Things I wish I had known when starting out: finances & taxes

February 11 | offbeatbride
Would you consider doing an article about the financial and/or tax aspect of being self employed? Or maybe a "Things I wish I had known when starting out" type article?

My freelance art has started to pick up (and by pick up, I mean I'm actually getting paid for stuff! Success!), but I am a little lost on the finance area. I've done some searching, but every article or book I've read seems makes it sound pretty complicated. I need a Megan-simple finance lesson!

I love all the behind the scenes data you post here, a bunch of articles have been really fascinating and informative too :D. Thanks for taking the time to read my question. As always, you, all, are awesome-sauce!

Best,
Mallory

By: Michael McCauslinCC BY 2.0
Here is my finance lesson: GET A BOOKKEEPER IMMEDIATELY. I do not mess around with finances or taxes because I'm dumb at that shit, and the stakes are way too high to fuck around. I pay a bookkeeper for a few hours of work each month to help me keep my shit together, and then about $500 to help me file my taxes each spring.

"But I'm only just now making money!" you might say. GREAT. You can make sure you start your nascent business with smart bookkeeping practices, knowing you've got your shit together. Get a bookkeeper.

Then get a lawyer.

"But I'm only just starting out," you might say. GREAT! That's the best time to find a small business lawyer: when you don't need them! One of my biggest regrets is that I didn't get a lawyer sooner to help me establish my contracts and terms of service before I was confronted with situations that made me realize I needed them. "Oh I'm just starting out," I told myself back in 2008. "Why would I need a lawyer?" Guess what? Looking back, that's when I should have been talking to a lawyer to ensure I was doing what I needed to protect my business when it was still tiny.

If you're making enough money that you consider your freelance work a part time job, you need a bookkeeper and a lawyer. You won't use them much at first, but if you get your systems set up well right at the start, you won't need to use them much at all… which is the way you want it.

  1. This may be the only NSFW blog post about finances that I have ever seen…

    27 agree
  2. I totally agree with all these points.
    My husband and I incorporated our own company when we were first starting out for legal protection from Producers who were a bit crazy. Now that my husband and I are freelancing it more its great. We keep most of our money in our corporate account (lower tax rate).
    We hired a lawyer to help us incorporate and now they check over contracts for us.
    We don't have a bookkeeper, my husband does it all in Quickbooks. But we have a very nice accountant who files our corporate and personal taxes for us. We just send her over everything and within a couple days everything is filed. Its pretty awesome.

    1 agrees
  3. …is that a Harry Potter stripper?

    I mean, great article, I'm about to share with with small business owner friends, Offbeat Empire rocks my face off, but…um…is that a Harry Potter stripper?

    If it was anywhere else, I'd be like, "Huh. Kinda naked guy."
    But since it's on Offbeat Empire I immediately assume that, due to the glasses and vaguely Gruffindor tie, that that's definitely a Harry Potter stripper.

    9 agree
  4. My only bit of advice: assume 1/3 of whatever you make is going to taxes.

    6 agree
  5. So how do you go about "getting a lawyer" when you don't have anything for them to do?

    1 agrees
  6. Thank you so much for this Ariel! This is REALLY great advice. While I know how to use Quickbooks, I do not know anything about accounting and I definitely need help. This way, I can just kick back and draw pretty things :D.

    Thanks, again, for answering my question!!!

    1 agrees
  7. These are GREAT ideas, but what if you can't afford a bookkeeper/lawyer? I'll be launching my own illustration business soon, and I honestly can't spare the money to hire help. Taxes and the legality of having my own business is overwhelming, so I know I need some guidance, but I'm guessing that anyone who could help would prefer money instead of a handmade illustration of them as an 8-bit character. 😛

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