Based in Chicago, Illinois, The Freelance Beat is a blog exploring the triumphs and challenges that freelance journalists encounter in their early and mid-careers.

5 key money moves to make when going freelance

5 key money moves to make when going freelance

When I initially went full-time freelance, I was both excited and scared. I had my last check from my previous part-time writing job in my hand and I had a good amount of savings in the bank. While I felt free to pursue the stories I wanted to write, I also remembered times when clients paid me late. I thought about how stressed I’d be if I couldn’t pay my rent or other expenses. But luckily, I had some commissions coming in and a bit of a savings to cushion the blow.

I briefly went full-time freelance...until I picked up a full-time, contract writing gig. At first, I had mixed feelings about doing this. On one hand, taking the job has allowed me to save up for when I return to full-time freelancing later this summer. On the other hand, it’s more so content writing, which I can do but it doesn’t come as naturally to me as reporting does.

Ultimately, I want to be a journalist. I want to tell uncomfortable truths. Writing content for a company is fine, but I miss my reporting, though I’ve been able to do some freelancing on the side.The unsteadiness of freelance income is enough to make anybody nervous. Here are some steps you can take as you take the leap into freelancing.


Save more than 6 to 12 months worth of expenses.

Generally speaking, it’s good to have a nice savings, because journalism staffers have been laid off left and right. But having a good savings in your personal account is important in order to give your business time to grow without stressing out about your everyday expenses.

Get a part-time job.

When I decided to leave my first full-time job, I got a part-time writing job in order to maintain a steady income while I built my freelance business. I was able to pay down debt, save money, and have less financial stress all while doing what I love—reporting. If you don’t want to leap into full-time freelancing, this is a good way to ease into it without screwing up your finances.

Open a separate business account.

Okay, this is technically a step that you take after you get your first freelance paycheck. It is very, very important that you set up a separate account to keep your personal expenses separate so that you can easily track your expenses throughout the year. Your personal and business expenses must be separate so that you don’t spend forever going over receipts and bank statements during tax season. Also, make sure your business bank account doesn’t have monthly fees. That’ll eat up a chunk of your cash over time. Thank me later.

Pick an accounting software you like.

Once you have a separate business bank account, shop around for the right accounting software. I personally like Wave, because it’s free and very useful. But other freelancers use software like Quickbooks to get things done. You want to look for features like invoicing, expense tracking and generating reports. Some software even helps you figure out how much you need to pay in quarterly taxes. Take a look at demos and ask other freelancers what they like best.

Consider a business credit card.

Hear me out! I’m a millennial, and I hate credit cards and all other forms of debt. But when you’re starting a business, you need to be able to pay for business expenses while waiting for your clients to pay you. (One time, an editor sent me handwritten edits for a story, but I couldn’t print them out, because I was waiting on another client to pay me so I could go buy ink. Embarrassing, I know. Moral of the story: Use Google Docs!). Cash flow issues happen to new businesses all the time, so you need to make sure you have credit on hand to cover those unexpected costs. Plus, if you decide to do costly professional development things like attending conferences, pay annual membership fees or sign up for classes related to your industry, you may want to put that on a business credit card so that it doesn’t cause any issues with your day-to-day cash flow. (I mean, who likes overdraft fees or unexpected renewable charges? Not me).

Going part-time or full-time freelance doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Hopefully taking some of these steps will make it easier for you to pursue your dreams.

What are some money steps you take to ease the transition into freelancing? Leave a comment or email me at (Yes, your email will actually make it to me).

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