For the regular 9-to-5-er, budgeting is simple. You have your income and your personal expenses. You save a little and spend a little, but your month to month is very predictable. For creators, this is often not the case. Creators must balance personal and business expenses and anticipate fluctuation in income. As a creator, your life is your business, and you must plan accordingly with budgets for the year, revenue goals and income projections. Our step by step guide provides a few tips and tricks that will help you handle budgeting.
1. Calculate and Anticipate your Personal Expenses
Start by gathering your records from the past few months. This could come from credit card statements, bank activity reports, or Venmo. Based on your past activity, set categories and calculate your monthly personal spending for housing, groceries, personal debt payments, social activities, travel, personal care, etc. Calculate your final total from personal expenses, take 30% of that, and add it to your personal expenses to account for taxes.
2. Repeat for Business Expenses
Now repeat the same steps for your business expenses. Consider both yearly and monthly expenses like a Lightroom subscription, website hosting costs, accountant or insurance fees, content trips, etc.
3. Determine Your Savings Goals
This step requires a bit of reflection. For most, it is recommended that you save 20% of your income. However, depending on your life stage and career stage, you may want to save more or less. Consider your future personal goals such as purchasing a home, growing your family, or other major expenses. Let this guide your savings goals. Then, decide upon a yearly savings figure.
4. Set an Income Goal
Depending on your preferences, lifestyle, and specifics of your business operations, you can either create a monthly or yearly income goal. The process is the same depending on whether or not you divide by 12. To begin, add up your yearly personal expense total, your yearly business expense total, and your yearly savings figure. Then, depending on whether or not content creation provides the entirety of your income, add an amount, usually equivalent to one month of expenses, to your expense total. This provides insurance for any lulls or unexpected complications in brand deals or general income. If content creation is simply a supplement to a full-time job, you can omit this step. This final figure is your yearly income goal. You can use this to guide your pricing, frequency of brand deals, or need for further income generation.
5. Track Yourself
Now that you have your yearly income goal, you can track your progress towards meeting those goals and keeping your expenses consistent and in-line. Tools like Lumanu’s expense tracker, PocketGuard, or NerdWallet can help simplify this process. Classic spreadsheets also remain reliable for tracking the specifics of your income and expenses. Plenty of templates are available for free on the internet. While it requires diligence, tracking expenses, especially business expenses, will pay off in the long run with budgeting and even end of year taxes.
6. Remain Flexible
Stress can easily start to set with rigid expectations for income and expenses. While these expectations help you manage your life, they should be treated as guidelines. You may not hit your income goal or you may overspend, and that’s ok. This budgeting plan provides the necessary wiggle room. And, as you and your business grow and change, so should your budget. Reflect yearly or quarterly on your budget and adjust accordingly.
This is part one of the four part series: Financial Literacy for Creators. Follow along for the next edition: Invest.