As a freelancer you really need to be on top of your finances. I’ve been freelancing for the past four years and I want to share some tips and tricks that will also be useful for those of you who are working full-time and receive a salary. These tips are about organising your finances in such a way that they will help you stay on budget every month.
The jar system
The jar system is a well-known tool to organise your income and to keep track of your outgoings. I believe it was first presented by T. Harv Eker, author of Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. What it means is that you divide every bit of money that comes in into six parts. It can be a paycheck, an invoice or birthday money. Each of these parts will have its own designated ‘jar’.
The six jars could be:
- Necessities (55%)
- Play (10%)
- Long-Term Saving (10%)
- Short-term Saving (10%)
- Education and Personal Growth (10%)
- Give Away (5%)
You can be flexible with the percentages or the amount of ‘jars’ but it’s a great system for getting an insight into your finances.
Multiple bank accounts
This ties in with the jar system. Instead of actual jars we can just use multiple bank accounts, of course! In most countries it doesn’t cost much (if anything at all) to open multiple bank accounts with the same bank.
Even if you are not following the jar system, having multiple bank accounts will essentially help you keep your finances organised. Since I started freelancing I’ve always had a personal and a business account. For my own piece of mind, I like to keep things separated. And having specific bank accounts designated for specific expenses and savings (my taxes, for instance) makes it much easier to keep a good overview of your finances.
My Broke Budget
I like to keep my running expenses account on a tight budget, so I call it my Broke Budget. If I see a low amount in my account, it helps me to not overspend. I put the money that I would like to spend in a month into this account and I keep the amount quite tight.
Even though I have money in the other accounts, I like to think before I spend. You will prioritise better, and you will hesitate to spend it on something not worthwhile.
I will move over money from my short-term savings account when I do feel like spending it on something bigger, but it helps to establish another action, before I can buy it. And it’s not so much about not being able to afford the purchase, it’s more about putting a little barrier in place to keep you away from overspending.
Recently I’ve noticed that lots of banks are upping their game when it comes to apps and services. I’m now with a bank that provides me with a lot of amazing apps and I’ve started using their budgeting app, which is linked directly to my bank account. I can categorise my transactions, and it will track my expenses for me. I can set budgets for these different categories as well. So I can see how much I’ve already spent on groceries or in bars.
Every country and every bank will have their own well-known apps, so check in your app store, which are recommended for your bank. It might take some time to set up, but it’s definitely worthwhile in the long run.
Once in a while I sit down for a financial cleanse. Don’t worry, it is not as gross as it sounds! I have a habit of subscribing to lots of handy apps, new online platforms and cool beta software.
All of these usually don’t cost much…€0.99 here, only €2.99 there. But after a while all these little costs add up to quite a bit of money. It’s so easy to subscribe to these things, because they are cheap at that moment, but it might help you save some money to get rid of some of these subscriptions. Do you really need five different work-out app subscriptions? Probably not.
Pay annually if possible
When there are subscriptions that you know you will use for a whole year, try to pay them in one go. For me as a freelancer monthly bills makes me nervous. What if business hits a dry patch and these bills still need to be paid? So to give myself some breathing space, I like to pay for things annually. Not only does this give you fewer monthly bills, it also usually gets you a full-year discount. So even though it might feel like a lot of money at once, you do save some in the end.
A good example is the Adobe Cloud subscription for designers. You probably already know that you will be using Photoshop and Illustrator for the next 12 months. And yes, that $700 bill looks pretty big, so you might settle on $50 monthly payments. But you know what? Pay the $700 right away and it’s out of your mind for a full year. Just make sure you mark it in your calendar a year ahead, when the renewal payment is due.
Peace of Mind
I hope these tips will help you get your finances a bit more organised. I know that for me, having a good overview of my financial status gives me peace of mind. So even though it’s not always the most fun thing to do, if you sit down for just half a day and implement some of these tips, I bet you will feel much better at the end of the month!
This article is part of ‘The Business of Web Design’. Download the free ebook for more tips on the best pricing and budgeting strategies, scaling a web design agency from scratch, and more