New to Freelancing? What to Expect in Your First Year
After picking up a writing gig here and there for a while, you’ve decided to make the leap and start freelancing full-time. Starting a career as a freelance writer is both exhilarating and terrifying. As those first few freelance writing jobs for beginners start to roll in, you might find yourself gaining more and more confidence, only to be smacked down when you face your first big challenge on your own. Freelancing is all about ups and downs, and learning to cope with the downs and celebrate the ups will help you get through your first year and many years to come.
Tax Time Surprises
Taxes look a little different when you freelance. For one thing, you are responsible for both the employee and the employer portion of your Social Security and Medicare taxes. For another, you usually have to complete Schedule C or C-EZ and will receive 1099-MISC forms from your clients, not W-2s. If you aren’t careful, you can end up owing a lot to the IRS when tax time comes around, since your clients aren’t taking out the tax for you.
When you first start freelancing, it’s a good idea to speak to a certified public accountant or other tax professional, well before tax season. Your CPA can help you make sense of the tax differences and offer guidance to you about how much to set aside and when to make estimated quarterly payments. The IRS also has a handy self-employment tax center, which can help you figure out what is up and what is down when it comes to freelance taxes.
Coping with Clients
As a freelancer, you’ll find that clients can come and go and that some you’ll be pretty happy to see go. For every few amazing clients out there, you’re likely to encounter one that makes you want to head for the hills and when you’re new to the freelancing game, you might think that you have to deal with it. The good news is that you can work a few things into your contract before you start a project to protect yourself from a difficult client. For example, state how many times you’ll revise or rewrite the project in your contract. You might also want to include a “kill fee” into all of your projects, in case things just don’t work out and you and the client just can’t see eye to eye. With a kill fee, you won’t get the full amount agreed to had you finished the project, but you also don’t have to worry about staying up all night wondering if the client will request a 10th revision to your work.
More Freedom, More Responsibility
Another common surprise among freelancers is that the job involves much more than writing. You get to be your own boss and are free to work whenever, but you also have to take on the responsibilities of a boss, meaning it’s up to you to make sure you finish projects on time and to make sure you have new projects lined up as the old ones wrap up.
Your first year as a freelancer is all about finding balance. Leave time for writing, but also make sure you’re handling the business side of things, from bringing in new clients to ensuring the ones you’ve already got are happy with your work.
A professional writer since 2007, Amy F specializes in personal finance, gardening and writing for the web. Based in Philly, she also blogs about fashion and sewing projects in her spare time.