Re: Going freelance?

Subject: Re: Going freelance?
From: "Monique Semp" <monique -dot- semp -at- earthlink -dot- net>
To: "Shari Punyon" <sharipunyon -at- gmail -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 9 Oct 2017 08:59:50 -0700

Caution: very long post. Iâm very happy being a consultant/contractor, but I doubt Iâd go this route again. Itâs not as simple as Iâd assumed it would be. And there are many more overhead (non-billable) hours required than Iâd have ever guessed.

I've been a consultant (you'll likely make more $$ as a "consultant" than as a "freelancer") since 2005, and the STC Contractors and Independent Consultants SIG (special interest group) was invaluable for me. In the waybackmachine, you can still find their Getting Started in Consulting and Independent Contracting book: http://web.archive.org/web/20130927104339/http://www.stcsig.org:80/cic/OnlineBook/index.htm . Itâs been quite a few years since it was updated, so the specifics will likely be outdated. But the breadth of topics still gives a great overview of the many things you should consider.

(The navigation isnât great or necessarily obvious. For each chapter the left-nav changes for just those chapterâs topics, but the top link in the left-nav provides a consistent link back to the book-level Table of Contents.)

Thereâs also a plethora (of old) info one hierarchy level up: http://web.archive.org/web/20141014034126/http:/www.stcsig.org/cic/pages/links.htm#OnlineBook .

Iâm not so sure Iâd go this route today â the paperwork burden, increasing requirements for yet more types of insurance, the reticence of clients to work directly with me (even though Iâm a S-corporation, so they donât have to worry about that defacto employee problem) vs. through an agency, etc. are quite a drag.

And donât expect to be living the dream where you get to choose how much and where youâll work. Even with consulting, itâs getting increasingly difficult to find companies willing to deal with remote _tech writers_, despite the fact that theyâre still used to the idea of distributed development teams. (Iâm of course talking software here. Other industries might be different.)

But ultimately I do have more freedom in my freelance life than I would in a FTE (full-time employment) situation. And as a corporation, I can take some of the business income as pass-through shareholder distribution, which reduces the federal tax liability. (But then again, Iâm in California, where thereâs a minimum $800/year franchise tax fee, whether I make $1 or many dollars in income.)

My best networking tip is to go to meetups that are related to whatever industry you want to work in, but that arenât writer-focused. That way youâll be the only writer in the room, so much better odds of landing an assignment!

My other big advice thing is to recognize that there are plenty of costs that are important to not skip. Other people manage without a lawyer (to review all your contracts) and accountant, but Iâm too cautious and I donât like that aspect of the business. So I pay people to take care of those things. Taxes are not nearly as simple as âput 25-35% away for estimated taxes.â There are all sorts of penalties if you donât pay according to the IRS schedule, even if you end up paying it all (meaning the full yearâs tax liability) by the Jan. 15 deadline for estimated taxes. If your income is pretty even throughout the year, this isnât such a big deal. But if you have quite variable income (some months I barely work, other months I have four weeks of 30+ billable hours), it can be tricky to get right.

And definitely, the freelance job boards donât seem to be a way to make a real living. If you expect to replace your regular salary, I see longer-term contracts as a direct vendor or through a reputable agency as the only paths. If you go through an agency, the client wonât pay much more to the agency than they would directly to you, so your take-home $$ will be lower. But if you go directly, youâll have the expense and hassle of legal review of the contract and, likely, liability insurance at a minimum, and perhaps professional/errors and omissions insurance. (Most clients will waive that if you push, but Iâve had a couple that just would not. So I paid for the insurance. And Iâm currently still paying for an old client because the terms were that I had to retain the insurance for a good long time after I left them.)

LinkedIn has been terrific for me. Iâve gotten several contracts via recruiters finding my profile. But I also get a ridiculous number of stupid offers, for jobs that have a couple of keywords in common but that clearly are nothing Iâd be qualified or interested in. Youâll spend a lot of time ignoring such things.

Be sure to assess your willingness to deal with IT issues. Thereâs nobody whose responsibility it is to get your email fixed, the QuickBooks updates installed, the internet working, etc. Every time you need a new machine, itâll be up to you to transfer all your needed programs and data, and do all the reconfiguring.

Just some thoughts that anyone considering going freelance should consider,
-Monique
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Going freelance?: From: Shari Punyon

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