MONEY WORRIES AFFECT OUR CREATIVITY! Zero-based Budgeting for Freelancers is the Answer! – By Doug Ronald, Accountant, Auditor and Financial Consultant

MONEY WORRIES AFFECT OUR CREATIVITY! Zero-based Budgeting for Freelancers is the Answer! – By Doug Ronald, Accountant, Auditor and Financial Consultant

“What’s the Secret to Writing Success?” It’s a question that powers hundreds of websites, blogs, articles, and books. Here’s one answer: The secret to success in writing is to write, and write, and keep on writing. It’s true! Or, is it? A lack of dependable income can stop many freelancers from executing that simple plan. But, there’s a proven answer that can help!

Writers who sometimes–or often–worry about money. Aspiring writers need to employ a sound financial budgeting technique so that they can survive financially, and have time to write. I’ve been an accountant for over 40 years, and I can help with that. It’s called “Zero-based budgeting.”

The unpredictability of income is the main circumstance that sets freelancers apart from actual employees. Writers may or may not increase their income by working more hours. In many ways, it’s out of our hands and up to our editors and publishers. Generally, when more income is needed, the time available for writing suffers. We often must support ourselves with part-time work that barely pays the bills. We supplement this income by selling articles and short stories…or that’s the hope, at least. Every sale helps our motivation and our finances but it’s not always there when the rent comes due.

In order to budget an inconsistent income stream, I recommend that you go back through your pay-stubs, bank account activity, and acceptance notices, writing down all of your actual monthly income for the past year. Add up the total for each month. Then, from your own experience, decide what amount in this income range represents your most dependable income level. This is the income on which you can depend, such as your paycheck (if you are still working a regular job) plus a minimum of three articles each month, if that’s your experience. This is your “basic income.” Enter it at the top of your first monthly budget.

The process of Zero-based budgeting is a matter of you deciding in advance where every dollar of your basic income will be spent on basic, necessary expenses.

The next step is to determine from your records the nature and monthly amounts of your “basic expenses,” which include shelter, utilities, food, clothing, and transportation. Also include writing expenses but they should be minimal. Depending on how tight your income is, it may take very careful shopping and planning just to cover basic expenses. List each of these amounts on your Budget, and subtract them from your basic income until there are zero-dollars left.

If you have debts–student loans, car payments, credit cards–then your “basic expenses” need to include the minimum monthly payments on debts. If your basic income does not cover your basic expenses, including debt payments, please see “About Debt” below.

The list of “other expenses” will include items that may be paid only when you receive income that is above your “basic income”. One of the most important of these payments is for savings. You must set aside some extra money for a future need.

Debt is a budget killer. If you have debt that requires monthly payments that cannot be met from your basic income, a different strategy is required. For example, to relieve a car payment, you might want to sell the car, and pay cash for an older car.

In this situation, you may need to put off or dial back your writing career and work another job, or more hours at your current job, to create more income. Then, apply every extra dollar towards paying off your debts. Start with the smallest one. Paying that off quickly will motivate you.

Writers need to write and, for this, we need both time and freedom from financial worries. Having and following a solid Zero-based budget, where you spend every dollar according to your plan, can make this possible.

Recommendation: For a free online budget tool that also comes with an app for your phone, I suggest Dave Ramsey’s website.


“Douglas Ronald is a career accountant, auditor and financial consultant. He’s in his first year of writing professionally, doing freelance writing assignments while working on short stories and a novel. He may be contacted at”


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