It’s important to manage and plan your business and personal finances when you’re self-employed, allowing you to see potential problems before they impact you. And it doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming, especially if you’re using some of the best budgeting apps and tools for freelancers.
There’s no single recommendation or rankings for the software solutions, as your needs and preferences will vary depending on the size of your business, your familiarity with financial matters, and what you find easiest to use. But whether you’re budgeting with an app, spreadsheet or pen and paper, the key thing is that you actually start working on your financial projections.
Knowing that there’s a gap in upcoming income or when costs might rise gives you more time to find new work or an increased commitment from existing clients. Budgeting will also expose unnecessary costs or any overlooked investments in required products and services. And it will help you to build up an emergency fund for any unplanned expenses.
Money management can be daunting or overwhelming, whether you’re a veteran freelancer or just starting your first project. But your personal and business finances will benefit from the attention at any stage of your career.
Whether you’re working as a limited company or a sole trader, separate bank accounts are always a good idea to keep things distinct and make tax and other calculations easier. So, it makes sense that you may want different budgeting apps for each part of your finances.
Many of the business budgeting tools have grown from more simple payment tools, so you might already have seen them in our list of the best invoicing apps and tools for freelancers. And if you’ve only been using one for issuing bills, it might be the prompt you need to utilise the additional budgeting functionality for your business.
The best business budgeting apps and tools:
30-day free trial
Starts from £8 per month
Accounting software which covers everything from invoicing to expenses. And it includes a good selection of reporting and budget tools, plus the ability to separate personal and business expenses. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but you’ll find plenty of financial professionals able to offer support with setting everything up, and there are a wide range of apps, add-ons and integrations to build on the core functionality.
30-day free trial
Starts from £12 per month
Another solution which builds on invoicing with a suite of cloud-based accountancy and budgeting features. As with many of the other options on the list, the range of features increases if you opt for a more expensive subscription, but all plans include capturing bills and receipts, and reconciling bank transactions. You can also capture bills and receipts via Hubdoc, and select specific add-ons where extra functionality is required.
30-day free trial
Starts from £11 per month or £9.90 per month billed annually
Designed for small and medium-sized businesses, Freshbooks is easily capable of simple budgeting tasks. Along with invoicing and expenses, it’s easy to navigate and integrate your accounts with other software. Againl, there's a dedicated AppStore for Freshbooks with free and paid options to expand what you can use the platform to manage, including cash flow and budget tools.
Free 30-day trial
Free with Natwest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank NI and Mettle business accounts
Paid plans from £19 per month
Another option which is simple and easy to use, but limited for more complex tasks. Automated features include invoices, expense tracking and real-time cash flow monitoring.
Free 14-day trial
From £49 per month (or £39 per month billed annually)
If you’re already using Xero, QuickBooks or FreeAgent and want to add additional functionality, then you might want to check out the Float add-on. It automatically syncs with your invoicing and accounting to provide cash flow forecasting based on real-time information, and allows you to model short and long-term scenarios, along with comparing your budgets with actual performance.
Many freelancers and self-employed professionals will be able to manage their careers through relatively simple budgeting tools. And will tend to opt for accountants or other financial support when their business requires more complex solutions. But if you’re scaling up and need inhouse solutions, then options include Planning Maestro, Adaptive Planning, Spendesk, or Scoro to handle areas like payroll, company spending, approvals and more.
The best personal budget apps and tools:
YNAB (You Need A Budget)
Free 34-day trial
$14.99 per month or $8.25 per month paid annually
While it might appear to be for U.S users, YNAB will work with most UK bank accounts (check their list to ensure your bank is included), and provides a stylish approach to a hands-on zero-based budgeting system. This approach means deciding what to do with every penny of your income, whether it’s for spending, saving or investments.
That requirement for a more committed approach will appeal to anyone who wants to get really pro-active with managing their money.
Originally launched in 2010 and a multiple award winner at The British Bank Awards for the UK's Best Personal Finance App, Money Dashboard includes some features which you'd have to pay to access with some other services. These include creating custom categories for expenses, and adding 'offline' accounts which you can update manually. That's on top of connecting your bank accounts, tracking your spending, setting budgets, and and monitoring your regular payments and subscriptions.
- Free, with paid options from £9.99 per month
The Emma mobile app will connect with more than 30+ UK banks to analyse your transactions, track and categorise your expenses, and invest in commission-free stock trading if you want.
Free, with paid options from £1 per month
Another free mobile app which allows you to link your bank accounts and credit cards to track bills and payments. Along with offers and investments, the Ultra paid plan will also transfer your cash into a 1.15% AER account and keep it there as long as possible to earn interest, with weekly cash flow going back into your everyday account to cover your spending.
Moneyhub also uses open banking to allow you to connect accounts, credit cards, mortgages, pensions, and investments, alongside any other manually added assets. And once again, you can track and analyse your spending, and then set budgets and goals for saving.
Budget by Koody
Free, with a Pro version for £1 per month
The USP of Budget by Koody is that you get lots of features, including tracking your spending, reminders, insights, and uploading receipts. But it doesn’t require you to connect your bank accounts, if you’re worried about privacy and security.
With any business or personal budgeting app and tool, it’s important to ensure your data is secure, and that any services are regulated by the UK Financial Conduct Authority. Some of the apps are focused on a specific method of managing your budget, whether that’s zero-based, or using a category system to allocate your income into specific pots (sometimes also called piggy banks, or the envelope system).
For example, it’s often recommended you start with a 50/30/20 personal budget, putting half of your income after tax towards necessary expenses like rent and food, around 30% to luxuries and leisure, and at least 20% to savings or repaying debts.
Whatever method you use, and whichever apps you choose, the most important thing is to start deciding your financial goals for your self-employed business and personal life. And to begin creating budgets and projections to help you achieve those aims.
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