How to budget when you’re a freelancer

How to budget when you’re a freelancer



I’m a freelancer; a fully-fledged member of the gig-economy, a jack-of-all select few-trades, master of multiple skills and a bounty of enthusiasm for any creative venture that will make some dollar! I work almost entirely remotely and get to tag my Instagram pics with #digital nomad even if I have only travelled 2 minutes from my house-share to work in a nearby hipster café! I’ve been embracing the freelancer-lifestyle for over eighteen months and have only now worked out how to efficiently and appropriately budget each month.

Forgetting, of course, that at least 25% of every invoice you get paid should be put aside to pay your tax contributions (and perhaps student loan repayments), you’ve worked hard, now you can play hard! Perhaps….

As a remote worker I’ve realised that a significant amount of my disposable income is spent in cafes. With no office outside of my bedroom, I regularly escape to nearby coffee shops and quirky daytime bars or public libraries to set up office for the day. Anywhere with comfortable seats, great coffee and reliable WIFI gets blessed with my presence and an eight-hour flow of my money. Endless hot beverages, croissant after croissant, hipster sandwiches and side salads. It all starts to get expensive.

There are also extensive costs for social outings. Now that my social needs are not met by moaning about a co-worker with another colleague at the office water-cooler, my free time is filled with different necessary social activities. An expensive gym membership, trips to the theatre and extensive pub visits are all bringing my bank balance down daily. People-watching is essentially part of my job role and can get pricey, but spending time with people is essential for the sake of my mental health. Without budgeting for time with friends or other living, breathing beings, I’d rarely engage with anybody face-to-face and quickly lose my noggin’.

There are also upfront costs which make freelancing more expensive than safe employment. Printing, travel, tech support and insurances are all costs hard to avoid and difficult to get good deals with on an individual scale. Us freelancers miss out on corporate discounts and incentives. There’s no cycle to work scheme available to freelancers who work in their pyjamas 😊

Starting out as a freelancer left me with moderate credit card debt for usual expenses, especially as many clients would not pay invoices on time or without significant prompting and regular reminders. With perseverance and hard work, I began to drag myself out of the red. Getting a loan when your income fluctuates is practically impossible, so I knew I had to reverse my spending habits to not live on my credit card but instead be pre-paying monthly.

Since getting the HyperJar app, I started an ‘Eating Out’ storage jar and at first loaded it with £100 for the month however this quickly disappeared. It took a few months of adjustment and self-awareness to realise my expenses in cafes alone exceed £300. Factoring in that an office space or hot desk daily would cost over £300 a month, I’ve come to terms with this figure, especially as I get fed delicious local food and risk meeting interesting gorgeous freelancers at the same time too! Watching my available money decrease over the month really helped level out my spending habits and curb my costs. Now, I try not to go to cafes everyday and when I do, I slow down my intake of calories, saving on cash and the cost of new clothes with elastic waistbands!

I’ve also started a separate jar for other expenses to ensure I am putting money aside for any ‘workplace’ incidents. If I need to upgrade my laptop, or just buy more printer paper- the usual costs you wouldn’t think twice about pinching form the office stationery cupboard- it’ll come from my allocated jar. I feel way more in control of my spending and prepared for any emergencies. Similarly, I have a ‘Culture’ jar for social outings. Trips to the theatre, nights at the cinema and extravagant social adventures are kept in check by being allocated a budget at the start of each month instead of being confronted with a huge credit card bill at the end of each month. I need to ensure I get out and see other human beings; working remotely as a freelancer can be lonely if you never make an excuse to leave the house, and now I can do so without getting into debt.

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