Usually, the idea of “unpredictable income” in the freelance world is more of a curse than a blessing. Try as you might to have your best month ever, you can’t really control it, right? It’s nothing like working with a steady, predictable paycheck. You don’t know how much you’ll make two months from now, which makes it hard to plan your financial future.
But, I’ve found a way to use this unpredictability to my advantage — especially when I need fast cash. While I have a decent emergency savings fund in place, I hate touching it if I don’t have to. When I receive a larger-than-expected tax bill, a medical bill not covered by my insurance or I’ve just had it with my current office chair and need a serious upgrade, I go though an exercise to make “magic money.”
What Kind of Magic Money?
Okay, it’s not really “magic,” but based on the fact that it’s income I wasn’t necessarily planning on for that month — and how quickly I can make it happen — it definitely feels like magic. And no, I’m not talking about selling my stuff on Craigslist, because that’s just liquidating my assets, which isn’t sustainable.
I’m talking about stepping up my hustle a bit and finding some creative ways to rake in cash, often at the exact amount I need or just slightly over it. Earlier this year, for example, I contracted an extra $3,000 of work within two days to cover a tax bill and some wish list items I’d been eyeing for my business. Here’s how:
6 Steps That Equal Extra Cash
- List out everything you need to make extra money for and its cost. Add it all together.
- Run a simple formula to figure out how much you need to add on for tax. Here’s the one I use: A + (P)A = X. In the formula, A equals the amount you came up with in step one. P represents your tax percentage bracket, and X is the total amount of magic money you need.
- If, by chance, you’ve already got some excess coming in, subtract that from X.
- Figure out some options of products and services you can sell to make up that sum.
- Make a list of 20–25 things you can do to sell those things. The first 5–10 might seem bland and obvious, but you’ll notice yourself getting really creative, which is the fun part.
- Get to work on your list and watch the magic happen.
Example Magic List Ideas
When I’ve given this advice to other people, step five is always the hardest one, so I want to give you some example ideas I’ve done for myself to kick-start your own brainstorming. Here are some ideas I’ve loved:
- Asking happy clients for referrals
- Offering a 5 percent referral fee
- Offering retainer agreements to existing clients
- Pitching lead magnets or email sequences to entrepreneurs who don’t have them
- Launch a new offer and send it to my email list
- Offer free consults to select LinkedIn connections and follow up with a proposal if it goes well
- Give a one-month warning of raising my prices
- Raise my prices with existing, repeat clients
This list isn’t perfect for everyone, but hopefully, it’ll help you start to see all the different ways you can make more cash when you’re in a pinch. And, honestly, it really is that simple. I’m using the process right now to pay for a vacation, and I’m excited to see all the ways I can bring money in to make that happen. Covering unexpected expenses is all about panicking less and planning more creatively.