Let’s face it, no one is getting rich by pursuing art. (Maybe a lucky few). It’s going to be a long and difficult road toward supporting myself fully with freelance writing; so far I have only published content I offered essentially for free (as a student payment is verboten, and Examiner has a pennies-per-pageview type setup which I realized exactly zero from). Most freelance writers have to be content with a byline and no remuneration for the first few “clips” so that they have something to include when querying the paying markets. By the way, don’t make the mistake, as I did at 22, of selecting only the publications offering upwards of three dollar signs in the Writer’s Market, when you’re just starting out… Whoops.
I spend most of my “writing” time researching right now: what I need for the business; how to get published; where to get published; whether my writing is a good fit for a magazine I’m attracted to… I should have prioritized investing in a decent printer, stationery, business cards, etc., so that I was ready to go before I got laid off. I can’t possibly expect to make even my first hundred dollars for at minimum eight weeks, and that’s if I submitted something complete to a paying market and it was accepted tomorrow. (Impossible). Only three months of severance pay left. So it’s time for… TA-DA! In addition to a big kick in the ass, a budget.
Personally, I dislike services such as Mint because they more or less require you to use your debit card, which I have all sorts of ethical problems with in terms of building up the big banks and tearing down small business. Carry some cash, people! Geez. Whatever system works for you, though… I recently downloaded a free app for my Kindle called Spensa Lite which I have been playing with and might be a convenient way to track expenditures I’d otherwise forget (where DID that $100 go?). But I am a big fan of the plain old workhorse spreadsheet, supplemented by pen and paper for notes on cash. (Writers carry little notebooks anyway, of course.) If you know some simple pivot table commands and you keep your sheet updated, it can provide you the same category summaries as a website without any potentially frightening personal information divulging, and be more customizable to your needs.
Pay attention to the pattern of the non-essentials and figure out where you can cut. If you spend a good bit out drinking, be old once in a while and try boxed wine and a Netflix movie. Starbucks addict? Make your coffee at home; with filtered water and freshly-ground, fair trade beans with a reusable cup, it’s better on so many levels anyway (yes, I’m a tree-hugger. What of it?). Cobble a good pair of leather boots every year or two instead of throwing away plastic ones every season. (Sometimes thrift means spend more on quality and not pay less.) I cut my own hair and “do” my own nails, which may be more than most girls can imagine, but I’m sure you can find creative ways to spend less and still enjoy yourself and feel beautiful (er, if you’re a woman; I’m not sure there’s an equivalent for guys– perhaps just “hot.”)
Since it’s April (finally Spring!) I tackled my taxes. Bummer! Since I rented out my condo to live with my boyfriend for part of the year, and worked all 12 months while claiming way more than zero, I am actually getting no refund. I owe quite a bit, actually. Ouch! I suppose the good news is that certainly won’t happen for 2013, seeing as I will have almost no income. Ha!
I do need to take the business side of this venture seriously to make sure that I’m able to get the maximum deduction from being self-employed. Unfortunately (for my lazy side), it seems advisable to get a separate bank account, to keep things simple. (You don’t have to get a separate tax ID, though, as a sole proprietorship; the income — if any– just goes on your SSN.) So far I have only spent a few dollars picking up some reference material and subscribing to select journals, which will not be difficult to add to the banking records. I will have to remember to keep receipts (I am definitely not in the habit, being a compulsive recycler and skeevy about pthalates and such) and not procrastinate with paperwork. A tall order.
If you started a home-based business, did you get a separate bank account? Were there particular big-ticket items you felt you had to invest in? How important is personalized stationery vs. a printed page with your contact information at the top? (I wonder!) Do you keep track of your finances carefully or freak out on April 14th? Please share!
Quick note: I’m going to call this series on finances for freelancers Wicked Thrifty Thursday as a nod to my former blog (which people really seemed to enjoy). I’ll be featuring a little discount shopping (clothing, home decor) to help us all feel fabulous even if we’re poor; what works for me for sticking to a budget and finding the right resources at the best price; and anything else money!