Great Financial Resources Every Freelancer Should Use

As a compliment to my Budgeting for Freelancers post, (and the fact it’s a Monday right after Christmas so we’re both poor and unproductive) I wanted to step out of the developmer role for a day and talk to you about money. One of the reasons most freelancers leave their jobs to become self-employed is money. We want to make lots of it, right?

But then problems arise: we either have too little or too much of it. Too little and you can’t pay your bills and have to go back to a regular job. Too much of it that’s not managed properly and we spend it all and well – have to go back to a regular job.

I already talked about setting up a budget in Budgeting for Freelancers, but your money doesn’t stop there. How do you manage client payments? What payment gateway do you use? What about savings and taxes? Checking accounts? Although I’m far from perfect, let me show you some of the great resources I use personally.

Dave Ramsey

There are a lot of “finance” gurus out there that talk about a lot of nonsense. I’ve read most of them and I can tell they’re junk. So why did I attach myself to Dave Ramsey?

Dave Ramsey bases his financial platform on “Baby Steps”. These are concrete steps you should take to get out of debt and save money. I like the fact that he gives you a plan to do this first, then this, then this. I recommend you get his book, The Total Money Makeover, either from a bookstore or the library, and see if you don’t become a fan of him as well. He also has a daily 3 hour radio show where he takes callers and answers their personal and business finance dilemmas.

SmartyPig

I loved this bank so much, I left my own personal bank for SmartyPig‘s awesome interface and interest for my savings accounts. It lets you set goals and either do a set contribution every month or allows you to deposit whenever you want. It displays a nice piggy bank with the percentage filled of your deposit.

SmartyPig even allows you to share your percentage and amounts with Twitter and facebook, or it lets you create widgets for your blog or Apple Dashboard. You can also allow friends and family members to contribute money to your goals without them knowing your personal login information!

This bank is great because not only do they pay awesome interest rates, but it can also be a “forced” savings plan for those of us (me) who have problems setting aside money for emergency funds or whatever you need to save for.

USAA

USAA bank is THE premier bank to use if you’re able to. The only catch: you have to be one, be married to, or a descendant from: a military member. But once you have an account, you can keep it whether you retire, get divorced or whatever. Why do I love this bank above all others?

  • Checking account – I get cash back AND interest AND atm fee refunds AND can make check deposits by  iPhone or by scanner (They were the first bank to do this, Regions Bank now allows scanner deposits I believe) AND you have immediate access to all deposits.
  • Savings account/Mutual savings account – Interest is not so hot right now but you have immediate transfers and access to money between accounts.
  • Car/Home/Rental/Life insurance – Cheaper than anywhere else. $90 a month for my car and rental together and I have a terrible car record!
  • Investing – awesome investment tools and planners along with all the retirement accounts you could want
  • They also offer low-interest credit cards and loans, but of course I don’t advocate that. ^_~

Mint

Mint is a great compliment to your banking software and I use it about once a week. I don’t like Mint’s budget software, but I DO like their alerts, and the fact you can see the balances and transactions of all your accounts and loans right there – so it’s super quick to sync with my budgeting software.

Billings 3

I won a license to this in a contest and I must say WOW. I wish I’d had it sooner. Before Billings, I used an Excel spreedsheet, PDF quotes and invoices and various other separated documents to keep everything in line.

Now with Billings, I can keep client accounts, quotes and invoices all in one place. It tracks all retainer (deposits) and payments and has ample reporting tools. It even allows me to customize my invoice and quote forms and comes with a great time tracker that you can control from the top task bar, even with Billings minimized.

Another pro to going with this software – you only have to pay for this software once. One of the big cons with other apps, were that they were online (so I’d have to have the internet to even see it) and they charged a per month fee based on the amount of clients you have.

Snowmint Budget

I’ve talked about these guys before, so I’ll keep it brief. Snowmint Budget is the budget program I use. It works on the envelope method and is great for irregular incomes. I talk about how to set up an irregular income budget on my Budgeting for Freelancer post. Although the interface isn’t super pretty, (it’s actually a lot better now, they need to update their screenshots) it’s super powerful and easy to use.

PayPal

Mostly everyone uses Paypal to shop online, I also use them to collect invoice payments. You can actually set up invoices from Paypal, but I use my Billings ones instead. They do take a nominal fee from each payment, but it’s either similar or less to other options.

I know some freelancers use Google Checkout, but I prefer Paypal, as many of my clients are non-web savvy, but they all know Paypal well enough to pay the invoices. It also works great with overseas clients.

It’s not just about the work

You can be the greatest programmer, writer or designer in the whole entire world, but if you don’t manage your money properly, you’ll always be broke. While some of the more affluent freelancers can pay someone else to do it for them, it always pays to just do it yourself. I spend only a few minutes every other day or so to check things over and link up accounts. I’m also currently saving for my emergency fund, and once that is done I plan to pay off my car.

Your Turn

Have you found any great resources that have helped you in the business and/or financial side of your life as a freelancer? What were they?