To be a successful freelancer, you have to understand money.
Being your own boss means negotiating your own rates, tracking your own invoices and managing your own freelance taxes.
I’ll be honest with you: The financial side of freelancing can be hard to master, especially if you’re the kind of freelancer who doesn’t like to remind clients about late payments or ask editors for more money.
Luckily, there are a lot of resources out there, whether you’re a first-time freelancer or a regular contributor at a major publication. We’ve got a list of 30 essential financial resources to help you manage your finances and earn more money.
1. Starting a Freelance Business (The Penny Hoarder)
If you’ve never freelanced before, I’ve written an article detailing everything you’re going to need to think about to ensure your business is successful. The article touches on how to make a profit, but it also looks at marketing, dealing with licenses and taxes, and more.
Consider it a brief overview of how freelance businesses work.
2. A 7-Day Plan for Starting Your Freelance Writing Side Gig (Creative Class)
Here’s how to put your freelance dreams into action. If you’re thinking about freelancing but don’t know what first steps to take, start with Day One — and yes, this seven-day plan does put you on the path to earning money as soon as possible.
You might send out your first money-making pitch by the end of the first week!
3. 10 Money-Making Tasks Successful Freelance Writers Do Every Day (The Write Life)
Now that you’ve started your freelance career, it’s time to boost your income. Michael Ofei has 10 money-making tasks to add to your daily routine. I do several of these tasks every day, and I can vouch that they do help you earn more money!
4. How to Calculate Your Hourly Rate (Freelancers Union)
Ian Balina takes you through the step-by-step process of calculating your ideal hourly rate. It’s a useful number to have at hand, whether you’re negotiating rates with a client or trying to decide whether a freelancing gig is worth your time.
5. Is it good for your soul, career, or wallet? How to decide if you should take a gig (Freelancers Union)
While you’re thinking about whether a freelancing gig is worth your time: this is one of my favorite freelancing articles, and it’s something I think about every time I consider taking a new assignment.
Read it and take its advice to heart.
6. How to Negotiate Better Rates Even When You Don’t Think You Can (The Freelancer)
I interviewed Katie Lane of Work Made For Hire to discuss strategies and tactics every freelancer can take to negotiate rates, even when negotiation feels impossible. These tactics have absolutely worked for me, so consider them highly recommended.
Gina Horkey of Horkey Handbook has a course designed to jumpstart your freelance career in just 30 days. If you follow her steps, you’ll define your niche, create your writers’ website, pitch your first potential clients and more.
You’ll also get access to a private Facebook group where you can share experiences and learn from other freelancers.
Paul Jarvis’s Creative Class teaches freelancers the business of being creative. You’ll study sales, marketing, how to price by value, and more.
Take the class by itself, or pay a little extra to join the Creative Class Slack channel and join a community of freelancers working to grow their businesses.
I have learned so much from Naomi Dunford’s IttyBiz, so I love recommending her stuff — especially when it’s free! The Growth Guidebook and Free Marketing Courses are designed to help you grow your small business and earn more money.
Dunford has free marketing courses for both writers and bloggers, so check them out to see if you learn a few things, too.
Here’s another resource I love recommending. Chris Guillebeau’s Unconventional Guides are packed full of useful information, and the Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing includes tips on making budgets, pitching clients, growing your business and more.
Freelance writers talk a lot about pitching articles, but that’s only one of the ways writers make money. You could write product copy. You could create email campaigns. You could manage a company’s social media account.
This Write Life guide — which I helped create — gives you 71 different ways to make money, as well as tips to help you get started.
John Soares created this guidebook to help freelance writers find lucrative writing niches. Some types of writing pay more than others, and learning how your skills and interests match up with high-earning niches will help you grow your career and your income.
13. The Mint Manual
Tim Murphy’s Mint Manual isn’t about freelance writing — instead, it’s about mastering the financial tracking program Mint so you can understand how much you’re earning, where your money is going and how to manage your cashflow more effectively.
I mentioned The Mint Manual, so we should also talk about Mint. You’ve probably already heard of it, if you’re not already using it.
This popular finance-tracking program helps you create budgets, set goals and track your income and expenses.
Like Mint, Level helps you quickly track your finances and see where your money is going. I like Level because I can easily sort my expenses into categories — food, bills, business and so on — and compare spending in each category over time.
Harvest provides both time-tracking and invoicing tools for freelancers who want to get paid for every hour they work. The program also helps you track expenses and even sends out automated payment reminders to clients who don’t pay on time!
Like Harvest, Freshbooks helps you track your time and expenses and quickly prepares invoices for clients. Freshbooks also includes automated payment reminders.
If you just want a quick way to track the amount of time you’re spending on a project — or want to compare “time spent writing” to “time spent answering email” — Toggl is the tool for you.
I used Toggl as part of my Tracking Freelance Earnings column to determine how much time I spent writing versus time spent doing other administrative tasks.
The more you know about how much administrative work it requires to complete each writing assignment, the better you can determine whether a freelance rate is worth the time it’ll take to complete the gig.
Carol Tice of Make a Living Writing also runs the Freelance Writers Den, a members-only online forum in which freelancers discuss everything from who’s hiring to how to renegotiate rates.
I was a Den member when I was starting out as a freelancer, and it was great to have a space in which to ask questions and learn from other writers. The Den keeps its membership small, so you might have to join a waiting list — but don’t let that discourage you from applying.
The Write Life has a Facebook group, and you should join! The group regularly discusses how to earn more money as well as how to improve our work — both win-wins, financially.
This Facebook group is exactly what it sounds like: a place for people to submit calls for submission. Check it out and see if any of the calls catch your eye. Then, submit!
Carrie Smith’s Careful Cents Club is designed to help freelancers “overcome all the obstacles that come with being your own boss.”
Check it out and see if it helps you overcome a few obstacles of your own.
Laura Shin calls her Ideas Words Empires community “a Genius Bar for your freelance life.”
She’s got amazing resources at her site, including an entire section on earning more money, so give it a visit and consider joining the community.
Other useful tools
24. Who Pays Writers
When I need to know how much a publication pays, I turn to Who Pays Writers. This site allows writers to anonymously submit rate information, as well as word count, who kept the rights and other important details.
The Freelancer has another great rates resource, so check it out if you’re looking to find out how much a site is likely to pay.
If you can’t find a publication’s rates info on Who Pays Writers, it might be in The Freelancer’s database — or vice-versa.
I know I linked to a couple of Freelancers Union articles above, but I want you to add this entire website to your resource list. I turn to Freelancers Union for information on tax deductions, rate negotiations and more.
They’ve got a job board, regular meetups and an online community you can join.
27. A task-tracking system
Every freelancer needs a good task-tracking system — otherwise, how will you know which of your clients still owe you money?
Figure out what task-tracking system works for you, and use it to keep on top of both your deadlines and your income.
28. A CPA
Don’t put off getting a CPA because you think you can’t afford it. A good certified public accountant will handle your freelance taxes — and tell you how much to set aside for estimated taxes — for a few hundred bucks, which is more than worth the cost!
Plus, once you start building a relationship with a CPA, you’ll have someone to turn to with those other business questions like, “Should I become a LLC?”
29. A good network
Build your freelance network now, and it will pay you back later.
Follow your favorite writers and editors on Twitter. If you had a good experience with an editor, pitch that editor again. If you know someone who’d be a great fit for a gig, recommend that person’s work.
The more you connect with other people in your field, the more they’ll help you out — and the more you can help them out in return.
30. A savings account
I put 10 percent of every freelance check into a savings account, and it’s one of the smartest financial moves I’ve made. A savings account helps buffer you through freelance lulls, and it also allows you to take on bigger, higher-paying projects that might take a few months to complete. Just make sure to pay your savings account back once you get paid!
Which of these resources are you excited about exploring? Let us know if you’ve tried any of these courses or joined any of these groups, and add your own financial resource recommendations in the comments!
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