Pick my brain! (Free career advice this week!)

Got a burning question about freelancing, contract work, or anything else relating to alternate ways of working? I’ll be answering them this week (yes, all week!) on Questionland, along with several other career experts. Stop on by and see if you can stump me…

4 comments January 17th, 2011

More health care relief for freelancers

The good news for the self-employed, temporarily employed, under-employed, and other workers who buy their own health insurance keeps on coming:

As I mentioned in a recent post, starting this week, freelancers and other “businesses of one” in Washington state will be able to qualify for group health insurance plans.

In addition, last week marked the six-month anniversary of the signing of the new federal health care bill, ushering in a handful of welcome changes to U.S. health plans for employees and self-employed alike. (Goodbye, lifetime coverage limits and the ability of insurance companies to drop customers who are sick or to deny coverage to kids with pre-existing conditions! Hello, free mammograms, free cholesterol screenings, and free immunizations for kids!)

And this week, President Obama signed the Small Business Jobs Act, which among other small business tax breaks, gives freelancers, small business owners, and other self-employed folks a deduction for the cost of their health insurance — and that of their family members — on their 2010 self-employment taxes.

[Read the rest of this post on NWjobs.com]

7 comments October 1st, 2010

Health care relief for Washington state’s self-employed

A recent news item from the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner made my week. According to the OIC, come October 1, freelancers, sole proprietors, independent contractors, and other self-employed folks will have an easier time finding and qualifying for affordable health insurance.

Thanks to Senate Bill 6538, rather than being forced to buy health insurance on the individual market — if they can even qualify for it, let alone afford it — one-person businesses will be able to qualify for group health insurance coverage, with no health screening required. Until now, only small businesses of two to 50 employees could qualify for such group plans in Washington state. 

In case you’re new to the self-insurance game, allow me explain why this has the potential to rock a lot of freelance worlds: Group plans tend to offer more bang for your insurance buck; coverage tends to be far more comprehensive than the high-deductible, catastrophic plans those of us in the individual insurance market often get stuck with.

Perhaps even more significant, there are no 250-item health questionnaires to fill out and no infinite bans on pre-existing conditions, which is of course great news for self-employed people with chronic conditions or a less-than-perfect medical history.

[Read the rest of this post on NWjobs.com]

2 comments September 17th, 2010

Two Seattle events 9/21 for freelance writers

To the Seattle-area freelance writers who keep up with this site: In case you haven’t heard, there’s a fabulous low-cost conference for current and hopeful freelance journalists happening in Seattle next Tuesday, 9/21, followed by the next mediabistro cocktail party for Seattle-area media types. The details on both follow. Feel free to attend one or both — and to spread the word to friends.
{{{ EVENT #1 }}}
Get Your All Access Pass Today!
All Access Pass: Freelancer’s Survival Guide 
Planning finances, understanding contracts, caring for and feeding your editors. Being a successful freelance writer takes a few unique skills.
Northwest journalists can get the inside scoop on the industry at “All Access Pass: The Freelancing Survival Guide”  Tuesday, Sept. 21 at the REI flagship store, 222 Yale Ave. N. in Seattle.
The cost is $40; SPJ members receive a $10 discount. Get your ticket at Brown Paper Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/123411
For more information, read more or please contact SPJ board member David Volk at david at davidvolk.com or 206.696.5426.
KUOW commentator and travel writer Crai Bower will lead a session titled “From Proposal to Paycheck,” following a story idea through the process from pitch letter to publication while Patricia Vaccarino, author of “PR for People: Be famous for who you are and what you do” will head up a panel on “Branding for Writers.”
Speakers include Paul Frichtl, editor of Alaska Airlines Magazine; Nicole Meoli, editor of AAA Journey Magazine; James Ross Gardner, senior editor of Seattle Met Magazine; Katherine S. McKelvey, publisher of Kenmore Air in-flight publication, Harbors Magazine; Julie Case, managing editor of Columns Magazine; Financial advisor Steve Juetten; Robert Cumbow, attorney with Graham and Dunn who specializes in intellectual property rights; Alex Johnson, MSNBC.com senior writer/producer; and Diane Mettler, trade publication writer and editor of Timberwest Magazine.
The event is sponsored by the Western Washington Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. It will open in REI’s upstairs meeting room with a panel discussion, followed by a selection of concurrent sessions that participants can tailor to their interests.
Topics include hidden freelance markets, diversifying income sources, the basics of running a business, financial planning for freelancers, research tips, contracts for freelancers, breaking into new markets and useful technology for journalists.  

For more information, contact Western Washington Society of Professional
Journalists: www.spjwash.org

{{{ EVENT #2 }}}
It’s mediabistro cocktail party time again! The next mediabistro-sponsored party for Seattle-area media professionals is Tues, 9/21, from 5 to 7 pm at the Victory Lounge on Eastlake. Local writers Crai Bower and Michelle Goodman are co-hosting. Admission free; drinks are on you. RSVP here: http://www.mediabistro.com/events/view_event.asp?id=15571
The party begins after SPJ’s All-Access Pass Conference for freelance journalists (http://www.spjwash.org/) has wrapped up. Get your education on during the day with the SPJ and then continue schmoozing into the evening with your friendly mediabistro revelers. Or just come on down for the conference (or the party!). Hope to see some of you there.

1 comment September 16th, 2010

Artist at heart? 6 reasons to keep your day job

I’ve always objected to the notion that you need to take a year off to write a novel, paint a mural or record an album. Likewise, I’m equally bothered by the assertion that an artist with a day job is a sell out. Eating is a noble pursuit. So is learning valuable business skills you can apply to hawking your own creative wares.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for creative endeavors, be they full time or on the side. But I’m also for living like a grown-up, as opposed to, say, couch surfing or subsisting on Ramen-ketchup casserole indefinitely.

Of course, the rub is finding the time and energy to practice your craft while doubling as someone else’s employee. Same goes for keeping your resentment of that pesky day job at bay.

Summer Pierre, author of The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week, knows this dance all too well.

Before becoming a mother this year, the illustrator and writer supported herself with an administrative gig in the academic sector. But rather than view her day job as an obstacle to making art, Pierre came to appreciate it as a vital part of her creative life — and not just because of the paycheck that kept a roof over her head.

“Not everyone does well being isolated,” said the Brooklyn-based Pierre, who plans to return to part-time bread-and-butter work this fall. “I need structure. I need people. So the job for me was really providing that.”

But cash, colleagues and water coolers aren’t the only reasons published authors, gigging musicians and exhibiting artists cite for straddling the employee world. The next time you’re tempted to ditch your day job (or pooh-pooh another paycheck-earning artist), consider the following.

[Read the rest of this column on ABC News.com]

2 comments August 2nd, 2010

Your Freelancing 201 questions answered, part 1

When I asked folks to chime in with their burning freelancing questions last week I wasn’t expecting to get so many. Thank you — both for playing along, and for continuing to read this site despite my increasingly infrequent posts.

The column I wound up writing on the topic – Suddenly Self-Employed? Seven Ways to Boost Your Income – makes the following suggestions. Many of you will have heard some of them before. But hey, when it comes to making more moolah, a little reminder never hurts, right?

1. Follow the money. Sometimes a snoozy yet lucrative gig can be a lifesaver.

2. Don’t let any one client dominate your time. Over the course of the year, up to 25% per client is my recommended time limit.

3. Track your project time. If that $750 article takes you 75 hours to research, write, and revise, you’re either doing too much work or getting robbed.

4. Stop reducing your rates. The worst of the recession is hopefully behind us. Slashing your rates to get more work (or agreeing to a client’s slashed rates in order to hang on to them) is not a viable business model. You’ll just wind up working twice as many hours to pay your bills.


2 comments July 11th, 2010

Got a burning Freelancing 201 question?

Anyone have a question about how to take their freelance business to the next level? I’m looking for fodder for an upcoming article and would love to hear what issues keep you awake at night. Wondering how to raise your rates, tame a tough client, make more money? Want to collaborate with or subcontract to other independents but don’t know how? Covet an assistant but aren’t sure you can afford it? Do tell. Mama’s here to help.

13 comments July 2nd, 2010

How much pro bono work is too much?

Maybe you went into business for yourself because you had a million-dollar idea. Or you wanted to set your own hours. Or you wanted to exercise your right to turn away clients who wouldn’t recognize integrity if it slapped them upside the head.

Whatever your MO for going solo, you probably hoped to make that proverbial difference in the world, no matter how small. Chances are, though, your desire to pay it forward has led you to bite off more pro bono work than you can chew somewhere along the way.

Get in over your head with non-paying clients and, at best, your schedule and quarterly earnings take a beating. At worst, you realize you’re dealing with an ungrateful, opportunistic customer, at which point resentments flare, fur flies, and bridges burn.

So how much pro bono work should you accept? How should you choose the customers to whom you donate your services? And most important, how do you ensure these friendly freebies don’t land you in the scope creep sinkhole

[Read the rest of this article on American Express OPEN Forum.]

3 comments June 19th, 2010

Why I love contract work

The other day, a friend who’s halfway through a year-long contract as a technical editor said what today’s temporary workforce is never supposed to say aloud:

“My boss keeps telling me she wants to bring me on permanently, but I’m not so sure I want that. It’s funny how everybody assumes that’s my goal.”

Sure, my friend is thankful to have a decent-paying job this year, especially in the wake of her big, fat, soul-sucking layoff in 2008. But after a couple years of cobbling together a paycheck from various contract, part-time and freelance jobs, she’s no longer sold on the sanctity of shacking up with one employer — despite the promise of 401(k) matching and a group health care plan.

I can relate. I took my first contract job in 1998 and have yet to accept a temporary boss’s offer of permanent work. Some of the staffers I’ve worked alongside have said, “Why don’t you just do the permanent employee thing for five years, sock away a bunch of cash and then go goof off in soloville awhile?”

But I prefer my freedom now, even if it means paying for my own vacation days and owning a smaller house than my employee counterparts.

Of course, there are legions of contract, temporary and freelance workers who couldn’t agree less — and dire news reports of the ever-growing number of malcontent temps to prove it. They don’t want to have to find a new job every three, six or 12 months or fund their own health insurance premiums. Real or imagined, they long for the uniformity of one boss, one corporate culture, one employee manual year after year.

Entirely understandable. But in the decade-plus I’ve worked as a contract employee and freelancer, I’ve encountered many content temps who agree that contract work has its undeniable perks. Between the autonomy, flexibility and variety, many of the nation’s 10.3 independent contractors have no intention of returning to staff work any time soon. Here’s why.

[Read the rest of this column on abcnews.com.]

4 comments June 19th, 2010

Seattle-area event for media professionals this week

Start the week off right with balanced eating, exercise, and a healthy dose of networking. Join me as I cohost a mediabistro party for Seattle-area media professionals this Tuesday. Connect with other media folks and share tips over cocktails.  

Mediabistro cocktail party – Tuesday, April 20
7 to 9 pm
What: Cocktail party for media professionals – freelance, staff, and those between jobs. Admission free; cash bar with drink specials, plus complimentary appetizers. I’m cohosting with freelancer Crai Bower.
Where: Grey Gallery & Lounge, 1512 11th Avenue, Seattle
RSVP: Required. RSVP on mediabistro.com.

Add comment April 18th, 2010

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Who I am

Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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