How I Manage My Money As A Freelancer

Monday, August 12, 2019


*This blog post is based on my personal experience and is general in nature. It does not consider your own circumstances or business, which is different for everyone. If you are seeking financial advice, please contact a professional.


When I decided to quit my job almost 12 months ago exactly, there wasn't much that was holding me back from taking my fashion blogging dreams full-time.

I knew I would love the job, I was secure in the fact that I could produce even better work for my clients and even having to work alone every single day didn't phase me.

The one thing that seemed to be the root of all my fear; money.

Even though I'd done the math a hundred times and I was pretty sure I could cover all my expenses (based on the previous few months), having to put a big fat question mark next to my weekly income was terrifying.

As a saver, and someone who has always made sure that being financially secure was a priority, putting a varying income in my budgeting equation was one of the most uncomfortable things I've ever done.

I quickly learned that in order to do this (and get a healthy amount of sleep each night), I needed to take some steps to make me feel in control of my finances. So here's a few ways I manage my money as a full-time freelancer!


MONEY DATES

Nothing makes me feel more in control than knowing exactly what's going in, and out, of my account. I set an accounting date with myself every week on a Monday morning to go over just that! I sit down for an hour or so and physically log my business outgoings and incomings for the week so I can see if I need to ease up on spending, hustle harder or have a bit of room to relax.
I use the ATO app, which makes it really easy to log things because it has pre-written forms that you just fill out. You can easily add things like GST, partial expenses, car trips you want to claim and even upload receipts. You can then export it into a spreadsheet which makes it really easy come tax time.

My favourite part is that it automatically summarises your income and expenses, and breaks them down by month. Checking-in with myself weekly means I can see patterns ahead of time and take steps to change them before it's too late.


UNBIASED BUDGETING

If I simply look at my gross income for the year / month / week, I'm going to get a very inflated version of what I am actually earning as a freelancer. Sorry to spoil it for you, but if you take out taxes, superannuation, GST, expenses and maybe even HECS debt, what you're actually taking home each week is significantly less than you thought.

When you work for someone else, this is all done for you before your weekly pay cheque lands in your account, so you don't really need to think twice about it. When you work for yourself, these things don't necessarily come out weekly, so you need to set it aside for when those bills are due, and only pay yourself a weekly salary that factors in all of the above.

Keeping it real with myself is the best way to ensure I'm not surprised when any of these bills come in and I have the cash flow to pay them straight away.


SETTING BOUNDARIES WITH ACCOUNTS

As soon as my side hustle started generating some serious income, I opened a seperate bank account to help organise my finances. Having a seperate account makes it really easy to track your income and spending without it getting lost amongst hundreds of other transactions.
This also sets a boundary between what I can consider my own personal money, and what is just part of my business cash flow. It stings less when I'm paying things like tax bills out of my business account, rather than my personal one.


PAYING MYSELF

One of the first, and hardest things I had to decide when I quit my job, was how much to pay myself each week. Even though my income would be fluctuating each week, I wanted to set a consistent amount to give myself a bit more structure and the sense that I was still getting that reliable weekly paycheque.

That magic number needed to be enough to cover my weekly living costs, but not too much, so that if one week I didn't make enough, I'd have a bit of wiggle room to keep up with all my expenses.

The way I do it, and this is just personal preference, is I simply pay myself the bare necessity of what I need to cover my weekly bills. As a budgeter, I already had this number worked out well before I went full-time blogging, so I knew exactly how much I needed each week to cover everything from rent, to car rego, to electricity bills and groceries.
That number is what I pay myself as 'drawings' from my business account each week. It goes straight into an account just for bills and gets eaten up, so I never see it again.

Butttt, I'm human, and I spend money on a few things other than bills. So what happens to the rest?
I transfer a little extra per week directly into my savings account, and believe me when I say, it's a modest sum. It's basically so if I want to buy something that isn't a necessity, like brunch or getting my hair done, I don't need to make a personal purchase out of either my business account, or that account that has just enough to cover my bills.

Even if I have a crazy-good week, and I still have a fair bit left over after both these weekly drawings (bills and savings) are taken out, I keep the amounts the same. Rather than bite off more than I can chew, I prefer to let any excess income sit in my business account, just in case the next week I fall short.
Then, after each financial year, and I've paid my tax bills, made my super contributions etc, I give myself a big bonus and top up my personal account (or dump a bunch into our mortgage) for the year ahead.

It's a system that works for me because setting limits gives me that financially secure feeling, which I find absolutely priceless.


GETTING EDUCATED

To be honest, I didn't spend a lot of time educating myself on how to make the most of my money until I went freelance, and I was somewhat forced to take control.
I let things like superannuation, investing, comparing banks and getting the most out of my tax return take a back seat while I spent all my time actually hustling.
Now that I've had more time, I've researched how I can make the most out of what I am already earning, rather than just focusing on ways to give myself a pay rise.

I started using a professional accountant as soon as we purchased our house and my blog started to generate income, which co-incidentally happened in the same financial year. I got advice on things I can claim, how I should track and organise my finances and other things I can do to stay ahead.

I also did a deep dive into superannuation as last financial year came to a close. As a sole trader, I don't need to pay anything into my super account, but considering I don't have an employer doing it for me, I did some research into what would work for me.
I decided to make my own super contribution this financial year, and my goal was to match the 9.5% my employer would usually put in. I did the math, and since you get taxed wayyyy less when you put your money in super than if you keep it in your account as income, putting in as much as I could possibly afford for the year seemed like the best option.
I even considered factors like putting that cash into our mortgage, or a high interest account, but since rates are so low at the moment, putting it in my super fund still put me ahead.

Making an additional, voluntary contribution was never something I'd considered while working full-time, I just let my employer put in the minimum and called it a day. Now that I know the benefits of adding additional savings to my super, when I can afford it, it's definitely something I'm going to try and make a habit of.

I love being aware of exactly where my money is going, what fees I'm paying and where I should be investing, so staying educated is a huge part of my money management as a freelancer.



I never thought going freelance would have me feeling more in control of my finances than having that steady weekly paycheque would. But there is something liberating about knowing that you are in complete control of how much you're earning and where your money is going.
I hope you find my personal experience engaging, but please remember I am not a professional so applying my methods to your own situation may not be what's best for you and your business. I highly encourage you to seek professional advice before making strategic financial decisions.

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