Every freelance writer needs a budget strategy.
There’s no single way to approach this. In my conversations with other freelancers I’ve found that the specifics aren’t what’s important — it’s the overall strategy that matters. Developing a sense of financial discipline is critical, but how you do that is up to you.
As with a lot of things, I motivate myself through fear. So here’s my strategy: A while ago I figured out what I needed/wanted to make a year as a freelance writer, calculated how many working days a year there are, and from that I derived what I need to make per day and per hour. As long as I’m reasonably accurate about how quickly I can work, this lets me determine relatively quickly whether a project is well worth my time, a judgment call, or a labor of love that will bankrupt me. (This year I raised my goal for what I’d like to earn, which affected my daily and hourly target rates. We’ll see how that goes.)
This also lets me keep track of how I’m doing. Which is where the fear comes in.
When I invoice for a project, I take the amount I just billed, divide it by my target day rate, and then count that many working days. (I count holidays as working days, though not weekends.) Then, for 5 p.m. on that last working day I create an appointment entitled BROKE. It’s my professional Appointment in Samarra, and the whole idea is to keep pushing it forward so it never arrives.
I don’t carry stuff over, so this is a new year, and a new day of reckoning. I just updated my calendar with the first Appointment in Samarra. Now it’s up to me to make sure it isn’t kept.