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How to Maximize your Return on Freelance Work

How to Maximize your Return on Freelance Work

Freelance work may be one of the more difficult ways to make a living out there. Between tax headaches, feast-and-famine cycles, and sometimes having to undertake tasks that either don’t pay well enough or are just plain uninteresting, freelancing can often seem like an unnecessarily tough way to make a living. However, there are some measures you can take to be successful and still work on the schedule that suits your lifestyle and income needs.

1. Know the value of your work.

This crucial first step is where many freelancers make a mistake that can haunt them for months or even years. Sit down and make an honest evaluation of your skills and what you bring that makes you different, better, or more capable than others. Once you have done this, look into what others are charging for comparable services. If you can do better than they can for less, this will give you a good starting point to set your rates. Your clients will want to negotiate, and if the level of work makes it worthwhile, then by all means, do so. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to stick to your guns. Remember, you’re trying to create a mutually beneficial situation. That won’t happen if the client has final control of your payout.

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2. Treat your job like a job.

Freelancing seems like a fun way to make money in the short term. The problem is, especially if you are working on the Internet, you will have to structure your time so you can best serve your clients. When your clients are largely in the same country as you, this is one thing. However, especially when you are working from a different continent, you may need to be willing to make some concessions in your schedule. This will make it more likely you will get more work, because your clients will appreciate the extra effort you put in to accommodate them.

3. Manage your time wisely.

Procrastination is the enemy when it comes to working as a freelancer. Many clients schedule tasks for the quickest possible turnaround. Do not be afraid to tell a client you need more time to complete a project if the restrictions are unreasonable or you’ve run into a snag, but it is vitally important that you don’t abuse this. Most clients are willing to be understanding if they ask for something that is simply impossible, but if you blow off work for the beach, word will get around.

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4. Be clear on the requirements.

If there are any vagaries in the client’s requirements, don’t be afraid to seek clarification. For example, a client who agrees to pay $30 per 1,500-word article and orders a 15,000-word article but keeps the price the same was either not paying attention or hoping to get the maximum work for minimum payout. If possible, have a contract in place with the client specifying your rates for different lengths or types of work. Remember to allow a little wiggle room for extra research, time, or effort on your part.

5. Don’t forget about taxes.

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13 Freelancers, Good and Bad, Which Are You?

    Tax laws and requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but one thing that’s universal: You will have to pay them. Be sure to set aside an appropriate percentage of your income monthly, quarterly, or annually. It is generally better to pay monthly and overpay, at least under the US tax code, to avoid having to pay a larger lump sum at the end of the fiscal year. Independent contractors usually start at 30% for taxes, so being able to set aside 40-50% per pay period is ideal to avoid penalties and ensure a return at the end of the year.

    6. Sell yourself.

    Think of taking on new clients as a job interview and emphasize the talents you have that make you a better fit for a client’s needs. You are trying to market yourself to the client as the solution to their problems. At the same time, you need to make sure the people you are working for are going to be a good fit for you as well. This will help avoid friction and create a more harmonious working relationship. Be confident and clear about what you can deliver, as well as what client support you will need to be as productive as possible. By setting clear expectations, you can avoid a lot of problems before they ever have the chance to become problems.

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    7. Network, network, network.

    Being a freelancer can be hard work. Bearing this in mind, networking is critical to your success. Seek out new opportunities and ask current clients for references. Sites such as LinkedIn and Google+ are good for making connections. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for referrals or to renew a contract when the work is done. This may sound gauche, but there’s nothing wrong with “overhearing” someone at a restaurant, bar, or on the street mentioning they need exactly what you do…and stepping in to offer your services! The worst they can say is no, and you’ve just gained a new opportunity to prove yourself.

    8. Be a pack rat.

    Always hold on to copies of anything you do for a client, invoices you generate, payment records, contracts, receipts, and communications. Not only are these helpful for generating a profile of your capabilities, but it also makes tax and other record-keeping simple and efficient. Having a good organizational system that allows for at-a-glance order tracking and monitoring is imperative to keeping appropriate records. It’s also great for task management! Hold onto these for no less than three years after the contract is terminated, just so you can reference them if necessary. And ALWAYS keep a hard copy, because one virus and your great organization is trashed. At a minimum, you should keep copies of your records on your hard drive, in a filing cabinet, on a detachable stick or other drive, and it’s never a bad idea to email yourself copies of everything at least monthly. This ensures you have the information in a number of areas at the same time, so a catastrophic loss here won’t affect your data there.

    By following these 8 simple steps, you can maximize your freelance work return in no time!

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2019

    How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

    How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

    Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

    Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

    Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

    This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

    Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

    What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

    Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

    When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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    How It Leads to Financial Improvement

    It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

    Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

    Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

    It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

    Types of Personal Finance Software

    When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

    Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

    For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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    Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

    When to Use Personal Finance Software

    So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

    Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

    1. You Have Multiple Accounts

    There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

    If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

    Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

    2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

    Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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    There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

    With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

    3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

    Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

    Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

    Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

    4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

    Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

    You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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    How to Get Started

    From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

    Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

    It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

    When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

    Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

    Final Thoughts

    Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

    In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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