Sunday, September 14, 2014

Budgeting for Freelancers, Part Two: Our Business Expenses

Hola, dear readers!  I’m finally returning to my “Budgeting for Freelancers” series.  Today will be Part Two, in which I discuss some of our business expenses.  You can find Part One here.

Paul and I share a financial goal: to sustain our lifestyle through freelance/contract work.  As you might recall, we both work as STEM tutors.  Paul’s been tutoring for a long time; I started in November 2013 and decided to go full time when we moved to Austin.

Being in business for yourself, as yourself, is many things.  It is empowering, challenging, satisfying.  In some ways it is simpler because there’s no hierarchy—it’s just us, doing our thing.  In some ways it is harder because it seems like there is less security, no “guaranteed” steady paycheck.  I put that in quotes because my experience in 2013 has made me roll my eyes at the assumption of a steady paycheck.  It’s steady until you are called into your boss’s office on a Friday afternoon and she tells you that you are being laid off, so sorry, accounting mistake.

2013’s rollercoaster has made me a lot more resilient in the face of freelancing.  No one can “fire” me from freelancing.  I’m always on the market, always open for business.  So it’s up to me to figure out how much I want to work and how to handle the logistics.  It’s a challenge I’ve accepted, sometimes bravely, sometimes fearfully.

There’s no honest way for me to write about budgeting for freelancers without talking about our business expenses.  You gotta spend money to make money.  And spend money we have, in the form of equipment, marketing, and learning.  Let’s talk about that now, shall we?

* Equipment.

Paul and I decided back in the spring that we were both really interested in being able to do on-line tutoring.  To do so, we needed to up our game.  As of this writing, we’ve spent over a thousand dollars on the following:

- a new desktop computer for Paul

- two kick-ass microphones

- two digitizer tablets, which function as virtual whiteboards on which we can work problems, explain concepts visually, etc.

Also under the equipment category is my new-to-me iPhone!  Paul repaired a broken one from his sister, and we activated it at the AT&T store for free.  My phone bill each month is about $52, which is less than I was paying on my old plan with all the pay-per-text communication I was doing with students.

* Marketing.

Entering a new market here in Austin, it’s essential that students know we exist and how to contact us.  Here’s what we’ve been doing to make that happen.

- I bought us some on-line marketing by upgrading my profile placement on  Cost: $179.

- My roommate Courtney and I have been putting up flyers all over town.  I’ve probably spent about $20 on flyers.

- I made business cards earlier this year with!  That was fun.  My cards were about $22.

* Learning.

On a beautiful day earlier this year, Paul and I rode our bikes to lunch and Barnes & Noble, where we both bought new books.  I bought The Freelancer’s Bible by Sara Horowitz and Toni Sciarra Poynter (cost: $20).  We took our books to a park, where we lounged in the sunshine and read on a Friday afternoon.  That last part, my friends, is the best part of being a freelancer.

The Freelancer’s Bible is an excellent read.  It was helpful to me as a newbie to start thinking about how to spend my time so that I can bring in the income that I need to live.  I haven’t looked at it in a few months, but I have a feeling I’ll be dusting it off in December so that I can think about how things went this semester and what I want 2015 to look like.

* * *

In writing this series, I’ve resisted doing a lot of on-line reading.  In the next few installments of this series, I’d like to offer the best-of links that I find after I let myself loose on the internet.  I’ll also come back around to the topic of lifestyle and the on-going conversations we’re having about that in my house.

Thanks for reading!