The traditional 9-to-5 job has gone by the wayside as more and more people realize they can do just as well, if not better, in the gig economy. Whether you deliver food for Uber Eats or Door Dash, grocery shop for Instacart, or walk dogs for Rover, you are part of the gig economy. Also referred to as “on-demand” workers, gig workers are part of this contingent workforce where jobs have no long-term employment contract.
Successful gig workers enjoy self-direction, excel at hustling, and shine in self-promotion. However, as a freelance gig worker, you not only have to run your business, but you also have to manage your finances. And, although the timing of your paycheck might be unpredictable, you can steady your financial boat by applying a few tips — even when your income can be a bit rocky.
Below are five financial tips for people working in the gig economy.
1. Start an Emergency Fund
When it comes to gig jobs, it’s difficult to predict your income. Ideally, you should set aside money in an emergency fund that equals three to six months’ worth of expenses. However, when it comes to gig workers, you might want to set aside a savings account that’s even more robust than that — for example, nine months to one year. This will make it easier for you to manage irregular work or payment cycles.
2. Create a Monthly Budget
Usually, when creating a budget, you start with your monthly net (after taxes) income. However, if the money you earn each month fluctuates, you need to work backwards. Start by listing what expenses you need to pay first, such as:
- Mortgage / Rent
- Car Payments
- Utilities (electric, gas, cell phone, cable)
- Student Loan Payments
Then, create a second budget, which should include money for your wants, or fun things, like a new smartphone, dinner out, or a weekend trip.
Last, total it all up and see how much you need to make in a month to cover all of your expenses. That’s your goal, plus more for savings.
If you work a gig with a busy season, you should plan to save more during those months to prepare yourself when work is slower and income is less. Be sure to account for retirement and savings planning as part of your budget options.
3. Budget for Taxes
When you’re self-employed, you have to pay both self-employment and income taxes. Freelancers typically have to pay estimated taxes quarterly, and these deadlines can come up quickly when you’re busy hustling at your job. So, your best bet is to set aside money each month that you designate for paying your taxes. This way, when it comes time to pay, you’re not scrambling to come up with the money.
As a gig worker, it’s a good idea to save at least 20% of your income in a separate account specifically for taxes. Then, if you owe less than what you saved at the end of the year, you’ll have extra money you can use for savings or other financial goals. A separate savings account is perfect for this. We have U Name It accounts you can use for anything, and it keeps the money separate from your regular savings and checking.
4. Pay Yourself a Salary
Create a salary based on your monthly personal expenses – you should have done this already in step 2. Any extra money you make after you meet these obligations you can use for things like:
- Business expenses
- Reinvesting in your business
- Extra savings
The income you make will most likely vary month to month, so it’s helpful to have a specific salary amount. This is the minimum amount you need every month to pay your bills. This will help keep your personal finances consistent.
5. Save For Retirement
Saving for your retirement is all up to you since you are self-employed and don’t have the perks of employer-sponsored plans. However, as a freelancer, you still have several retirement account options available to you, including Roth 401k, individual 401k, Roth IRA, or Traditional IRAs. A financial advisor will assist you in determining which accounts will work best for your unique savings goals.
Setting up automatic transfers from your checking account into your retirement accounts is a great way to put your savings on autopilot. Just make sure you have enough money every month to cover these transfers – especially since income from freelance work can vary month to month.
We’re Here to Help!
The gig economy is an excellent opportunity to earn more, make your own schedule, and turn your passions into new revenue streams. To ensure your success, you must manage your money effectively and plan for your retirement and upcoming tax payments.
If you’re interested in learning more about setting up an emergency fund, retirement planning, or have questions on budgeting, we’re here to help. Call, text, or chat with one of our team members, M-F 9am-4pm EST. (315) 671-4000.
Each individual’s financial situation is unique and readers are encouraged to contact the Credit Union when seeking financial advice on the products and services discussed. This article is for educational purposes only; the authors assume no legal responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the contents.