Five Money Moves for Gig Entrepreneurs

As a freelance writer, I like the independence that comes with gig work. I also like interacting with a variety of clients, setting my own schedule and working from home in jeans and a t-shirt.

But I’m not so crazy about the administrative, record keeping and money management tasks that are part of the picture. I’d much rather devote time to the actual work I enjoy doing.

Sound familiar?

The reality is that any entrepreneur – gig or otherwise – needs a back office of some sort. January is an ideal month to look at where you are and make adjustments for the year to come. Consider these five tips to get the money side of your business in good shape:

1) Find a good accountant. This advice came from just about every 40-and-older entrepreneur I interviewed for my book. It isn’t enough to locate someone who can prepare financial statements, however. A “good” accountant is someone who understands your business and gives you a strong comfort level. Trust your gut. It may take some digging and a few meetings to find the right person.

2) Set up systems. Think about how to accept payments (a good problem) and keep track of time, invoices and out-of-pocket expenses, among other things. These systems don’t have to be fancy. I use Excel spreadsheets to log hours and make notes. Bruce Summers, a Northern Virginia-based personal historian and Collaboration/Community Practice Coach, uses a combination of methods. For his personal history gigs, he uses Flash drives, digital file folders and project boxes to store hard copies of photos, letters and other family mementos. For his collaboration work, he maintains chronological hard and digital file folders for each client or project, along with folders and subfolders for email. Says Summers: “I have multiple, concurrent projects for each consulting line so I have to stay organized.”

3) Pare expenses. Frugality can help you to weather erratic cash flow and lean times, which are inevitable parts of freelancing (especially at the beginning). Most gig entrepreneurs work in a home office, which saves money on rent and commuting. Others, like Summers, use coffee meetings and virtual conferencing as inexpensive ways to serve clients and develop new business. “I use professional membership discounts when possible,” says Summers, who also comparison shops to save money on office and telecommunications equipment. Bartering is another good way to control costs while obtaining coaching, writing or other valuable support.

4) Decide on pricing. What to charge for your services can be a tricky question. Price them too low and you may not make enough income, or be perceived as “cheap” in more ways than one. Price them too high and you may lose business to less expensive competitors. Contact trade associations in your industry for data and research competitors’ prices. Just keep in mind that location is a big factor in pricing. A freelancer in Manhattan or San Francisco may charge more than one in the Midwest, where the cost of living is often lower.

5) Avoid commingling business and personal funds. Have separate bank accounts for each. “The IRS frowns upon mixing the two because the potential for fraud is much greater,” says Astrid Reeves, owner of Astrid’s Bookkeeping Co. and Services, Inc. in Fairfax, Virginia. “If the money trail is not easily discernible, that does not make them happy. It raises a red flag.” If you must take money out of your business to cover personal expenses, write a check to yourself from your business account and deposit it into your personal account to create a clear paper trail, recommends Reeves.

Bonus tip: Check your credit report. Should you ever need a business loan from a lender, your financial history will be a factor that determines approval. Negative information may result in a loan denial or high borrowing rates. If you don’t know what’s in your report, head to www.annualcreditreport.com and request a copy. You can get one for free every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).

Any gig entrepreneur who wants to build a successful business has to pay attention to the financial side. This doesn’t have to bog you down, however. Follow tried-and-true steps, get good help and devote time each day to your back office. That way, you can manage your money, rather than your money managing you.

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About Lynne Strang

I'm a freelance writer who helps organizations and individuals meet their marketing and communications goals. I am also the author of "Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs: Eight Principles for Starting a Business After Age 40." To learn more, please visit my website: lynnebeverlystrang.com.
This entry was posted in Business, Career Changes, Careers, entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Retirement, Success and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Five Money Moves for Gig Entrepreneurs

  1. Ms. Elle Zed says:

    Also (insert shameless self promotion here) you can hire a Virtual Assistant to help with the administrative stuff you hate doing! Great post. These are tips I need to take to heart!

    • Lynne Strang says:

      I’m fine with giving a shout-out to good, competent virtual assistants. It makes sense to outsource administrative tasks so you can focus on your core business. Thanks for commenting.

  2. mbcshope says:

    Nice article for older entrepreneurs.

  3. All of your posts are wonderful…

  4. Mild Mannered Explorers says:

    “Find a good accountant.” I love that. I would expand it to find a good _______(fill in the blank with the task that is your weakness, i.e. sales, networking, social media, etc.) Your time is better spent doing what you are good at. If you’re not good at something, you’re going to spend a lot of time going nowhere. Better to spend your time on what brings results.

  5. Great checklist for a freelancer working in the Gig Economy! And a good accountant goes a long way for any entrepreneur!

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