The Independent Worker’s Financial Guide
Independent professionals often chart their own course, valuing autonomy over conformity. For these freelancers, stability takes a back seat to the integrity of their craft and the freedom to dictate their schedules.
Amidst economic fluctuations and a surge in entrepreneurial spirit, freelancing is gaining momentum in the United States. Approximately three out of every ten workers are now independent agents. However, despite their talent, many of these individuals struggle with managing the financial aspects of their businesses.
To help these nonconformists navigate the financial landscape, we’ve compiled a comprehensive checklist to ensure their financial well-being.
Build Your Safety Net
Ideally, this safety net should be in place before severing ties with an employer. Even if you’ve already made the leap, prioritizing this fund is paramount. Most financial advisors suggest saving at least six months’ worth of personal and business expenses. This cushion will shield you during lean times, preventing desperate job choices.
Establish a Dedicated Business Account
Life is complicated enough; there’s no need to commingle personal and business finances constantly. Create a separate business account to manage your business emergency fund, salary, taxes, and retirement contributions.
Maintain meticulous records of business expenses and retain receipts, ensuring you can deduct every legitimate expense without a hitch. (More on taxes later.)
When starting as an independent contractor, undervaluing your services is a common pitfall. Failure to consider the benefits your previous employer provided can lead to undercharging. As a business owner, you must set rates that cover your expenses, including:
- Comprehensive Insurance Coverage:
Mandatory health insurance must be factored into your budget. Don’t disregard disability insurance; it’s essential for freelancers who depend on consistent work. In case of a tragedy or injury, you’ll need this safety net.
- Retirement Planning:
Regardless of whether you plan to work indefinitely or retire early, preparing for a future without income is crucial. Leverage the power of compounding by growing your retirement savings in a tax-deferred account.
- Savings Goals:
Allocate funds for future expenses by budgeting wisely.
- Tax Management:
Tax obligations vary by location, but earmarking at least 25% of each payment for taxes is a prudent move. Early IRS classification as an independent contractor helps determine your tax responsibilities. You’ll likely owe self-employment tax and may opt for quarterly tax payments. Rigorous record-keeping is indispensable in this regard.
Navigating Finances with Finesse
Managing your finances as a freelancer is a critical aspect that should never be overlooked, whether you enlist the services of a certified public accountant (CPA) or utilize accounting software. Streamlining billing and invoicing can simplify your financial records, making tax time a breeze. If the prospect of financial management feels daunting, consider seeking professional assistance if it’s within your budget.
Establish a Consistent Payroll
Despite the income fluctuations that often accompany freelancing, granting yourself a regular paycheck is a gift worth giving. This practice minimizes stress and facilitates monthly budgeting. Calculate your average annual income, then divide it by twelve to determine your monthly salary. If you’re new to freelancing, analyze your past year’s expenses and divide by twelve. Once you factor in the costs from point #3, this calculation will guide your income goals.
Resist the urge to reinvest everything into your business; you deserve a dependable income. For a true reflection of your business’s performance and your peace of mind, continue paying yourself as if you were an employee.
Embrace Project Diversity
While consistent work from a single client offers stability, over-reliance on one source of income can be risky. Diversify your client base and expand your reputation by taking on projects from various sources. This strategic move ensures that any setbacks with a major client won’t leave you scrambling to replace lost income.
Seek Expert Guidance
Being an independent contractor doesn’t mean you have to face every challenge alone. Consider acquiring a coach, finding a mentor, or enlisting the expertise of a CPA. Joining a Freelancers Union can also connect you with a supportive community. The world feels warmer when you have a network to lean on, and you never know what valuable insights or connections you may gain through the community you cultivate.