Full-time employees may not get to work in their pajamas, but they enjoy plenty of perks that solopreneurs have to give up when they leave the workforce. Maybe you never used that in-office yoga studio, anyway, but the loss of healthcare and retirement options might sting.
Freelancers and solopreneurs shouldn’t have to give up control to enjoy great perks. With a bit of creativity, your self-employed team of one can create a personal benefits package that would attract any top employee. If you find yourself missing some of the company-provided benefits of your past life, check out these tips to enjoy a full-timer’s compensation package — no matter how you make your money:
1. Replace PTO with an appropriate freelance rate.
As a contractor or freelancer, your clients don’t pay you when you’re not working. It makes sense, but when you want to take a vacation, you stop earning money until you get back to the grind. Businesses pay freelancers high hourly prices for high-quality work, though, which means good solopreneurs can fund their own PTO by charging an appropriate rate. Figure out how much you would need to make to take a few days off, then adjust your rate accordingly and start putting that cash into a rainy day fund.
2. Join associations and clubs for group healthcare.
Marketplace healthcare doesn’t come cheap. Most affordable plans cover little and charge a lot. Those plans carry hefty price tags because insurance companies can’t spread risk across groups of people with each plan. Join groups of other freelancers in The Freelancers Union or in industry-specific clubs to get group rates and access to better options.
3. Set boundaries between your workspace and living space.
Now that you work for yourself, you might realize that you actually miss that free on-site yoga studio. Instead of browsing job boards, give yourself both permission and space to step away from work during the day to recharge. Leave your home office, close the door, and indulge in the freedoms you’ve provided for yourself. Do yoga through YouTube on your smart TV, go for a run, play a video game, walk your dog, or chaperone your kid’s field trip. You’ve earned the flexibility — use it instead of burning yourself out.
4. Invest in IRAs and HSAs.
People who hate taking risks generally don’t turn their backs on safe employment to strike out on their own. Still, it’s nice to put a little something away for the future. You can offer yourself a 401(k) if you structure your business a certain way, but for most people, that’s not the best plan. Instead, look at companies like Fidelity and Vanguard for SEP IRAs, traditional IRAs, or HSAs. These financial vehicles allow solopreneurs to save thousands every year for retirement. Limits can vary, so talk to your financial professional before opening an account.
5. Create your own performance bonuses.
It’s easy to get stuck working for hourly or per-project rates, but remember, you’re your own boss. You can structure your deals however you want if clients agree to your terms. The next time you take on a project or new client, consider creating performance-based incentives for your work. Set KPIs that you can control and monitor, then agree with clients on a sliding-scale bonus. That way, when your clients enjoy big wins, you get to celebrate, too. Don’t replace your whole rate with commissions, though, especially if you don’t fully control the outcomes.
6. Seek out digital healthcare help.
Even if you have healthcare, many plans don’t cover everything. Look for online alternatives to traditional options to save money without sacrificing your well-being in the process. BetterHelp, for example, provides therapy and counseling services at affordable prices. Nurx offers multiple services at affordable price points for patients with or without insurance, including online birth control to make family planning budget-friendly for everyone. If you haven’t looked recently, you may be surprised by how many health needs you can fulfill beyond a doctor’s office.
7. Invest in your professional development.
If you do the same thing every day, you can’t grow. Plan to attend at least one professional conference every year, and try to catch at least one webinar or online training session every month. In an office, your boss would help design your training plan. Scheduling your own training can bring enormous benefits, from networking with new clients to adding new skills to your repertoire.
8. Work for equity when the deal makes sense.
For longer client relationships or for situations in which the client may not have enough cash to pay your rate, equity may make sense as an alternative form of payment. Just as companies reward their own employees with stock options, you can request shares as part of your contract. Learn the differences between different kinds of stocks and what your ownership would mean before agreeing to anything you don’t understand.
You deserve a benefits package worthy of your talent, even if you don’t have any positions to fill. Life as a solopreneur is stressful enough. Take away some of the pressure by treating yourself the way you would treat a respected colleague. Remember, if you don’t use your benefits, you leave money on the table.