Be a Freelancer Who Actually Makes Money — Ten Quick Tips

As a freelancer, the most important gift you can give to yourself and to your freelance business is to clean up your financial life. When I started freelancing, this was a very big can that I kicked down the road time and time again. I grew up in a middle-class house full of tension related to finances. My parents fought constantly about money. I learned very early on that money could be the source of a lot of trouble if you are not careful with it. My response as a young adult was to emphatically “not make money my master.” So I ignored it. I paid bills when I wanted to. I let parking tickets sit on my desk in a pile of papers. I checked my bank balance only when my bank card got denied at the register. I was so hurt as a child by the constant battle about money, that I didn’t want to deal with it, learn about it, or manage and structure it. I physically got ill when I had to sit down and handle finances. “I am not my credit score!” is the way I would rationalize my flagrant disregard for my own financial life. Huge mistake. As a result, my credit score plummeted, debt stacked up faster than I could swipe, and I was 25, 27, 29 with too many bills to pursue my creative dreams.

I knew, though, that I couldn’t continue down that road. And if I was ever going to give myself the chance to create the life I wanted, I had to get my finances under control. I started reading Suze Orman books, devouring financial blogs, and learning anything I could about how to reduce my debt. The truth is that it took years to clean up my finances. But it allowed me to become a full-time (and long-time) freelancer and take control of my professional life.

The greatest lesson that I learned in that process was that I was creating my own anxiety. The angst, the nerves, the ill — it was all coming from the not knowing. If I didn’t know how much money was in the bank or how much I really owed to credit cards or what day of the month my car loan was really due, I was highly anxious; and I didn’t even realize it. I just thought that keeping myself in the dark about these things made me “free.” It did not. When I did clean up my financial life, though, I was able to see — on a piece of paper, or computer screen — where every penny was going and how I could pay my bills on time, save money, and accomplish my financial goals. And even though it took a long time to wipe the debt away, I was calmer because I could understand my own cash flow.

As a freelancer, there is often inconsistent or unpredictable cash flow — which makes it all-the-more-important to manage your finances well. In an ideal world, you could keep $5k-$10k in the bank as a buffer zone so that you can ride the ebb and flow of your freelance finances. That is a luxury and privilege that most freelancers do not have. There are things you can do, though, to be smart and proactive about your finances. Here are ten tips from my new book, Freelance Heaven. There are 99 other tips in the book, but here are the ones that relate most directly to financial management:

  1. Set aside accounting time. One of the things that helped me change my relationship with my finances was setting aside time daily and weekly to deal with my accounting. Every morning, as soon as I start work, I check my bank balance. It’s a simple step. Most banks even have a phone app now. But it’s helpful to take away that sense of not knowing. Weekly, I have two hours set aside (for me, it’s Tuesday and Thursday mornings) to review my checking account log, pay bills, and send and follow up on client invoices. I also scan all of my receipts from the week so that I have a digital copy of those archived for tax time. Having dedicated accounting time allows me to contain my anxious thoughts about money to specific hours in the week, so that I am not always and ever thinking about the state of my checking account.

Check out Julio’s new e-book, Freelance Heaven: 100 Ways to Make Freelance Life Easier and Avoid Freelance Hell, available online at and on

Writer/Director based in NYC. Politics + Pandemic + Personal. Outspoken so I can help make sense of this modern world.