Tag Archives: career

Finally Did My Taxes

So you know how I wrote that I was going to do my taxes a few days ago?

Well, I kept putting it off. I knew I was going to owe something… I just didn’t want to face how much I would owe.

The bad news is that it turns out I owe $1234. I probably could have gotten that number down a little bit by taking more deductions but at this point I just want to put last year behind me and start fresh with this year, being really careful about recording anything I can deduct legally as a self-employed person.

What really sucks is that since I live in a studio, I can’t take a home office deduction. Well, I guess I could cut off a corner of my room from the rest of my apartment and not go into it unless I’m doing work, but that would be rather silly. Or at least I think it would be silly – a tax professional might think otherwise?

Regardless, I knew I was going to owe a lot this year because I had a decent amount of freelance income last year that hadn’t been taxed at all.

This year I’ll owe much, much more since I’m sans the W2 life, but at least now I’m trying to be careful figuring out what I owe out of everything I make. It’s better to tally it up that way. With last year’s taxes, I’ve been entirely in the dark.

So I used H&R Block’s TaxCut online software. The basic version. I went through the whole nine yards w/ TurboTax and then decided to check out what I’d owe with TaxCut and since it was pretty much the same in the end I just filed w/ TaxCut. My login session for TurboTax had already signed out and, well, I forgot my login name.

I just wish there was a way to find out if a CPA could really get me more deductions… but it seems unlikely. I mean, how many deductions are there that are so hidden only those training in tax legalize can understand how to save money?

Blogging Yourself to Death

Once upon a time, I blogged for a living. I was lucky enough to land a coveted job at a respected blog and worked alongside some of the best bloggers in the business. Their passion and dedication to their career went beyond what I expected in my vague understanding of the blogging lifestyle from afar.

I’ve been blogging for more than 10 years, but until I took the full-time blogging gig, it has always been a side hobby of mine. It was more about writing about my personal experiences. Once it was my job, it was a combination of reporting and opinion, a pressure far exceeding that of a traditional journalist because it required both solid reporting and something to say about every piece of news.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m an opinionated gal, but the pressure to always have something to say, and to still get the news first and get it out there wore me out fast. I definitely freaked myself out and got massive writer’s block. I ultimately left that job. I lasted three months. My boss conceded that I had talent as a writer but a startup blog was not the place for me.
At the time, it hurt. I wanted so badly to be a great blogger. The blogging lifestyle was pretty awesome… I could work anywhere, say what I wanted (as long as it was supported by fact.) I was rewarded for creative thinking, and for page views. Well, mostly for page views.
The New York Times is aware of the pressure. “In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop,” asserts the Times. “the evolution of the ‘pay-per-click’ economy has put the emphasis on reader traffic and financial return, not journalism,’ quotes the article. It just so happens I worked for a company the cared equally about reader traffic AND journalism. That was great for the quality of the blog, but awful for the quality of life for anyone who worked there.
My boss… well, he eventually got very ill. But he’s still going strong. Unfortunately, other bloggers have literally died from the pressure. Others have had heart attacks and are now determined to make a lifestyle change.
But how much of a lifestyle change is possible? Once upon a time reporting required getting the news first… as in that day, by the time the papers went to press. Now, it’s all about being first. Getting the scoop long before the thousand other people attempting to write the best blog get the story first. It’s a dog-eat-dog world. It’s not for everyone. The people who love it suffer as well. It’s like training for the Olympics. You do it because you love it. But you sometimes wonder if all the stress is worth it. There are certainly other jobs that pay better and require less effort.
I’m personally happy that I left my life as a full-time blogger. Though I still dream of starting a love advice blog that would somehow take off and be my ticket to my next fifteen minutes of fame, I’m quite content with my current career working for a non-blog web startup.
For now, I’m blogging because I love it, when I feel like it. This blog certainly has gone in directions that I haven’t expected. I try to keep my posts on topic — either being about finances or career, but sometimes I wonder if my readers would be interested in a broader focus. In any case, I’m amazed that I’m now getting over 100 hits per day, I’ve made about $60 on AdSense, and I even have about 160 feedburner readers. It’s fun that I can blog about things I’m really interested in and… find out that other people are actually interested  in hearing what I have to say. It’s a very nice feeling. 
So thanks, my lovely readers. You sure all make my day. And I don’t even need to risk having a heart attack to obtain that satisfaction.  

March Budget

I start making a good chunk of more money next month at my next payday, but for now I’m going to try to be careful to stay within my paychecks that I cashed today.

$3,700 Total to Spend/Save for March

$1050:
Rent / Utilities
$71.33: Cable/ Internet
$57.00: Verizon Phone
$128: Health Insurance
$138: Car Insurance (paid in advance)
$200: Gas
$27: Gym

SAVINGS

$1000 ING Direct for Taxes Account
$300 Roth IRA
$250 Sharebuilder
——————————
$3083

LEFT FOR SPENDING IN MARCH…

$617

$250 Gift for Boyfriend’s Birthday
$300 Food
$67 Entertainment / Other

…………

March is official “be fucking frugal” month. Next month my income goes up $1500, so there will be a lot more flexibility. Unfortunately my boyfriend’s birthday falls BEFORE that. Well, I’ll take him out to a nice dinner and get him a gift that won’t be as extravagant as last year’s Wii. Oh well. I could invest less in my Sharebuilder account this month if I want to spend more on the birthday, so that’s always an option.

I also hypothetically have another $825 owed to me for one of my freelance jobs and another $300+ owed to me for that cell phone bill that my old company was supposed to pay. So if I actually get paid that money, then I’ll be doing fine. But I don’t know when those checks will come, if ever. If they do come, I’m going to put more towards my Roth, and spend a little more on the bf’s birthday.

The good news is that I won’t have much time for spending money in March. My show opens March 28, which means the major cost of the month will be GAS to get to and from rehearsal at the theater about 30 minutes away. That’s why I put $200 in gas for the month. BUT I’m getting paid $500 to direct this production, after the fact, so my balance is going to look a lot healthier in April. It’s March that will be tight, since I don’t know when any of these other paychecks will be coming in.

Sadly, March is also the month when I wanted to seek out a tax consultant to discuss how to arrange my accounting as a freelancer. But I guess I’ll have to take a stab at figuring out my estimated quarterly tax for Q1 08 by myself. Meanwhile, I also have to file my taxes, but I’ll wait to April to do that, so I have some money to at least go through TurboTax or something.
Although my income last year was pretty low, prob about $34k or less, so maybe I can get away with filing for free. Hmm. That’s for another entry, eh?

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
—————————————————————————–
$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


——————————————————————————————————
(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.

—————————————————————————————-

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.