I have a juicy one for you today. Brace yourself.

I am inspired by this amazing blog post that the one and only Bryony Kimmings published about a decade ago, which made the rounds on Twitter and opened up a conversation about the real earnings of well-established artists in the theatre industry.

Inspired by her transparency… I’ve decided to show you mine.

My budget, that is.

Here’s a big ol’ post about how I’ve set up my 24/25 budget for my self-employed business.

Enjoy <3

But first, big news.

Friend: I QUIT MY JOB!

Eeek! But also: wheee!

This came after MONTHS-UH (that’s two full syllables) of deliberation, but I am now absolutely sure it’s the right choice for me.

Whenever I have an important decision to make, I go through these two stages:

  1. Mind-numbing overthinking, planning, and logic gymnastics to consider every single possible outcome.
  2. A final gut decision.

All life-changing decisions came out of a lot of thought, and then a final gut check. I have to say that, so far, this has been working pretty well for me.

Back in December, I had decided to reduce my employed days from 4 per week to 2.5. This was based on acquiring two new clients on retainer, and wanting more time to work on my financial education content and products, which is the kind of work that lights my fire.

However, something inside of me kept nagging me. The first quarter of 2024 I had intrusive thoughts about whether reducing my days was a decision based on an actual strategy, or my fear of the unknown.

You see, I’ve never been fully self-employed, like ever. My freelance business never came close to being able to replace my salary, and furthermore, I am not one of those who like to sh*t on office jobs.

Office jobs are great if you’re working for a good company: income stability, pension contributions, paid time off, mentorship, Secret Santa. All the good stuff!

I was happy to work part-time, treat my freelance business as a side hustle, and just go with the flow.

The thing is, the “flow” brought me a bunch of new work, lolz!

In the last 6 months, I’ve had exciting conversations with an industry collaborator whom I’m chuffed to be creating a project with later this year.

Two more lovely clients joined the monthly retainer roster.

I have been receiving an average of 2 enquiries per week from individuals and companies wanting to work with me.

The launch of my first-ever online course was stellar, given that my audience is relatively tiny. And I was humbled by how positive the student feedback has been.

I’m not exactly sure what changed, but I can see an energy shift when it bites me in the butt.

So, as a joke, I created a conservative budget for how my business would look like if I quit my job. And low and behold, I had concrete, black-on-white, undeniable proof that as it stands, I don’t need to be employed to make a decent living.

Uh-oh!

Then, for sh*ts and giggles, I started typing a resignation letter to my boss, with no intention of sending it. I just wanted to know what it felt like to quit! No big deal AT ALL.

And as I was typing my fakey resignation, it just made more and more sense to me. When I finished it, I re-read it, made some small edits, and hit send.

BOOM! Immediate sweaty palms and upper lip. No going back from here!

So here I am, 3.5 weeks away from the end of my notice period and jumping head first, cold turkey, into my first financial year as a self-employed person.

Now, let’s move on to the juicy bits: my business setup and the figures.

Business setup

I’ve decided to run 100% of my business through a limited company.

This is because, if your profit exceeds about £20k per year, it might be more tax efficient to pay yourself through an incorporated commercial entity rather than as a sole trader.

It also separates the liability: if things go bust and I end up owing people money (PLEASE GOD NO), they won’t be able to access my personal assets, as all contracts will be under my company’s name.

This is what I’ll do to optimise tax efficiencies:

  • Pay myself a PAYE salary of £12,570 per year (which is the UK tax-free allowance).
  • Transfer some of my personal costs to the business as allowable business expenses (such as my phone plan).
  • Pay myself through my company’s dividends, which are taxed at 8.75% until I’m in the basic rate tax bracket.

In case you don’t know, dividends are what’s left of a commercial company’s profits after they’ve paid their corporation tax.

Even accounting for corporation tax (which is 19% of the company’s profits if they are under £50k), this is the most tax-efficient way for me to operate my business.

I have been keeping the books for dozens of limited companies, so I know what I’m doing here. Before you venture into something similar, do make sure you speak to an accountant to make sure it’s the right thing for you, too!

The budget

Omg, I’m excited for this part.

Some context before I share the numbers.

First off, this budget is very conservative. This means that I have accounted for a pretty bad case scenario for the year.

I have only included income I know I can count on, and made sale predictions that are (supposedly) very, very prudent.

This is because I didn’t want an aspirational budget for my first year in business: the aim of this exercise wasn’t to set targets for the year, it was to understand if I’d survive it.

Secondly, the hope is that I will exceed it.

The figures show a baseline bottom line I can pretty safely count on, but my challenge will be to have a sense of how much I can stretch my figures if I had all the time in the world to develop my business.

Income

Let’s start with where the money will come from. Here goes nothing:

Obvs, the highest paying strand of income is (at the moment), my active work: the financial management services I offer. These are a mixture of:

  • Acting as a finance manager for three clients that I am on a retainer with. On a monthly basis, I oversee the bookkeeping, set up and keep finance procedures, prepare management accounts, set up payment runs, run payroll, and deliver staff training as needed.
  • 1:1 consultancies: these are sessions where I sit with creative freelancers and do a bit of a financial audit of their personal and/or business finances (as they are so intertwined!). I advise them on how to better reach their financial goals, and help them understand how to set aside money for taxes.
  • Training: my bread and butter! Offer financial training sessions for arts charities. These tend to be delivered to small teams who have finance and accounting responsibilities, but never received adequate training for how to prepare compliant financial and management reports.
  • Preparing and submitting tax returns for self employed people and small arts companies.


The recharges are costs I incur which I remit to my clients (such as their company’s accounting software subscriptions)

Everything else (Etsy, Thrivecart and courses) are my more passively earned income, which I’ve only recently started to actively build up.

These are made up of the sale of my digital products:

  • Templates and worksheets
  • Online courses and masterclasses

This is the area of income I plan to truly invest my time and energies into, as my overall goal is to have a 50/50 split of actively and passively earned income.

For now, I’ve projected for 92% of my income to be actively earned, and a meagre 8% to come from digital products.

Again: I’ve been pretty conservative with the figures, because I don’t have a fully formed strategy yet for how I’ll develop my products and sell them to my wonderful audience.

I hope I’ll exceed these sales by quite a bit for the year. We’ll see!

Direct costs

These are the costs that are directly linked to making my products and selling my services.

Because I’ve been so conservative with the income, I have been conservative with direct costs, too.

I’ve only included a few hundred quid to add subtitles to all my courses and masterclasses (my course is currently subtitled thanks to Teachable’s AI feature, but I’ll change my learning platform and the new one will need subtitles manually added).

I expect these costs to go up if I end up launching new products and employing freelancers to help me along the way.

Overheads

These are the costs you incur regardless of how much output your business produces.

The biggest one will obviously be my salary. I will start paying myself through PAYE from the 16th of May and I will pay myself the tax-free allowance for the year.

Everything else your usual office costs: space, phones, subscriptions, website costs, and other bits and bobs.

I don’t expect these to change much even if I do launch a few more products and strands of work, but they might increase if I decide to invest in more organisational infrastructure if sales exceed my expectations.

The bottom line

Mine is a service-based online business where the biggest cost is my time. So the profit margin will be very high compared to product-based businesses such as candle-making or selling knitwear, where materials and stock will eat up a lot of the direct costs.

Even with a lean budget, my pre-tax profit margin is 59% of the income I generate. After corporation tax, the margin is 47%.

By the way, the margin is the percentage of gross income you are left with, after expenses.

So what’s in it for Susie?

I don’t plan to pay myself 100% of the company’s net profit. I have budgeted to pay myself 80% of it, so that the rest can be kept as reserves in the company for future investments.

If I add up my net salary and net dividends, my net income for the year as an individual will be £26k, so about £2,100 after tax per month to spend how I like.

Not too shabby! This is how much I make working 4 days a week for my employer, while my budgeted active work will take me 2.5 days per week.

WAIT, THOUGH! Here comes big ol’ HOWEVER.

Remember that I won’t have any pension contributions, nor paid time off, nor sick days.

And also, my regular clients might drop me any minute. I don’t think they will, but they could! The risk will always be there.

But I feel confident enough to take this risk and run with it, becoming the best collaborator anyone could ask for by offering services and products that are so helpful, well made and enjoyable that people will want to stick with me for the long run.

Quitting my job is something I would not have done a year ago. Like, at all! It’s such a bold and terrifying move.

But as I said, I know how to recognise opportunities when they knock at my door, and I have enough experience under my belt to ultimately believe in myself and my capabilities.

We’ll see how it all goes!

Friend, was this an enjoyable read? Would you like me to more regularly write about self-employed finances and income generation?

Hit reply and let me know.

I love you, and see you out there! Subscribe to my newsletter for more of this stuff coming your way!

About the author : Susie Italiano

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