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Practical guides

How to save money

In these times of austerity, we’ve compiled a catalogue of money-saving ideas for freelancers that have been tried and tested by a-n readers.

Assess spending habits Saving money can begin by taking little steps to control unnecessary spending. One problem that arises when attempting to control unnecessary spending is that we are not always aware of how much money we actually spend.

Collect the receipts for everything you spend money on during one month. Create a spreadsheet that lists each item you spent money on and the amount.

Then decide how necessary or unnecessary each expense was. In particular look for habitual spending. Small changes to your spending habits can equate to a significant saving over time. This Thrifty Calculator can estimate your potential savings

Budgeting is an essential skill Create a cash flow chart so that you can forecast your monthly income and outgoings. Several spreadsheet templates are available online with in-built formulas and calculations.
a-n Practical guide: Budgets »

Apply for a 0% credit card Agreements are available at this rate for up to thirteen months, and are interest-free as long as you keep up with repayments. This is particularly good for small purchases up to a few thousand pounds and is preferable to bank loans that incur interest from day one.

Are you charging enough? Work out your daily rate using a-n's The artist's fees toolkit that takes artists step-by-step through a process to calculate an individual daily rate and prepare quotes for freelance work. The toolkit is a practical framework that demonstrates how artists can take responsibility for their working arrangements and establish, and make the case for, their charges and fees. It takes into account:

  • The level of remuneration for comparator professionals
  • The costs specific to freelance working
  • The artist's particular circumstances and location
  • How an artist's knowledge and experience level impacts on charges

Trade your skills and time, rather than cash. Several artists have successfully negotiated artworks as payment to tradespeople and professionals for their services.

Collective self-financing Glasgow-based artist Sarah Tripp, who also works in publishing and design, takes from Italo Calvino's series of lectures 'Six Memos for the Next Millennium' to publish a collection of texts responding to each of the six themes. The publication is self-funded by the artists; 1,000 copies are printed for around £30 each, and the distribution is covered by the artists individually. By realising you can self-fund collected projects such as this, you can save money and time in reaching a desired representation of your ideas and processes.

Skype for free communications Skype is voice-over-internet telephone that is free to sign up to and download to your computer and to most smart phones. Skype to skype calls are free and those to landlines/mobiles (UK or international) cost a fraction of normal rates. You can lodge £10 onto your account and either sign up for an automatic top-up or chose when you do so.

Other advantages for freelancers include:

  • Making conference calls via computer microphone and speakers (or using a headphone). This is not only is a lot more comfortable than trying to conduct a conference call on a handset but means you can have several people on an 'equal basis' into a call. a-n uses skype on a daily basis and has up to fifteen people connected in for editorial and planning meetings
  • Skype chat is a text based option similar to Facebook chat. You can also attach files including images. In many ways, it's better than email, and is less intrusive than a phone call.

Apple hardware education discount If you are a student, teacher, lecturer, administrator or other staff member in education, you qualify for educational discount on Apple hardware. Just go to the Apple site and select which education store you want to use. They offer one for schools (and any other education establishment), another for colleges or further education establishments and a third for university and higher education establishments. You will get the most discount if you are in higher education. Make sure you are on your college or university network to visit those stores, otherwise you will be unable to see the discounted prices.

Thanks to for this tip.

Artists' insurance Insurance brokers Hencilla Canworth, who supply the AIR Public and Products Liability insurance, also offer AIR members an affordable insurance policy with a four off-the-peg options or a bespoke policy tailored to specific needs.

Off-the-peg options start at £88.75 for artwork (worldwide cover) that includes cover for £5,000 of artwork £1000 for tools, equipment & studio contents: £1,000, £500 computer equipment, £1,000 artists tools and equipment (worldwide cover): £500 audio visual, photographic and film equipment (worldwide cover) and Business interruption cover.

Copyright payments for writers If you're an artist, you should know about DACS and its Payback scheme that provides payments to visual artists for use of their copyrighted work in publications including a-n Magazine. But did you know there's a similar scheme for writers?

ALCS (Authors' Lending and Copyright Society) provides a route for writers to benefit from use of their works that are copied, broadcast, or recorded. This includes copying of visual arts critical writing or reference materials published and magazine articles since 2006. Like DACS you don't pay a membership fee, this is simply deducted from your payments - if there is no payment due, you don't pay a fee.

Create a website for free - here's a few options.
Google Sites: Range of templates, free with a Google account
Carbonmade: fantastic free online portfolio server, you can set up five 'projects', with up to 35 images presented in each 'gallery'
Saatchi Online - most popular free portfolio service
Wix: Great for moving image artists. Free Flash site
Thanks to Jack Hutchinson ( for these web tips.

Minimise retail therapy Before buying something ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I need it?
  • Do I have one already?
  • Could I borrow one from a friend?
  • How often will I actually use it?
  • What will I do when I no longer need it?

If you're looking for an alternative to the high street and its premium prices, there are several online communities that promote free and discounted exchange of goods and services. Here are some of the main ones:

  • Supporting the maxim that one person's trash is another person's treasure, the Freecycle Network is a movement that enables people to exchange their property locally for free. Freecycle groups match people who have things they want to get rid of with people who can use them. Another benefit of using Freecycle is that it encourages us to get rid of junk that we no longer need and promote community involvement in the process.
  • Gumtree began as a local London classified ads and community site, designed to connect people who were either planning to move, or had just arrived in the city, and needed help getting started with accommodation, employment and meeting new people. Its communitites are now UK-wide. You can find everything you need to live your life with the help of your local Gumtree community; from a job or a flat, date, a nanny for your kids or a bargain to a language teacher and a tennis partner.
  • Swishing events are a UK-originated idea that has become a global movement. These clothes swapping events combine ethical fashion with community spirit.

And if the high street is unavoidable, never accept the stated price as the store's final offer. Vouchercloud is a directory of voucher codes and discount vouchers that is accessible both online and via smartphone apps. Not only does Vouchercloud allow you to print vouchers, it can also deliver mobile vouchers direct to your smart phone to redeem at the point of purchase.

Cycle to work scheme If you work for a company as part of your employment portfolio, you may be able to claim a significant tax break through the purchase of a bicycle that you use to commute to work. Your employer purchases the bicycle then leases it back to you over an agreed period. The Cycle to work scheme makes it possible for the employer to offer their employees tax and national insurance reductions against a 'salary sacrifice' in return for the tax-free benefit of the bike. At the end of an agreed loan period the employer has the option of transferring ownership of the bicycle to the employee upon payment of a Full Market Value (after 4 years this can be as little as 8% of the bike's original value). Total saving can be as much as 40% of the bike's original cost.

Photo printing At some point in your digital life, you may need some old-fashioned paper photos as basic publicity. Each of these providers want you to sign up to their service and will give you a number of free prints to encourage you, so be smart, sign up to the one you like, get your free print - making sure to check on postage costs as that will be the part you need to pay for - and then you never have to use them again if you don't want to. Providers include Aldi, Jessops, Lidl, Kodak - see the full list at
Thanks to for this tip.

Food and drink is an area where you can make big savings by small changes to your habits (see Thrifty Calculator). You can make savings by having packed lunches, sharing mealtimes with others, or forming a food co-op, for example. A food co-op operates much like a normal grocers, except that it is owned by its customers, or members, who take joint responsibility in management and sourcing the best quality service at the best possible price. By paying a membership fee, customers receive food goods at the lowest possible price.

Consider relocating to a cheaper part of the country. gives local intelligence about an area including house prices, schools and neighbourhoods.

Reduce the cost of your a-n subscription renewal If you renew on the first reminder you're entitled to a cash saving provided you renew with an online payment method. Just watch out for your renewal email and you'll find a promotion code to use by a stated deadline.

Swap shop Log into to offer or find any swaps or for sales from within the a-n community. Recent offers have included printing presses, plan chest, gem tumbler, carving tools.

Got more money-saving tips? Add to this feature by posting a comment below.

Or Read on for a-n's Practical guide 'How to get tax credits'.


First published: December 2010

Comments on this article

Comment removed by the writer [25 April 2011]

posted on 2011-04-25 by Susan Jones

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