Financial Advice for Freelancers

Becoming a freelancer is an excellent option for those who seek independence and flexibility in their careers. If you have the base network, you can choose the clients you want to work with and the projects you have the bandwidth for. Plus, you get to make your own schedule. Who wouldn’t love that?

Whether you’re a consultant, designer, artist, writer, or engineer – freelancing gives you full control of your career. Not to mention it’s becoming more popular – the freelance workforce contributes to $1 trillion of the economy and Gen Z’ers are freelancing more than any other generation of workers.

With freelancing, there can be a lot of unknowns. As a self-employed individual, you’ll be responsible for managing your own benefits and business growth. And you may have some challenges with cash flow and taxes. Overall, there’s less security than if you were to be a salaried employee. But don’t let that crush your dreams of being a self-sufficient freelancer – there are many ways to successfully be self-employed and financially savvy.

Determine a reasonable rate

Before anything, you’ll have to set a rate that will dictate your income based on the expected demand. There are many factors to consider when determining a reasonable rate. Some people might decide to bill by the hour, while others like project-based rates. A good step is to calculate your expenses as an independent professional. Some items may include:

  • Your office space
  • A computer and other electronics
  • Your internet and phone bills
  • Office materials
  • Programs like cloud storage tools, bookkeeping platforms, design software, and more
  • And of course, your typical living expenses (your other utility bills such as electric and heat, rent/mortgage, food, etc.)

From there, you should have an idea of what you will need to make to afford a living and cover your expenses without going into debt. On top of that, it’s best to do some industry research to see what others with your experience are charging their clients.

Get prepared for tax season

It can be challenging to correctly calculate how much in taxes you may owe as a self-employed person. Tax experts say the best way to avoid tax issues is to plan ahead and find a record-keeping system. There are some platforms out there that can help with this as you get more established in your freelancing journey, but you can always start small. For example, start a filing system that keeps all your business receipts, invoices, mileage records, and more in one place. As a freelancer, it will be crucial to track your income through an accurate invoicing system that is easy for you to find later.

Outsourcing your taxes to a CPA or other platform still may be your best bet. At First Financial, we offer savings on tax services like TurboTax and H&R Block every tax season to our members through the Love My Credit Union Rewards program.

Build a strong savings account

Building good savings is a must for freelancers (and everyone!). There are many unknowns and things you’ll need to plan for when you’re self-employed, so a savings account can help get you prepared for whatever life throws your way. Here’s what savings to consider.

  • An emergency fund: It’s possible your workload will ebb and flow, which can make your income unpredictable. A savings account can add some extra financial security.
  • Retirement savings: As a freelancer, you’re not eligible for a company 401(k). This means you’ll need to open an individual retirement account (IRA) as either a traditional or Roth IRA. If you have a 401(k) from a previous employer, you can roll that over into your current plan as well. You can get started with a 401(k) rollover through the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial, if you live, work, worship, volunteer, or attend school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in NJ.**

First Financial offers personal and business savings account options to help you reach your financial goals.*

Don’t forget about health insurance

Obtaining health insurance is a big concern for many self-employed individuals. Luckily, there are options for those who aren’t able to get insurance through their employer. One option is to buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace. You can also see if there’s a suitable plan available through the Freelancers Union or if you’d qualify for Medicaid.

No matter where your freelancing career takes you, First Financial will be with you along the way. We’re here to help you plan for self-employment and financial success. To discuss your options, call us at 732.312.1500, email or stop by any of our local branches.

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*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Some restrictions apply, contact the Credit Union for more information.

 **Securities and advisory services are offered through LPL Financial (LPL), a registered investment advisor and broker/dealer (member FINRA/SIPC). Insurance products are offered through LPL or its licensed affiliates. First Financial Federal Credit Union (FFFCU) and The Investment & Retirement Center are not registered as a broker/dealer or investment advisor. Registered representatives of LPL offer products and services using The Investment & Retirement Center, and may also be employees of FFFCU. These products and services are being offered through LPL or its affiliates, which are separate entities from and not affiliates of FFFCU or The Investment & Retirement Center. Securities and insurance offered through LPL or its affiliates are: Not Insured by NCUA or Any Other Government Agency, Not Credit Union Guaranteed, Not Credit Union Deposits or Obligations, May Lose Value.

Starting a Business: Financial Advice for Entrepreneurs

Starting a new business can be stressful no matter how seasoned of an entrepreneur you are. There are many factors to consider when planning to launch and maintain a business, especially when it comes to finances. Whether you’re planning to launch a new tech start-up, restaurant, or consulting firm, there are steps you should take to ensure the long-term financial success of your business.

Create a Business Plan

Before sharing your business idea with potential partners, investors, or employees, make sure you have a business plan first. A plan will be crucial to guiding you through the first few years of your business journey. The process of writing a business plan will help you understand industry risks, start-up costs, and other key elements to sustain your idea. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has helpful resources for building a business plan.

Track and Organize Your Finances

Think of a balance sheet as the foundation of your finances. This sheet provides a snapshot of your business financials and helps you keep track of your assets, liabilities, and equity. As a business owner, it’s important to organize your financial records so it’s not a hassle to track expenses down the line. Entrepreneurs can use a balance sheet to help separate financial data into categories, thus making the information easily accessible for you and your business partners.

Spend Wisely

Does your business need a large office space and new furniture right away? Depending on the type of business, fancy decor can likely wait. First, plan on buying exactly what’s needed and then keep track of future wish-list items. The same goes for products you’re selling – no need to have hundreds of items available in stock unless you know that product is in high demand.

Now think about the services you’ll need to help get your business started. It’s important to consider the value a service adds to your business and if it saves you time. For example, entrepreneurs may want to outsource their logo design to a professional. If the business owner has design skills, they could save money by creating a logo in-house. However, if hiring a designer saves you hours, then the extra investment might be worth it.

Plan for Tax Season

Tax season will look very different for new entrepreneurs. New business owners will need to plan ahead for taxes both in financial preparation and budgeting to avoid overlooking any tax obligations. Everything from choosing between an LLC and an S-corporation to the timing of hiring employees and purchasing equipment – will impact your taxes. It’s also recommended you save money each year to use toward tax payments. Overall, it’s a good idea to consider hiring a CPA to assist with filing business tax returns.

Work with a Professional

It’s always recommended new business owners work with professionals to help map out financial considerations. At First Financial, we can not only provide loans and accounts to eligible businesses, but we also offer business services to help entrepreneurs kick start their professional dreams.

Ready to get started? Call our Business Development Department at 732-312-1500 or email with any questions.

How to Get a Loan if You are Self-Employed

If you are self-employed, it may be a little harder to qualify for a loan based on other borrowers who can easily furnish a W-2 form. Keep reading to find out how you can still qualify for a loan when you’re self-employed.

Check Your Credit Rating

Your credit history is probably one of the most important factors in qualifying you for a loan. Your credit score is used by lenders to gauge how and if you’ll be able to repay the loan. So if your credit isn’t that great, getting a loan could be extremely difficult – or if you do, you may be paying a great deal more in interest for the loan you’re seeking.

If your credit score isn’t in the higher 600s or above – your best bet may to be to wait before applying, and continue to build your score. You can increase your credit score by paying bills on time, rectify any past due payments, and keep all your lines of credit open.

Need to know your credit score? Visit and be sure to check your credit report for errors too. Errors on your credit report can also affect your score, so you’ll want to make sure you review the report in detail to ensure all open lines of credit are truly yours, and that all charges and loan payments are legitimately yours.

Compile the Necessary Documents

Due to the fact that you are self-employed, more than likely your lender is going to ask you for more documents in order for you to qualify for a loan. Here are the most frequently asked for documents, that you’ll want to get organized for at least the last 2 years before you apply:

  • Bank statements
  • Profit and loss statements
  • Tax statements (Your 2 most recent tax returns, schedules and transcripts)
  • 1099 forms

Get Prequalified

Many lenders will prequalify you for a loan first before you actually need to apply. If this is an option you might be interested in, reach out to your lender and ask what might be needed in order to issue a prequalification (where you’d find out the amount you’d be approved for and the loan terms).

Decide About Applying

If you’re happy with your lender’s terms and rate, you’re now ready to apply for the loan. Or if you’ve been researching several different lenders to compare the loan rate that you’d be offered, decide which one you’d like to apply with.

Lenders will typically offer online applications, or you may be able to call and apply over the phone or in person. This is where all the documents from above will come in handy. You’ll be asked detailed questions about your business income and finances. Having everything ready to go in advance will streamline the process.

Await Loan Approval and Funding

Once your loan application is fully submitted and complete, your lender will review your documentation and let you know if you were approved for the loan. Once your loan is approved, the funds will be deposited into your account and you’ll be able to continue to improve your credit rating, finance a large purchase, or fund your business needs.

At First Financial, we understand that not every business is the same – therefore not every loan is going to be the same. We pride ourselves in personalized service and reasonable timelines, keeping your business in mind. Email us at and we’ll be happy to provide you with more information on loans for your business. Or, if you’re self-employed and looking for a consumer loan for personal use – check out the Loan Source page on our website. We have various consumer loans too!


A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey. See credit union for details. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. Federally insured by NCUA.

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Business Owners: Watch Out for COVID-19 SBA Loan Scams

If you’re a business owner, you may have already applied or are still planning to apply for a loan to assist your business by paying employees through the SBA’s (Small Business Administration) CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program. Both programs recently got billions of dollars in new funding. However, while you’re focused on getting a loan – scammers may be hoping to trick you into giving them sensitive business information, like your bank account numbers, employees’ Social Security Numbers, and your money.

Below are some guidelines to prevent you and your business from getting scammed as you apply for a small business loan.

Things to Do:

 Things You Shouldn’t Do:

  • Never pay for information. All the information from the SBA is free at
  • Don’t pay in advance for a government business loan. You will never have to pay anything up front to get an SBA loan.
  • Don’t give your information to anyone who calls, emails, or texts you. The SBA will not call unsolicited to find out information about you or your business, or to ask you to apply for a loan. The SBA will not send you emails or text messages asking for sensitive information. If you get an email or text like this, it’s a scam.
  • Don’t apply for a loan without verifying the lender. Only SBA authorized lenders can provide PPP loans, and the other loans (bridge loans, debt relief loans) that may be available through SBA directly. To find an SBA authorized lender in your area, use this SBA tool.
  • Don’t click on links or reply to emails or text messages from unknown senders. If you click on any links typically sent in these types of communications, you could download malware to your device or be connected to a scammer. Also be on alert for fraudulent calls. If you think your business has been contacted by a scammer, report it at

To inquire about applying for a PPP Loan for your small Monmouth or Ocean County NJ business, please email our Business Development Department at First Financial is an SBA approved lender.*

We are here to help our local small businesses during this difficult time!

*Please be advised that due to high volume in regard to requests with PPP Loans, our response time may be delayed. We will get to each inquiry in the order in which it was received.

Article Source: Rosario Mendez of

Do You Know What It Takes to Run a Successful Side Hustle?

The process of finding financial security has gone through some dramatic changes over the last few decades. As recently as the 1980’s, conventional wisdom suggested following a career path that went something like this: Go to school. Get a good job. Work for one company for 20 years or more. Collect a pension. Retire in relative comfort.

If that approach sounds completely foreign to you, you’re not alone. On his personal finance blog, 20SomethingFinance, G.E. Miller observed, “Most twenty-somethings have never and (unfortunately) probably will never sniff the sweet security provided by a pension plan.” So, if there’s almost no hope of finding financial stability by following same path as previous generations, how can set yourself up for success? Two words: Side. Hustle.

What Does “Side Hustle” Really Mean?

With more and more people realizing that working a single job leaves them living paycheck to paycheck, side hustles are experiencing a considerable spike in popularity. Since we’ve already used the phrase twice in this article, you may be wondering exactly what constitutes a side hustle. Is it a second job? An online business?  In his new book (conveniently titled Side Hustle), Chris Guillebeau provides some much needed clarity. “A side hustle is not a part-time job. It is an asset that works for you.” This definition reveals a crucial distinction between trading hours for dollars, and building something that pays dividends for years to come.

Side Job vs. Side Hustle

Thanks to a surging economy and advances in technology, finding a side job is easier than ever. From Etsy to barista gigs and seasonal retail, potential work opportunities are plentiful. But if Guillebeau is right, the additional income you can earn from these jobs might not give you the long-term security you want. So, are they even worth pursuing? Do they offer any asset-building benefits? Absolutely. You just have to adjust your motivation for doing the work.

Rather than focusing on the job itself or the hourly wage it provides, entrepreneur Jeremiah Dew recommends looking a little deeper. “Find an endeavor that makes you become a better person—something that requires you to build a skill set that will help you in future ventures as well.” Sell crafts on Etsy in order to get better at e-commerce and digital marketing. Become an Airbnb host to upgrade your customer service skills. You get the point.

Success Requires a Different Perspective

When you’re trying to earn additional income, it can be tempting to jump at the first opportunity that offers real money. And while a traditional side job isn’t necessarily a bad thing, be careful not to confuse it with a legitimate side hustle. You may be able to earn extra money, but if your income is still tied to your ability to show up and perform a specific set of tasks, you’re not developing an asset. However, if you utilize those opportunities to gain experience and lessons that transcend a specific job or industry, you may be on your way to developing a successful, sustainable side hustle.

You Won’t Win Alone

Now, before you rush out and start a supplemental career, it’s important to remember the value of a good mentor. As the old saying goes, “A smart person learns from his mistakes. A wise person learns from the mistakes of others.” If you’re going to be wise about building your business, it pays to develop a relationship with someone who has experience running a business of their own, someone who made mistakes you can learn from. Whether you find them yourself or ask for suggestions from people you trust, the impact of a business mentor can be priceless.

From a financial standpoint, business ownership requires money management skills you won’t learn as an employee. Fortunately, your local credit union is an outstanding resource where you can find the knowledge, expertise, and programs to help you navigate the often-confusing early stages of your side hustle. By relying on their services and recommendations, you’ll be able to sidestep potential pitfalls and put yourself in a position to succeed. To learn more about the Business Services at First Financial, click here.

Teach Your Kids to Take a Stand — A Lemonade Stand

Long before Beyoncé transformed it into a cultural touchpoint, lemonade was the commodity of choice for childhood business ventures. Perhaps you had a lemonade stand of your own, or maybe you just knew someone who did. Either way, the memories of ice-cold refreshment probably ride on a warm wave of nostalgia. If your enterprise was especially successful, you might even hear a faint “cha-ching” as you reminisce.

Fast forward a decade or two, and now you find yourself juggling the demands of family, friends, and career. Thanks to the latest technology, it’s easy to let your kids spend their summer vacation drifting along on a digital stream of Snapchat streaks and Fortnite marathons. With the dog days of summer approaching, you have a perfect opportunity to shake up your child’s summertime routine with a little old school entrepreneurship. It’s time to bring back the lemonade stand!

Let your kids in on the fun. When you were young, running a lemonade stand didn’t feel like a job—it felt like freedom. So, don’t worry that encouraging your children to work will somehow rob them of their summertime fun. The venture can be fun, and the lessons they learn from operating a small business can last a lifetime.

Goal setting

Believe it or not, this one comes pretty naturally to kids. If you ask them what they want to do with the money they earn, they’ll probably have at least one goal already in mind. It may be a video game, a bike, or new clothes, but whatever it is, their motivation won’t be hard to find. When they finally save up enough to buy what they want, the sense of accomplishment will be something you can build on for the rest of their life.


Operating a lemonade stand is an excellent way to help your children learn that it costs money to create something. After all, lemons and sugar aren’t free. Understanding economic concepts like cost of goods and profit margins, will give your kids a valuable perspective with real-world applications. As they plan their drink prices, let them decide what to charge. Positive or negative, the lessons they learn from experience will help them with future budgeting.


Like many things in life, lemonade stands are super fun at the beginning! But after a few hours sitting in the sun or waiting out a thunderstorm, there’s a pretty good chance your little entrepreneur will want to close up shop. While it may be frustrating (for you and them), this scenario provides an excellent opportunity to teach them that you can’t just walk away when you get bored. And let’s be honest, we can all use this reminder from time to time, can’t we?


Challenge your child to think about how to separate themselves from their competition. (Of course, this may be hypothetical competition since modern-day lemonade stands are probably few and far between). Depending upon their age, your little one may focus on colorful sign design at first. This focus is understandable, since making the sign is half the fun. But beyond that, feel free to offer creative suggestions. Could they provide a sugar-free alternative? Maybe offer an iced coffee alternative to appeal to more customers? How about spreading the word with a social media post? Should they accept payment through Venmo or PayPal, or just keep it cash only? Like a child’s imagination, the options are limitless. So is the fun!

At this point, you may feel like opening up a lemonade stand whether your kids are interested or not! Channel that excitement and energy into helping them see the fun-filled potential of the idea, and don’t be afraid to get in there and help them when they need it. The time spent together will be even more valuable than the money earned and the lessons learned.

Happy summer lemonading!