How A Freelancer Who Worked Two and Sometimes Three Part-Time Jobs Did Money
It’s me. The freelancer is me.
As today is my last day at the Billfold, it feels fitting to close it out with a long, hard look at the way I do money, as a freelancer who has held three steady, part-time writing gigs plus some extra for the past year or so.
A member of Team Billfold requested this in the comments of something I wrote about the 50/30/20 budget, noting that I always dropped little hints about my finances and my money anxiety, but never really laid it all out on the line, fearful of what I’d find or of judgment from myself, I guess. But above all, I believe in crystal clear transparency when it comes to money. I’m the person asking my friends about how much they pay in rent, what their cell phone bill looks like, how much their take-home pay is after taxes. I ask these questions because I genuinely believe that we should all talk about this more. That’s the brilliance of The Billfold for me — it’s a safe space to discuss money in a way that doesn’t make you feel bad or good about your habits.
So, with this in mind, here’s a detailed-enough look at how my finances and time management and everything has been for the past year that I’ve been freelancing.
February of this year was one of my busiest months. In addition to my work at the Billfold, I also did three night shifts a week at another website and helped with social media for yet another. I also recapped TV shows for two others. The three part-time jobs were my steadies — gigs that I was grateful and happy to have not only for the money but because they offered me the steady income that a full-time, salaried job would, with some of the flexibility of a freelancer. I know myself well enough to know that I work best when my days are structured. I was lucky to have found three steady, part-time gigs that paid me well and paid me monthly and on time.
Money earned: $7,025
Money set aside for taxes: $1,756
Money set aside for savings: $800
Money set aside for rent, bills, student loan, credit card: $1,436
Money leftover: $3,033
Adjusting to a monthly pay schedule was difficult at first; my checks came around the same time every month, so I’d go from having no money to A LOT OF MONEY AHHH in one day. At first, my instinct was to adhere to some specific sort of number to keep in my checking account, as a way to force myself to stick to any sort of budget. If two of my paychecks arrived on the same day and I had plenty of money left in my checking account after bills, rent, credit cards and whatever else, I would just move more money into my savings account — maybe $300, sometimes $800, who knows, there was no system — in preparation for a potential future where all my jobs had disappeared and I was unable to get work.
Working nights during the week mean that I wasn’t doing much during the week except work. Not doing much except work means there is little opportunity to spend money. As spending money is one of the things I enjoy most in this world that also gives me the most grief, this was good and bad. I spent money, felt badly about the money that I did spend, and then felt better about it after looking at my bank account and realizing that I was doing okay after all.
Maybe the way I’ll do money will change now that I have the promise of a steady paycheck coming in. I can save more money and spend a little less. I can count on the exact same amount every month and so I can work backwards from there. I’ve done this before with great success, but I like to think that every time I freelance steadily for any period of time, I learn something new about myself. Now I know that I love spreadsheets and need them to survive; also, I can’t two day jobs and one night job ever again, for my own personal sanity.
Somehow I have a cushion. I have money to pay my taxes next year — something I’ve already thought about, even though it is almost June and I literally just paid $7,000ish two months ago. I am going to stop feeling badly about spending money when I want to if I can, but I’m also going to try and save.
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