Tag Archives: career

My Favorite Time of the Month

Both of my paychecks arrived in the mail, so I finally got around to driving over to the bank and handing them to a teller. While I’m too modern for most old-fashioned interactions, financial or otherwise, I have to say I enjoy going to a bank and depositing my checks.

I found with direct deposit, I stopped paying attention to when money was going in… and when money was coming out. For some reason, actually filling out a deposit slip and asking the teller to put it into my checking account feels, well, it feels like my monthly celebration (albeit in my head) for all my hard work. It makes me feel like an adult, perhaps.

In any case, these days I don’t have a direct deposit option. At least now the reason for this makes sense. At my first salaried job the company didn’t do direct deposit because the whole company had money problems and the big boss was afraid of paying everyone’s paycheck at one time. Yea, I’m kind of glad I left that company.

Nowadays, though, as a freelancer, it’s even more unlikely for a company to offer direct deposit. And that’s fine. Even though checks are easier to lose or to forget to deposit, they’re still getting something on paper for all your work. That paper isn’t worth much until it’s turned into a bank, so many would say my desire to be paid by check is absolutely ridiculous. Still, it’s kind of nice, to go to a bank, when they’re not busy, and wait for the transmission of money to take place.

Slowly down that process maybe helps me slow down on my spending too. Just a bit.

The 60 Hour Freelance Work Week

While working 60 hours at a salaried job each week seems beyond boring, diversifying one’s time and one’s ongoing work portfolio can lead to professional fulfillment on many levels, including by not limited to one’s bank account.

I recently found out that in order to be a full-time salaried employee at my current company, I need to sign on for 50-60 hours a week. While I love my job AND the company, that’s still not enough to have me sign every possible work hour away to one job.

Besides boredom, the reason to keep my ‘after 40’ job hours open is because some of my other opportunities pay much better than what I’m spending most of my week on. At my 40 hour per week job I make about $27 an hour right now. But I’m also taking my late evenings to work as a freelance marketing writer, with projects I’m getting paid $50 per hour for.

I’m not sure what my value is as a full-time employee versus freelance, but for some reason I feel like my $50 per hour charge as a freelancer is justified, while I could never imagine asking my freelance full-time employer for such a raise.

When it comes down to it, I’d rather make slightly less at my “day job” and use the opportunity to pitch my writing skills for extra income that ultimately covers health insurance and other things I need.

That brings about the question… how much can I actually make in one month without not sleeping and going completely insane…

Monthly Potential Income
1. $4800 — Gig 1. 40 hours per week (on contract)
2. $400 — Gig 2. Approx 8 hours, or 4 projects per month at $50/hr
3. $250 — Gig 3. 10 hours of administrative Work at $25/hr
4. $400 — Gig 4. 8 hours of research & article writing at $50/hr
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$5850 per month

Which is a lot of money. Sort of.

Minus $2340 ((40% taxes (25 % tax bracket + 15 % self-employment tax))) that comes out to a grande total of…

$3510 per month after taxes, or a net income of $42,120 per year.

That’s still pretty good, I think.

Freelancer Woes: Taxes, Taxes, and More Taxes

While I’ve gone through periods of working part-time gigs and freelancing for a little extra cash on the side, 2008-2009 will be the first year when I’m likely going to be a contractor all year long. I love the freelance lifestyle, as I can finish my work hours when everyone else is asleep, or get all my hours done straight through and leave myself time to relax for an extra weekend day, if possible. There are so many things I love about being a freelancer (albeit one with a stable freelance gig) that I’d be hard pressed to give it up.

One thing that might, just might be able to get me to give this wonderful lifestyle up is taxes.

Just trying to figure out how to sort out my taxes owed as a freelancer seems like a giant nightmare. On top of that I now have Prosper taxes (which sounds like it will be worse than a nightmare to file) and my various stocks, ETF and mutual fund accounts to tax…

Originally I thought sorting out my taxes would be simple as taking 25 percent of all my income each month and putting it into a highish-interest ING savings account. Come tax time, my tax money will have made a little money (although that will be taxed to) and if all worked out as I originally thought, the money in that account would certainly cover all my state and federal taxes… plus I would have saved some money by holding off on paying it throughout the year.

Given that I finally stopped to smell the dead roses, I did a little research and found out about the “Self Employment Tax” which seems to be another 15.3 % on top of the 25%. So does that mean I should be putting 35% of my income each month into my ING “for tax season” account?

And then… apparently freelancers are supposed to pay an estimated tax each month. What I don’t understand is if this is for the convenience of the freelancer (don’t have to worry about spending all your tax money and being in serious trouble come April 15) or if it’s actually required by law to pay taxes on a monthly basis instead of in one lump sum at the end of the year. If it’s not illegal, I really don’t understand why more people wouldn’t just do what I think I’m doing with this savings account and getting a few extra dollars on the money that will ultimately go to the IRS at the end of the year. But maybe I’m thinking about this all wrong.

I’m, quite frankly, terrified of tax season next year. This year is complicated enough with my two full-time jobs and freelance earnings. But next year? Well, I know I’ll have to hire an accountant. But what is it I should do now, as it starting 1.5 months ago, to make my life bearable next year… and more importantly, so I don’t accidentally end up in jail for tax fraud out of ignorance and confusion?

ps: I think I just found my answer… (I guess I do have to pay in advance!!!)
http://www.irs.gov/publications/p505/ch02.html#d0e5923


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(Thanks to the IRS for explaining, in fairly clear language, how I can give them my money)

When To Pay Estimated Tax

For estimated tax purposes, the year is divided into four payment periods. Each period has a specific payment due date. If you do not pay enough tax by the due date of each of the payment periods, you may be charged a penalty even if you are due a refund when you file your income tax return. The payment periods and due dates for estimated tax payments are shown below.

For the period: Due date:
Jan. 1 1 – March 31 April 15
April 1 – May 31 June 15
June 1 – August 31 September 15
Sept. 1 – Dec. 31 January 15
next year 2

1If your tax year does not begin on January 1,
see Fiscal year taxpayers, below.
2See January payment, below.

Saturday, Sunday, holiday rule. If the due date for an estimated tax payment falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the payment will be on time if you make it on the next business day. For example, a payment due on Saturday, September 15, 2007, will be on time if you make it by Monday, September 17, 2007.
January payment. If you file your 2007 Form 1040 or Form 1040A by January 31, 2008, and pay the rest of the tax you owe, you do not need to make the payment due on January 15, 2008.

Example.

Janet Adams does not pay any estimated tax for 2007. She files her 2007 income tax return and pays the balance due shown on her return on January 24, 2008.

Janet’s estimated tax for the fourth payment period is considered to have been paid on time. However, she may owe a penalty for not making the first three estimated tax payments. Any penalty for not making those payments will be figured up to January 24, 2008.

Fiscal year taxpayers. If your tax year does not start on January 1, your payment due dates are:
  1. The 15th day of the 4th month of your fiscal year,

  2. The 15th day of the 6th month of your fiscal year,

  3. The 15th day of the 9th month of your fiscal year, and

  4. The 15th day of the 1st month after the end of your fiscal year.

You do not have to make the last payment listed above if you file your income tax return by the last day of the first month after the end of your fiscal year and pay all the tax you owe with your return.

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Ok, now I just have to figure out exactly how much I have to pay them. Hmm.

Here are some helpful links I’ll be reviewing to help me figure out just that, and I’ll report back here when I actually understand what I’m talking about:

1. Write From Home: Taxes for Writers: Paying your Estimated Tax
2. Huge Taxes for Freelancers?
3. California Tax Service Center

Once I do understand all this, I can work as a freelance freelance accountant. 🙂

10 Reasons Why I Love My Freelance Job

I work for a web startup in Silicon Valley on contract, about 40 hours per week.

10 Reasons I love My Job:

1) The people I work with are passionate, fun, and great collaborators working together to create something new.

2) My job tasks are diversified and include many things I’m interested in, such as writing, community management, UI, and QA.

3) The room to grow at my company is only limited by my skills and interests.

4) I get paid a very decent monthly wage for the opportunity to do something I love.

5) Because I’m on contract, I get the flexibility I need to pursue my other passion: theater directing in the evenings and on weekends. I’ve applied for numerous web startups, but most wanted me full time at 60+ hours a week. If I had no life outside of my job, I’d be happy to take this on. However, I need to have balance in my life. I don’t mind sacrificing company-sponsored benefit plans, sick days, holidays and stock options if it means I can keep doing what I love AND have a job I love.

6) While I don’t have a lot of time to do “other freelance projects,” I have a few hours a week that I can move around to take on some extra work. I like to continue freelancing on additional projects because it’s always good to have side income in case your full-time (or in my case, 40 hour per week freelance) gig goes kaput.

7) Free lunch on Mondays!

8) I feel appreciated. My ideas are not always used, but at least they’re considered. People seem to respect me. That’s the most important thing in making me feel satisfied at a job.

9) Flexible schedule and work location. I work from the office 2-3 days per week and I work from home the rest of the time. I find I actually do more work when I’m at home because I can focus. I’m also not anxious like I was at former jobs where I just didn’t feel smart/competent/knowledgeable enough to feel comfortable yet still challenged in the position(s).

10) My job is a great stepping stone to whatever comes next. I’m learning so much, and I learn more every day. As a writer, I’m still involved in research and finding out new things. As a community manager, I get to do my favorite thing ever – help people. Is it so absolutely bizarre that I actually love responding to customer feedback and writing FAQs? Being involved in QA, I’m learning a lot about testing a site for bugs. In general as a marketing assistant and such, I’m learning a bit about product management and general marketing for a web startup. I think all of this puts me in a great spot to move on to bigger and better things later in life, whether that be a position with more responsibility at my current company or something else. A while back I applied to a community manager position at another startup and it came down to me and someone else. I didn’t get the gig, probably because my journalism experience wouldn’t directly cross over to interacting with site users on a daily basis. But now… my resume can potentially land me another community management job, if I ever need to look for another one down the line.

What a Sweet Promotion!

As many of you know, I’ve been working a contract gig for the past few months that I really love. I feel like I’ve finally found a job that keeps me excited most minutes of the day and that can use my talents and ideas.

My contract is expiring in a few weeks, so my boss and I sat down to renegotiate the next part of my working with the company. It turns out that in addition to my liking the job, the people there, somehow, seem to like me too! Wow. Ok, so the only crappy part of the whole deal is that I’ve upped my hours to 40 a week, but I’m not considered “full time” because, as I’ve mentioned before, “full time” at my company is 50-60 hours a week. I’m not in the mood to work 60 hours a week (I’ll burn out fast) so I said give me 40 and an offer I can’t refuse. Well, I just said give me 40 on contract for another three months and make me an offer.

So I was making $3300 a month plus some small amount of stock options for 30 hours a week. That was fine, but in order to really make a living I needed to start working 40 hours a week. I figured I’d get offered $4400, without a raise at all. I’d ask for $200-$500 more, depending on what I was offered. So my boss decided to get rid of my stock options and instead give me more cash. That’s ok with me… I love my company, but I know the odds of it succeeding to the point where my stock options would be worth more than the paper they one day will be written on is slim. So he offered $4600 a month for 40 hours a week. That was a good offer, indeed. Still, it doesn’t include benefits, and I plan on my health insurance costing about $400 a month, with basic monthly payments and HSA savings (plus dental and vision). So I figured I’d ask for $200 more a month. The worst he could do was say no.

But he said yes. I probably could have gotten away with asking for even more than that, but I think I’ll try to raise my pay slowly over the time I work with the company. In three months, I might end up signing on for a full-time salaried position. It’s exciting to think what sort of offer would come out of that, given they’d be expecting me to work 60 hours a week! Well, I don’t know if I’ll ever want that, but it would surely be a nice way to save up some money for grad school and my potential house.

For the Love of Theatre

Sorry I haven’t updated in a while, guys. I’ve been extremely busy casting a play that I’m directing at a local community theater. Rehearsals start next week, so every moment I’m not working on one of my freelance projects, I’m figuring out things like blocking, character intention, etc.

The good news is that I’m getting paid $500 to direct this play. Most fo that will go to gas money and gifts for the actors and such, but I might even end up with a small profit I can pocket in the end.

Theater has an interesting relationship with my life. Admittedly, it holds me back from my career at times. Most jobs require that you have a flexible schedule, with evenings free for occasional long hours or overnight trips. Even my current job, which if it were full time, would be 60 hours per week, would require me to give up theater.

Every time I have to make my passion versus job decision, I cannot. Given my inability to make such a compromise, things have turned out quite well – at least for the time being. As a freelance writer with a fairly-stable part-time writing gig, I have the flexibility to direct a show in the evenings and work… during the day and in the even later evenings.

I’ve often thought about returning to graduate school for theater directing. But those $100k three-year programs seems like a terrible idea, at least financially. I was hoping my mutual fund and stocks would somehow add some of those funds to my account, but given the dismal performance of the stock market I’m actually losing money right now. Lots of it. Well, about $1035 of it to date, and most of that’s from my mutual fund.

My goal in the back of my mind is still to save up $100k by the time I turn 30 (which is in only 5.5 years, omg) and then apply to grad school for directing *OR* buy a house. If I can even save that much, that will be a tough decision to make. And as you’ve already learned from this entry, I’m no good at making decisions!

Phone Call with AT&T

The only good thing out of this situation is that I was able to call and speak with a rep from AT&T last night (so I wasn’t spending more of my Verizon cell phone minutes to deal with the saga (see here and here.)

After barking at this women for over a half hour, it seems I got somewhere. Well, sort of. She explained to me that since my account was canceled on December 24, the charge that just showed up on my statement was for Nov – Dec. Also, since my billing cycle ends on the 21, I will have one more charge appear on my account for the three days between the 21 and 24, but the rep couldn’t tell me yet how much that would be for.

As far as canceling auto pay, she said she’d gladly do that, but it usually takes one billing cycle before that’s put into effect (so, in other words, it doesn’t really matter if i do that because there’s only one more billing cycle left).

What really frustrates me is that this all should have been taken care of in October, if the women at AT&T handled our phone request properly and transfered the account then.

At the end of the conversation, I realized that trying to get reimbursed from AT&T for the charge was going to be impossible. So instead, I asked if they could send me a bill for the last three months charges, so at the very least I could forward this on to my boss so I could be reimbursed.

That sounds so simple, right?

Well… I’m told that it costs $5 per bill to have them sent to me, but I could go online to see and print them for free. I bitch at her for another 10 minutes, explaining that I can’t get into the online account because it’s under my bosses’ name with HIS information and password. She finally goes to talk to her manager and puts me on hold for another 5 minutes. Then she comes back and says she’ll mail the bills out to me. Jackpot. Well, sortof.

That’s about all I can do for now. I’ll send the bills off to my boss the second I get them and hopefully will get the $300+ back that has been withdrawn from my account.

All I can think is thank goodness I was able to make this call at night when my minutes are free!

AT&T will never, ever, ever get my business again.

AT&T Will Not Stop Billing Me!!!

Perhaps some of you remember the saga of my previous employer and the cell phone bill that kept showing up on my bank account.

In short — for my full-time reporting gig, I bought a cell phone through AT&T for work — my boss told me to do this and he would reimburse me. That all went over fine.

A few months and a firing later, the nightmare began. On the last day of work, after a long conversation with AT&T on the phone, it sounded like the account would be transfered to my boss and all would be fine.

But then the auto pay bills started showing up on my bank statement. One in December, then one in January. I finally called AT&T and after 3+ hours on the phone with them (which ended up costing me something like $100 on my Verizon cell phone that I used to call them) you’d think everything would be solved. They talked to my boss again and he re-gave them permission to transfer the account to him.

Oh… but what shows up on my bank statement this month? ANOTHER $106.41 charge from AT&T. WTF?? My boss is supposedly reimbursing me for the last two months ($109 and $106) but I haven’t gotten that check yet, and now I have to bother him and the accounts woman again asking for more money to be expensed and…

I am just so frustrated and I don’t know what to do. Not only is this costing me lots of money (which will hopefully be reimbursed at some point), it’s also costing my boss lots of money. As soon as the account is transfered to him, he was going to change the monthly plan to the lowest cost one, so he wouldn’t have to pay $106 a month. Except they just can’t seem to figure out how to transfer it to him.

Add in to the mix that this former boss of mine just had a heart attack. It’s not exactly the best time to be bugging him with this… but I also can’t keep getting charged $106 a month for a phone I no longer have!

What should I do?? Do I have any rights here? I don’t want to spend another zillion hours on the phone with AT&T because it seems that gets me nowhere.

Making a Living as a Freelance Writer

As a gift to myself for reaching $30 in my AdSense account (after only 102 blog posts and more than 12k hits, heh) I purchased a copy of Writer’s Market 2008 at the local bookstore.

Filled with over 3,500 listings for various publishing opportunities, this book is a goldmine for freelancers.

I’m just getting started on my freelance career. I’m not a typical freelancer because I work one 30-hour-per-week job that pays the rent and the bills. But I’m hoping to expand my writing experience (and monthly earnings) by being published in numerous publications.

Sending out queries to publications is tough, especially because you likely will be rejected, or even worse, never hear back. I got lucky in that early on in my career I had the opportunity to work as an editorial assistant for a magazine and obtain numerous glossy clips. But it turns out, the clips that impress the few publications I’m trying to write for aren’t the ones I wrote for the mag. Instead, they like the style stories I wrote for a few local newspapers.

If you want to get started in writing and get paid for it, I highly recommend writing for a local newspaper. You might not get paid, but you’ll get a few clips. Don’t sign up for a full-time internship unless you’re in school or right out of college. You can try to freelance for a fee, you might make $50 an article. That’s a start.

You’ve probably already checked out freelancewritinggigs.com, a website that lists daily freelance gigs. There’s occasionally something good there. But generally, you’re going to want to send queries to the editors of different magazines. Come up with a few ideas (you might think they’re stupid and they might love them!) and send off a cover letter with your pitch, and attach a few writing samples. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, all this will cost you is your time… not even $.37 for a postage stamp.

Whatever you do, if you’re just getting started, don’t think of writing opportunities as being below you. Even though I make $50 an hour for some of my freelance gigs, on average I make about $25 an hour. Sometimes I’ll do work for free because I know how valuable that work will be as a portfolio piece in the long run.

I’ll write more tips on becoming a freelance writer as I go through my own trial and error process. Thus far, I’ve been assigned one 600-700 world Q&A for a magazine. The pay is $100. I’ll probably spend 4-5 hours on it, including the interview, so that’s a good $20-$25 an hour. Hopefully the interview will go over as planned, and I’ll have a good article on my hands.

Dreams of a 401(k)

Oh 401(k), when I think about you, I touch myself.

Employers matching contributions? That’s a truly beautiful concept, and one I’ve never been able to take advantage of.

At the moment, my freelance career prohibits me from obtaining full benefits at one company. That’s how I chose to live my life, so I have to deal with the fact that my Roth IRA has lost significant amounts of money this year, while if I had been able to contribute to an employee-match 401(k) I might have at least broke even amidst this recession mess. However, I just have to go it alone. That’s my choice.

But that wasn’t always the case. My first full time job at a magazine showed me how even full-time gigs at companies don’t always equate to earning the luxury of a 401(k). That company was a bit, how-do-you-say, confused in terms of organization. We had a meeting about getting 401(k)’s where the financial companies came in and presented our options, then they came in another day and we met with the reps and signed the paperwork. Of course, since the company was not making any money, our 401(k) was not going to include a match at all. So ultimately the only benefit was that it would encourage employees to start saving (but tax-wise, most of us would probably be better off with a Roth anyway).

Next up on my job history resume, I obtained another full-time gig at a startup where I was to get stock options instead of a 401(k). I never actually earned any of those stock options because I left the company after three months. I was fired. I was bored with the topics I was writing about. And I couldn’t keep up with the pace. It was for the best.

I worry a bit about my retirement. I know it’s many years off, but I won’t have the security that my dad has. He retired early so my family is living on a tight budget now, but in a few years he’ll have access to his pension and he and my mother can live off that. What will I have to live off of in 2058? Or whenever it is I end up retiring?

Thus far I put $4000 into my Roth IRA (started in 2007). It’s down to $3600. I know… I know that investing is a long term thing. Still, I can’t help but be concerned about what my future holds. Maybe the smartest thing to do would be to get a stable full-time job at a public company or government agency. But I’m trying to balance my happiness and my future. It’s hard to find that balance. I’m worried I’m leaning too far towards happiness right now.