- Personal Finance
How to Save for Retirement If You Work as a Freelancer
Help! I'm a freelancer. How can I save money for my retirement and still live comfortably now?
Here are some tips on how to contribute to your retirement savings, an emergency fund, or your children’s college education when your freelancing income fluctuates.
Many freelancers can enjoy a comfortable retirement if they plan ahead.
If your freelance income rises and falls from week to week, or month to month, you need to take a long-range view of your personal finances. The good news is that if you’ve already been tracking your income on a regular basis, you should be able to spot regular patterns. For example, do you notice that you experience a drop in your freelance writing income around certain times of the year, such as the Christmas holidays or during the summer when school is out?
Knowing when your cash flow is at its peak can help you plan ahead to increase your contributions to your savings account when you know you’ll have the extra cash, and reduce your contributions when your freelancing income is lean and you need every penny to stay on top of day to day living expenses. You may also find that contributing to your saving plan is easier to do one a quarterly basis. This would be useful for freelance writers that take on big ticket projects such as writing or editing a book and their payday comes at the end of the project. For bloggers and writers who sell their work more frequently, putting money away can be done on a weekly or monthly basis.
Sometimes the best way to contribute to your savings plans is to trick yourself into putting a bit of money away on a regular basis. In addition to automatic deposits from your regular day-to-day bank account into a savings or investment account. By having a portion of your freelance income diverted into a saving account on a moderately frequent basis, overtime you’ll see your savings grow, allowing you to enjoy greater peace of mind that you are taking care of important family financial matters, even if you have a fluctuating income.
If you are a self-employed freelancer or entrepreneur, you probably don’t have the same employment benefits as people who work with in a traditional employer-employee environment. Folks on payroll don’t have to worry about setting aside money to cover their income tax bill at the end of the year because it is already shaved off the top of their paychecks.
By working from home as a freelancer, you’re already saving a lot of money. But, what if you could save even more money? If you cut back your daily living and working expenses by as little as $100 per month, depending on your billable hourly rate, you could be giving yourself a one to two hour per month bonus. That’s like getting paid to work for two hours, without actually working!
Here are some quick and easy ways to start saving money now. The sooner you start saving your cash, the sooner you can start investing in your freelance business to make it grow!
Make all your meetings and errands 'roundtrip.' One of the best things about working from home is all the money you can save by not having to commute to work every day. But if you're constantly dashing out the door to meet a client, pick up office supplies or run an errand, then you're eating away at all the money you save by working from home. Try to organize your schedule so that you conduct business meetings and run errands in one loop. Set aside a day of the week where you do all of your office type errands: go to the post office, deposit checks in your business account, buy office supplies, etc. You'll not only save yourself money, you'll also save yourself time and valuable creative energy. Fewer trips out means less time spent trying to get back into a work-mode mindset when you return to your home office.
Don't break the bank on your coffee break! If you work from home, you really should be making your own coffee instead of heading down the street to buy a cuppa jo. If you make your own coffee at home, you could save $25.00 a month. Don’t go cheap though, reward yourself for your frugality and splurge on a premium coffee blend if you want to.
If you have meetings or errands to run, take your coffee with you in a thermal mug. Don’t forget to throw a granola bar or piece of fruit in your bag, just in case you get a little hungry on the go. By taking your own coffee and snack with you, you’ll avoid the temptation to stop at a coffee bar or convenience store when your tummy grumbles.
If part of your freelancing routine is to set-up an office away from home in a coffee shop that has free Wi-Fi, ask yourself if you are really getting a deal. The coffee and food that you have to buy at the café (if you don’t want to get the evil eye from the owner) can add up and cost more than the free Wi-Fi. If you like to get away from your home office from time to time. go to your local library or community center and work from there. Most libraries have free Wi-Fi, and as long as you are not a noisy, sloppy, messy eater, bringing your own snack and beverage is usually OK.
Scrutinize your utility bills, insurance plans and other monthly expenses. Check your utilities (i.e.; phone, electricity and internet) to make sure that you're getting the best deal for the services that you actually do use. If you recently switched from a full-time job outside of the home to working for yourself as a freelancer, make sure you have the best rate plans for the times of day that you are using the services. Find out if your cell phone or internet service providers provide any small business packages. Just because you are working from home, that doesn't mean you aren't eligible for small business service bundles and discounts.
Watch out for unnecessary features and add-on services that you don’t really need. Paying $4.00 a month for 3-way calling may not seem like a big deal but if you never use that feature, why pay for it?
If you don’t drive to and from work every day, see if you can reduce your auto insurance premiums. Saving $15.00 a month on auto insurance adds up to close to $200.00 per year! (That’s like giving yourself a little holiday bonus at the end of the year!)
Shop around for the best deals on office supplies. Don’t assume that the big box office supply stores always have the best deals on office supplies. Sometimes you can find cheap office supplies on sale at the drug store. Dollar stores are also a great place to stock up on things like staples, envelopes and file folders, especially if you want to but these items in smaller quantities. Don’t forget to take advantage of back-to-school sales as well. Students aren’t the only ones who need notebooks, pens and pencils.
The Pros and Cons of Working as a Freelancer
More freedom to define your own work schedule
Must be very disciplined and self-motivated
Ability to set your own hourly wage
Must ensure that you get enough hours of freelance work each month to make a living
More time to spend with friends and family
Must create clear boundaries with loved ones about work time and play time
Do you think it is too late for you to start saving for your retirement?
Give yourself a budget to have fun once in a while. As a freelancer, you work hard. You put in long hours and you toil away when other people are likely resting and relaxing. That’s why treating yourself to some fun entertainment activities is especially important. Laughing and letting loose on a regular basis is critical to your creative success. But when times are lean or you’re in between freelancing gigs, it’s easy to convince yourself that you can’t afford to go out and have a good time.
Fortunately, not all forms of entertainment have to cost money. There are plenty of fun things to do for free. Read the event listings and announcements in your local newspaper. Sign up for event alerts. Go to the art gallery when it opens its doors for free as part of its community access programs. Clip 2-for-1 coupons and treat a fellow freelancer to a movie. You’d be surprised at how many free concerts, shows, workshops and cultural festivals are going on in your neighborhood!
Keep your receipts for everything. Maximize your tax savings by claiming deductions for as many business and freelancing expenses as you can. Write a note on the back of every receipt explaining what the item was purchased for and file it away as soon as possible. A qualified accountant will be able to tell you which expenses you can deduct. It's better to save the receipt now than find out at the end of the year that you could have written off a bunch of expenses if you'd only held onto the receipt.
© 2014 Sally Hayes