Freelancing can be expensive; when your break room is a car it usually doesn’t come with a refrigerator and a coffee machine. That means that 10am cup of coffee between meetings and sushi for lunch might look slightly different because they come from different places. Requiring a more flexible wardrobe is just one of many factors that impact the increased costs we acquire as independent contractors. While these are often the first things that come to mind, there are much larger costs that fall into the “overhead” category that we might overlook. Medical, general liability and business insurance are just three of the annual fees practitioners will be responsible for before even walking into an assignment in many markets.

With all of this additional spending now tacked on to the low rates new interpreters will be earning, there’s suddenly an urgency to saving money in other areas. If you don’t want seven room mates and ramen’s not your thing, check out the five ways you can save as a freelancer right now. 

Get a credit card that offers rewards / gas etc…

If you’re in a market that requires you to commute by car, you can find exponential savings by using a gas card from your local grocery store or by using a credit card that offers extra points for gas. The Blue Cash Preferred card from American Express offers 1%-6% back on gas purchases depending on varied factors. If you’re only using this card to fill up, you’ll find your savings filling too. 

Stop using a debit card. 

On the topic of cards, stop using the debit card your bank sends you. Not only is your money not insured but you’re not earning rewards back anywhere. As a freelancer, we spend more and often don’t have access to the same perks that someone working a corporate job would. I don’t save 10% on my AT&T bill because I’m a freelancer but I do because of the credit card I use. Not only do I save the 10% monthly (for me that’s $24.70) but I also earn points back on the bill payment of $7.41 making my cell phone bill $385.52 cheaper every year just by using a different card. 

Get an AARP card 

When you think AARP you probably imagine a happy geriatric couple from the ad checking their mail together, gummy smiles and perfectly hairsprayed stylings cemented to their aging faces. Yeah, this program is made and targeted to those grandparents but there is no minimum age to join. AARP is a discount program available to virtually anyone willing to spend the $12 a year for a membership. Not only is it a great service to have on your side but also makes a hilarious gag with friends who don’t believe you could be in it.

With AARP you can save at places like Walgreens, FedEx, and even LensCrafters. Check out some of their select deals pulled directly from the website. 

“When you link your AARP and myWalgreens™ memberships, you’ll earn 10% Walgreens Cash rewards on Walgreens branded health and wellness products, 7% Walgreens Cash rewards on Walgreens branded beauty products and 3% Walgreens Cash rewards on other eligible beauty purchases.”

“43% Off Annual Zipcar Membership

Members get 43% off an annual Zipcar membership, plus $40 in free driving credit.” – ZipCar is perfect for the freelancers who don’t keep cars in their city. When you’ve got a far off gig, you can use ZipCar for the commute. With a combination of credit cards rewards, ZipCars own rewards program and AARP you’ll find it much more affordable that you’d think. 

Using your AARP card at FedEx earns you “20% Off Online Printing Services” &

“5% Off Shipping & 15% Off Other Services”. The amount of printing I did in my early days really throws me into a spiral of regret wishing I had this back then. 

Audible newbies interested in improving their work-life balance with “$30 off a new audible annual subscription”

“Members get exclusive savings, including 50% off prescription lenses with the purchase of a frame, 30% off non-prescription sunglasses and a $55 comprehensive eye exam at LensCrafters, a participating retailer in AARP® Vision Discounts provided by EyeMed.”

Members can also “open an 8-month No-Penalty CD online in minutes with no fees and lock in a higher interest rate than what’s available with a Marcus Online Savings Account. You’ll have the flexibility to withdraw your full balance online beginning 7 days after funding, with no penalty.” according to their website.

It’s also $12 annually, you’ll save an additional 25% on the program with autopay. $1/month to save all of that coin through the year? YES PLEASE.

If you work for one of the major VRS providers, look into the savings/discounts offered.

I’ve met hundreds of interpreters who supplement their freelance work with hours in VRS. In many places, you’re hard pressed to find interpreters who don’t see the value in the occasional shift, especially on holidays. As a single guy myself, I’ve found incredible benefit in VRS and supporting the ability for interpreters with families of their own to spend time with them on the holidays without leaving callers in the lurch. 

VRS providers often have really incredible benefit offerings for everyday savings. It’s worth it to ask your local management or consulting your HR resource to see if any of the hundreds of discounts are something that can support a more affordable and even efficient freelance workload. 

If you’re not someone who’s in VRS, the FoundersCard program might be of interest. I’ve been with them now for a year and I love the amount of money I’ve personally saved on favorites like Airtable, SalesForce and Stripe. 

Direct Negotiation

Talking to your WiFi provider, open office or other business solution you’re using can bring about fantastic deals while also giving you some FaceTime with a company that is more likely to remember you when they need an interpreter. The hotel you talk to about a better deal for the month might not hire interpreters every day but if they hire a new employee who would prefer the use of one, you’ll be top of their list when planning orientation. As a freelancer it’s really up to you to create those opportunities for future engagement and collaboration whenever possible. 

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