Three Tip Tuesdays

3 Tips: Tax Time for Freelancers

A tax return is a nice way to bolster some additional funds into your working life, but make the most of this annual bonus by looking at it as part of a bigger, more holistic way to manage your freelancing finances. Here are some tips to consider if you’re a solo show-pony.

  1. Set yourself up for success:  Setting yourself up properly is key to success – this includes setting up an ABN and understanding deductions that you can claim on tax. These will be unique depending on your line of work, but some expenses may be related to travel, clothing, home office, tools, equipment, gifts and donations. Remember, one of the perks of being a freelancer is that you’re own boss and keeping up with changes or advancements in your chosen industry are no longer optional, but essential. As is self-education. So sign up for courses, attend seminars, invest in subscriptions and research, and network like no other to ensure you’re ahead of the game.  
  2. Hire help for long-term gain: Freelancers may find it hard to get out of their own heads (both for business and pleasure), which is why hiring other professionals can be one of the most powerful ways to enhance your business without necessarily increasing your workload. You might find simpler ways to get jobs done with a virtual assistant doing the niggly things on your website, an agent to negotiate the rights of your publishing contract, or completely reinvent your day-to-day goals and direction with a specialised creative consultant. A single brainstorm and consult may snag you months – potentially even years – of bigger and better business. The best bit? This investment is likely to be tax deductible.
  3. Work from your favourite cafe (and claim it!): Heading to a cafe to write up a few ideas over a spiced chai can actually soothe your financial woes as well as your stress levels. Provided the experience is conducive to producing high-quality work on your part, this little outing can return a small present to your back pocket once a financial year – like a caffeinated Santa Claus. Instead of keeping individual receipts from every business meeting you have, consider getting a low rate credit card with interest free period to pay for work-related meetings. This is great for tracking expenses, but also makes tax time a breeze as all your claims will be in one place, eliminating the stress of tracking receipts and purchases.

3 Tips: Tackling the first edits of a manuscript

  1. Divide and conquer: Butchering 75,000 or more of your hard work is especially more daunting when it is all sitting there in one big lump – the literary equivalent of King Kong. I should know. In the six months or so I was trying to edit but failing miserably, all I did was carry around a huge manuscript, which was both a mental and physical burden. No sooner had I opened one chapter before another beckoned, distracting me from the matter at hand and reminding me of the big task before me. But dividing it into separate little blocks worked wonders: I literally tore each chapter out of the binding and stapled it separately. It made it easier to shuffle chapters around to re-arrange the storyline, but I could also take two or three chapters with me and work in small do-able blocks – on the train, in a cafe, in between appointments, which got me over the line much quicker.
  2. Graph it out: The structural edit is probably the hardest one of all, because it requires scrapping, cutting, pasting, re-writing and so on. And when that involves the input of your first readers (in my case, my agent, my publisher and my editor) there are a lot of things to work through. Graphing your book out into a timeline or table helps, because you can keep track of what’s happened, and what still needs to happen, before you reach The End.
  3. Paper first: There’s so much more freedom for expansion and contemplation if you work away from a computer. Working off a printed version of your manuscript means you’re essentially editing twice – once on paper, and the second time into your actual document – which gives your second draft the refinement it needs for the next stage of the publishing process. I find there is so much more room for movement when I am away from the demands of the computer. Scrawling lets me plot and dream and draw arrows and connections that might not have otherwise come to me.

But…every writer works differently and my set of tips won’t work for everybody. What other tips would you add here?

3 Tips: How to nurture your body desk-side

  1. Use a bigger device: Generally speaking, the more time required on the task the bigger the device you use. Anything requiring more than 30 minutes of work – whether it’s social media, word documents or web browsing – means you need to sit at a desk. Save small tasks and checking things quickly for your small devices.
  2. Long-time sitting requires a good workspace set-up. Think about changing your set-up: use multiple screens, change the mouse from side to side, and sit at different chairs to change your posture.
  3. Counter the effects of small tablets on your bad posture with regular movement. Stand up from your desk at least once every hour and go for a walk, and work extension exercises like yoga, GYROTONIC(R) method and pilates into your routine. As a general rule for every hour you sit you need to do 5 minutes of exercise throughout the week.

3 Tips: Money for freelance writers

Whether you’re a freelancer, employed full-time or just testing the waters, you’ll have to work incredibly hard to prove you’re actually a killer writer and worth the coins. Follow these three tips to stick out from the crowd and show potential clients that they need your words!

  1. Charge what you’re worth: So many people don’t like talking about money – and they squirm at the idea of meeting a client to discuss prices. However, once you break out of this traditional mindset you’ll realise that not only is the cost of your work an indication of how much money you make, it’s also a signal to others that your time, efforts and words are of that particular quality. In some cases, upping your worth could make you the more attractive option. A key consideration to make here is that increasing your costs will also make you more accountable for your work’s quality. Think about ways to add value. For example, include an extended version of the content for use on the publication’s website; this shows that you’re thinking beyond your pay rate and are a valuable contributor for them to have on board.
  2. Word rate or flat fee? This point could almost be re-worded to say “know how to read your client”. When it comes to providing written work to a client, the length and nature of your arrangements has a huge sway on which payment methods you should bring to the table. If, for example, you’re providing the written copy for an ongoing campaign, asking to be paid per word doesn’t make sense – it’s messy, hard to pinpoint and requires too much brainpower on their end. In this instance, paying per project is likely to be a much better option, both for minimising invoicing efforts on your part, and approving those payments on your client’s end. Use this calculator to determine what you should be charging.
  3. Become top of mind: Having a regular and engaging brand presence is one of the most underappreciated skills of the modern writer, but when you think about it, it’s also one of the most obvious ways to promote your skills. If you’re using social media and regular face-to-face catch ups to put snippets of your work in front of the right people, seeds are being planted in their head that will sprout the next time they’re sitting at their desk needing fresh content. There’s nothing better than being on the receiving end of that eureka moment when a big name realises “Oh, ___ would know something on this!”

 

3 Tips: Seeing a project through to the end

  1. Be prepared to write garbage. A lot of it. “Better to write twaddle (her word for it) than nothing at all,” said Katherine Mansfield. Too many writers get hung up on writing a first perfect line/paragraph/chapter and never go beyond. The blank page is intimidating, but you have to put the words down for the story to be written.
  2. Write in spite of everything happening around you. Write because of everything. Life will always get in the way of your writing. I’ve written through illness, upheaval, and heart-wrenching loss, and I’m telling you it can be done. Carve out the time for it, even if it’s only a few minutes here, an hour there. (My author mom called this the “patchwork quilt” method of writing.) Let it be an outlet for busyness and stress. If you let it, the writing can save you.
  3. Write the story you want to read. I’ve written eight books—two narrative adventure nonfictions set in the Arctic, a historical fiction series, a memoir about my Indiana high school years, and a young adult novel about suicide, depression, and first love. At first glance, the themes of my writing are all over the place. But the thing each book has in common is that it was something I wanted to read.

3 Tips: Social Media for Authors

  1. Know your boundaries: This is so important. Knowing your ‘brand’ (urgh, sorry about using that word…) and personal limitations will keep your content targeted and appropriate. It will also help to prevent any irrelevant or potentially damaging information being shared. Would you be comfortable with readers, relatives and colleagues seeing what you’ve posted? If not, delete, delete, delete. If so, carry on! Good job! A+ for effort!
  2. Identify your audience: It seems obvious, but keeping tabs on who’s following you on social media can help with user engagement. How old are they? Male, female, both? What posts do they enjoy the most? Photos? Videos? Links? Statuses? Knowing this information will help you build a loyal online community.
  3. Give readers value: I see social media as a chance for conversation rather than as a chance to step on a soap box. Think of ways you can engage with your followers, rather than bark self-promo information or photos at them. Before posting on your professional writer pages, ask yourself: “What’s the point of this post? What am I offering people?” The answer will let you know if it’s worth posting. PS: Sure, as an author, you have to work your self-promo side from time to time, but break it up with other things – otherwise your page will feel like an ad. Not ideal.

3 Tips: Working from home

  1. Get dressed. There’s nothing like part-taking in your usual morning routine to help you set the tone for the day ahead. Getting dressed adds a certain seriousness to your work day, helps you feel fresh and alive, and enables you to approach your tasks with the professional outlook they require. Working in PJs may sound appealing, but you end up feeling lethargic and unaccomplished when you do. I’ve sometimes been at home and have had to rush out to do an interview that someone else couldn’t make, or to do a skype chat, so getting dressed also ensures you can zip out quickly if you need to.
  2. Work that work space. Having a work space allows you to really separate your work from your home life, creating that ideal balance that allows you to start fresh everyday. When you sit at your desk, you’re not glancing around the room to find that you really ought to do some dusting, or some ironing, or whatever else is on your list. Even if it’s just a little desk underneath the stairs or in the corner of the living room – it’s your sacred space and working from it – while keeping it tidy – ensures you stay focused and productive.
  3. Schedule it like a work day. You wouldn’t hang up your washing and watch Ellen from your office, so why do it at home? Spend your time at the end of each day writing out your goals for the next one – that way you’ve let out everything that’s on your mind so you can go about your evening stress-free, and approach each new day with the focus on achieving those tasks in particular blocks of time. Use your favourite blocker/self-control apps to ban you from sites that impact your productivity, and set particular blocks of time to do things like answer emails, make phone calls, use social media and filing/maintenance.