Take Five: Opt-Out, Boost Your Savings and Take a Bookkeeping Seminar

Back in the day (early 90s), I used to get excited to get solicitations from credit card companies because I thought it meant that I was credit-worthy. Now I can’t stand getting them. If you hate receiving them too, then you can opt out.

How to avoid a tax audit: Being self-employed can unfortunately raise a red flag and be the focus of the IRS’s attention.  The good news is you can avoid a tax audit by not rounding off numbers, and deducting home office accurately.

A great way to avoid any problems with your taxes is to take a bookkeeping seminar. The Freelancers Union is offering an online bookkeeping seminar on September 29.

Improve your savings. Here are some tips on how to do it.

Invest smartly. Check out Plantly, a new site that creates an investment plan based on YOUR goals.

Keep Your Clients Happy; Keep Yourself Sane

I just read this blog post from Carole at Freelance Fact File about keeping clients happy.  She gives eight tips, but when I read them, I thought that some didn’t sound like fun but more like drudgery. If that’s the case, then I would be back to working in a cubicle. Below are the tips and my comments on how to keep yourself sane.

  1. Make sure you make yourself indispensable  Make yourself known for quality work, but don’t make yourself  so indispensable that you are the point person every thing.  Draft a list of what you do for business continuity and to enumerate all the work you do.
  2. Always do a brilliant job Yes, do a brilliant job but don’t overpromise. Manage client expectations
  3. Become part of the team  Know the team, be a team player but don’t get caught in the office politics. 
  4. Never miss deadlines  Don’t miss deadlines when it is solely up to you.  If you are waiting on information from the client, then remind of the deadline and let them know politely that there slowing down the process and it may cost them money.
  5. Come up with good ideas.  Yes! Come up great ideas and make sure they are in an email or documented somewhere.
  6. Show you’re prepared to be flexible – ongoing repeat work is worth the occasional weekend working.  I personally don’t do weekends other than responding to a few emails.  Communicate when you are available.
  7. Make yourself available at short notice  Be flexible. Give “office hours” that you are available and options to reach you but make sure that client knows to respect your time.
  8. Remember that the client is always right. The client is not always right,  but do what they ask anyway. If you feel that what they are asking is totally wrong, suggest an alternative and put in an email. 

Post completion of a project, ask the client to write a recommendation on LinkedIn and refer you to others who may need your services.

Don’t Leave $$ On The Table: How To Set Your Freelancer Rate

Jen Dziura is a friend of mine who wears even more hats that I do.  In addition to comedy, performance, producing spelling bees, tutoring–she also writes a career column for The Gloss.  Here’s a bit of her excellent post about how to set your freelancing rates and how much to pay an assistant.

The goal of this column isn’t to actually tell you how many dollars to charge for your services, but to give you some ammo when negotiating, and to make you feel generally ballsier about quoting prices and sticking to them.

The conventional wisdom for freelancers is to take whatever you’d make per hour in a regular job and double it, since you’ll be paying your own taxes and benefits, and you’ll have to market yourself and spend time perusing contracts and a whole lot of other things you won’t be getting paid for directly. So, if you made $60,000 in your full-time gig, you’d divide by 52 weeks per year and then 40 hours per week to get $28.85 per hour. Double it and round up for good measure, and you might charge $60 per hour.

However, an hourly model of charging for things implies that 1) you shouldn’t be rewarded for being faster than other people (or that, if you are faster, you should lie), 2) work should be compensated based on time spent rather than output (which might be why you got out of the 9-to-5 working world in the first place), and 3) all of the hours a person puts in on a task are equally valuable.

Read the rest over at The Gloss.

Take 5: Work Like No One Is Paying You and More

June 010
Marci Alboher has tips on how to look busy while looking for a job.

5 Blogs for thrifty times: BrokelynThe Skint,  FreeNYC, FrugalNYC and Lifestyler.

Fight the UBT! What’s the UBT?! It is the unincorporated business tax that is taxed on freelancers.  The Freelancers Union is advocating tax reform and wants you to submit a video.

Keith Ferrazzi, author of one of my favorite books,  Never Eat Alone, has a new book, Who’s Got Your Back.  This new book is about building friendships with people who want you to succeed.

I am so happy to be one of the characters for the first ever 140 Character Conference next week. Follow me on twitter.com/niche if you want to know the scoop.

Nickelwise: Stimulus Bill, Cheap Business Cards, and Free Resume Printing

The New York Times has an article about how the Stimulus Bill helps small businesses. Namely, it may help some taxpayers avoid the alternative minimum tax.

Looking for cheap and stylish business cards?  This blog post may help.

Fed-Ex is doing something special for job-seekers. On March 10, you can print 25 copies of your resume for FREE.

Check out LaidOff Camp and Miss Pink Slip for resources if you are newly unemployed.

Tax Tips For Freelancers

It’s February. By now you should have all your 1099s from your clients. If not, contact them immediately so you can get your taxes done.

First,  look at how much you made. Review the amounts on your 1099s. Then look at how you can deduct expenses to reduce your taxable income.

Freelance Switch has a good list of tax deductions.  Don’t forget that you can deduct income taxes paid in 2007.

Also, there’s  more taxes tips for freelancers on Mint.com’s blog.

Lastly, check out the IRS’ 1040 Central for news on Earned Income Tax Credit and eFiling.

Web 2 Point Dough: Confess, Freelance, Estimate

Confess: Geezeo has a Twitter group, Money Confession, where people can anonymously confess their money woes. It is kinda like debtor’s anonymous on Web 2.0 crack.

Freelance: Freelance Switch is a great blog with tips for freelance including setting your rates. (via Shifting Careers blog)

Estimate: Start now to figure out to get a free estimate of your tax bill/refund by using H&R Block’s tax calculator.

Free Accounting Advice For Freelancers

Via Lifehacker, I found this excellent blog post on Freelance Switch with accounting tips for freelancers. Many of my small business clients also do consulting or writing which is an additional stream of income so they are freelancers as well.

1. Set up a billing system. I personally use Blinksale to bill some of my clients. If you only send three invoices/month then it is free. Also, the invoice can have a link to your Paypal account.

2. Know who owes you money. I bill people usually every time I work or work on a monthly retainer. I also maintain a Google Document (FREE) with clients and the date of the last service, so that I can check if they are ready for a monthly bookkeeping check-up. Consider me to be like a mechanic for bookkeeping. 🙂 Besides, clients are also maintained on Blinksale.

3. Track Expenses Carefully. A fine tooth comb is not necessary if you set up an easy system. First, be proactive and minimize receipts by using debit card for your business expenses, then they will already be captured on your bank statement. Otherwise. I suggest collecting cash receipts monthly in an envelope or even put in the back pocket of a moleskin notebook. Then when a free moment, scan the receipts and enter them into the bookkeeping system you are using. You can use Spending Diary to track your spending. This can be great if you are doing cash purchases and also if you are getting reimbursed.

4. Keep ’em separated. How many times must I SHOUT from the rooftops that you should maintain a business and personal account separately. It’s necessary to keep from commingling funds, figure out deductible expenses and it’s a good way to budget yourself.

5. Find a good accountant. Someone who gets you. I am an accountant, but I am not a CPA. Some people are looking for a CPA to do their taxes. I am more of a coach who preps you for the CPA. Ask friends who freelance like you to refer a CPA. If you get organized and follow the advice of tips 1-4, then you may be OK with getting Turbo Tax and doing it yourself. If all this money stuff scares you the living daylights out of you, then contact me.