Quick and simple money saving tips for the self-employed
- 14 Apr 2022
- Dan Thornton
When you become your own boss, it’s easy to assume the route to more profits simply means working on more projects or increasing your rates. But reducing your outgoings will also impact your budget. Just by following some of the quick and simple money savings tips for the self-employed, your time and effort will show more value at the end of each month.
Many self-employed professionals are operating solo businesses, meaning it’s difficult to scale up client work without running out of availability, or letting quality slip. And if the money is flowing out as fast as it comes in, then you’re putting in that extra effort for no actual benefit.
Spending just a few minutes every month checking your business expenses and outgoings can uncover substantial savings. And that money could be better used investing for the future, covering tax and other essentials, or become a reward for running a more profitable business. Whether you’re a consultant, contractor or freelancer, there are always ways to save money without harming your business or lifestyle.
Regularly check your budget and finances
If you’re not regularly looking at your business budget and bank accounts, then you could be letting unpaid invoices and unnecessary expenses just slip through your fingers. Not every self-employed professional enjoys managing their finances, and often the work is outsourced to bookkeepers and accountants. But you still need to be checking on a frequent basis.
The person who cares most about making your business profitable is you. Which means you shouldn’t expect your accountant or bookkeeper to always spot when there’s a chance of saving money. And being aware of odd withdrawals from your business bank balance will also help you avoid issues with fraud or theft.
Audit ongoing subscriptions and direct debits
The longer you’ve been self-employed, the more likely it will be that there are unwanted direct debits coming out of your business account each month. It may be software subscriptions that are no longer needed, or website hosting from years ago, and even small amounts will add up over time.
Before you cancel, make certain that it’s no longer needed, and you’re getting the most from any membership or subscription. For example, IPSE members don’t just get discounts on insurance and access to exclusive events. There are also a wide range of savings on everyday items and wellbeing services, along with business templates, tax and legal helplines and more.
Many business bank accounts and subscriptions will include bonuses such as invoicing software or other tools. There’s nothing wrong with continuing to pay to use an alternative if it’s necessary or preferable, but you should always check if it makes more sense to switch. And while it can be time-consuming to move to a different business platform, if you can save hundreds of pounds a year, it’s worth it.
And if you don’t already have professional insurance, it’s worth checking the discounts available by joining an organisation like IPSE. You could end up saving more than the cost of your membership, essentially giving you some money back along with a wide range of additional benefits.
Try alternatives to reduce equipment costs
It often makes sense to invest substantial amounts in reliable, quality equipment for your business. But you don’t always need to pay full price, or ignore cheaper alternatives whether it’s a one-off cost, or an ongoing expense.
From refurbished computer equipment and recycled printer cartridges, to donated home office furniture, saving money can also reduce waste and help the environment, as well as your business bank balance.
Equipment rental is useful for one-off projects, but another option is to share ownership with other businesses or self-employed individuals if you’ll both need access for an ongoing period of time.
Don’t dismiss free software
Many software brands have become industry standards over the years. But free, open-source, alternatives are compatible with those formats, as well as being viable products in their own right.
Around a third of the internet uses WordPress as a content management system. And you can find long-standing and reputable open-source alternatives for office software (e.g. Apache OpenOffice or LibreOffice), photo editing (GIMP), video (Blender) and much more. And while the user interfaces may sometimes be a little less intuitive, they’ll all save your work in a format compatible with mainstream paid software.
Make use of local facilities
Shared office spaces and co-working have become common for the self-employed, and for good reasons (many of which you can find in our guide to choosing the best self-employed workplace). But if you’re not benefitting from them, then why not make the most of the local amenities in your area.
Using coffee shops or cafes for working more socially or meetings is an obvious example. But have you also checked your local library for useful books rather than just buying them online? Or if there are community groups, hackspaces or other projects who might also have equipment, knowledge or contacts which would be useful for your business?
Free events and networking
Larger, high profile paid business events aren’t always the best use of your time and money. Free local meetups can also be hugely valuable, depending on your self-employed business.
It can be easier to introduce yourself to smaller groups, and they also provide a great way to get experience speaking and presenting without the risk of embarrassing yourself in front of a large audience. And you’re less likely to be competing with a large number of people offering the same products and services.
Many large industry events started as a small number of people meeting in a pub or coffee shop, so you might even be getting in at the ground floor of a future must-attend conference. And if you’re attending bigger, more expensive gatherings, why not see if other local freelancers want to share travel or accommodation?
Claim all available support
Whether it’s claiming costs as expenses, or making the most of tax allowances, it can be hard to make sure you’re getting all of the financial support available for the self-employed.
This is one area where it can save you money to invest in professional advice from an accountant to make sure that your business benefits from all the opportunities available, without risking penalties for making a mistake.
Even if you’re not able to take on a regular accountant, it’s worth investing in a meeting at least once a year to go over your budget and financial planning, along with any chances to expenses and tax regulations. The cost of that time will often return a far larger amount in savings, especially if you’re investing in new equipment over the next 12 months, or it’s the first time you’ve sought advice on self-employed expenses.
Cut home office costs
Not every self-employed professional will work from home on a regular basis. But if you do, then take advantage of the opportunity to reduce your costs.
Getting a better deal for your broadband, heating and energy will also benefit you personally. And by planning meals or batch cooking, you can also save time as well as money. It will also benefit your health and productivity.
If you’re working at home full-time, it may allow you to consider giving up car ownership. Or just to walk and cycle more, meaning that you’ll get more exercise as well as cutting petrol costs. And it can also reduce other outgoings, such as childcare. We’ve got some helpful guides to freelance maternity and paternity, as well as freelancing with small children.
Are meetings necessary?
It’s easy to find yourself agreeing to meetings with clients, without questioning whether it’s really needed or not.
Pandemic lockdowns forced many businesses to embrace online meetings as an alternative. And while not everyone is a fan, they can often cover what’s needed without the cost of travel, food and meeting space.
Obviously, if a valuable client wants to meet in-person and discuss a high budget project, then the meeting costs are an investment which will return a profit. But it’s useful to pause and ask whether you really need to spend a day away from work before agreeing to every meeting.
Check any existing business debts and loans
If you’ve previously taken on debts or loans to support your business, it’s worth regularly checking whether it makes sense to continue paying them off over time. In some cases, you may be able to save money fairly quickly by settling your debts, particularly if you’ve had a particularly good month for client income.
You may also spot opportunities to save by switching loan providers, or notice if a payment is still being made for a debt which has already been settled.
Consider outsourcing and professional services
It seems counter-intuitive to save money by paying someone else to work for you. But when you’re managing every aspect of a self-employed business, you’ll often be spending time on non-client tasks.
When you consider the time spent on admin, or non-core work, and how much you might have earned instead, outsourcing can make more sense. Do you need to personally manage your emails or calendar? Or could that time be better spent on client projects?
Professional services can also save you money, despite the cost of time with an accountant or lawyer. You may be happy to spend days learning about tax allowances or crafting a perfect client contract, but that time could have been used for billable client work. And if an experienced professional could have achieved the same results in an hour or two, you’ve lost money by not using them.
Whether or not you enjoy managing your self-employed finances, it’s vital to be aware and proactive to ensure your business is profitable. There’s no honour or reward for working longer hours than necessary to achieve the same results, especially when you risk burnout or alienating your family and friends.
If you’re investing extra time and effort into your freelancing, consulting or contracting, then you should earn a good return for your work. Not seeing your earnings wasted on unnecessary costs and expenses.
And if you need more advice on specific financial issues, why not take a look at our guides to insurance, tax, and financial wellbeing. Along with tips on winning work, if you do decide to pursue more clients.
Meet the author
Freelance writer, marketer, SEO
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