How I Stopped Spending Money I Haven’t Earned Yet

You take on a new freelancing task, you get paid in advance. And you immediately spend it, because the money for life has already ended. And the work hasn’t been done yet. That’s it, from now on I’m held hostage by work.

I had a period when I was in debt. When you spent a little more than you earned. I described this situation as a “hefty carrot in the back.” And while I was in it, my growth in income was so insignificant and unstable that my hands dropped. It would seem that this is the motivation. Do something to get out of the situation. But no. Everything worked exactly the opposite.

In such conditions, having received an advance payment from a client, I was often forced to immediately spend it. And the project hasn’t been done yet. What did it lead to? If something went wrong, I was very much interested in the fact that the client did not leave me and that I did not have to return the prepayment. Did it affect the quality of my work? No, it was just as good. It simply weakened my position in negotiations with the client. In our relationship, I turned a blind eye to things that I would not tolerate now. Delays, delays, defaults. I was afraid to make a remark or voice my position, if only the client would not get upset and “fell off” me. No, of course they didn’t fall off. And the work went well. And I didn’t have to pay back. But I placed myself in such terrible moral conditions that there was no question of any development. My mind was clouded by the thought “I need this client’s money at all costs!”

The problem had to be solved in two stages. First, improve your financial literacy. Tighten your belt, lower your expenses for the same level of income. Pay off debts. Build up a small financial “fat”.

The second stage is to introduce an iron rule: “do not spend money that I have not yet earned.” It wasn’t easy at first. When the debts ended, but I spent as much as I get, I had to “push” projects forward with all my might, working on deadlines that were not comfortable for me or my clients. It can be assumed that customers liked that the work was done very quickly. But in practice this is not the case. In interface design (and I am a designer by profession), few people were chasing speed. Speed ​​was associated with superficial attitude.

Only at the moment when the amount of money set aside exceeded the amount of a couple of medium-sized projects did I finally exhale. Now I could “spend an advance payment” without spending it. It was just necessary to take money from the financial cushion. I found myself in a situation where you can focus on creating comfortable mutually beneficial conditions for cooperation in existing working relationships. When you can refuse some customers in favor of others. When at any point in time you realize that you can stop working with this person, just return the money to him and apologize.

Has this happened in practice? Yeah. Once every ten years. But what peace and harmony reign in your head when you CAN afford it! In any disputable situations, there is no longer any internal noise that prevents you from calmly and without prejudice to resolve the situation. There is no fear of losing a client, because now you do not depend on him. It is easier to discuss the evaluation of additional work. It is easier to make a remark to the client about being late, a change of manager, or a contradiction in job requirements.

Would I be lost in freelancing if I continued to spend upfront and did not bother with a financial airbag? Unlikely. I would have thought of something else. But he certainly would not have been able to get such growth and calmness, which he came to in the end.

I am doing this publication as part of drawing attention to my future “Book of a Normal Freelancer”. I myself am moving more and more from artisanal freelancing to entrepreneurship and decided in this way to draw a line and share my experience with others. I regularly write about the progress of work on the book, as well as about my freelance “adventures” In contact with and in Telegram. Join who is interested!

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