All minds are welcome 

Finding financial wellbeing when you’re self employed

By Chloe Hall

I’ve been self-employed for five years – a milestone I genuinely never thought I’d reach. It would be fair to say even at this point “financial wellbeing” wasn’t something I’d mastered. Financial wellbeing to me is a sense of security, feeling as though you have enough money to meet your needs. It’s about being in control of your day-to-day finances and having the financial freedom to make choices that allow you to enjoy life. It also gives me the freedom to buy things that future-me will love and need, like a house or paying off my car tax in one go.

I launched my own business in 2014 knee-deep in my student overdraft and with no investment from family or startup loan. I spent the early years working with ten or even 13 clients a month which sounds very profitable, but in reality each was only paying me around £100-£250. I’d be working flat out 12 hour days, 7 days a week and barely earn enough to cover my bills some months. By year three of business, I was exhausted and still in my overdraft. What was I doing wrong? Time spent with a business mentor showed me the error of my ways. I was charging too little and taking on too much. I made the conscious decision to do less work for more money. The dream, right?

In hindsight this meant a lot of difficult decisions, turning down work and holding out for a bigger contract I’d pitched for. This change in business strategy certainly didn’t happen overnight either, but slowly I changed my tone in emails, on my website and meetings and better communicated the value a client would get by working with me for 12 weeks rather than adhoc here and there. With that under my belt, it still wasn’t until I was actively saving for something I desperately wanted that I finally understood how to achieve financial wellbeing whilst self employed.

We all have different priorities and find pleasure or enjoyment in different things. You may love to travel and invest in experiences; I wanted to upgrade my clapped-out car and to save for a house. At the start of every month I began to write down everything I had to pay (rent, bills, car payment, tax etc.) and whatever was left I would split into as much as I could, making a note of any work meetings or social events I would need money for. To some, this might come naturally but to me it was a completely new, methodical and mindful way of living and spending.

I gave myself a £20 budget per week for food, £20 for fuel, £10 for an “Emergency Fund” and £20 for the vaguely titled column of “fun”. Whatever I wanted – makeup, a massage, a meal out – would have to come from this. Progress was infuriatingly slow but it was a step in the right direction. Within months, saving and budgeting became a habit. As much as I might have wanted new perfume or to treat myself to something, the sense of peace I felt knowing I could have £20 to spend on myself every week (or all in one go at £100pm) meant I rarely felt like I was going without. It helped me methodically save up a house deposit, and, now a homeowner it’s a habit I’ve still kept up.

Finding financial wellbeing for me turned out to be as simple as a piece of paper, pen and being creative about how best I could realistically segment my income. When times got tough, I had my Emergency Fund to dip into. Thanks to past-me!