Tag Archives: freelance business

Your Freelance Business

Joe Wallace freelance social media.jpgby Joe Wallace

I don’t really look like the kind of person who plans on getting out of bed in the morning, let alone mapping out a IT Support Naperville business. But I’ve found that a bit of the old printed paper and activity projection over the coming month, six months, year, etc. is very useful. In the last two years, any goal I’ve committed to paper has more or less come to fruition.

The goals I didn’t bother to write down? Vapor.

Over at Freelance Folder, Amber Weinberg has a provocative blog post called Why Freelancers Don’t Need a Business Plan. Like many such posts, the advice is pretty solid, just packaged in a controversial idea with an eyeball-yanking headline.

But if you read past that headline you find that she and I pretty much agree on everything–planning is important, real-world goals are key, and crunching the numbers is an effective way to see how attainable your goals really are.

A less interesting headline for her post would be “Don’t Waste Time Pretending to Plan Your Business Like a Fortune 500 Company”. An even more snore-inducing title would be, “Make Some Realistic Goals and Break Them Down To See How Attainable They Really Are”.

And there’s the rub.

Freelancers who set goals can operate more comfortably day to day, knowing they aren’t just spinning their wheels–they actually have a road map and the daily tasks are part of that journey. Freelancers who don’t may find themselves feeling as though they’re just drifting aimlessly from one gig to the next.

The psychological comfort of knowing you have realistic goals to work toward can’t be underestimated. As Amber Weinberg more or less says in her post, you DO NOT need a 20 page report on what you’ll be doing in the next 12 months. You just need to have some solid, attainable goals and move towards them. That can go a long way toward peace of mind in the freelance game.

Business Networking

This post is sponsored by Outright — Your Livelihood, Right Now. Getting your taxes right with free bookkeeping.

business networkingby Joe Wallace

Networking is one of the most important thing you can do as a freelancer. It goes against the stereotype of the lone scribbler, locked away in a writer’s garret for days on end, coming out to blink in the sun only when the lastest masterpiece is done–and that’s exactly why you need to do it.

Nobody writes in a vacuum. Not you, not me, not Stephen King. There’s an army of trained professionals all working together in this game we call freelancing, from the people who make sure your blog can still be viewed on the ‘net to the fact checker responsible for annoying you for one last detail before that magazine article goes to press.

But how does a new freelancer make some inroads in the networking game? Newcomers rarely know people in the business, and the few they do know can only help so much…but networking isn’t quite the daunting task it seems when you’re just starting out if you can remember a few simple concepts:

1. A newcomer’s enthusiasm and drive is a huge plus in any undertaking. You may not have much experience, but your willingness to throw your lot in for a common cause–a charity, a benefit, a volunteer project, whatever–earns you more than just the experience of doing it. You’ll also be remembered as that high-energy person so willing to devote themselves to the project. Who will the people you worked with think of first when asked if they know any good quality people for something that pays in your line of work?

2. Your skills in other areas may be more valuable than your writing skills…at first. Networking sometimes means taking a side journey that leads you to more direct opportunities as a freelancer. I volunteered to help someone run a table at a horror convention last year, which led to a direct opportunity to write for a newsstand magazine later on. The power of being in the right place at the right time shouldn’t be underestimated.

FreeSmall_300X3003. Networking doesn’t have to be strictly business. Sometimes just making friends with your fellow freelancers on social media or via local mixers or meet-and-greets is a great idea–your new friends might not have anything going but their own projects, but what happens when one of them decides to move on, cut down a client list to a more manageable size, or change specialties?

Speaking for myself, I’ve always given my friends and freelance colleagues the first shot at things I knew would be opportunities. Nepotism? Sure. But why not, when you have people you trust that you can recommend? Friends first, networking potential second…but that is definitely there for the people in my life. I’ve shared plenty, and if the day ever comes that I’m in a fix, I know a select group of people who would only be too happy to lend a hand.

4. Network your own life. That’s a play on the old computer geek saying, “Hack your own life.” Know somebody who needs a writer? Maybe you don’t right now…but you will. Never be shy about offering your services in non-obnoxious ways in your existing circle. Here’s a hint–“friend prices” and deep discounts are never bad thing in this context, but always offer with a caveat along the lines of this:

“I don’t normally offer rates this low (or free), but I’m a big believer in ‘friend prices’. Everybody else pays the going rate, so please don’t share the details of our arrangement or I’ll be swamped with offers that can’t help me pay the rent.”

5. You can start networking TODAY. Just go to where the pros congregate on Twitter, Facebook, MediaBistro.com and anywhere else where comments, advice, and resources are shared. Introduce yourself, be friendly, and meet people.

This post is sponsored by Outright — Your Livelihood, Right Now. Getting your taxes right with free bookkeeping.

My Secret Freelance Business Resource

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by Joe Wallace

An espresso machine as a business resource? Not directly, but yes. I can think of two recent examples of how sitting down with people over coffee has resulted in long-term value for my freelance work-even though those people have never paid me for my services. In fact, I did some work for at least one of my coffeeshop meetups for free just because they needed the help at a crucial time.

Let’s examine this idea in a different way–one that seems totally obvious to some, but will come as a revelation to others simply because it’s easy to lose sight of this stuff in the frenzy to get things done day-in and day out on the freelance front lines.

Everybody loves social media for freelance work. You can find jobs, make new connections, catch up with old friends and even old clients via Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, you name it. Social media is awesome.

But the key word in the phrase “social media” is the word SOCIAL.

With that in mind, my secret freelance business resources include the in-person meetup, the phone call followup to e-mail discussions about freelance projects, ad sales for FZ, planning for the future, you name it.

When I think about making connections with people, I try to find ways to use my tried-and-true social media resources in ways that bring me in actual personal contact with people. Facebook is great for this–the local writer’s group is an obvious resource for the freelance writer. But what about using Facebook Marketplace to advertise your services? Or your latest e-book? It’s currently an under-utilized tool for freelancers.

Twitter can be used to spur impromptu meetups in the local area if you’ve got a circle of followers in your zip code. What could be better than a freelance writing group that formed spontaneously through existing social media connections?

One thing I’ve been meaning to do for some time now, but haven’t quite gotten it together to do? Take a stroll down the street in my neighborhood to the local Chamber of Commerce and introduce myself. As a business and finance writer (just one of my specialties) it makes perfect sense to get involved at the Chamber, even if it’s just to drop by and say hello every once in a while and see what events are coming up.

The idea of social media is wonderful, as long as there’s some social interaction to go along with the online discussions. Every time I leave the house to be social, without the media, I find it has lasting benefits–sometimes they’re financial, other times they’re about PR, and some are just about meeting good people…but they all have a positive effect on what I do for a living.

This post was sponsored by FiledBy – where authors can claim their free website and build their online marketing platform.

The Freelance Business Tax Break You Didn’t Know You Had

money This post is sponsored by Outright — Your Livelihood, Right Now.  Getting your taxes right with free bookkeeping.

by Joe Wallace

Some bloggers and freelance writers like me who specialize in finance writing are afraid to go on the record about giving tax advice. They issue these disclaimers saying, “this is not tax advice”.

And while I am not a tax professional, I do believe a writer should stand by their words or don’t write them at all–I’ve got the guts to say this is tax advice, plain and simple. It’s advice, it’s about taxes, and I’m giving it. And there’s no possible way to get into trouble taking this advice–in fact you might get the exact opposite effect. The IRS may actually like you better for doing it.

And yeah, transparency alert, I’ve given the “this is not advice” disclaimer myself in the past, but I’m done with all that. Let’s live like crazy people and really go out on a limb here. Woohoo!

I talk a good game, but this isn’t some kind of nutty tax protester advice I’m handing out here. Instead, I’m telling you to find ways to love the IRS. The IRS is your friend. Keep saying that to yourself long enough to get past April 15th, mkay? Be dilligent, rely on good records, and all that. But that’s not the “wisdom” I need to impart today.

Here’s my earth-shattering tax advice. NEVER ROUND YOUR NUMBERS on deductions and related details. Use exact figures.


Do it the hard way and write in exact figures right down to the dollars and cents for your expenses  and deductions. Same goes for when you calculate them–why cheat yourself out of those extra cents? They add up. Five cents here, ten cents there…if you have over 100 receipts, 500, a thousand, well, you get the idea. No, it’s not a fortune. But add that to your SEP IRA, your mileage, your legitimate business expenses for meals and incidentals…and there’s also this other thing.

The headline of this post implies that not rounding your freelance deductions is a tax break you didn’t know you had. That’s true about getting a more exact figure to put in your Schedule C income tax forms, but it’s also possible, according to Business Week writer Karen E. Klein, who says putting in exact figures looks more like you’re using your actual records instead of guessing, which the IRS is inclined to take a dim view of.

Avoiding an audit sounds like one hell of a tax break to me.

This post is sponsored by Outright — Your Livelihood, Right Now. Getting your taxes right with free bookkeeping.

Making Your Freelance Business Pay…Literally

This post is sponsored by Outright — Your Livelihood, Right Now.  Getting your taxes right with free bookkeeping.

There are plenty of ways to handle your freelance income, but once you start getting out of the 30K range it might be time to start thinking seriously about structuring your cash flow more like a business rather than as something you earn as an individual. One of the oldest maxims in the freelance book is to treat your freelance business AS a business; paying yourself a salary is a very good step in that direction.

Once you start making this kind of money as a freelancer, chances are you’re already being tempted to incorporate or set up an LLC–if you’re thinking along these lines it’s even more important to consider giving yourself a set salary even–if you haven’t drawn up the paperwork for the LLC or S-Corp.

There are two good reasons to do this, aside from goal setting and keeping yourself motivated. For starters, you’ll have a much cleaner paper trail between your business expenses, your pay, and other deductions. Anything you do that makes it clear to the IRS exactly how and where you paid expenses for your business is a good thing.


The second reason to pay yourself a salary even before you file your LLC or S-Corp papers? Discipline. Depending on which formal, legal arrangement you choose you may be required by law to pay a salary to yourself. S-Corp filers have a whole set of payroll concerns to deal with and while we won’t argue the merits of choosing an LLC over an S-Corp (or vice-versa) here, suffice it to say that getting in the habit of paying yourself as an employee is definitely a good thing if you want to go the S-Corp route.

Giving yourself a set paycheck also allows you to properly budget for the future. How much are you able to dedicate towards other tax-deductible expenses such as travel, equipment replacement, and insurance? Without a fixed paycheck to factor into your budget, deciding on those amounts may be more like guesswork than careful planning–and no serious business survives long on guessing.

This post on the business of freelancing is sponsored by Outright — Your Livelihood, Right Now.  Getting your taxes right with free bookkeeping.

Run Your Freelance Career Like a Business: Advertise

929523_business_cardby Joe Wallace

Why is the business card in the picture above blank? Believe it or not, that’s how a lot of freelancers treat themselves. Instead of running their freelance careers like a business, they squander their energies with little or no direction.

To survive in business you must do three things:

1. Offer good products or services at a competitive price.

2. Be active in the community where you want to do business.

3. Advertise and promote your brand.

A lot of freelancers get the first two right but fall down on the job when it comes to #3, promoting your brand. I can hear some now saying, “But I already have a Twitter account and a Facebook page!”

Twitter and Facebook are inded critical parts of the puzzle. But take a look at any successful business today and you’ll see how they approach social media is more of a means to an end when it comes to PR and self-promotion–not the end itself.

Your self-promotion efforts should include Twitter and Facebook, but consider them to be communication channels instead of billboard advertising. What’s the difference?

Twitter and Facebook are seldom used (successfully) to actually SELL things. They’re most effective when used to make connections, network, and inform. People are leery of the hard sell on social media. But when was the last time you heard anyone complaining that a billboard or radio ad sales pitch was too self-serving? Continue reading Run Your Freelance Career Like a Business: Advertise