Making a living as a freelancer and creative entrepreneur can be tough. When you first start out you’re usually just happy to be making any amount of money from the work that you feel inspired to do, but at some point you’re going to start to crave a stable and consistent income and to alleviate the stress and anxiety that can come from being in charge of your own paycheque.
My biggest goal when I first started my creative coaching business was to create a full time income from my work, and down the line what I've really started to work towards is stabilising my freelance income so I no longer feel trapped in a cycle of feast and famine where some weeks I feel super stable and on top of things, and others I worry if I’m even going to be able to afford food the next month.
And thankfully that’s exactly what I’ve done. Alex and I are finally moving into our (super tiny) apartment in just over a week and my biggest goal since we paid our deposit was to stabilise my business income as much as possible so we can feel financially prepared and can avoid those sleepless nights where we feel wracked with fear about money.
Here’s the thing about stabilising your income as a freelancer and creative entrepreneur; it helps you be better at your job.
Because terrible business decisions are made when they come from a place of desperation, and when you have your money matters together you can then just get back to doing what you do best. So today I want to dig into the things I’ve done to stabilise my freelance income, and some ideas you can explore too if you’re struggling to break free from the feast and famine stage.
1. Savings, savings, savings
Seeing savings in the bank is the one thing that stops me from freaking out about money on a daily basis. Knowing that I have a few months living costs in the bank, “sick pay” if I need it, and some spare for a rainy day helps me to feel prepared for whatever is ahead. Living month to month is scary when your income isn’t guaranteed, so having some savings in the bank is how you can protect yourself as a business owner from anything unforeseen that is to come.
I’ve been living at home for the past 18 months and that without a doubt has played a huge helping hand in giving me the space and time to save. I know for many your situation may look a little different and maybe you’re working a day job to save until you can take the leap full time. My best advice whatever your situation is to be super sensible when those high income months roll around; instead of increasing your spending, put anything extra into a savings account so you can start to build yourself a financial buffer - you'll be so happy you did later down the line.
Takeaway for you: Set yourself a savings goal. What would you like to see in the bank so that you can feel stable and prepared?
2. I pay myself every month
This one changed everything. Instead of just spending as I earn, or allowing what I earn that month to dictate how much I have available, I set myself a monthly ‘wage’ and I pay it into my joint account with Alex on the 1st of every month. This means on the months I earn more I can put the extra into savings, and if I have a month where I earn less I can take the difference out of my savings - this way our monthly budget remains the same each month. And when it feels like the right time to give myself a ‘raise’ I can do, but paying myself a ‘wage’ each month has allowed me to feel super stable and on track with my finances, instead of just feeling like I’m winging it as I go.
Takeaway for you: How much do you need to earn each month to pay rent, bills, and any extras like food, petrol, and personal expenses? From this you can set yourself a wage based on how much you earn on average each month.
3. Getting booked out in advance
This year I’ve already exceeded what I wanted to earn in my first year in business and I’ve been able to do this and earn enough to survive and thrive in my work by focusing on getting booked out in advance. When you’re just working from client to client and waiting on bookings to come through each month, you’re going to struggle to feel stable financially. Getting booked out in advance allows you to see your projected earnings on a longer term basis, and can give your business some serious stability along the way.
The thing to figure out here is two things: how many clients you have availability for, and how far in advance you’d like to be booked out. This will look different depending on your services and what it is you offer, but it’s good to have a clear picture of what you have available and how much work you want to be bringing in. I currently only have four spots left available for new clients in 2015, and being that close to being booked out for the year has played a huge part in allowing me to feel stable along the way. If you’re struggling to attract and book clients, I have a resource for you sharing 10 Ways You Can Build An Online Presence That Attracts Dream Clients.
Takeaway for you: How far in advance would you like to be booked out? What systems and marketing strategies can you put in place to make this happen?
4. Payment plans
Payment plans are awesome for two reasons: they’re a great way to be of service to your clients and ease the financial pressure on them when it comes to investing in your services, and it’s also a great way for you to space out your income so you can see in advance what’s coming in each month. September is going to be a crazy busy month for me with the move coming soon, but I started the month already knowing I’d earned what I’d need to this month thanks to payment plans and seeing my projected earnings in advanced. That has given me so much freedom to focus on the things in my life that need my attention right now, instead of feeling a crazy big pressure to hustle hard to make ends meet.
If it suits your services and business model, I’d definitely recommend looking into a payment plan option for your clients and customers. I personally use Satori which is awesome for any coaches, but you can even just use PayPal or accountancy software like Freshbooks to give your clients the option to pay in instalments instead of just in all one go.
Takeaway for you: Could spacing out your client payments help you to break free from the feast and famine cycle? What systems or tools could you use to make this work for you?
5. A premium offering
In August I launched my signature coaching programme, Be A Game Changer, which is £1200 for six months of one-on-one coaching with me + a mastermind group with all five of the awesome creatives who are taking part too. I booked this out and that has played a huge part in giving me some financial stability for the rest of the year. A few people paid in full which meant I could put that money into savings, and for the rest who are paying in monthly instalments I now know for the next 6 months that I have a guaranteed amount of money coming in each month alongside my other client work and projects too.
If you’re stuck in the feast and famine stage and just working from project to project and struggling to make ends meet, offering a premium service or maybe an ECourse or class may help to bring some stability to your business earnings along the way. Don’t be afraid to launch something bigger and bolder than what you have before, as although premium offerings appeal to less people, they can be exactly what a specific type of client or customer is looking for.
Takeaway for you: Would a premium offering or product work within your business model and plans? Is there something you can create that will help you be of even more service to your dream clients and customers, and bring financial stability for you too?
6. Passive income
Passive income doesn’t play a huge part in my business model yet as this year I’ve wanted to focus on working with clients and making my coaching business as best as it can be, but from time to time I make some extra income from joint venture webinars and bundling up services and products with other awesome game changers in my niche and that has been a great way to earn outside of my usual income streams.
Passive income can change everything for your business, I see for my business friends and clients how much it can take a business from feast and famine to stable and thriving. I’m working on a few projects behind the scenes that I’m excited to share with you in the coming months and although passive income hasn’t played the biggest part in my business journey so far, it's something I know will be a great route to explore in the long run.
Takeaway for you: Some awesome things for you to check out from some of my business buddies are Sarah's The Ultimate Guide To Passive Income, Mariah’s Webinar Rockstar, and Regina’s How To Self Publish Your Own Print Books.
Making a consistent, sustainable, and stable income as a freelancer and creative entrepreneur isn’t something you can just wing and hope for the best. It takes purposeful strategy, systems and a solid marketing plan, and the hustle to make it work if you want to build a business that is profitable and thriving along the way. Today I’ve shared with you how I’ve made it happen, and now I want to encourage you to take the time to dream, scheme, and plan how you can make it happen too.
Let me know in the comments - what are you struggling with the most when it comes to stabilising your income as a freelancer and creative entrepreneur?