Although being a freelancer has a lot of advantages, there are a few months where you have to give it all up to get a steady paycheck and feel secure that you can pay the bills.
Fortunately, there is a way to override the anxious feelings caused by a dry month. We're talking about an emergency savings fund. Being prepared for an emergency can give you peace of mind during lean times. However, building a solid emergency fund can be difficult due to shifting income. We've put together three strategies that can help.
1. Develop a friendship with the "zero-sum budget"
If you want to build an emergency fund, your first step should be to set up a budget. The only way to diligently allocate money toward savings each month is when you have a good grip on your spending. A zero-sum budget is one of the best ways for freelancers and contractors to get started.
The idea is simple: live off the income from last month. Rather than counting on your future paycheck, only look at what you earned in the previous month.
Putting a budget in place by spending every penny may seem a little crazy, but it will help build it up over time. I know, you're probably thinking, "What a crazy approach.". However, spending in this sense does not necessarily mean going on a shopping spree. This is simply the process of assigning each dollar to a particular expense each month.
Start by writing down your bills. Describe all your expenses, from rent and insurance to Netflix. Create a list of any debt payments you have to make and any savings goals you have. Now, allocate a certain amount for each expense bucket. If you take a look at the bare essentials, you'll quickly see how much you need to spend. Additionally, you'll be able to find areas where you can cut expenses during months where you don't have a large cash flow.
As your income fluctuates, so will the assignments you are paying for. There will be months when you'll be able to save more and repay more debt, and there will be months when you'll need to cut back to cover essentials.
It is likely that you will have months - or many months - when your income for the previous month will not be sufficient to cover your living expenses. That's why freelancers should have an emergency savings fund buffer. There is a little wiggle room to remain above water when it comes to meeting your basic needs.
2. About 45 percent of each paycheck goes into savings
It's understandable. It's painful to hear that you have to set aside 45 percent of your income for savings. For those serious about building savings and being able to pay quarterly estimated taxes, they should set aside 45 percent of their paycheck each month. It's important to ensure that amount is put away, no matter how large or small.
You should know that it all does not go into the same pot. You should set aside 30 percent of the profits for taxes, and 5 percent for reinvestment in your business. The remaining 10 percent should be put toward emergency savings. Your remaining funds can be used to cover living costs or invest further in your business.
With only 10 percent from each paycheck, it takes time to build an emergency fund. If you are diligent about stashing it away, you can accumulate three months' worth of savings in no time.
3. Establish a specific and realistic goal for building an emergency fund
That sounds silly. Nevertheless, simply saying, "I'm looking for an emergency fund buffer," is not helpful. Based on what you reasonably require during a dry month, you need a specific metric that you're trying to achieve.
Some people maintain a savings account where they try to save up two months' worth of bills. Those bills include rent, utilities, insurance, and cell phones. Additionally, some people like to accumulate three months of living expenses in a savings account that includes the cost of living, including transportation and groceries. The goal is more specific as well as more realistic with numbers corresponding to each sum.
Whenever planning your goals, start with trying to put aside one month's worth of living expenses. So during a dry month, you might have $30 to put towards the savings account, but perhaps $700 during a flushed month. If you have a checking account just for paying bills, you can manage your money for those needs more effectively.
Even if it takes some time to reach your goal, it's worth it. Putting your focus on incredibly specific goals will make achieving them easier than merely wanting to "build an emergency fund.".