How Fixing My Finances Led to a Better Class of Clients (and a bigger bottom line)

Jennifer Brown Banks

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“Desperate times call for desperate measures.” And I should know. That rationale is how I justified many of the foolish freelancing choices I made early on in my writing career as a fledging entrepreneur.

Back then, I was convinced that starting out late to this field; insurmountable bills; and badly needing “exposure“ and validation for my work meant that I couldn‘t afford the luxury of being selective. That I was unable to make professional decisions that were in alignment with my personal goals, lifestyle, passions and interests.

After all, “beggars can’t be choosers.” Right?

HERE’S HOW THAT FAULTY BELIEF SYSTEM TRANSLATED:

* I WROTE 1,000 WORD ARTICLES FOR 10 BUCKS (THE EQUIVALENT OF SLAVE LABOR).

* I SOMETIMES ALLOWED CLIENTS AND EDITORS TO TREAT ME SHABBILY AND CONDESCENDINGLY, FOR FEAR OF LOSING ASSIGNMENTS.

(One client appeared to have had anger management issues and would actually send me profanity-laced emails when we had simple creative differences) .

*I PRICED MY SERVICES AT BARGAIN BASEMENT RATES.

But after a few years and greater clarity, things started to turn around.

The cause for the paradigm shift?

I finally realized that at the root of my professional problems (and decisions) was my dismal, financial status. Enslaved by debt, I was busted and disgusted. I was constantly trying to put out “financial fires” day to day; which prevented me from thinking long-term. I took what I was offered as a freelancer, instead of what I wanted or deserved, simply because I felt I had to in order to survive.

Sound familiar?

Are you tired of trying to make ends meet with low paying gigs? Looking for a way to save more money amid an uncertain economy and disruptions caused by the pandemic? Seeking more compatible creative clients?

You don’t have to settle.

There’s a better way.

According to popular business coach, Tony Robbins: “Although it is depends on your personal situation, most financial planners recommend saving enough for at least six months – in both your personal and business expenses. This will set you up for the times when work is harder to come by and will protect you from being in a situation where you take a job you don’t feel good about just because you are desperate for the work.”

HERE’S HOW I CHANGED THE NARRATIVE AND WROTE MY OWN HAPPY ENDING, MOVING FORWARD (AND YOU CAN TOO).

* I began to pay off my credit cards one after another. Instead of merely paying the “minimum” payment required (which keeps us in debt for many years) I doubled up on payments until the balances went down to zero. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m not where I used to be either.

* I got a part-time gig to provide additional income. If we're resourceful and committed, most of us can find various ways to add another income stream to our finances. Whether it's babysitting, tutoring, cleaning homes or serving as a virtual assistant. In this day and age of the Internet, the possibilities are endless. And during the current pandemic, it's really a smart strategy for survival.

* I kept a financial journal to track my monthly spending, allowing me to make more informed decisions. At the end of each month, I carefully examined what I spent vs. what I received, in an effort to do better and to make long-term projections.

* I began to understand and practice the art of “delayed gratification.” I stopped borrowing. When I wanted something I couldn’t afford right away, I learned to save up for it.

* I contacted my utility companies to seek cheaper monthly plans and/or re-negotiated rates. Word to the wise: If you have a good payment history, some companies will minimally try to work with you in order to retain a loyal customer. Keep in mind, however, that results may vary.

* I started saving money up on a regular basis to provide a cushion for “feast or famine” cycles. Even starting with a small amount can help to provide you with incentive and momentum. What have you got to lose?

HERE’S HOW MY ACTIONS LED TO BETTER CLIENTS AND A BIGGER BOTTOM LINE:

* I stopped writing needlessly for free for mere “exposure.” I began to strike a good balance between paid work and my “passion” assignments.

* I acquired greater confidence as I gained more experience. (I was proud of the many bylined pieces that gradually appeared in major print and online publications).

This led to me charging professional rates for my services that were fair and commensurate with my experience, knowledge base and skills level.

* I became more selective about the clients with whom I would work. I was finally able to reject clients with whom I thought there simply was not a “good fit”; those who exhibited red flags; or those with unreasonable expectations.

* I stopped dealing with difficult editors and clients who didn’t value my worth and those who stressed me out and repeatedly paid me late. Realizing that “time is money.”

I started to purchase insurance for my various important needs. I discovered the hard way that not having adequate coverage can cause financial set-backs at the worst time. For example, when my furnace system unexpectedly broke down during a brutal winter, a few years ago. Health insurance, homeowner’s insurance and life insurance should be given serious consideration in your overall financial planning.

THE BOTTOM LINE TO A BIGGER BOTTOM LINE AS AN ENTREPRENEUR?

Get your financial house in order. If you need help to get started or to devise a realistic plan, consider contacting a debt counseling agency in your local area. Don’t be ashamed.

Bad finances can sometimes happen to good people.

START ON THE RIGHT FOOT TO MOVE FORWARD:

Come clean.

Be prepared to have a listing of all your debts, credit card payments, spending habits and monthly income.

You might be surprised how having professional, objective assistance can put things in proper perspective and give you a new start on a better future.

Fixing your finances can put the “free” in freelancing and empower you in countless ways.

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Veteran freelance writer, award-winning blogger, thought leader, herbal tea enthusiast. My mission is to entertain, engage and inform readers with articles that are interesting, enriching and diverse.

Chicago, IL
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