Gone are the days when the American dream means climbing the corporate ladder. Over the last years, the mindset of the American worker has shifted to valuing flexibility and freedom over stability. Self-employment continues to be a rising trend as employees leave their day jobs to do freelance work or start their own business.
One of the major challenges self-employed individuals face is managing cash flow. Since you do not have the regular pay that a day job provides, not to mention health insurance and tax duties, it can be challenging when all these things fall on your shoulders. Saving and budgeting can be taxing, too, as there will be months when you’ll be flushed with cash, while there will be months when you’ll need to tighten your belt a little.
Below are a few money-saving tips for the self-employed.
Set a budget. Whether you are a business owner or a freelancer, this is very crucial. Good financial planning can determine the success of your new venture. Total all your income sources. Make sure to list down all your expenses every month. Determine all the fixed costs such as monthly bills, subscriptions, and mortgage, which takes up a huge part of your budget. You may want to consider paying off your mortgage early to get it out of the way and have more room in your budget for other things like savings and retirement fund. After listing down the fixed costs, add the variable expenses such as payment to freelancers if you hire some, and any other expense that vary month-to-month. By doing this, you’ll know the amount of cash you need every month to live comfortably. Stick to the budget as much as you can. There are plenty of budgeting apps and tools that can assist you with this.
Set your rate. Do not undersell yourself and do not be shy to increase your rates as you gain more experience. In terms of billing, it’s better to be billed in installments rather than in lump sum at the end of a project. It would be harder to budget your money if your cash comes in once every three months rather than having them sent in monthly installments.
Build your emergency fund. And maintain it. It is important to always save for the rainy days. An emergency fund can save you from high-interest debts in times of financial stress. Make sure you have a fund, ideally a 6-month cushion – for when something unexpected happens such as a big client backing out. This 6-month cushion cannot be built right away, but you must work towards building it as soon as you begin getting paid. Set a certain percentage of your income to be allotted to this fund every month.
Know your taxes. Now that you are self-employed, you no longer have your HR department’s compensation and benefits people to look after your taxes. You must do them yourself now. Be aware of the tax bracket you are in now that you have gone solo. Fill out an hsa tax form 8889. If you are a business owner, seek the help of a financial advisor in determining the best entity type to register your business as.
Get help. Time is money. If you think it would be best to delegate some of your tasks to freelancers in order for you to focus on more crucial tasks, hiring help could be a great idea. In addition to financial health, you also want to ensure that your mental health is strong when you’re self-employed. You can visit BetterHelp for free mental health resources, which are verified by licensed therapists and psychologists, to learn more about strengthening your mental health.