As a freelancer, it’s easy to focus so much time on your service offerings that your personal and business finances take a backseat. Unfortunately, the longer you go down this path the greater chance there is of financial disaster.
Early in my freelance writing career — which spans 15+ years — I didn’t use many financial tools. And while that was okay when my career was in its infancy, within several years I realized a change was needed.
The primary challenge as a freelancer is finding tools that suit both your personal and business finances (either separately or together). Even if you have a few tools guiding you at this point, there’s always room for improvement. Here are four categories of tools that you may not know you need, along with some suggestions for getting started:
1. Business Budgeting
In addition to your personal budget, it’s critical to have a clear idea of how much you spend on your freelance business. And one of the best ways to do so is with a budgeting app.
You can track and categorize your spending, gain a visual overview of your performance, and make changes on the fly. Some apps even provide suggestions.
If you’re looking for a simple, easy-to-use app, both Mint and FreshBooks are industry leaders.
2. Stock Market Analysis
As a freelancer, you’re 100 percent responsible for investing and saving for retirement. You don’t have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan or pension.
- Quickly analyze and understand a stock’s fundamentals
- Review proven financial models to analyze stocks
- Use a stock screener to find opportunities
With so much pressure to personally save for your future, it’s nice to know that you have a few high-end tools guiding you.
3. Portfolio Tracker
It’s one thing to invest your money, but another thing entirely to track its performance. A portfolio tracker allows you to track all your assets in one place, review visual charts of your investments, and ensure that you’re on track to meet your short and long-term goals.
Portfolio trackers are plentiful, so take a few for a test drive before making your final decision. For example, Kubera is a relatively new tool — which works well both for individuals and business owners — but it already tracks in upward of $ 4 billion.
4. Loan Finder
As you’ve probably heard, most small businesses don’t make it. The same holds true with sole proprietors, such as freelancers.
But that shouldn’t scare you away from chasing your dream. Sometimes, all you have to do is push for a few more weeks or months to finally break through to the other side.
If you’re struggling to take your freelance business to new heights, you may need financial assistance in the interim. This can come in many forms, such as:
- Drawing from savings accounts: As a general rule of thumb, keep three to six months of living expenses in savings at all times. This is even more important when you’re a new freelancer with a fluctuating income.
- Loans from friends and family: Some people consider this, some don’t. It should at least be on your radar.
- Installment loan: In addition to local and national lenders (think Discover), there are smaller online services, such as Fig Loans, that have a variety of installment loan products to choose from. Know the terms and conditions inside and out before signing on the dotted line.
- Credit cards: As a freelancer, you’re most likely to use a personal credit card — not a business credit card — should you need access to money to “get by.” Here’s a shortlist of some of the best credit cards for freelancers.
It doesn’t matter if you want to become a freelance writer, freelance designer, consultant, or take another path, when you work for yourself you must take full control of your finances.
There are many tools within the four categories above, so keep an open mind. As you find what you’re looking for, implement the tool, track your results, and make changes as necessary.