6 Essential Tools for Managing Your Finances as a Freelancer

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the financial institution.

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When you start freelancing, you become a boss, marketer, and accountant all in one. It’s overwhelming, to say the least.

If you prefer to focus on the creative aspect of your business, you might not have experience with the financial side of things. But you can’t afford to ignore your money. Keeping careful tabs on your freelancer finances can help you earn more money and reduce stress.

Here are six tools that will help you manage money (and contracts and time) as a freelancer. I’ve included some of my favorites — as well as a few tools I’d like to check out.

6 tools to help you manage money as a freelancer

1. FreshBooks

manage money as a freelancer

Image credit: FreshBooks

An oldie but a goodie, FreshBooks has been my cloud accounting software since I started freelancing.

Its easy-to-use interface helps you track time, send invoices, and import expenses directly from your credit card. Its reports also make end-of-year accounting a breeze. It’s free for up to three clients, $15 per month for up to five, and $25 per month for up to 50.

“I don’t freelance much anymore,” marketer Jess Segraves said, “but FreshBooks was fantastic for billing (and most of my clients used it too).”

FreshBooks is far from the only cloud accounting software, though. Here are some popular alternatives:

  • Bonsai: Relatively new to the scene, Bonsai costs $19 per month for a suite of services that includes contract creation, e-signing, time tracking, and invoicing.
  • Wave: Wave is free for invoicing and expense tracking, with extra fees for payroll and credit card processing.
  • Harvest: Harvest is free for two projects and $12 per month for unlimited projects. Most famous for its time tracking, this app also offers accounting functions like expense tracking and invoicing, similar to the other software on this list. Writer Dana Sitar uses it to collect payments.
  • QuickBooks Self-Employed: Travel blogger Stephanie Zito called this app “Tinder for expense tracking” because it lets you swipe right for business expenses and left for personal ones. “My finance life is better than my dating life,” she joked. It also lets you track mileage, create invoices, and calculate your quarterly taxes. It costs $10 per month.

2. Digit

financial management for freelancers

Image credit: Digit

When Digit announced it would begin charging a monthly fee of $2.99, I closed my account. Then, a few weeks later, I reopened it.

Why? Because saving money as a freelancer is hard. With an unpredictable income, you can’t schedule automatic transfers — say, $100 every month — because what if it’s a lean month and you don’t have enough?

That’s why I love Digit. It uses an algorithm to analyze your bank account and calculate safe amounts to transfer to savings. You’ll often see multiple withdrawals per week for anywhere from a few bucks to nearly a hundred dollars. If you happen to overdraft, Digit will cover the fees.

Don’t want to pay a monthly fee? Give Qapital a shot. It allows you to create rules that trigger automatic savings. For example, every time you make a Sephora purchase (guilty pleasure), you contribute $10 toward your retirement account.

3. Acorns

manage money as a freelancer

Image credit: iTunes

Although I love Digit for saving for emergencies and fun stuff, I’ve considered signing up for Acorns so I can save for retirement more easily (because, hello, we freelancers aren’t getting pensions in our golden years).

After you sign up with Acorns and connect your credit or debit card, it rounds up the “change” from every purchase and puts it into an investment account. For example, if you spend $23.56 on dinner, Acorns will invest 44 cents.

It’s not a lot, but it adds up. By setting aside $5 every few days, you could invest close to $1,000 in a year. And by retirement time, that number will have grown exponentially.

For college students, it’s free. For everyone else, it costs $1 per month.

4. HelloSign

manage money as a freelancer

Image credit: HelloSign

The only way to get paid as a freelancer? To fill out your W-9s and sign your contracts.

I don’t know about you, but even if I had a printer and scanner, I’d rather do that stuff online. Enter HelloSign.

It syncs with Gmail, allowing you to open documents directly in the platform. All you have to do is pop in your signature and the date, and then, boom, you have a legally binding document.

It’s free for up to three documents per month or $15 per month for unlimited documents.

5. Painless1099

manage money as a freelancer

Image credit: Painless1099

Taxes are one of the hardest parts of running your own business. Since nobody’s taking them out of your paycheck, you need to do it yourself.

The problem: It’s hard to remember and even harder to calculate how much to set aside.

Painless1099 takes the guesswork out of the process. You funnel your earnings into its “smart bank account.” Then, based on your info, the platform withholds a certain amount for taxes and deposits the rest into your personal checking account.

When it’s time for quarterly estimated taxes, it even allows you to make payments directly to the IRS.

Painless1099 charges 0.35 percent of each deposit you make into the smart bank account, which it estimates comes out to $8 per month for most users.

The other caveat? It doesn’t track your business expenses, so it might withhold more than necessary sometimes. But since freelancers generally don’t have much overhead, it shouldn’t be a big problem.

And overpaying is better than having an enormous bill at tax time, right?

6. Cushion

financial management for freelancers

Image credit: Cushion

Another tool I hadn’t heard about until recently — but think is pretty cool — is Cushion. Designed by freelancers, its aim is to help you manage your fluctuating income and time.

With regard to income, let’s say you want to earn $50,000 over the year. Instead of remaining static, Cushion automatically readjusts your monthly goal based on whether you earned more or less in the prior month.

It also allows you to set more than one financial goal. So, you could have a “must earn this much to pay my bills” goal plus a “here’s what I’d love to earn” goal.

Time wise, it helps you manage projects over the long-term by letting you easily visualize when you’re overbooked and when you’re free.

Like other tools, it allows you to track your time and send invoices. It costs $5 per month for up to five clients and five invoices per year or $10 per month for the unlimited version.

Still overwhelmed by the challenge of managing money as a freelancer? Here are a few posts that might help:

And if you’re looking for something that will help you manage your overall financial health, freelance writer Jamie Cattanach called Mint a “godsend,” and travel writer Mike Sowden said You Need a Budget is “brilliant.”

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
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Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student Loan RefinanceFixed rates from 3.999% APR to 7.804% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.480% APR to 7.524% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.480% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.07% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-8.17% (2.72%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.50%-8.69% (3.50% – 8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Average savings based on 18,113 actual customers who refinanced their federal and private student loans through our Education Refinance Loan between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. The calculation is derived by averaging the monthly savings of Education Refinance Loan customers whose payments decreased after refinancing, which is calculated by taking the monthly student loan payments prior to refinancing minus the monthly student loan payments after refinancing. The borrower’s savings might vary based on the interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of the loans they are seeking to refinance. The borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if their monthly payments are lower.
2.57% – 5.87%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.80% – 6.38%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 7.52%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 7.99%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.57% – 6.65%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.72% – 8.17%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.