As a freelancer, you are the CEO, sales department, desk jockey, and accountant all in one — but often, that last role falls to the wayside. Keeping track of your income and expenses is rough when you are already balancing so many other responsibilities to make your self-employed lifestyle work. Let’s face it: That paper-clipped bundle of highlighted receipts is no way to manage your freelance financing, and is more likely than not to land you in income tax hell.
Your only salvation is falling in love with the intelligent, magnanimous, and beautiful business account. If you are ready to turn your freelance fiasco into an organized occupation, read on.
The first step in finding balance in your freelance bookkeeping is realizing the importance of separating your business and individual accounts. In freelance, there is a pencil-thin line between your professional and personal lives — for example, you likely work from home on devices used recreationally during off-hours — and any way you can segregate your working time and your private time will be beneficial. Splitting up your finances into one business account and one (or several) personal accounts will help you keep track of your work-related incoming and outgoing money, for your own sanity.
While you might wish for a first encounter over a pair of pajamas at the department store, very rarely does fate force two soulmates together outside of the movies; face it: You are going to have to engineer your own meet-cute with your future business accounts. In the modern age, going from bank to bank to learn terms and compare rates is a waste of time. Instead, you should turn to the Web to find all the information you need. You can compare and contrast business checking accounts, business credit cards, and more right from the comfort of your home office.
The Relationship Advice
What happens when you are met with more than one viable suitor, a la Bridget Jones or Sabrina? Then, it is time to ask your most trusted friend (or the Internet) for some much-needed advice.
Many finance-savvy freelancers purport that it isn’t important to find a business-specific account. Business accounts tend to be targeted toward big spenders, companies who frequently have quite a lot of buying to do. Generally, the biggest expense for a freelancer is his or her computer, which is more or less a one-time buy. Any type of checking account with a bank you trust could work fine. Most freelancers prefer to work with financial institutions that align with their values, like credit unions and community banks.
Still, some business-specific accounts are worthwhile. Business credit cards are perhaps some of the sweetest pieces of plastic you can apply for. They offer huge signup bonuses, awesome travel rewards, and incomparable points programs. You can find the right business credit card for you by comparing and contrasting various rules and perks online.
The First Kiss
Sooner rather than later, you will need to decide upon which business account is right for you. When you do, the music will swell, the lighting will soften, and the stacks of disorganized invoices and receipts on your desk will disappear. You will immediately fall head-over-heels in love with your new finances.
The Happily Ever After
Just because you finally have a way to separate business and personal earnings and expenses doesn’t mean your freelancing finances are finished once and for all. Even after Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks finally kiss at the top of the Empire State Building, they have to work each and every day to make sure their relationship remains solid. Here are a few things you can do to make sure you and your bank account live happily ever after:
- In sickness and in health. Unlike other careers, freelancing doesn’t often provide a reliable or stable income. Your accounts should be able to handle a glut of wages and none at all.
- Double-edged sword of taxes. Most workers get at least a portion of their income tax deducted from their paychecks, but most freelancers forget about taxes until April. Taxes must be in your budget to ensure you aren’t overspending throughout the year.
- Keep the passion alive. As tedious and boring as finances are, you must work hard to keep your accounts in order.
- Side action. Just because you’ve found a loving, caring business account doesn’t mean the rest of your finances are picture-perfect. You should also investigate retirement accounts, emergency accounts, savings accounts, and more.