The Savings Series: How to be a freelancer without going broke
You may be working in your pjs — but you still need to make money
“Par beta office kahan hai?” – if this question is hurled at you at every family gathering or during the unfortunate run-in with Sharmaji at the mall, then you are no doubt part of India’s growing freelancer workforce. Freelancing is not just a term for what a student does on a gap year, or what you do to make some extra cash. The guidelines on how to be a freelancer are more than being able to work in your pyjamas, and chase down people for payments (though that will likely be a large part of it). It’s the ideal work structure for many, like new mothers looking for a smooth transition back to work and media professionals aching for the freedom to choose the projects they take on.
A new term has even been coined to refer to the booming freelancer-driven market – gig economy. Peter Miscovich, managing director at JLL, New York, predicts that by 2020, gig workers are likely to comprise 50 per cent of the workforce, and 80 per cent in another 10 years. With freelancers growing like the number of dietary restrictions on a Gen Z mother’s grocery list, the one secret all freelancers are scrambling to get their hands on is a foolproof plan to manage their finances.
Anushka Mulchandani, who quit her job as a full-time PR professional and now juggles freelance content writing with social media management, says of the switch, “I wanted to work on my own time and take up projects that excited me and not everything that was thrown at me.” We picked her brain and stocked up on tips on how to be a freelancer and still make money.
How to be a freelancer without going broke
The best time to start saving: Yesterday
The major shift between working full-time and being a freelancer is the steady flow of cash or monthly income. That happy message signalling the sum of money deposited in your account on the last working day of every month? Say goodbye to this kind of clockwork cash — and as most freelancers warn, a lot of gigs aren’t compensated immediately and payments take time to come through.
If you’re mulling over how to be a freelancer, Mulchandani insists, ” You need to have a certain amount (of money) that you can fall back on. So, if you think you might want to do this sometime in the future, then start saving and investing as soon as you start earning.”
Baby steps go a long way
Starting early consequently means starting small, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. “My parents drilled the importance of saving into me from a young age. So even the small amount of money I got in the form of gifts or tokens during festivals went into my savings. That’s how I began,” recalls Mulchandani.
Small things like making it a habit to ask yourself ‘Do I really need this?’. “I am not a big spender, so before I started investing, I already had a chunk of savings, and all of that was only because I thought a lot before spending my money. Making informed purchases makes a huge difference,” she explains.
“Start as soon as you’ve managed to save money,” suggests Mulchandani. If anything, it keeps you from making impulse purchases. “The money won’t be within sight, so you won’t spend it. Plus, it multiplies, so it’s almost like having side income. If the money is just lying in your account and isn’t required immediately, then you might as well put it to some good use.”
While you’re figuring out how to be a freelancer, get a financial advisor to handle your big money decisions, especially if you’re intimidated by numbers and financial jargon. “It is scary to begin with,” confesses Mulchandani, “Suddenly someone else was responsible for my finances, and money was being pulled out from my account and invested in firms and funds I didn’t fully understand. But trust is key.” Identifying a reliable financial advisor is step one. This could be someone your family has gone to for ages or the recommendation of a fellow freelancer, what’s important is that he or she understands your needs and interests.
It is also important to do your research and educate yourself to avoid getting fooled. Mulchandani suggests using resources such as Miss Manage that simplify financial jargon.
Do it for the freedom to choose
The life of a freelancer is what dreams are made of – choosing what projects to work on, deciding your own work hours, and most of all, being able to work from the comfort of your own home, with your fluffy little dog masquerading as your stress ball on particularly trying days. “I love that I get to pick and choose what I work on and don’t have to do everything that comes my way, and a lot of it is because I took charge of my finances. It gives me the liberty to say no without worrying about my bills,” says Mulchandani.
Styling: Divya Gursahani, Makeup: Riddhima Sharma, Hair: Krisann Figueiredo, Model: Sonali Hirani
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