How to Make the Most of Your Money
Responsible money management is rule number one for long-term entrepreneurial success. Freelancers are small business owners too, with profit and loss reports to run, budgets to create and careers to develop. If you’re considering entering the marketplace as a new freelance content developer, be sure to take note of the following financial tips to help you make the most of your money.
While you may be an expert writer or a creative designer (or both!), it’s unlikely you are also an expert accountant or financial planner. Smart business owners identify their weak spots, implementing the proper tools or qualified people to fill the gaps.
When it comes to managing your money as a freelancer, consider engaging a financial advisor and accountant or meet with a representative at your local bank to properly align your financial goals with your professional plan. Educate yourself and understand the details of your business.
Implement a software system like Mint or Quickbooks to track your expenses and report on your profitability and use Spera to manage open invoices and incoming payments from your clients. Stay on top of your cash by enlisting the help of those who knows best!
SET A CASH FLOW SCHEDULE.
Develop a routine invoicing schedule that keeps your clients on a similar track, allowing you to plan accordingly for recurring overhead costs and other business expenses. Get in the habit of invoicing clients with recurring contracts on the 1st of the month, planning your budget and payables closer to mid-month if possible.
Avoid wasting your time hunting down overdue payments (see above Get Help! note) and establish clear boundaries with your clients that incentivize prompt payment so that you can stay focused on what you do best.
Regularly run and review reports on your account receivables and accounts payable to make sure you’re consistently paying your bills on time and to identify any problem clients that consistently pay outside of terms.
DEVELOP A REASONABLE BUDGET.
It’s easy to let business expenses get away from you as a new freelancer, especially as you scramble to get up and running. While early investments are expected for any entrepreneur, avoid getting too far behind the ball and carefully consider all startup costs before you sign on the dotted line.
Determine what expenses are absolutely necessary (software, utilities, licensing, etc.) and immediately earmark a portion of incoming cash to cover those expenses. It takes self-discipline to excel as an entrepreneur. Especially as a freelancer, where income can fluctuate in busy and quiet seasons, you must maintain your fluidity as a business owner, and stick to your budget as best you can! Attempt to develop a plan for a savings account that protects money from unplanned (read: not in the budget) spending and provides a cushion for emergencies or unexpected opportunities that your business can’t pass up.
Be sure to account for personal finances in this equation. While most business owners are last in line to get paid when they’re growing a new entrepreneurial venture, freelance work is probably your bread and butter! Consider the revenue you must bring in to cover your cost of living.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF LATE FEES.
As freelancers, we are often so excited to land a new client that we avoid “rocking the boat,” even when the client is not living up to their end of the agreement. Imposing a late fee may feel intimidating, but remember, your skills and time are valuable! A true professional partnership mirrors the mutual respect that translates to timely payment by your client (and timely delivery by you!). Late fees are common in the business world and can help get a rogue project back on track when other attempts to open up the line of communication fail.
Similarly, don’t be afraid to fire a client. Managing your finances means maximizing your profitability by engaging clients that compensate fairly. When a professional relationship hits a snag, new freelancers often take the brunt of the abuse, spending considerably more time on a project than was originally reflected in the proposal, or even bearing additional emotional strain by unforeseen activities that make the client a poor fit. It’s ok to admit something isn’t working.
Remember, you are the boss and the employee (and probably the human resources, marketing and sales departments too!). The buck stops here, especially when it comes to managing your professional finances and setting the stage for long term profitability. Developing a career as a freelance content provider means setting goals and defining expectations for your money so that you are staged for growth and entrepreneurial success. We all know that you must “spend money to make money,” but there’s a big difference between spontaneous spending and smart business. Beware the shiny objects and set your business on a path to natural growth that will allow you the peace of mind and clarity to go the long haul as a small business owner.