After leaving full-time work to start a freelance writing business, I took ownership of my money in 3 ways

After leaving full-time work to start a freelance writing business, I took ownership of my money in 3 ways

The author, Leo Aquino.

After leaving a full-time job, pursuing my dream job of becoming a writer changed my relationship with money.
I prioritized my own needs first, investing in my career, instead of rushing to pay debt at all costs.
I tracked my time diligently. With clarity on my hourly rate, I ended up working less and saving more.
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In the past, I worked in a toxic workplace in the fashion industry that drained all of my energy and ambition. I looked forward to each pay day, using money as a band-aid for my current situation instead of a resource that could help me out of it.

After quitting that job, I decided to finally go for my dream job of being a writer. It was hard at first. I was sliding into multiple editors’ DMs, pitching ideas left and right, getting rejected 90% of the time. After a few months of building relationships with the 10% of editors who did want to work with me, I was finally able to support myself through my freelance writing income.

Now that I’m doing work that I love, my relationship with money is radically different. Here’s what I learned about money since I started my freelance writing business.

1. Investing in myself is top priority

In my brokest days as a freelance writer, I called five friends and asked them what they thought was the best way for me to spend my last $100 for the rest of the month. I still had a $60 credit card payment due, and I wondered if I should use $60 of the remaining $100, leaving me with $40 for food and other living expenses.

A friend of mine told me a piece of advice I’ll never forget. She said, “Leo, if you use that $60 to buy yourself a cup of coffee to sit and work at the coffee shop, or for a website domain, or anything else you need as a freelance writer, you’ll be able to earn more money. That $60 means more to you than it does to a credit card company.”

Since then, I’ve learned to de-prioritize my debt repayment efforts and put my needs first. I focus on creating more earning opportunities instead of trying to make my living expenses as small as possible. I don’t recommend not paying your debts at all, but for me personally, only making the minimum payments instead of rushing to pay the debt back quickly is a strategy that helped me grow personally and creatively.

2. Keeping money in multiple bank accounts gives my money distinct purpose

Once I started making more money, I opened a new checking account and a new savings account. They weren’t necessarily business accounts, but it helped me to put money in separate buckets so I could remember what I was using it for.

One checking account was for my personal expenses. Another checking account was for business expenses, like buying lunch at a restaurant with wi-fi when I needed a change in scenery, or for writing workshops that helped me hone my craft. Tracking my personal and business expenses allowed me to see how much I was investing in my own growth as a creative.

I also started a small savings account for taxes, since my freelance income was always deposited into my account pre-tax. It helps to have a special place for tax money so tax season doesn’t sneak up on me.

3. Becoming clear about my hourly rate allowed me to work less and save more

As a freelancer, I became hyper-aware of the fact that my time is money. I started tracking my time in the simplest way: I set an alarm at the top of every hour, opened my Notes app and wrote down what I did in that hour. If a writing session for a client ended in the middle of the hour, I’d simply write, “3:42, finished Ergatta rowing machine review.” 

At the end of the week, I’d calculate how much time I spent on each project and compared it to my project rate. If I got paid $300 for an article that took 4.5 hours to write, I’d usually add another half an hour to account for the time spent drafting invoices and brainstorming the idea with the client. The hourly rate for this hypothetical project is $60.

Once I had clarity on what each hour cost, I became really good at setting boundaries with clients, asking for higher rates, and spending money on things that I valued, like traveling, meditation retreats, and eating at delicious restaurants.

It took a lot of work at the beginning, but I was able to work less, play hard, and save more money towards my long-term goals.

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