Tag Archives: freelance income

What You Can Learn About Freelancing From Vinyl Records

Josie and the Pussycatsby Joe Wallace

When I am not freelancing, I sell vinyl records on Etsy, Discogs.com, and on my vinyl blog Turntabling. Vinyl records is a passion of mine and also an additional revenue stream for me, helping me stay in business as a freelancer and remain generally self-employed.

Believe it or not, the two worlds have a LOT in common. The whole reason I turned to vinyl in the first place, years ago, was because of the freelancer’s need for diverse income sources. Clients come, clients go. Some pay on time, some never do.

So diversifying the income portfolio, as it were, is a must–you want to eat every day? Make sure you have three or more checks arriving at various times in the month. Save up a cushion to deflect the problems created by those late-payers. That’s the message the freelance life has consistently given me since I started in 2002.

But the most fascinating things I’ve learned about freelancing from vinyl records can really be summed up by that Josie and the Pussycats vinyl record you see here. Look at this thing! You probably laughed when you spotted it, right? But here’s a fascinating little piece of data–that record is, at the time of this writing, up for sale on Ebay (not by me) for TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS.

It’s sealed, very hard to find, and somebody might actually pay that $200 to get it. MAYBE NOT–but there’s actually a chance, because of that tricky combination of nostalgia, impulse buying, and the near-eternal appeal of vinyl records for some.

The lessons I take away from this for the freelance life? Pretty simple but very important:

1. Like the vinyl record, your services are worth what people are willing to pay for them. I have been paid $200 an hour or more for my work. I’ve given it away for free, I’ve bartered, I’ve cut people deals. But at the end of the day, you get paid because a client was willing to pay and you were willing to do the work. It can be counter-productive–at least for me–to view freelance work in terms of fixed, unchanging price tags.

2. There is a market for expensive services, and it’s harder to find. In the vinyl market, I have customers willing to pay large dollars for rare, near impossible-to-find records. But I have just as many who simply want good, decently priced vinyl they don’t have to scour the earth to purchase. Balancing the high-paying hard-to-find commodities with lower-priced volume income is key. When it comes to my writing work, some writing has much greater inherent value, and therefore costs more. Some is intended to keep Google’s attention focused properly through steady posting and dependable content. This lower-priced work is not the same research-intensive stuff as the high-priced material, not should there be an expectation that it be anything more than what it is.

3. Go where the market is. I’ve tried selling on Amazon, at fan conventions, on Etsy, eBay, Bonanza, and many other places. When one avenue isn’t working over time, I ditch it and move on to something else. If you’re pounding your head against the proverbial wall in one area of your freelance career, it may be time to look elsewhere for better results. This is a notion that has served me very well since 2002.

There’s more, there’s SO much more…but the last lesson I can impart from my experience selling and collecting vinyl records is knowing when you’re in danger of overstaying your welcome.

Joe Wallace sells vinyl records, writes about military issues and finance, and runs several blogs and social media concerns. Since 2002, he’s written for acres for magazines and the Internet. His credits include American Fitness, Indie Slate, HorrorHound Magazine, and is one of the many essayists featured in a forthcoming book about obscure and under-appreciated horror films. You can reach him by email at jwallace242 @ gmail.


Joe-Wallace-Vinyl-Collector-and-authorby Joe Wallace

I filed a tax extension in April to give myself more time to ignore properly deal with my taxes. When I finally filed, I quizzed my CPA on several things including the concept of branching out and including more freelance audio work and film making in my repertoire.

My concern was that these other activities might be classified only as “hobby income” by the IRS, thereby nullifying any deductions I might be entitled to take otherwise. My CPA advised me that several things I was already doing in my freelance writing and editing work would apply for this new possible source of freelance income.

What follows SHOULD NOT be considered any form of advice from me to you, it’s just me musing out loud about what I’ve been told.

For example, I am told that “hiring” someone to work for me on a freelance basis as needed and issuing a 1099 for them is a signal to the IRS that you’re doing much more than just hobby work. This establishes a paper trail that hobbyists would not bother with. Joining a professional association for the type of work represented by my new income streams–live sound, field recording, film making, editing audio/video–would also go toward convincing the IRS that it’s a serious concern.

That move I’ve already made–I’m a member of ASCAP (The American Society of Composers and Performers) and a member of the Audio Engineering Society. I actually belong to more recording associations than writing-related ones!

My CPA told me the standard practice of keeping a separate credit/debit card for your business and maintaining a separate personal account is crucial, as is keeping careful track of your business spending versus personal spending. It’s one thing to take a “draw” on your business account, it’s another to buy groceries with your “corporate card”. These practices only make sense to me, and they are the kinds of details that do get more complicated as you get more successful…but the rewards are well worth it.

Keeping the IRS happy is one of my priorities–it’s a standard part of doing business AS a business. Keeping it all above board, moving in the right direction and maintaining your records is just as important as finding new clients and keeping ’em.

Freelance Money: There’s No Such Thing As Passive Income

Freelance passive income rulesby Joe Wallace

I don’t really enjoy reading my fellow freelance blogs at times, because I sometimes run into things that make me cranky. For example, the use of the term “passive income”, which I just ran across again while doing some research on freelance stats and figures.

Do you want to know the rules about making passive income from your writing online? Do you want to learn how to earn more money by using the techniques of passive income?

I have bad news for you. There is NO SUCH THING as passive income. And I really can’t believe there are still active blogs out there pushing the idea like it’s the hot new thing. Aren’t we DONE with that notion yet?

Look at the picture to the left. All those flowers, growing like mad. Beautiful, aren’t they? Wouldn’t you just love to step out on the back porch and watch these swaying in the breeze? And what a life they have, just soaking up the sun, waiting for the rain. Passive. You could sell these flowers someday and make some easy money.

Except for all that planting, weeding, landscaping and soil treatment.

So-called passive income is the same. Sure, you can write an e-book and throw it out there for sale, a digital download that you never have to worry about again. Once it’s up and out the door, it’s just waiting to be purchased and studied.

But you’re competing with 2.8 million other non-traditional books (e-books included) as reported in 2010. People who publish hardcopy books actually have it easier–only 316,000 print editions came out in 2010 according to this Reuters article.

So if you want to make some sales, you’re going to need to market yourself. It’s you versus 2.8 million others. Don’t get discouraged by that, but do accept the reality.

The same is true for your “passive income” website with all those affiliate links, article marketing sites, etc. Passive? Hardly. All that cross-linking, Reddit spamming, StumbleUpon posts and other activities encouraged by the passive income people don’t add up to couch potato, do they? Nope, passive income is another one of those goofball phrases made up to sell people on an idea.

It’s not ALL downside though–I can say this, one thing people who try to engage in passive marketing soon learn about is networking, and that is a very important skill for freelancers to hone at all career levels. It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone with networking, forget that you need to swim with the sharks, and keep up with the latest trends.

Passive income can only be found one way, really…I’m off to indulge in that Quixotic weekly pastime later today–buying a lottery ticket rarely pays off, but if it ever does, it will be the first time in my freelance life I ever got money for doing nothing.

Joe Wallace Vinyl Collector and authorJoe Wallace wears too many hats. He writes web content and manages social media for clients in the finance industry, he’s an avid record collector, vinyl blogger, and author of WTF Records: The Turntabling.net Guide to Weird and Wonderful Vinyl.

He’s currently shopping for a publisher for the book and plans an official companion DVD when he finds a moment to breathe. His hobbies include writing bio blurbs about himself in the third person, collecting records too weird for most people, and eating sushi.

Contact him for assignments, to sell your record collection, or with an offer to be his agent: jwallace@joe-wallace.com

Freelance Tax Time

taxes-for-freelancersby Joe Wallace

I’m not going to be one of those sissy bloggers who says, “This is not tax advice.” This IS tax advice. It’s the best tax advice you’ll ever get. It’s two little words with a universe of implications.

File early.

One year, I  had to file late. Because I filed late, I didn’t learn until it was too late that I needed one more deduction–a big one–to keep me out of hock with the IRS. I could have contributed a nice large chunk to my IRA and avoided owing the same amount. I would have owed something, to be sure, but not the large sum I wound up having to pay.

Continue reading Freelance Tax Time

Freelance Pay and Your 2009 Taxes

calendarMark your calendars, April 15, 2009 is fast approaching. Tax time is hell time for most freelancers, but here’s a little hint that will make tax season 2010 seem like a breeze. Grab your pens, kids, this one’s a real brain tickler.

When you see how much you owe in taxes for 2008, make a mental note. That’s the minimum you should consider spending on your business in legitimate, legal expenses for 2009.

You’re going to earn more freelance money in 2009 than you did in 2008 unless you hit bad luck, give up and go back to your day job or just quit trying. Plan on spending more money on your business this year–what’s the point in giving it over to the government when you can take legit, IRS-approved deductions for upgrading your office, advertising your business or hiring casual labor to take some of the donkey work off your plate?

Why did I choose a 2005 calendar to illustrate this blog post? Because I wound up owing the IRS for my earnings in 2005, and if I had just planned ahead and made some crucial investments in my writing business I could have paid far less while giving my work a much-needed boost with a high-speed Internet connection, a GOOD cell phone instead of the crappy one I had put up with for so long, and several other upgrades.

Be smart in 09. Do the math and plan ahead. Make those purchases and promote your business. You should pay all the taxes you owe–but make damn sure you don’t owe as much as you could when there are legit deductions to be had.

Layoffs, Recession, and Freelancing

Now that it’s official and we are in a full fledged recession, many part-time freelancers are wondering whether it’s “safe” to go full-time. But some freelancers won’t have a choice when the layoffs hit; those who get forced out of their day jobs have little choice but to hit the trail hard and look for any paying gigs they can find.

Are you one of those suddenly out of a day job? Are you afraid you’ll become a statistic soon? If so, start ramping up your freelance income as much as possible by taking a hard look at some of these:

–Examine your current or former day job for potential. Are you working in an industry that has trade magazines? Even a fast-food worker has potential here. You may find your old job as a major source of income if you can take your experiences there and turn them into relevant articles for magazines published in your industry.

–Go back to your old employer and offer your writing services for their websites, press kits, etc.

–Start a blog. The “I just got laid off” theme is quite viable right now. Monetize it will Google ads and other programs, but don’t stop there. Smart bloggers in this topic will try to think of ways to build communities with other unemployed people who can pool resources and advice for the common good. Don’t just blog about your life, offer help to others even if it is just a show of support.

–Take advantage of your hobbies and creative pursuits. Are you an experienced model builder, amateur video fanatic or musician? Look for ways to ramp up your cash flow by taking advantage of your  expereinces. Write an e-book or offer a service related to writing and your hobby. Are you a gamer? Do you love role playing games? Consider writing adventures or creating manuals for your favorite games. Dungeons and Dragons-type games can always use another monster guide or set of new adventures…they key is to take advantage of your knowledge of existing hobbies for immediate assignments.

–Teach a class. Does your local community center need someone experienced as a writer or a writer skilled in a particular area? You could wind up teaching what you know to supplement your income if you know where to look.

–Make cold calls. Call any business in your area of expertise and offer your writing skills for websites and other projects. Don’t think you have nothing to offer—if you know an industry well, you can apply your freelance writing skills to keep those paychecks rolling.