Are you thinking of going freelance? Before you quit your current job and join the exciting gig economy, you should read this brief list of financial tips.
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1. Guarantee Your Payments
A problem that far too many freelancers face is late payments from their clients. They’ll grind to finish their projects on time, but their payment doesn’t arrive on the expected deadline. They’ll wait days, weeks and even months to get the check that they’re owed.
You can encourage your clients to pay you properly with the help of a contract. Never start a project before writing a freelance contract — the client must agree to the terms and sign it. Without a contract, you might not have proof of your project terms and the promise of payment. If you ever need to take a client to court, you will want to have a contract as evidence.
In your contract, you can set terms that will incentivize your client to take your payment seriously. These are some terms you could add:
- Late penalties. The penalties can increase with each day that your payment is late.
- Kill fees. These are fees for canceling the project after it’s already underway.
- Non-refundable deposit. Ask for a percentage of the payment upfront in the form of a deposit that you will not return, even if the project is canceled.
- Payment installments. For long-term projects, you can divvy up the total payment into several installments instead of getting paid in a lump sum once everything is done.
2. Prepare for Emergencies
There are plenty of emergencies that could put your freelance work on hold. You could spill water on your laptop and have to get a replacement as soon as possible. You could drop your smartphone and need to get it repaired. Since you’re a freelancer, you won’t have an IT department to handle tech repairs for free. You’ll have to handle these emergencies — and the expenses that come with them — on your own.
So, before you start freelancing, it might be a wise decision to sign up for an extended warranty plan if you can. This is especially important if your tech is brand-new and very expensive. An extended warranty plan could give you coverage for problems outside of the original manufacturer’s warranty, like accidental damage, theft and loss.
In addition to tech warranties, you should start building up an emergency fund. An emergency fund is a personal collection of savings that you can draw from whenever you’re hit with an urgent, unplanned expense — like repairs for job-related tech.
Without an emergency fund, it will be harder to cover urgent expenses and get back to work. If you don’t have any savings available, you could try to borrow funds to resolve the problem. With an option like a direct deposit loan or a line of credit, you could borrow enough to cover your expense as quickly as possible. Afterward, you could follow a repayment plan and put the problem behind you. You should learn about the benefits and limitations of borrowing options like direct deposit loans before you fill out an application. You’ll want to make an informed decision.
3. Keep Receipts
You will want to get in the habit of recordkeeping. Save digital and paper copies of your freelance contracts, invoices and receipts. This will come in handy when you are filing your income taxes. And in the worst-case scenario, it will be useful if you ever get audited by the IRS.
4. Learn About Tax Changes
Speaking of taxes — tax filing is considerably different for freelancers. In addition to paying your income taxes, you will have to pay self-employment taxes. Self-employment taxes are approximately 15% of your net business profit. You’ll have to file an annual tax return and then make quarterly payments. To learn more, go to the IRS’s self-employed individuals tax center.
You don’t want to struggle with financial matters as a freelancer. Follow these tips and make your job that much easier.