I’m a freelancer. Not to be confused with a freeloader. I quit my corporate job after 15 years – on purpose. I now run my own business out of my home. The thing with running your own business in the world of freelancing is a having a solid budget that involves concentration and a consistent effort to monitor and manage frequently. I’m a creative-type though, and the ‘budget neurons’ don’t fire as easily for me as it does for others.
While I’m the Chief NuggetHead of this operation, @SassyCents (my wife) is the CEO (Chief Everything Officer). I’m a fairly smart fella, but my creative talents stop when it comes to Excel spreadsheets and math. Where I love a challenge in creating visually engaging experiences in elearning, my CEO loves the challenge of allocating every last penny to a budgeted line-item.
I posted this on her blog as a guest author back in September. This is a slightly edited version of that original post about budgeting from a non-budgeter’s (me) perspective.
These 10 tips are in no particular order:
- Keep the business budget separate from the home budget. Things like domain registrations and professional affiliation subscriptions are not the same as the cable bill and pest control
- Keep every receipt. Every one! If it’s for that newly signed agreement that has to get shipped overnight, a quick trip to the office supply store for more printer ink, or it was for a box of tea bags to travel so you don’t have to drink hotel coffee. It all adds up…and they are all biz expenses.
- Set a spending limit that doesn’t require an acquisition request from the CFO. There are countless little things that come up that require a quick purchase like buying a custom font, purchasing an image from an online stock site, or the latest ebook just became available. $50 is reasonable.
- Set yourself up with a cash allowance. We set this up long before I went solo, but it’s hard to spend cash. You think differently. Plus, you can save up over the weeks and buy that new Lego set you’ve been eyeballing. Mine is $10/wk. Although the actual allowance is on the budget, what you spend it on is not. There’s something irresponsible about buying a hot dog, comic book, or mocha frappe without saving the receipt. It’s liberating!
- Track you mileage. It counts. Even if you take a quick trip to the office supply store to get more paper for the printer, it’s a business trip. Don’t forget to save the receipt!
- Categorize your spending. Whether it be for software, hardware, supplies, etc. Monitor those categories over time and you’ll begin to see habits and trends. It’s a great way to plan forward on what it costs your business to run.
- Mobile Banking. Most banks offer online banking today, but find one that allows depositing checks via a mobile app. Many transactions today can be done electronically, however I still a lot of paper checks mailed from clients. The last thing I want to hassle with is a trip to the local bank to make a manual deposit. Sign, scan, deposit, done.
- Clip coupons. Seriously. Do you have any gadgets that require AA batteries? And I bet your gadgets eat through them fairly quickly. A coupon may only save $1 or $2, but if you’re buying batteries several times a year that adds up fast. I’m saving my allowance for a rechargeable unit.
- Pay yourself every two weeks. There are a couple months in the year that payday hits three times in the same month! You’re making the same money yet it’s easier to manage, track, and plan. Plus an extra pseudo payday in between bill cycles is comforting.
- Splurge often. Of course budget a line-item for a splurge category. I think we call ours a ‘blow’ category. You dip into this bucket on those Tuesday nights when a pizza would taste better than what’s planned for supper. Quite frankly I don’t think I splurge often enough. May have to have a budget meeting with the CFO to up the ante. Probably not going to happen, though.
I’ve been freelancing full-time now for just over eight months now. I’ve learned a lot! Some of what I learned is by the seat of my pants but mostly because I have a great coach – @SassyCents. What comes naturally to me creatively comes natural for her. All those tips you just read….yeah, she taught me.
Are you a freelancer and need some nudging in the right budget direction? Do you have 2013 resolutions about how you’re going to do things different but not sure how to get started? If you’re reading this then more than likely you’re in the Learning Industry. Contact SassyCents for a free consultation. Who knows? You might learn something like I did.