How To Budget As A Freelancer

How To Budget As A FreelancerAs a freelancer, I have to find a way to budget my income with different amounts of money. I never make the same amount, and as a freelancer income isn’t always stable.

You might have a fantastic one month and then the very next month have an absolutely horrible one. You just never know what will happen.

What about my experience? Some months I don’t make any income for a few weeks, and then it all comes in at the end of the month. Other times, all of my income comes in at one week and the other 3 weeks almost feel like a complete loss. This is usually because work can vary from week to week, and also because sometimes clients have a 45 day or 60 day wait before they can pay me for my services. As a freelancer, weeks where I don’t get paid much almost feel like everything is just going downhill, even though I know it’s not. It’s hard to get out of that mindset.

Here are my tips for budgeting as a freelancer:

Have a budget!

This should be your very first step. You need to create a budget with your actual expenses so that you have an idea of how much income you need to bring in.

The main way I recommend freelancers to make a budget is to base it off your lowest monthly income. So, if a “bad” month for you is $3,000, then try to make your budget at $3,000 or lower.

However, this is all up to you. If you have an emergency fund (as discussed below), then you may be able to base your budget off of an average instead. For me, I’d rather be more comfortable and base it off a bad month because you never know how long a “bad month” will be. It could just be one month, but what if it happened for 6 months?

Save for taxes.

Saving the correct amount for taxes can be difficult because as a freelancer it is unlikely that you will know the exact dollar figure that you will owe at the end of the year. However, there are ways to help you estimate your taxes.

Two different ways include saving 25% to 35% (or whatever percent you think is realistic for you and your business) of how much you make each month. Or, you can try to estimate how much you will make throughout the whole year and save the amount of taxes that you think you will owe each month.

Have an emergency fund.

If you are a freelancer, I really hope you have an emergency fund. I know that some people are forced into the freelancing lifestyle suddenly for different reasons, but I think that you should work towards having a well-funded emergency fund no matter what.

Having an emergency fund is a good idea for many reasons. If you have a bad month, an emergency fund can help you through that so that you don’t feel like it’s the end of the world. An emergency fund can also help you get through a month with higher expenses, such as due to car or home repairs.

Read How Much Do I Need in My Emergency Fund for more information.

Keep your business and personal finances separate.

Keeping your finances separate is something that you definitely need to do. It’s easier just to keep everything separate so that you can keep track of business and personal financial goals, and it also makes it easier when it comes around to tax time.

You don’t want to have to weed through hundreds or thousands of transactions when it’s tax time to try to figure out if it was a business or personal expense.

Don’t forget to save for retirement.

One thing that some freelancers forget to do is to save for retirement. You should have a line item in your budget for retirement so that you are “paying yourself” in your budget as well.

How do you budget as a freelancer?

 

Image via Flickr by Seniorliving.org

Ways To Become A Successful Online Freelancer

Ways To Become A Successful Online FreelancerBack in September of 2013, I published the article Tips For Successful Freelancing Part 1. Well, today you finally get to enjoy Part 2 🙂

Online freelancing is hard work. I don’t care what anyone says.

Yes, I occasionally work in pajamas from the comfort of my bed, but that doesn’t mean that my work is easy or that becoming a successful online freelancer is easy.

Here are my tips to become a successful online freelancer (don’t forget to read Part 1!):

Take each job seriously.

Whether you are getting paid $100 or $1,000, you should be taking your role seriously. You should always make sure that your quality is the best that it can be. It is important to keep your level of quality high because you never know who may find your work. You don’t want your reputation to be forever doomed because you slacked off on a project.

Of course, you still want to remain realistic as well. Working 100 hours to earn $10 would not be worth it to most people.

If you do not see value in a project that you are asked to do, you are not required to say yes! I know that many freelancers try to take as many jobs as they can, but you really do not want to undervalue yourself or wear yourself out. You should be pricing your services out to a rate where you feel comfortable working.

Always stay up-to-date.

The online world changes quickly, so you should always try to stay on top of it all. I know, I know, it can be hard, especially since you probably already have 1,000 other things on your plate.

However, you should always try to learn new things such as by attending conferences (I love FinCon), networking with others, reading freelancing-related articles, and so on.

Do you want to be an expert or be diversified?

Some will probably disagree with me on this, but for the most part I think becoming an expert in just a few areas can really help a freelancer out.

If you are focused on just a few things, you can really try to improve yourself and the services that you provide. I think it would be much more difficult to offer 100 different services, because the chance of you being an expert in all 100 is very slim.

I recently came across a freelancer (I won’t share their name) who seems to do everything. They design websites, staff write, manage their own website, manage websites for others, have an online store, sell their photography, do virtual assistant work and more. It is just insane the amount of jobs that this person does, I’m not sure how they even have time for it all!

There is one BIG positive to offering several different services though, and that is that you are probably well diversified. If one area completely tanks, you can then rely on the other areas instead.

What do you think? Would you rather be well diversified in the online freelancing world, or would you rather be an expert? Is it possible to be an expert in multiple areas?

Get on social media.

If you are an online freelancer, then I really hope you are active on social media. I would look into Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and possibly others as well. You should see what works best for you and your industry, but in many cases having each of the above accounts is a good idea.

Social media can be a great way to network with others, and it’s always a great way to keep in touch with past, future and current clients.

Provide great customer service.

Whatever you do, please always try to provide great customer service. I always cringe whenever I see a person who is super talented in what they do, yet they are very unapproachable because of how “mean” they seem.

Your reputation will eventually get around and it may cost you business down the line.

No, the customer isn’t always right. However, I’ve seen freelancers be catty and mean to perfectly nice people. It just doesn’t make sense to me!

Learn how to take criticism the correct way.

I know others who hate to be criticized. Even if a client says the smallest thing that wasn’t meant to be mean, they will take it like an insult.

If someone has a critique, you should at least TRY to see their side. You never know, they may say something extremely valuable that will actually help to improve your business.

Have an emergency fund.

This last tip is a little bit different from all of the rest. This is mainly because if you have an emergency fund, it doesn’t mean that you will be a great freelancer.

However, if you are already a great freelancer, an emergency fund can keep you in the game even when you have a bad month.

If you have a bad month, it can real put a sour taste in your mouth and put you in a horrible mood, and this horrible mood may affect your work. Having an emergency fund is a definite need in the online freelancing world!

Are you an online freelancer? What tips do you have to share?

 

How To Gain Experience When You Have None

How To Gain Experience When You Have NoneWe all have to start out somewhere, right? However, many jobs out there require you to have some sort of experience, which is a catch-22 that many people face.

Different times where you might experience this include:

  • You want to apply for an online writing job but you are asked to provide proof of past writing.
  • You just graduated from college and are looking for an entry-level job. However, most of these jobs want experience!
  • You are making a career change and have no experience in that specific field that you are interested in.

 

Here are different ways to add “experience” to your resume.

Volunteer.

Depending on the field that you are looking to get into, there are probably a few non-profits near you that can give you the experience that you are looking for.

For example, if you want to get a finance job at a company after you graduate, you may want to look into volunteering at a non-profit in their finance department. It can be great experience, and you are also working towards a good cause.

Find an internship or a job when you are in college.

I worked full-time when I was in college, and it really helped me when I was applying for jobs after I graduated from college. I started at the bottom at the company (making minimum wage) and worked my way up.

Whether you have a part-time job, full-time job, an internship or whatever, it’s almost always a good idea. It shows to the potential employer that you have good time management skills (since you are balancing multiple things at once) and that you can actually hold a job!

Apply for legitimate free or low-paying jobs.

I am often asked how I started out with my online freelancing and writing career. Well, I had to start out by making nothing. I first created my website, Making Sense of Cents, and worked on it for free for quite some time.

When you are first starting out with online writing, you may have to take a few low-paying jobs, or even guest post on other websites for free. Then, you can show this to future potential clients as proof of your experience.

This applies to many other fields as well. You may have to work for free or a low amount to actually get your foot through the door. The experience you gain from doing this is great as well!

Don’t forget the time you have spent in school.

If you went to college, don’t forget to mention specific classes or organizations that you took part in.

One thing I always made sure to do on my resume was to list out specific related courses that I took. For example, whenever I applied for a finance job, I would write the specific class names that I took that were finance-related.

Also, I would detail my specific roles in college organizations as well. Maybe you were involved in fundraisers (great for non-profit jobs), you managed the social media for your club, you were the leader in a group or something else. All of this looks great on a resume, so don’t think it doesn’t count – because it does!

Don’t forget about past jobs that you’ve had. 

If you have had other jobs in the past, then you need to see if there are any similarities between that past job and the job that you want.

Then, on your resume you need to specifically put those job functions on there so that the hiring manager can see how your past experience relates to the job opening.

What have you done to gain experience when you have none?

 

Image via Flickr by mrsdkrebs