Young woman, African-American Ethnicity, working at laptop in cafe, using mobile phone.

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You’ve left the comfort of that secure 9 to 5 to kick off your own thing. You’re a creative at heart so you’ve been plotting and now you’re finally ready to embrace your long-awaited freedom.

During the first few months of your launch business is booming and contracts are rolling in, which only affirms how right you were to jump ship. Then things start slowing down, new clients are scarce, and so is your money. Each time you see a new bill your ego takes a hit. You’re starting to second guess your choice and realize your business plan lacked one major thing: an emergency fund. Optimism made you overplay your hand, but don’t worry, it’s a common mistake.

Whether you’re thinking about starting a business or launched but need to get your money in order, here are a few steps to keep (or get) your finances on point.

1 Get Real Honest

Identify the factors that are holding your business back. Too much debt? Investing income in the wrong sector of your business? Mixing business and personal money? Map out your current financial situation and the specific steps you need to take to achieve your end goals. Keep it real with yourself.

2 Get Your Savings Right

Saving can be a difficult task, but if you get in the habit it will become second nature. A good rule of thumb is to save at least 10-15% of your earnings on a weekly or monthly basis. You can automate your account to deduct specific amounts or do it yourself. If you get paid in large, lump sums save more than your usual amount. Don’t save money that you’ll need to make short-term budget duties (like rent or mortgage for next month), put that into a bill fund.

3 Get New Friends

Look for other entrepreneurs in your community or field. Have weekly/bi-weekly check-ins and openly discuss finances, best practices, new technology, trends and anything else that will help build your businesses.

4 Get Your Strategy Right

Make a list of clients and contracts you want to pursue, and be sure to include rates. Approximate how many hours each job will take and write down, so you can budget your time too. This is critical because it will create a clear picture of how much money you’ll bring in for the month as well as how much time you need to be dedicated to each project or client to sustain a certain amount of money.

5 Get Your Rates Up

Most entrepreneurs only pay themselves the minimum to survive, which leads to financial stress. Research market rates for your services and if necessary adjust your offerings, workload or targeted clients to ensure you earn enough to thrive and save.