Ah, money. It’s a drag! I’ve chatted several times about being freelance and the nature of self-employment, but we’ve never really sat down and had a good old chat about money have we? Times can be hard when you’re trying to simultaneously earn like a boss, treat yo’self every payday, see the world, save for a house, and you know, finally get out of your overdraft. I don’t think I know anybody who has been 100% free of money issues.
So I thought today we’d chat about money! I’m celebrating 10 years of self-employment this year and I hope to share a few posts on what I’ve learned. In the immortal words of Rednex, where does it come from? Where does it go? Where do you come from (cotton-eyed Joe)? When www.northcash.com got in touch I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to tell you some of the good habits I’ve got into and some other corners I’ve managed to navigate over the years.
This is the single best money advice I can give anyone. Check your account every morning! No random transactions that plunge you into the overdraft for five days. No remembering what was that £13.40 that randomly came out. Just that sweet figure in your head for the whole day. Get the app so that it takes literally ten seconds to check your account, or set up a text notification. It works, trust me.
CW: brief mention of suicide
OK real-talk: I’m not going to sit here and be like “money is a construct and free your mind to be happy” because I know firsthand how terrifying it is when you might not be able to make rent and you’ve only got one cuppa soup left until payday. That said, I do think a lot of people develop an unhealthy attitude towards money which then just stays with them. Poor finances can seem like this huge vice that stops you from being happy and makes you feel like a failure. This is no joke – financial worries has been linked to the rising rates of suicide in the UK (including my friend who took his own life in 2014).
It’s generally accepted that we inherit our parent’s attitudes towards money; we may have subconsciously learned that money is “scary” or “secondary” from our parents without taking into account our different eceonomic climates, jobs, locations and so on. If our parents were emotional over money, we might be too! Try to be critical of your own view of money. Are you obsessed with wealth? Do you tend to ignore your bank balance out of fear? Maybe you feel stupid and don’t fully understand how interest or credit works? (That last one was me for a long time). The biggest thing that holds most people back from being in control is that money is an emotional thing for them – lots of it makes them happy, or they get scared or fearful when their bank account starts to dwindle. Once you separate the emotion from money, you’ll find it much easier to just view it objectively and start to get your finances in control.
What does 0% interest actually mean in terms of your life? Should you be thinking about a pension scheme? How do you get one of those freebie cards? And so on. We don’t get taught about money in school; invest in yourself and do the research yourself! Try to get rid of the jargon that surrounds money and confuses us all. I’ve learned a lot from the internet – there are blogs, podcasts and YouTube channels out there from people who want to help you decode your finances. However you normally learn, do that – I recommend signing up to MoneySavingExpert newsletters or literally just googling terms that confuse you.
I mean REALLY diversify your income. Most people have a forgotten skill that doesn’t intersect with their normal work life that they could be using. Maybe you’ve got an English degree but now work in social media – what about proofreading or teaching English? There are also numerous ways to make easy money online; paid reviews, online surveys and offering adverts on your blog are just some of the ways you can gain a bit of extra dollar.
When you do branch out: don’t undersell yourself! I refuse to do stuff for free unless it really benefits me in some way (i.e. is a good networking or travel opportunity). I had somebody literally today ask if I could come out to them and teach two hours for free as a trial. No! You’re asking me to spend my money on travel and give you three hours total of my time that I could have been earning elsewhere? There’s no other work booked in or guarantee anything will come of it. People will take the piss and it’s important to stand your ground.
Touch wood, I’ve only had a couple of issues with late payment, and that was a payment dispute with a crap website (name and shame PeoplePerHour – avoid!). The other times I’ve had payment issues is where I didn’t send the invoice straight away. Literally attach the invoice to the e-mail that says you’ve done the work! My payments have always been on time and I think that’s because I am very formal in my communications and I clearly state the penalty for NOT getting paid on time on the bottom of my invoice.
If you do need to chase an invoice, adopt a strict and formal tone from the get-go. No “hey, just wondering if you had an update on the payment…?” messages. Just go straight in with “I trust you received my invoice last week. As you know, there is a statutory late charge” blah blah. There’s no need to be rude – but being professional and straightforward shows people you know what you’re doing. Nomally when I do this I either get a clear message back about where the money is (i.e. “our payment system is every third friday so we’ll send you receipt then”), or the money just miraculously appears. At the end of the day, people in finance departments are doing a job as well, so if you’re clear and reliable then this helps everyone.
This may sound a bit left field but one thing that I’ve really gotten into in the last year is talking to other people about money. How much are they earning? How do they save? What did they get paid for this or that job and am I getting the same? Especially for blogging, being transparent is really important as we are all kind of making it up as we go. That includes brands- if we don’t establish our worth early on we set ourselves up for difficulties later.
Obviously, I’m not suggesting you just send a group message to all your friends asking to see their tax returns. But speaking to close mates about their income and earning power can help benefit everyone. I only managed to find out I was getting paid half the amount of my white male colleagues in one job because we all sat down in the staffroom and chatted about it.
One of my very first boyfriends* once told me he only bought clothes on sale and it blew my tiny teenaged mind. “It’s the same clothes, but half the price? Why would I pay more?” What a wise man. From then on I have regarded anyone paying full price for anything as an absolute idiot. Look around: most companies are falling over themselves to give you discounts. Whether it’s perks on your credit card, introductory mailing list codes or just general sales, STOP PAYING FULL PRICE. I also get this trait from my parents; they’ve been in the country over 40 years and are happily retired but still have “immigrant mindset”. The day my Mum buys clothing from somewhere other than a charity shop is yet to come.
*He also sometimes reads this blog so shout out to JJ if you see this 😘 RIP the Fred Perry samurai sales, eh?
LITERALLY EVERYTHING GOES ON EXPENSES. Oyster journeys, stationery, wi-fi, music books, smart clothes, haircuts, taxis…. everything! Do yourself a favour and start documenting your expenses monthly so you don’t miss out on anything. My first couple of years of freelancing I rarely saved any receipts that weren’t physical. I dread to think how many hundreds (or thousands!) of pounds I gave to TFL getting to and from jobs that I could have claimed back as expenses…
These days I try to update my tax document monthly, but I’ve had periods in the past where I’ve set to work on that beast weekly. That tax return about to be LIT.
You need a decent invoice template and you need a decent income and outgoings spreadsheet. Spend some time making yourself a system that works and tweak it as you go to find a place that works for you. As mentioned above, my default invoice includes literally all payment info, including bank address, IBAN, Swift number and so on. If somebody asks you for an additional piece of information one time, add it on the invoice so you never get asked again. You should also have a bonus bit about what you do with late payments, when and how you expect to be paid and if you’ll require receipt of payment (heads up: you always do). You should have gone through that when negotiating the job anyway, but just whack it all on there regardless. If you get into a legal situation you’ve got a very clear paper trail of your expectations and guidelines set out.
Travel over clothes? Food out over new bedding? Tube instead of coffee? Lucky you if you can afford literally everything you want right now but for everybody else get a priority system on the go! This links back to the point about your mental link with money – if you’re carefree about spending in one area it can trickle over into others. That said, most of us have one area we will not negotiate on; I absolutely will not spend money on full price clothes, but paying extra for next day delivery?? Go on then. Compare things in your mind – quite often I’ll be 90% definite about ordering a takeaway before thinking “this is two meals out in *insert place I’m visiting*” and then closing the tab and cooking something instead.
Hope this was useful! If you’ve got burning money questions or any ideas on what you’d like in a follow-up career post then let me know in the comments or on Twitter. I genuinely think we need to be more transparent about money so I hope this helps some of you out!
FULL DISCLOSURE: this post is sponsored by www.northcash.com and contains affiliate links from them, but all content ideas, words and images are my own. Gotta make that dolla!
Go ahead and pin this. Go on. I dare you.