This post was originally curated and published on Medium, which you can also check out here.
Let’s start off by stating the obvious: You’re a writer and that is a cool job.
You’re a creative, working in the field you love. That alone is special and rare in this world.
You have the freedom to forge your own path. You (likely) have the flexibility to work the hours you choose or even work from home. You have the privilege of doing rewarding work you love.
But on the other hand, you take on a lot of risk. Your income is unpredictable and there is no company-sponsored health insurance plan, 401K with a cushy match, or pension to fall back on.
Put simply, when it comes to money: You’re on your own.
It’s not that you’re bad with money or not a numbers person, it’s just that there is a greater burden of self-education and money management that comes with the territory of your vocation.
You WILL work harder at money than your corporate peer.
But you have a way cooler job. So it’s worth the extra effort, right?
(The answer is YES, of course, it is!)
So let’s start to give you the money education you need to have your creative job and a healthy retirement too. These five money truths will help you be better at money. You’re going to need a couple of new books, a couple of new bank accounts, and a fresh spreadsheet.
Let’s dive in:
Truth #1: You need to know your numbers
Ahhh the dreaded budget! You can do this in a spreadsheet or a software program. The best system is the one you will actually use. Once you have a system set up you will quickly start to learn how much you spend on groceries, what your bills add up to, etc. This is foundational information you need to understand how much money you need to be making, how much you can afford to be paying towards debt, and if you really should be taking that trip to Mexico.
Truth #2: You need to hedge your income
Once you know your numbers, you can use that information to make smart choices about how you manage your income. Now that you know what your average expenses are you can compare your income to see if you are flush or falling short each month. During flush months, commit to transferring some excess cash to an income ’slush fund’ account. It’s important you transfer that money to another account because no one can be trusted with extra money hanging out in their checking account. During months where your income is falling short, you can dip into that income slush fund to get your expenses covered.
Truth #3: You need to prioritize long-term saving
I can’t tell you how many freelancers and entrepreneurs I work with that have no long term savings. Nothing for retirement. A little goes a long way when it is invested (especially if you are in your twenties or thirties!). So please make this part of your plan. Even if you start with $50 a month, set up an automatic transfer so you aren’t relying on your self-discipline to make the transfer each month. Research the best tax advantage investment accounts for you (SEP IRA, Roth IRA, etc.). You don’t need a fancy financial advisor, Google will get you started. Remember, you have the burden of educating yourself on these options!
Truth #4: You can not ignore taxes
If you do not automatically get tax withheld from your paycheck or invoices, the burden of tax allocation and savings falls to you. If you don’t already have one, set up a tax savings account. Each time you get paid, a percentage of that payment should be transferred to the tax savings account (Usually about 10%). Then when Uncle Sam comes calling, you have a nice little pile of money to turn over to him. No stress, no back taxes, no payment plan.
Truth #5: You need to work on your mindset
Before you can manage the money that comes into your bank account, you to have to go out and find it. You have to set your rates, find business, negotiate contracts, and follow up with people that haven’t paid. All that requires a strong money mindset and a strong sense of self. If you don’t have a strong money mindset, you might be leaving money on the table. You deserve to get paid well as a creative. The ‘starving artist’ profile is outdated and holding you back from living a financially abundant life. Re-wire your brain to believe that you deserve and can make great money being a creative. Two of my favorite books to get you started with this work are “I’m a Badass at Making Money” by Jen Sincero and “Overcoming Underearning” by Barbara Stanny.
The goal with setting up a healthy financial system is for you to release stress about money and think about it LESS so you can focus on what really matters, your life and your work. Money changes don’t happen overnight; they happen one baby step at a time. You have the power to learn about money and change your financial life. It just takes moving forward, one step at a time.