Freelancers often operate on a tight budget – and that means wrestling with money decisions. Sure, you should invest in your business’ success; but what’s a good investment, and what can you live without? These are the 4 things I’ve never regretted putting money into – and I think the same is true for most freelancers!

Skills

I am a big – nay, a huge – believer in investing money in building skills.

Numerous studies have shown that experiences – not material goods – are what we gain the most satisfaction from after a purchase. Putting your money into skill-building is, at its core, investing in yourself… and that’s invaluable.

Continuing education not only keeps you professionally competitive; it also opens your mind and keeps your thinking flexible.

Invest in a great class. Purchase sessions with a reputable coach. Heck, explore a interesting skill altogether tangential to your freelancing career; it’ll make you a more intriguing, well-rounded person, and that’s the kind of person clients want on their team.

Tools that help you rise to the next level

I could, technically speaking, do all of my freelance writing on generic software – and the quality of the writing would be about the same.

I invest, however, in slightly more expensive name-brand software because it’s the industry standard - it makes working with clients much easier, and (most importantly) it brands me as a professional.

It might be superficial, but image is everything: You'd never see a pro athlete out of top-of-line sportswear, so treat your own business to the same level of professionality.

Join the Union (it's free!)

Become a member

Tools that make your life easier

From an internal perspective, if there's a tool out there that makes your life significantly easier, then by all means get it.

If a tool will help you eliminate time-wasters or do tasks more accurately, or if it will help you work markedly faster, better, and more efficiently… it’s probably worth the money.

From the dawn of recorded time, humans have been using tools to make their working lives a bit easier. If a new laptop is going to be unspeakably better than your current unreliable machine, it’s worth sucking up the cost.

GOOD marketing materials

Again, this may seem not seem fair. The freelancer with the generic, white-paper flier may be every bit as good as that guy with the great website, but Joe Generic is less likely to get the gig.

It’s worth investing in good marketing – both online and offline – in order to make a great first impression.

Aim for memorable, clean, readable marketing materials; make sure to check twice for accuracy. Strongly consider investing in expert help, like a graphic designer or website developer.

You don’t need to pour your money into these areas all at once; take it slowly, step-by-step, building your business as you go.

Invest judiciously in your freelancing, and it will invest in you – landing you better clients, more consistent work, and an easier, more self-sustaining lifestyle.

Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.