Not because they are rolling in the dough – although I wouldn’t put it past them. Mostly because the dough they get comes in such interesting schedules.
Just when you think you have it all balanced out, you have a month with no income. Add to that the fact that a tree fell on the house (requiring a deductible payment), car insurance is due, the kids have a dental appointment AND the tags on all the cars have to be renewed and you turn what would have been a hard money month molehill into an impossible mountain.
It is fortunate for my sanity that I have followed some simple guidelines to prepare for these unexpected events.
Preparing for Freelance Income
- ALWAYS budget by what you received last month and not what you are expecting to receive. If I’m working off what I have in the bank then I don’t fret over late payments, changed contracts, or canceled gigs.
- Set aside for big payments. Each month I put a portion of the insurance payments in the savings account. My goal is to be able to make the payments without touching the reserve, but the reserve is there for tight income months like this one.
Don’t settle into your current situation. Every day I look for new gigs, opportunities or submission locations. Some days they come looking for me (usually my favorite kind). My goal is to make around $50 to $75 per hour and to work consistently for 6 to 8 hours per day, Monday through Friday.
Save in several different formats. I use my Paypal account (with the Money Market choice so it earns good interest), a savings account to put back for tax payments, a savings account for emergency payments, a savings account for expected payments (like the insurance premiums), and I’m considering a savings account through ING because the rates are so good. Whew, there are more than I realized. By separating out the money I’m not tempted to use one fund to pay for something else. (This is different from retirement monies).
Put back a portion of bonus payments. Any time unexpected money comes in, 40% of that goes into savings. That includes bonuses, Tax Rebate checks, or money from jobs that offer revenue share as well as upfront payments. If it wasn’t expected money (in my invoice folder) then it splits into the savings.
The easiest way to make yourself crazy as a freelancer is to budget on what you are expecting. The old adage “don’t spend it before the check clears,” still holds true today. Wait until you have the money in your account before you begin planning for that money. Budgeting from what is in your account and saving along the way will help you live with peace and calm that not everyone else experiences.