Just as with other areas of life, a huge amount of establishing financial stability is about simply learning to cultivate certain habits, then sticking with those practices over time. Sadly, many people simply never get started with the basics and end up veering from one short-term “liquidity crisis” to another for much of their working lives as a result.
Financial stability is of particular concern for web professionals.
Freelance web designers and developers lack the security of a defined monthly paycheck. Without the discipline in place, it’s terrifyingly easy for one or two bad months to blossom into full-blown disaster.
In this piece, we’ll help you stay on track for the long-term by stepping through five key financial stability habits to cultivate. Start adding them to your regular routines, and both you and your bank manager will be sleeping more soundly. Let’s get started!
1. List your full assets and liabilities going into each new financial year
Our first tip is largely a matter of common sense – without knowing exactly where you currently are, it’s incredibly difficult to map out a realistic path towards where you’re going.
Get into the habit of doing a full review of your current overall financial position going into each financial year.
As you get more comfortable with your finances, you’ll then naturally find yourself looking at these numbers each month.
There are plenty of easy-to-follow breakdowns of exactly how to go about doing this on the web, and all that’s really needed is an hour or two with a spreadsheet. The results in front of you may well be a little disheartening the first couple of times you do it, but it will keep you honest with yourself from the outset, and give valuable context to every subsequent step we look at.
2. Clarify your credit score and make debt elimination a priority
Though a quick look around the wider cultural landscape might have you thinking personal debt is a marvelous thing, the reality is that it will hammer your overall financial fitness like nothing else. On the other hand, easy access to credit is an occasional necessity for most web professionals.
With both those points in mind, you need to tackle this subject head-on from two directions:
- Start by getting access to your full credit report, then taking whatever steps are necessary to boost your overall rating. Great resources for getting started with this are available at both myFICO and The Balance.
- Make debt elimination your highest monthly financial priority. Ramit Sethi is the master here on practical ways to tackle this.
Getting your credit score and eliminating debt are both crucial for becoming financially fit, and getting these in order will go some way to righting the balance once again.
3. Streamline your invoicing setup
Freelance web development is a notoriously feast or famine environment, and let’s face it, nobody relishes knocking out invoices or following them up. The risk for a number of practitioners is one of falling behind on their invoicing, or even being taken advantage of by hardball or ill-intentioned clients. The inevitable result is a cash squeeze and general financial chaos.
Get things in order by tackling the following:
- Sign up to an invoicing service like GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping and commit to mastering its use.
- On an annual basis, review your contracts around invoicing, and analyse which of your current clients are more trouble than they’re worth.
This is a step that’s often missed, but getting your house in order invoicing-wise will pay dividends (pun intended) down the line.
4. Commit to conscious spending and budgeting
“Budget” is a dirty word for many, but there’s really no way around budgeting if you’re going to handle your finances in anything even approaching an adult fashion. Though there’s undoubtedly some upfront pain to be experienced, the long-term sense of control and security you’ll get makes it more than worth it.
To avoid overwhelm, tackle things in this order:
- Spend a month being conscious about your spending. Ease into things by simply writing down everything you spend for 30 days, and reviewing the results weekly. This step alone should give you a much clearer idea of where your cash is actually going.
- Commit to a budgeting strategy. With 30 days of data behind you, pick a budgeting system and start getting your data into it and tracking on an ongoing basis. Our personal recommendation is to simply sign up to You Need a Budget and follow their suggestions.
This is a step that’s simple to overlook – after all, it’s often associated with families cutting back on grocery bills and online shopping splurges. However, it’s just as key for web professionals who need to tighten up their wallets, and keep the bank manager at arm’s reach.
5. Establish and nurture your emergency fund
By the time you’ve completed even one iteration of our first four steps, you should already be feeling in substantially better shape financially. Now it’s time to establish a little wiggle room for future you with a dedicated emergency fund.
A quick reality check – the majority of Americans are theoretically one missed paycheck away from the street. Simply having more than $500 in a separate dedicated account will put you ahead of the chasing pack. Check out NerdWallet for a simple overview of how to get the ball rolling with your emergency fund.
Healthy financial habits are the backbone of your long-term financial success. However, as a full-time web professional it’s easy to drop the ball when it comes to day-to-day money management.
By adding our five suggestions to the mix, you’ll find yourself naturally boosting your overall financial stability and transforming your relationship with money. Let’s recap them one more time:
- Prepare your personal balance sheet each year.
- Go above and beyond to remove personal debt.
- Regularly review and optimize your invoicing arrangements.
- Maintain an active monthly budget.
- Constantly feed your emergency fund.
Personal finances are a huge topic, so there are bound to be many other healthy habits you cultivate.