You can check out my April 2012 Finance goals HERE.
Being a freelancer blows. Not the work part. The work part is great. The not being a slave to anyone else’s schedule (save deadlines, natch)? Even better. There’s a huge sense of freedom in setting your own hours, working at your own pace, and generally feeling like the master of your own destiny.
The problem is, since you’re so free with your own schedule…so is everyone else. Namely, your employers. I’m referring, of course, to your payment.
It’s really difficult to budget as a freelancer, as not only does your pay vary from month to month, but so does when you get paid. For example, my writing employers each pay me about 3-4 weeks after I invoice them. The hyphen is there for a reason. My check could be cut at any time during those 3-4 weeks, and that’s if my invoices are processed right away. Of course, just because I email my invoices on a certain day doesn’t mean they will be processed that day. My email can sit in an editor’s email box for days. Then the invoice is forwarded to Accounts Payable, where it may or may not be processed the day they get it. Then there’s the matter of you actually getting your money. My main employers have set up direct deposits for me at my bank. However, even when I’m sent the email notification that the transfer has been made, it still takes 2-3 business days for me to actually have access to those funds. (“Business days” means that if they send the funds to my bank on a Thursday or Friday, I’m fucked through the weekend.) So, from the time I submit an invoice, there are about three or four places where things can (and have!) go wrong and hold me up in the paying of my bills. Sometimes I get paid via PayPal, but even then I have to wait 3-4 business days for funds to transfer from PayPal to my account.
All of this can be difficult to plan around, and repaying your debts is hard when you 1) don’t know when you’ll get your money, 2) your funds come from different sources at different times, and 3) you have day-to-day living to do. With so much being out of our control, it’s even more important to be aware of the things over which we do have control:
- If you’re lucky enough to have a regular freelance job for a media outlet, like I do, you can control (for the most part) how much you produce. I say “for the most part,” because even with a regular outlet, you might not get to write as many articles as you’d like. Some have a small budget and place a cap on how many articles they’ll let you write. If you have to pitch articles to them, there’s always the chance they won’t accept some or most of your pitches, so if you planned on making X amount for X number of posts, you’ll need to readjust your budget.
- You can also control when you invoice. Choose a day to invoice all your clients at once so that you can be paid by all of them within the same time frame. Again, this isn’t foolproof, and it won’t help if your invoice gets lost on someone’s desk or in someone’s inbox, but if you have a decent working relationship with your outlet and you’re in touch with them regularly, you should get paid each month as close to when you need to be as possible.
- Communication is key. Employers aren’t trying to be dicks to freelancers on purpose (well, not most of them, anyway), but by nature of our freelanceriness, we’re hard to keep track of. So, it’s up to us to let our employers know what we need. If you need to adjust when and how you get paid, ask. They might not come up with what will be easiest for you on their own, but if you ask for it there are usually options, and they’ll do what they can, because they want to keep you. Because they love you. Also, because replacing you is a huge pain in the ass and means more paperwork they don’t want to do.
- Lastly, the writing market is hard these days. I have two outlets that pay me for my words, and I’m in two upcoming pro anthologies. That’s still not enough. Don’t be too proud to take some sort of day job. There are jobs out there that you can do and may not have anything to do with writing, but aren’t behind a desk, are flexible, and will supplement your writing money until the big book deal comes in. Right now, I’m a personal assistant to two different people, and tomorrow I have a job interview for a part-time gig at the Griffith Observatory (eek! Geek Heaven!). All of these things allow me to write while not feeling like I wanna jump off a bridge. It’s possible to design a life for yourself that meets your needs without giving up on what you want to be doing. It just takes some planning and creative thinking (and also a broad network of people who also do what you do and can clue you in to job opportunities outside the mainstream. So get out there and make friends!)
And if I get this Observatory job, I’ll actually be able to save large chunks and pay back debt even faster, which is all-important, as I have a lot of it. So…wish me luck, yeah? Thanks!