Leaving corporate life to strike it out on your own as a freelancer can be scary for many reasons. Among them, the lack of benefits a typical employer provides. What do we mean by benefits? Pretty much the basics: health insurance, a 401k, and paid vacation time.
When you work for yourself, you’re more than your own boss. You’re your own company; and as that company’s most valuable employee, aren’t you entitled to be taken care of? This begs the question: who has your back? The answer, as you may have guessed, is you. Make sure you plan ahead and set yourself up for the future. This is no flight of fancy, it’s potentially your long-term career; something you may be doing until the day you retire.
Here are some tips for giving yourself the same kind of benefits you’d get while working for a major corporation.
Paid Vacation Time
Everybody needs to take a break from work every now and again, and one of the benefits of working independently is your ability to take time off whenever you please. This freedom comes with a downside, however. If you aren’t working, you aren’t getting paid. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.
One of the most important thinking adjustments a freelancer can make is viewing yourself as a business. You aren’t just slaving away for a personal paycheck. You want to make a certain amount of overhead to entitle yourself to certain benefits, like paid vacation time. Set aside a little money each week and put it into a business savings account. Make sure this account isn’t easily accessible—it can be an awfully big temptation to spend that money.
When you’re ready to take time off, calculate how much you’d typically earn over the course of your absence. Withdraw that money, but don’t put it in your pocket and call it a day. Wait to pay yourself on schedule, as if you had worked a full week. This will reinforce the idea of your freelance work as a business, and will prevent your personal payment cycle from being thrown out-of-whack.
If you’re a U.S.-based freelancer, you already know that healthcare is a hot topic in the country. If you live in a state that hasn’t opted out of expanding Medicaid (as part of the Affordable Healthcare Act), it’s fairly easy to sign up and start receiving benefits. This is good news for independent contractors. Using just one state as an example, more than 300,000 residents of Arizona are now entitled to medical assistance they otherwise wouldn’t have. Whereas hiring a Phoenix personal injury lawyer used to be some Arizonians only recourse to receive compensation for medical bills, many people now enjoy access to medical care at a reduced cost.
However, if National Healthcare isn’t an option, or you need a little help footing the bill, try relegating a small percentage of your weekly income toward paying the insurance bill. It’s important to view healthcare not only as a luxury, but a necessity. After all, you’re an employer now, even if you’re your company’s only employee. Take care of your business by taking care of yourself.
401k and Retirement
We’ve talked a lot about savings so far, but no savings account is more important than your 401k. Employers make paying into one easy, but you may feel a little lost when it comes to setting up one yourself.
It can be done, however—all it takes is a little self-control. Putting just $500.00 a month into a savings account will net you roughly $250,000 in twenty years (after interest). The further you develop your business, the more you can pay into your retirement fund. It’s completely possible to make half a million or more by the time you’re ready to retire.
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