Jan 15, 20204 min read

Going freelance? Here’s how to take charge of your cash.

Daisy Buchanan portrait

by Daisy Buchanan

Not earning a fixed salary forced me to get better at managing money quickly. As the gig economy grows, here’s how we can adapt and understand our finances better, whether we’re interested in a side hustle or a full time freelance lifestyle.

Your money management mantra – little and often

If you’re reading this, there’s a chance that you don’t always feel on top of your finances, and that trying to deal with money often makes you feel overwhelmed. Instead of letting the overwhelm build up, try doing one small, concrete activity as often as you can. If you’re getting anxious about the number of invoices that need to be sent out, don’t wait until you have a free day to deal with it. Send one, and you’ll feel much more able to deal with the rest of the pile. If you’re worrying about tracking your expenses, sit down and work through your receipts from that week. Tax returns are the ultimate proof that this strategy works. Spend a couple of hours a month on a small tax task and you’ll feel surprisingly relaxed at the end of the financial year.

Have a money making mindset

When I left a full time magazine job to become a freelance journalist, all of the advice I was given was based on what to do if I struggled to find work, and how to budget on a low income. For a short period, your income might dip, depending on your old job and previous circumstances – but you’ll be able to approach work much more positively, and get your pricing right, if you think about the fact that you should ultimately be able to earn more money when you work for yourself. Planning for scarcity can lead to poor decision making. If you learn to feel confident in your ability to make money, it will boost your work and your income.

Keep it simple

Deciding to become self employed is a significant step. It’s very tempting to overcomplicate your life in order to mark the fact that your status has changed. But depending on the nature of your work, it’s better to take a minimalistic approach, and then keep reviewing your needs. Lots of freelancers rush to set up companies when they only need to be sole traders – a much simpler way of running a business when it’s just you. In time, you might need staff or special equipment, but it’s best to spend your energy on creating the work you love instead of worrying about the extra details.

Get objective

We all get emotional about money, because it has an impact on every part of our lives. However, when I started working for myself, I had to make my relationship with cash a practical one. In some ways, the nature of freelance work makes it easy. In theory, there is no limit to the amount of money you can make – and you’re going to have to spend some of it on equipment, advice and business support. You can’t beat yourself up for spending money, or not having as much as you’d like. Just go out and make some more! You have to think of yourself as a professional organisation, just like Uber. At the time of writing, Uber’s annual losses are predicted to be $6 billion. If a famous company can be ten figures in the red, you might get some encouraging perspective on your own balance sheet.

Budget for a bonus

My favourite thing about freelancing is that every year, I buy myself a “Christmas bonus” to celebrate my hard work and achievements. I never worked for anywhere that paid a bonus when I was in full time employment, so it has extra resonance for me. It’s really important to take some time to feel proud of what you do, as well as marking the fact that you’re running the show. You’re the talent, Accounts, Marketing and the HR department. If you make sure your budget factors in your bonus, you’ll be motivated to do your best work and to take charge of your financial planning.