The Freelancer Budget

Money management can be intimidating. We’d rather spend our time being creative and doing what we love to do. Many freelancers tell themselves that they are terrible at managing money and finances. These tasks seem overwhelming, and instead of facing them, we procrastinate. We put off organising our finances, just hoping that someone else, our accountant, our friends, our parents, someone, will take care of it for us.

Want to get started right away? No problem, jump down to the instructions.

We don’t realise that by putting managing our money off, that we actually waste time. We make it harder to focus on our creative work because we are stressed out about bills. We don’t know how much we are earning, and we can’t make good decisions about how much to charge and how often to work.

This is a big mistake! Taking care of our money is as important as taking care of ourselves. Likewise, the preconception (one that we often self-reinforce) that small business owners and creative people are bad at managing money is simply not true. 

With a little patience and practice, you can change your relationship to money and time management. This small change will lead to a less stressful and easier to manage personal and professional life. Its a long term payoff you’ll be glad that you made.

A great first step is to download and start using the The Freelancer Budget to take control of your income, your spending, and your lifestyle. 

The Freelancer Budget is a deceptively simple way to figure out how much money you need to earn in order to live the lifestyle you want. It won’t take long before caring for your budget becomes a healthy habit, one that will remove the lingering sense of dread that arrives whenever you have to pay taxes, bills or deal with invoices and accounts.

Who Exactly is This For?

Let’s start with a few questions. 

Are you:A freelancer who it just getting started and is totally intimidated by money, budgeting, invoices, etc. etc. etc.???

Or are you an experienced freelancer that knows exactly what your hourly rate is?

Are you a freelancer who has a good idea of how many hours you want to work each week, month or year?

Maybe you are the type of freelancer who knows just how much money you’d want to earn over the next 12 months?

Don’t worry, if you are any of the above (and more), The Freelancer Budget will help you figure out your income and expenses, and assist you in getting a better sense of you overall financial situation.

With this information you can better decide how much to charge, how much to work, and what kind of lifestyle you can have while simultaneously doing the work you love. By giving you simple and practical insight into your finances, the Freelancer Budget helps you focus on doing the kind of work you want to do.

Get Help Deciding How Much Work You Actually Need To Do

Work a lot or work a little. Naturally, each of us are coming from different place and perspectives. Some of us are interested in earning as much money as possible. Others are interested in working as little as they can. Regardless of your starting point The Freelancer Budget helps you reach the ideal work / life balance by finding the best mix between these different approaches.

What The Freelance Budget Isn’t

The Freelancer Budget is not a project management or traditional budgeting tool. You won’t see graphs and you won’t be able to directly connect to your bank accounts. 

Instead of automating everything, our aim is to help you figure out how much money you need to earn in order to live the lifestyle you want. With this in mind we kept things as simple as possible – encouraging you take an active role in understanding you money matters and giving you just what you need to easily have an overview of your freelance financial life. 

Why it Works

We can always guess how much money we are going to make. Or we can just spend all the money in our account and not think about it until the next payment comes in. But we never really know how we are doing financially, which makes it really hard to plan ahead. 

But seeing the hard numbers will change all of this. With just a little practice and time, keeping track of your money will become a habit, and you’ll have an entirely new perspective on your work and finances. You will feel less stress because you’ll truly understand how much money you have coming in, and how much money you need to spend. It’s the end of financial panic.

The Freelancer Budget also helps you to make a habit out of checking on your finances on a regular basis. I check my spread sheet ever week for 10 or 15 minutes. I update my income and expenses, and I can rest assured that I know that I have enough money coming in to cover my expenses. In the case that I don’t have enough money, I know just what I need to earn and can come up with a plan to find some new clients and projects. This is much better than being completely in the dark and just feeling broke. Knowledge is power!

Why We Created the Freelance Budget

I started my design business in 2005, with exactly $0 dollars in my bank account. I was very afraid of having to pay my rent and other living expenses without the reliability of a regular pay check. I knew that to survive as a freelancer, I would have to keep my financial house in order.

I started using a simple spreadsheet to keep track of the freelance projects that I had coming in, as well as the money I was spending. A few years later, a girlfriend who was a genius as excel, helped me add some formatting and better formulas into the mix. This helped me to realise that I could not only simply add up income and expenses, but I could also get a sense of what my next few months of spending and income would look like – allowing me to make better decisions. For example I might decide to wait on buying a new computer until I signed one more larger contract. I could also see that now would be a good time to take a vacation, since I had enough work lined up to cover my expenses for the next few months.

Over the past 13 years or so, I’ve made small changes to the way the spreadsheet look and works, and also adapted it to my personal life and other budgets. That’s one of the strengths of the spread sheet – its a one size fits all solution that is easy to adapt to your lifestyle and goals.

About two years ago, my friend Roman and I thought about turning this into an app. After some time working on it, we realised an app is overdoing it – with some patience, the spreadsheet itself will do everything that you need. 

How to Use It

First, copy the Google doc to your own Google account. Simply click the button below to get started.

Then click Use as Template in the upper right corner. This will copy The Freelancer Budget to your Google drive (Don’t have Google drive? Don’t worry, you can download the sheet here. But you won’t have the same functionality as the online version)

Getting Started

There are two tabs in the Google doc that we’ve just shared. The entire spreadsheet has comments throughout to help you get started. Make sure to read those, as well as the instructions below. 

Expenses

The first tab is the EXPENSES tab.

Add in your company name, and the date range. I like to make the date range cover the next 12 months. I update the date range from time to time to keep it accurate

Next you’ll add in your expenses. The best way is to do these by WEEKLY, MONTHLY and ANNUAL expenses.

The spreadsheet has built in formulas to calculate these automatically. Just be sure to copy and past from the relevant preset fields for weekly, monthly and annual expenses.

At the bottom of the sheet, all of your expenses are calculated into the 12 month total. We also show you what the average monthly expenses are so that you get a better sense of what you need to earn each month.

Income

Income is the fun part. This is where you get paid for doing the work you love.

First you’ll add in your projects. Add as many as you like, giving each a unique and relevant name. For me this is often the name of the client or the project itself. (i.e. website for bakery, or book for Theatre collective).

Then in the AMOUNT column, enter in how much you expect to earn from each project.

The Freelancer Budget will automatically tally up the amount you will earn from all of your projects.

You can then also add in how much money you have on hand in the bank if you choose.

At the bottom, you’ll see a field that shows you how much your expenses are (should be zero now, we’ll add those in in the next step). 

The spreadsheet then automatically compares the amount of income you have with your expenses, and lets you know how much of a surplus or deficit you have, and also how many months of expenses your current income covers. 

Armed with this knowledge, you can make more informed decisions about what sort of projects you want to do, how often you want to work, how much you’d like to get paid, and when the best time to make large purchases or take time off is.

Feedback? Questions?

Just send us an email and we’ll get back to you ASAP.