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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And overpaying is better than having an enormous bill at tax time, right?
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:
- Complete Guide to Launching Your First Side Business
- A Business Bank Account Can Instantly Help Your Side Hustle
- How to Negotiate Higher Freelance Rates and Earn More Money
- How to Become a Freelancer and Still Manage Your Student Loans
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!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.
Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit SoFi|
|2.47% – 5.87%1||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Earnest|
|2.47% – 8.03%4||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Lendkey|
|2.95% – 6.37%2||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Laurel Road|
|2.48% – 6.25%5||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit CommonBond|
|2.72% – 8.32%6||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Citizens|