5 QUESTIONS EVERY FREELANCER HAS ASKED THEMSELVES ABOUT FINANCE

Saturday, July 4, 2020


*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.

Nope, crunching numbers, understanding taxes and chasing up invoices was not what I imagined when I subscribed to the #freelancerlife. 

I thought it would be a little more photoshoots and fun events and a little less sitting behind a desk counting coin and doing financial admin. But as a business owner, it doesn’t matter if I’m the best damn creative in the world, if I don’t stay on top of my finances I’ll be either broke, or headed right back to my old 9-5 (and I don’t know which would be worse).

So after almost two years of full-time hustling, I’m here to share a few financial questions (and answers!) I’ve asked myself along the way.

1. WHAT THE HECK DO I CHARGE FOR THIS?


It’s quite possible that I ask myself this question every single day, and trust me, answering it does get easier.

For me, pricing is based on two things; time and demand. I start by adding up all the hours it will take me to complete the job. 
This includes everything, from all those emails back and forth with the client, to styling the shoot, doing my hair and makeup, travelling to location, shooting, editing, supplying the images etc etc. 

Once I know how many hours the job will take I times it by my hourly rate. 

That’s when demand comes in. I have a standard hourly rate that I work off but if I find my shoots booking up too quickly, I know it’s time to up my rate. As my business has grown and my demand for content has increased, naturally so have my prices.

Of course, I also need to make sure my fees cover my expenses too, so I do consider things like if I’m booking a photographer for the shoot, if there will be location hire or additional props required as well as ongoing expenses such as equipment and software.

2. HOW DO I KEEP TRACK OF WHAT I'M EARNING?


When you’re in the freelance biz, you’ve got invoices flying everywhere. I might have 15 in a week and then nothing. Some might be sent through agencies or PayPal and even if I could give them all the same due date, I can guarantee they’ll all be paid on different days.  

When I took things full-time I made a few critical changes to make things a little bit easier when it came to keeping track.

The first step was separating my business funds from my personal ones. I’ve got a completely seperate bank account for my business. All my invoices are paid into that account and all my business expenses are paid out of it.
It makes it really easy to keep track of my outgoings and incomings rather than letting them get mixed up with all my personal stuff.


The second thing was setting up time every. single. week to do my invoicing. Yep, even though it’s boring, I do all my invoicing once a week. Not only does it streamline the process, but it also gives me a routine time to check-in on my finances and make sure I’m actually making a living.
Each Monday I go through my bank statement and input all my expenses and income for the week, then I check if I have any outstanding invoices and chase them up as well as send out invoices for the jobs I completed that week.
I find this process the best for making sure I’m always across where my payments are at so nothing nothing is missed, mixed up or forgotten.

3. WHAT SHOULD I BE PAYING MYSELF?


If $1000 lands in my bank account, I do not have $1000. 
If $1000 lands in my bank account, I do not have $1000.
If $1000 lands in my bank account, I do not have $1000.

Repeat this until it sticks.

No, not everything that lands in my account as a freelancer is my money, so when it comes to paying myself, there’s a few calculations I need to do first.

When that $1000 lands, as a minimum I take out tax (19-45%), gst (10%), expenses for that job and super (9.5%). It’s a lot to calculate, so instead of paying myself what’s leftover after each job, I have a weekly transfer set up to simplify the process.

That amount is just enough to cover my bills, as well as a bit of pocket money each week. Even if I make well over that amount one week, I leave that extra money to build up in my business account instead.

When I want to splash on something big like a holiday, fancy dress or say, our wedding, I take out a lump sum from my business account as ‘drawings’. Leaving enough in my account for tax time and my ongoing business expenses of course!

It also means that when payments are inconsistent, I always have enough to cover my bills and I’m not tempted to spend everything just because I’ve had a good pay week.

4. DO I NEED AN ACCOUNTANT?


Let me just say I got one and have never regretted it! It’s awesome to have someone on call when I need to check something, ask for qualified advice and help me with my taxes, which have become slightly more complicated while working for myself.

It means I can get back to doing what I do, rather than worrying about if I’m doing all the finance stuff right.

5. SHOULD I BE PAYING MYSELF SUPER?


I must admit, not paying myself any superannuation is very tempting. As a sole trader, I legally don’t have to do so, but for a few reasons, I’ve decided to do so every year since I went full-time.

Firstly, it’s a tax benefit. You pay less tax on the money you put into your super account than if you keep it as income.

Secondly, it’s invested for me in my super account, meaning it will grow throughout the rest of my working life. By the time I retire, it should be worth a lot more than when I first deposited it.

Thirdly, it’s money I currently have to spare. While sometimes it feels like I could use some extra cash, at this stage in my life I don’t have kids or a giant mortgage to pay off. Plus, I’m young, and I can work 12 hour days, 7 days a week if I want some extra coin.
I figure when I’m 70 and want to retire, future me will be very happy I put away the money while I had the chance.

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