Taking the leap to go freelance? Emma Gannon offers her top 8 budgeting tips

Author and broadcaster Emma Gannon lets us in on the secrets of staying money savvy in the world of self-employment

In a modern climate of hyperconnectivity and a closer corporate focus on emotional wellbeing, the world is rapidly adapting to the concept of flexible working. In fact, according to research carried out by NatWest (in partnership with cross-party think tank Demos), the number of highly skilled female freelancers has grown by 67% since 2008, as increasingly more of us are trading in our traditional nine-to-fives’ to join the ‘liquid workforce’ – a group including anyone that chooses to dip their toe into the exotic sea of self-employment.

Although making the move to freelance is an exciting process, it’s hard not to get bogged down by concerns that you needn’t consider in the traditional workforce, such as figuring out how to pay your own salary or finding the right pension scheme for you.

Here to ease your freelance woes is Emma Gannon, host of award-winning podcast, Ctrl, Alt, Delete. Emma, a freelancer of four years, has linked up with NatWest to launch a new guide for freelancers to help them work out their next move. Covering everything from time-management, to personal finances and ‘finding your tribe’, here are Emma’s top tips on leaping into the unknown territory of freelance employment…

1. Open up a business bank account

‘The first thing I did after going freelance was set up a company – as it’s a great way of having both a business and a personal account. I have my personal account, which covers all my personal finances, and then all my work-related payments go in and out of my business account. Keeping separate accounts will allow you to have the work/life separation that you can sometimes lose when you’re self-employed.’

2. Pay yourself a salary

‘Once you’ve separated your business and personal bank accounts, pay yourself a monthly salary into your personal one. Even if you’ve worked with a big client and had a good income that month, it’s important to keep the amount consistent to even out the ‘lumpy’ salary that many freelancers are all too familiar with. If you’d like to book a holiday or treat yourself and pay more one month, then even it out by paying yourself less the following month to stagger the amount out throughout the year.’

3. Enlist help with invoices

‘Working out your own invoices will eat up a lot of valuable time. When first starting out, you mightn’t be able to hire an accountant for your invoicing, but there are some great tools available to help you out. You can open a digital business account with Natwest called Mettle, which helps you create and send invoices. Software such as FreeAgent is also available to automatically chase overdue invoices, so you don’t have to worry about tarnishing any relationships by constantly chasing for money owed. Remember to remind contractors of the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Act (1998), which means you have the right to charge interest on overdue accounts.’

4. Spreadsheets are your best friend

‘The upside of going freelance is that I’ve never been more on top of my finances in my life. It’s very manual in terms of having to work our your own taxes and VAT (if you need to register this), but as long as you have some sort of spreadsheet that explains all of the different figures, you can track what you’ve saved throughout the year and look at putting any excess funds into a pension.’

5. Manage your time effectively

‘The amazing thing about running your own business is you can work whenever you want, but it’s up to you to put down those boundaries so you’re not constantly on the clock. I work better in the evenings, so if it means having a slow morning and then being really productive later on then that works for me. I also focus on one thing at a time rather than trying to multi-task.’

6. Find your tribe

To avoid feeling lonely, I work from co-working spaces because you can recreate that office vibe easily whilst also being around likeminded people. It’s not just about going there, sitting at your desk and leaving without talking to anyone – they hold events where you can make new business connections. There are plenty of apps such as The Wing that connect you to other people. It takes a bit of work initially, but once you find your tribe of fellow freelancers it’s amazing.’

 7. Work on your personal brand

‘If you’re keen to maximise on your earning potential, focus first on your personal brand – there are so many other freelancers out there doing the same job as you, so why should that contractor pick you? It’s important to realise what your unique offering is, be it by investing into your website or the way you come across to new potential contacts. Put yourself at the centre and celebrate why you’re the best person for the job.’

8. Don’t be afraid to talk about money

‘I always encourage people to speak in actual numbers to their fellow community of freelancer friends. At dinner the other night with some friends, we talked about what we were earning and discovered that one of us had actually been unfairly paid. If you’re someone that believes in equality and helping other people out, it’s important to be honest about the money side of things.’

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