For close on 7 months I’ve been self employed. It has been pretty damn rad for the most part but it also leads to a host of sleepless nights. Not having a regular “pay check” at the end of each month is freaking terrifying and that terror never gets old. Also, there is a lot of financial stuff you need to be responsible for that you don’t even think about when you’re holding down a 9 to 5. I know a lot of people who are going the freelance route and are now full time content creators, so I figured I’d share some of the useful tools and humans I’ve encountered in case someone else needs some assistance. A lot of the below can help anyone in fact, so if you see something you might need, be sure to contact the person or use the tool.
And before you ask, I haven’t been paid for any of the below. I declare paid for work and if you want more clarity there is a full disclosure here. These are really just things that have helped me and I want to share in the hope that they can help someone else (also good service deserves a shout out sometimes right?).
My 3 financial tech tricks:
1. Get a decent Financial Manager
For the longest time I really didn’t think forward. Things like Retirement Annuities and savings just annoyed me. Mainly because I like having liquid cash but also because I can’t handle the barrage of cold calls from randoms who hunt me down from the likes of LinkedIn to try get me to give them their money so they can make a fat commission. Saying that, I was paying over cash each month to a company for RAs and the like thinking I was doing my bit and looking after my future. But I wasn’t. My brother is a financial manager at PSG. He has offered, many a time, to assist by taking a look at my finances, savings and policies but I had this weird thing about not mixing family and money.
One day I relented and handed it all over. Bottom line, I’d likely need to work till I was 232 for my retirement plans to garner any rewards, my savings were in lock down and I really wasn’t earning all that much in interest and the like. My money was doing nothing for me. I was also playing close on 40% of my so called savings payments into commissions for the people managing these funds. Which is, according to my brother, ludicrous. He sat with me and walked me through my bank statements, potential earnings and my various accounts and expenses. After three detailed meetings he presented a plan to me on how to better invest and save. There was a mixture of offerings but they suited my needs and also still gave me peace of mind as he was able to develop a plan that still gives me access to liquid cash should I need it while it earns interest. I’m also loathe to have to deal with humans so much of my finance management is structured in such a way that almost all my communication is over email and the folks I deal with are super efficient – which is such a plus. The plans are also based on what I can afford versus someone insisting I spend more to boost their commission. I think anyone embarking on their own business ventures or just looking for a bit more peace of mind should chat to a financial manager. Better yet, email my brother, he’ll give you a quick overview of your current policies and plans for free. Cause he is rad like that (also, I may have just pimped you out, sorry kid). You can email Darryn by clicking here.
2. Automate your invoicing
When I started on my own, my favourite way to invoice was via PDF. I had a little Word template that I edited and then just saved as PDF. My accounting system consisted of copying the last invoice number and one upping it. I didn’t have any paper trail of payments and just double checked every week. It was such a giant time waster. Until I used Freshbooks. Freshbooks is an online accounting system that I found really easy to use and less terrifying than Pastel accounting (in all fairness, I’ve never used Pastel, but I’ve seen it over shoulders of financial folk and it terrifies me). Freshbooks costs me $35 a month but you can do a one month free trial to get a feel for it. I’m able to do all my invoicing online, keep track of payments and expenses and also do full expense accounts (which are great for tax purposes). It is a proper little accounting package and all my finance information is in one place and neatly organised. I was extremely loathe to pay for accounting software because I believed my little PDF set up worked well, but I did the one month trial and now I have no issue with that $35 coming off my card each month. Freshbooks is a life saver and is going to save you a heap of time.
3. Get help with your Tax sooner rather than later
I’m now a provisional tax payer. But I didn’t even know what that meant until a few months ago. I was happily just doing my thing when I realised I had no idea how to do tax returns now that I was on my own. Since before I can remember I’d just log on to my SARS profile, everything would be there and I’d just click a button. I never thought much of it. And then suddenly I had no clue what was going on. Panic. A business colleague suggested an incredible accountant for me who I rang up. He went through my returns and then called me in for a two hour meeting where he sat with me as we scrutinized a year’s worth of bank statements. It was awful BUT it made me realise what actually goes into provisional tax and what needs to be done. Ronald is now my go to for all tax related things. If you want him email, comment below and I’ll get in touch and share with you (I can see your email address in the admin section of my blog, no one else can, so just comment – I’ll do the rest, or if you feel more comfortable email me). He is extremely affordable as well which helps.
However, you actually don’t need an accountant. I recently heard of a nifty new service that might just be ideal for content creators or new freelancers called TaxTim. Momentum actually put funding into this tech start up last year which I think gives it a bit of “street cred”. Basically it helps South Africans do their tax returns online. The software integrates directly with SARS efiling and once you’ve signed up you’ll have a little bot ask you some simple questions such as “Did you or your employer pay for the media aid contributions.” The tool then assists you filling out your return. I think if you’re a freelancer or content creator you’ll need to pay R499 to use the software though so keep that in mind. If you don’t have a Ronald though and only need help once a year then this might be ideal. I haven’t used it though but based off the website I think it could be pretty helpful. The website also has some nifty tax calculators that I enjoy playing with as well – so abuse it for that if you must.
Again, the above services and tools are merely things I’ve used to help me navigate the scary world of finances and freelance. I think they could be pretty helpful to anyone. It is scary being self employed so any little bit of help is a plus in my side. Let me know if try out any of the above or find them useful. I might share more posts like this in the future!