Most self-employed business owners understand that maintaining a positive cash flow is vital to survive and grow. But the need to constantly secure new clients or contracts means expenses often get overlooked, meaning hard-earned income gets wasted on needless costs. Find out how to save money as a freelancer, and your business will immediately become more sustainable.
The only time many freelancers consider their outgoings will be when their financial situation is becoming a little precarious. But checking costs and expenses regularly, even when business is booming, will mean that you’re less likely to find yourself short on money.
Even a small saving makes your time and earnings more valuable. And it can not only lower the pressure to find more clients just to cover your bills, but you could also put that extra money towards an emergency buffer, investments or a pension plan to improve your future finances.
Regularly audit your budgets, balances, costs and expenses
It’s impossible to know how you’re performing financially if you haven’t planned a basic budget, or you haven’t checked your business balance in weeks. Managing your money can feel intimidating or overwhelming, but even making some small positive steps will improve your situation and help you feel better about moving forwards.
Schedule dedicated time for your business finances, and make sure you stick to it on a weekly or monthly basis as necessary. Even if you’ve invested in support from a bookkeeper or accountant, it’s important that you oversee everything as the business owner. And if you don’t understand something, always feel empowered to ask your bank or financial advisors. Overcoming your fear of appearing stupid could save you hundreds, or thousands of pounds.
Planning your budget for the next 12 months can be a hugely useful exercise. It gives you more time to prepare for any big business expenses or investment. And it can also highlight opportunities to switch providers, or group together services, to get better deals or savings.
Evaluate any recurring payments
It’s easy to let direct debits and subscriptions accumulate over time. Some will be for products and services which are required for your business, such as insurance or tools you use on a daily basis. In those cases, it’s worth checking that they still offer good value for money, or if you can get a better deal by looking elsewhere. Setting a calendar reminder and some research time before renewals are due could save you a significant amount.
Other recurring payments might be for products and services which are no longer required. Along with cancellation, you may have the option to pause your account or switch to a cheaper plan. Just make sure to download any historical data, as it will often be deleted by the provider.
Whether you’re deciding to continue or end a subscription, it’s often worth checking you’re making the most of the services on offer. Many providers will bundle related products together, and you might find you’ve missed out on something useful until now, or that a new launch means you can get more value from your investment. For example, we’ve compiled a list of the best invoicing tools and apps for freelancers, to save you time and money chasing clients for payment.
Consider your work location
Not every self-employed person has the freedom to choose their own working location. You may be required to work onsite with clients, in which case you might be able to cut travel and accommodation expenses by planning further in advance or commuting during off peak hours, for example.
Working remotely in a home office allows you to claim some costs against your tax liabilities. But it also potentially allows you to save on personal expenses, such as meal planning and batch cooking to lower food costs. You could also change your hours to save on childcare, or consider doing without a car if you’re rarely travelling for work or leisure.
Co-working spaces or rented offices can be expensive, but there are alternatives if you just prefer working in a more social setting. While your local coffee shop or café might have a minimum purchase required, your local library can offer various facilities alongside a place to work. Or local community groups and initiatives might have space you could utilise.
Save on equipment and software
It’s possible to invest in good quality equipment and software for your business without paying the full retail price. But before you shy away from the cost, it’s worth understanding how depreciation and capital allowance apply to physical business assets including computers, vehicles, office equipment and more.
In simple terms, the value of your new product will go down over time, until it reaches the end of its useful life. And this drop is taken into account for your profits and losses, and on your business balance sheet. It’s worth speaking with an accountant to see how this will apply directly to your individual purchases, especially if you’re planning to make a big investment in the near future.
But when it comes to actually buying a new computer, office chair or other supplies, you don’t necessarily have to buy something shiny and new. Choosing refurbished or recycled products could save you on your initial investment, and also helps reduce waste for an environmental benefit. And with a growing number of major brands offering returns or refurbs, you can even still get guarantees and warranties.
Sometimes it may be more cost effective to rent expensive equipment for projects until your business can justify ownership. Or you could look at shared ownership with other freelancers, or see if other companies have spare capacity you could utilise.
And when it comes to software, there are usually good open-source projects which are available as free alternatives to industry-standard solutions. While they may be slightly less polished and user-friendly in some cases, they can offer similar performance and results. And will generally export your work in a standard format that’s compatible with the products your clients are using.
Don’t dismiss paying for help
It may seem counter-intuitive, but many freelancers and self-employed professionals could actually save money by investing in paid support.
A good accountant will often be able to recommend savings which offset their bill, or even exceed it. And in addition to ensuring you’re not hit by unexpected tax penalties, it might also free up some of the time you’ve previously spent struggling to balance your books or submit returns.
But beyond that, there are often tasks in your business which could be effectively outsourced. Whether that’s bringing in a virtual assistant to help with your admin, or a more junior freelancer to tackle more basic work, it can free up more of your time to deliver higher-paying client projects. And developing the skills of those sub-contractors can allow you to expand your business. Plus, it can prevent you from being a single point of failure if you can’t work due to illness, or any other reason.
For more advice on freelance finances and saving money when you’re self-employed make sure to look at the range of guides and articles available in the IPSE Advice section, including sections dedicated to Financial Wellbeing, Self-employed tax, Insurance, and lots more.
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