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Monday, December 19, 2011

5 Things For Freelancers to Do Before Year's End

Wow, there are just two weeks left before we leave 2011 behind for 2012. I'll be taking some much-needed (and if I say so myself, much-deserved) time off for the next two weeks, but I'd like to leave you with five  suggestions for your freelance career before year's end:

1. Get a jump on your taxes. I never wait until April to do my taxes. I like to figure out my gross income and calculate a rough estimate of my net income before the end of the year. Then I send that number to my accountant for an estimate of what I'll owe. Sometimes the number is scary, but I'd rather know that going into the new year than wait and be surprised sometime in 2012. And besides, I use that tax figure to help determine how much I put in my SEP, or self-employment plan. 

2. Invest in your career. You can write off legitimate business expenses before the end of 2011, so this is the time to upgrade your computer, purchase software, buy writing-related books (like Goodbye Byline!), and other work-related products. You'll reduce your tax liability and hopefully have some time over the holidays to read or familiarize yourself with your new tools. 

3. Review your year. Every year, I clarify where my money came from. I usually send a holiday card and/or gift to my biggest clients. I also look for "lessons." Did I take on any projects that turned out to pay a lower hourly rate than I expected? Are clients asking for me to do work I need to gain more experience with? Did I have a steady stream of work, or was I facing a "feast-or-famine" scenario much of the year? What was the most worthwhile work I did? Which work paid the best? Which seems to have the most potential?  Is there any kind of work I want to cut from my roster? 

4. Set goals for the coming year. If, like many serious freelancers, you set an annual income goal, don't forget to calculate your daily nut. Average that figure throughout the year of 2012 and you'll meet your new income goal. Think about the other objectives you have as well. Do you want to branch into corporate writing this year? Do you want to become an e-book author? Is this the year you get serious about writing fiction? Should you spend more time on social media--or at least use it more effectively? Decide what your goals are, and put them in writing. 

5. Take time off. Until last year, I'd always taken the year between Christmas and New Year's as vacation time. I used the time to relax, set goals for the coming year, and read for pleasure--at least until the kids came along. Now that week is mostly family time, but I do give myself a chance to unwind and hopefully rewind before the new year begins. Last year, I didn't have that luxury--I worked every single day except Christmas and started 2011 burned out, cranky, and exhausted. Give yourself at least a few days during the holidays to do your own unwinding/rewinding. You'll start the year off with more energy and a better attitude. 

I hope 2011 has been a great year for you...tune in next year for more practical, proven advice about how to make more money as a freelancer in less time. 

***Let me end this year with a plug for my books, too. If you're considering the lucrative field of ghostwriting, check out Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks. If you (or someone you love) wants to get started writing for print and online markets, I recommend Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create your own Writing Specialty and Make More Money. There's my classic, Six-Figure Freelancing, which unfortunately has gone out of print, but its e-version is still available. And if you want to get a jump on next year, preorder Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success, which will be released by early May, 2012.  Commercial over...happy holidays! :)