This great post originally appeared on the Down-to-Earth Finance blog.
It's not an oxymoron, I promise you. Many business owners and freelancers I work with pride themselves on their creative talents. They also take take pride in their lack of financial acumen. Once we go through these simple, yet necessary steps, they are astonished how easy it is to now count financial know-how as a skill! When my clients see how quickly they are able to set up regular streamlined money habits, they embrace it with full charge. 1) Keep It Separate. Opening a checking account is one of the easiest things to do, even in this troubled banking and credit economy. Separate personal checking from business checking. A benefit is that when tax time rolls around, you are clearer about your expenses and deductions and can pay less taxes. 2) Send Invoices First Thing in the Day. Many of my clients complain about not getting paid. As my Mom used to say, eat the food on your plate you like the least. Same goes for your money task. Send invoices out right away, so your checks can roll in regularly. 3) Prioritize Your Retirement Account. Contribute to it automatically, even if only $100 per month. I spoke to a 47-year-old woman who was earning $100,000 plus for more than 15 years but had never opened a retirement account. To say she is bitter is to say the least.... Have that money going to a ROTH or SEP IRA. You really won't miss it. 4) Have a Feast or Famine Spending Plan. Clients come and go. Projects ramp up and shut down. But you still have to eat and buy shampoo. Having a set weekly amount to spend takes out a huge amount of stress. The key is to have an amount to spend when times are good and a different amount when times are not so good. 5) Create a Tax Savings Account. Find out your tax rate from your accountant. Then with every payment you receive, take that percentage and put it into a separate savings account. When estimated tax time rolls around, you have that money set aside. It even might earn a little interest in the meantime.... Never hurts! 6) Learn to Read a Profit and Loss Statement. Again, this is where my creative clients look at me with a blank stare. This is the meat and potatoes of your business. This gives you a clear snapshot of your expenses and revenue. It can also help you evaluate where your best business came from, where the greatest percentage of your money is going and how much you should project for future expenses. Don't brush it off, it pays in the long run. One final note, you don't have to create the statement, hire a good bookkeeper and focus on just reading it. -Galia Gichon