took a little while to get set up, but it now gives me a pretty good picture of my overall finances.

    and.co is what I use for invoicing and business expense tracking. This is what I reference when doing my taxes even though YNAB is easier to use day-to-day.

    0 points
  • Jared CJared C, almost 2 years ago

    Side question (i guess specifically aimed at US freelancers): what sort of business organization do you use and why? DBA/Sole Prop? LLC? S-Corp?

    0 points
  • iterati designiterati design, almost 2 years ago

    I'm using a Google Sheet, offsetting tax, expenses and a couple of months (sometimes years) worth of a financial cushion. Invoicing and tracking payments manually.

    Bookkeeper is helping out with taxes and stuff.

    Never had a problem in 5 years.

    0 points
  • Scott Barron, almost 2 years ago

    And.co is amazing for tracking spending/invoicing/contracting. I used it before it was a free service and now it has been acquired by Fivr it is even better, and completely free!

    0 points
    • Larry IoannidisLarry Ioannidis, almost 2 years ago

      Totally agree. I also have Revolut Business account and have Zapier integration to add expenses automatically.

      0 points
    • Cristian MoiseiCristian Moisei, almost 2 years ago

      I don't think that's what he meant, not tools for keeping track of finances, but rather how do you organise the work you get in to have some degree of stability.

      1 point