6 Tips to Prioritizing Finances for the Self-Employed
So, you have decided to become self-employed. You’re probably aware of the costs it will take to get started. However, you should keep in mind the potential of rocky terrain on your road to riches — 6.3 percent of Americans were self-employed in 2017.1 If the past is prescient, a third of those who have their own business will have closed up shop within two years. We don’t know how many who were in the gig economy will have returned to a day job. If your endeavor is to survive, you should plan your finances to account for the ups and downs of being in business for yourself.
1. Save on Startup Costs
You may be tempted to purchase everything you need all at once before starting your self-employment phase, and buy the best and buy it at retail prices. You may be in an endeavor that doesn’t demand that kind of capital expenditure at the beginning. See if you can purchase assets in a good used condition. Look into sharing workspace with another entrepreneur, or even work out of your home if possible. If you need to advertise, focus on using free social media or getting coverage from a local news organization for press. Place a priority on what comes after the startup, running your business efficiently and successfully.
2. Organize a Budget
While you’re budgeting to save on startup costs, plan a budget for the next six months. Take a good survey of your situation and estimate your income. Be realistic about what you’re going to take in and what you can spend on your business and personal life. Because at the beginning, you’re likely to experience volatility in your income levels, it’s best to think what you might make on average. It may be difficult to gauge. Ask other people in your line of work how they’ve done to get an idea.
Your budget should include considerations of:
- Tax liability
- Health care and insurance costs
- Your debt
- A retirement plan or college fund if you have those.
- Expected business expenditures
Of course, you should pocket enough of your own money to survive each month. This may not be an issue for those in the gig economy. For those who have a business, there may be employees or vendors to satisfy as well. You want to prioritize yourself as you are the engine of your income, you’re the most important asset you have.
3. Separate Personal and Business Expenses
Track your personal spending separately from your business expenses. This may become important during tax time when you are making deductions. If you use your car in your side hustle, track how much gas you use for business as well as how much gas you’re using for personal errands.
4. Prioritize Saving
Because of the uncertainty surrounding self-employment, those involved may be tempted to keep their earnings in a checking account so they can easily grab it when they need it. You may want to do the opposite. Consider prioritizing saving rather than putting it on the back burner. Double the amount you put into your retirement accounts and section off a reasonable portion of your income for an emergency fund.
5. Don’t Forget Your Day-to-Day Life
While you may be enmeshed in the battle to become financially independent, you may still have other obligations that you have to account for. If you have kids, they need to be fed and clothed, and they will often need money for school supplies and field trips. You’ll have auto maintenance, dry cleaning and other personal expenses to consider. It’s easy to lose track of these when you’re focused on dominating your field.
6. Get Good Advice
Before stepping into the self-employment arena, talk to people who can give good advice. For your business concerns, talk to people who have already experienced what you’re about to go through. For concerns about savings, debt management and other financial issues, talk it over with a trusted financial advisor.