3 Steps to Freelancing with Financial Stability

Jan 24, 2013

In 2011, independent musician JD Samson wrote a hugely popular article called “I Love My Job, But It Made Me Poorer.” Her piece struck a chord with us because it speaks to something we believe is very important: being able to pursue your passion while having enough to secure a meaningfully independent lifestyle.

In order to achieve this, you need tools that create financial stability. Here are some steps from Sara Horowitz’s new book, The Freelancer’s Bible, which can help you get on the road to financial stability.

Step 1: Know Your Worth

Are you charging the appropriate amount for your work? Here are 5 fee-setting strategies you should keep in mind:

**Track your time, task by task. **There are many online tools to help you find additional resources. By using searching phrases like: “personal time tracking,” “free time tracking software,” or “time tracking freeware,” you will be sure to discover the tools you feel most comfortable with.

**Avoid feast or famine pricing and know your rock bottom. **Find the zone that reflects your value, but leaves room to negotiate. Going too high causes stress and costs time as you prep for a gig that you price yourself out of. Also, know your lowest number—the one you won’t go below, no matter how great the gig is.

Do your homework. Learn the benchmarks for rates in your industry. Check industry discussion boards and professional networking sites where people swap stories, strategies, magazines, and books.

Educate the client about what you’re worth. Calculating and communicating your value to your clients is your job: “I see it as a service to my client to be clear about what I’m worth and why. It’s not their job to know what I do. A really good freelancer makes it look effortless. So I make sure my clients know something of the skill and thought that go into my work. It shows my chops and shows that I care.”

**Don’t fear fluctuation. **Quote ’em as you see ’em! Do you see hours of meetings and revisions in your future? Think of the cost to you of serving that client – and the time you won’t have for other projects.

Step 2: Get Rid of Debt

As a freelancer, unlike your counterparts in the traditional workforce, you must be able to apportion funds into accounts to cover regular expenses, as well as to pay taxes and benefits. You also need to know how to buy health insurance and plan for retirement. This is very difficult to accomplish if you have massive amounts of debt.

**Dump the bad old spending habits. **If you’ve got a credit card balance, quit using your credit cards. Debit cards, too. Return to a simpler, more direct relationship with your money.

Be choosy. Compare credit card services and terms (including looking for a card with no annual fee or one with a permanent lower interest rate). Visit a website that lets you compare cards, such as Bankrate (bankrate.com) or CardTrak (cardtrak.com).

**Try negotiating a lower interest rate. **If you’ve incurred some interest charges but have a good credit history and payment record, try negotiating a better interest rate as a valued client.

**Call. **If you realize you’ve missed a bill payment deadline, send payment ASAP, call to let them know, and ask if they’ll waive any late charges. If you’ve been a reliable paying client, they might.

Calculate your rate. To calculate various debt repayment scenarios—such as how long it would take to pay off X amount in credit card debt, at Y interest rate, if you pay Z amount per month, and how much would be paid in interest—plug numbers into an online debt calculator.

Step 3: Consider Passive Income

Passive income is a freelancer’s best friend. Look for ways to slice, dice, expand, and retool your ideas. A talk can become a webinar, recorded and sold online. That webinar could become a series, bundled and sold as a course. For listeners or readers, your material could be developed into an audiobook or an e-book. Below are just a few examples:

**Lectures, talks, workshops, and seminars. **Pitch a talk tailored to an organization whose membership or customers would be a good match with your topic. They provide the venue and promote to their mailing list and media contacts. You bring your amazing self and your knowledge, plus some goodies to give away and/or sell.

**Webinars/Webcasts. **A webcast may have more of a “talking to” feeling. A webinar has a “talking with” aspect, allowing communication between speaker and audience. You could charge for the live webinar, for a recording of it, or for products you promote within it. You might create several paid or free webinars to later sell as a series or spin e-books out of the content.

**Books. **Publishing a book used to be something most people could only aspire to. No more. While there are still many publishers out there doing the standard publishing arrangement, you can also pursue self-publishing: making your own arrangements directly with a publishing service, publishing digital books (e-books) or physical books (print-on-demand technology makes storing inventory a thing of the past).

By utilizing a combination of tools, techniques, and other independents in your network, you can manage your business while pursuing your passion. Ultimately, you'll be able to say that you love your job without it making you poorer.