Controlling freelance finances: your three-step guide

by David Thomas, trainer in freelance business skills

Freelances can often feel out of control when it comes to money, as income is inherently unpredictable. When disaster strikes (hello Covid-19!) the lack of control can feel acute.

But there are ways to assert control over your finances, and give yourself some quantifiable targets, even in the best of times and certainly in the worst.

  1. Assess your current situation
    This seems obvious, but I’m always surprised how few freelances sit down and interrogate their financial situation. It means ignoring the income for a moment, and checking exactly where all your money is going. A monthly budgeting tool can help you do this (there’s one on my website) and can also help you work out how many days you need to earn per month to cover your costs.
  2. Estimate future income and spending
    Predicting the future seems like alchemy, and I’m certainly not saying you know what’s going to happen. But you can definitely predict various futures for yourself, looking at how much you might spend, and guessing how much might come in. Use a freelance cash-flow planner (link below), and start painting scenarios. Concentrate on the bottom line to see whether your predictions state you might run out of money. Then ask yourself how you can meet the shortfall.
  3. Investigate support
    Knowing how much the shortfall is, you can now go looking to fill the gap. Whether it’s from government support schemes, benefits, borrowing from friends or family or setting up a side-hustle, you have quantified your target in steps 1 and 2.

Now you can do something about it. I’ve been training creative freelancers all around the UK for 15 years, and you do not need to be good at maths or a technical wizard to get a grip on money matters.

It’s more a question of having processes in place and setting time aside to use them. 15 minutes every week can be enough, but try to make it a habit. Very soon it becomes second nature and you’ll be wondering why you weren’t always this organised.

If you need more information or support with freelance finances, take a look at the Free Stuff section on

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NUJ Training Cymru Wales