When successful freelancers think about saving money, they usually start with a comprehensive savings plan. While a big picture approach can prove helpful, it’s also easy to get overwhelmed. In my three years as a freelancer, I’ve learned the best money-saving techniques are small, actionable steps. Taking simple measures can create a snowball effect, leading to savings in the long run.
By incorporating these 11 tips into your day-to-day work as an independent contractor, you can save money in unexpected ways without dramatically changing your lifestyle.
1. Order a Business Credit Card
No matter your focus as a freelancer, certain expenses accompany running a business. Instead of charging these costs to a debit card, invest in a low-interest business credit card. Pay off your card every month and collect points on your purchases. It’s like getting free money, while boosting your credit score.
2. Receive Revenue by Check
Credit card payments can eat away at profit margins. For big projects, I ask clients to send me old-fashioned checks for payment. Another freelancer friend of mine requires her customers pay an additional credit card fee to cover processing. Both of these approaches save you from paying unnecessary fees, which add up over time.
3. Take Walking Meetings
Walking meetings are a new business trend worth testing out. Next time you connect with another freelancer or client, skip the coffee shop and go for a walk instead. Not only is walking better for you than sitting, it’s a wonderful way to save some cash.
4. Save for Retirement
Believe it or not, saving for retirement with a Roth IRA or SEP IRA can reduce your tax liability. Planning ahead for your financial future actually saves you money in the short term. Talk to your accountant and crunch some numbers to find the best amount to set aside for you.
5. Brush up on Expenses
A lot of freelancers overlook business expenses. For example, it took me a year to realize I could expense Lyft rides to client meetings. Take some time to understand IRS regulations around these business expenses. This knowledge can save you a ton of money in the long term — especially if you work in a home office.
6. Make Your Own Lunch
When you work from home, it’s easy to get stir-crazy around lunchtime. Instead of heading out to grab a bite to eat, make lunch at home. If it’s nice outside, take it to a park nearby for a relaxing break. These “free” lunches can keep your costs low.
7. Find a Coworking Alternative
Everyone wants a change of scenery now and then. Is there a library nearby you can visit? Or a museum with a coffee shop? I thought about joining a coworking space, but the expense of a membership seemed too high. I created a work-around by joining a private library in Boston and the Museum of Fine Arts. They’re great alternatives to expensive coworking spaces.
8. Participate in Free Events
From webinars to in-person meetups, there are many opportunities to network for free. Online and in-person events can offer the same value as out-of-town conferences without the cost or hassle. If you can’t find one appealing to you, think about creating one yourself.
9. Trade Professional Services
If you need a professional service — graphic design, writing, bookkeeping or marketing help — see if you can trade services. By offering your work in exchange for another freelancer’s help, you can effectively cut down on costs.
10. Combine Vacation With a Work Trip
Tacking time off onto a work trip can save you in airfare. If a client ever flies you out for a project, add on a long weekend. After all, freelancers need vacations, too, and that extra savings can go toward another trip!
11. Simplify Your Processes
When I first started freelancing, I used a myriad of online tools — some were free, and some charged a monthly fee. At the start of the new year, I made an inventory of every tool I used and noted how effective they were at helping me meet business goals. Since then, I’ve cut down on the tools I use and saved on payments.
These 11 money-saving techniques are just the beginning. As you bring them into your life as a freelancer, you may think of even more ways to increase your business margins. Experiment with these different approaches to saving money. The more you save, the more resources you have for the things that really matter to you.