Category Archives: home office

Monday Morning Musings: Millennial Writers, Quit Hitting Refresh!

Not for the first time, it’s been dawning on me lately that my status as a millennial writer may be putting me at something of a competitive disadvantage.

I’m not referring to my relative (though rapidly disappearing thanks to student loans and the looming inevitable death of all we hold dear) youth, or the metric ton’s worth of crappy expectations and stereotypes previous generations have dumped upon mine. I’m simply pointing out that my patience level is, shall we say, not high. In this business, that’s not exactly an asset.

A twenty-first century writer’s true nemesis, you understand, is not crass commercialism or an uneducated public or even a literary archrival. No, it’s that danged refresh button.

“Come on, come on, it’s been like half a day already. Has she seen my e-mail? Surely she’s seen my e-mail. Read the query, read the query, READ THE QUERY, READTHEQUERYREADTHEQUERYREADTHEQUERY!”

It’s just so freaking easy nowadays for millennial writers like me to click back and forth between windows, hitting “refresh” on blog stat trackers and e-mail inboxes every 30 seconds.

“What do you mean there’s only been 10 pageviews so far? That was a brilliant post! How do all those spam marketing sites with people who can’t write in English get so much flipping traffic, anyway?”

We may be getting a tad obsessive. Also, that little nervous habit is cutting way too much into our writing time.

There is no way I would have survived trying to make a career of writing back in the good old days when everything always got lost in the mail both ways. If I make a change to the blog settings, my brain does know that it’s unrealistic to expect such minute tweaking to instantly boost my readership. Does that ever stop me from frantically doing CPR compressions on my refresh button? Heck no.

Nor does my complete lack of control over when other humans send e-mails even slightly make a dent in the number of times I’ve checked my messages since lunch (approximately 347, in my not-so-scientific estimation). There’s an old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon that opines, “The longer you wait for the mail, the less there is in it,” and right now I really feel like reaching through my screen and giving my inbox a good bopping.

Sure, the usual advice given to millennial writers in my situation is to write something else, or query someone else,  or do something else. And I’ll totally do that, right after I refill my coff–REFRESHREFRESHREFRESH! Whoops.

How do you avoid mashing the refresh button?

Kate

Freelance Fridays: Spring Cleaning the Home Office, Part 2

All right, so you’ve got your music, your coffee break, and at least one already-clean surface somewhere in your house, so today isn’t a total loss. Now comes the fun part: climbing Mount Paperwork. Start with several empty boxes or bins for sorting everything into piles.

Freelance Fridays: Coffee
Drink up freelancers, it’s Friday!

Depending on the amount of work you need to finish, I suggest the following categories:

1. Old receipts and banking information. These can go directly into your existing storage system. Banking information for accounts you’ve already entered into your accounting software can go here as well.

2. Paperwork that belongs in existing files. Just make a stack for now. You’ll sort out the contents for individual files once the rest of this is out of your way.

3. Paperwork for which new files must be made. Set these items aside until you have a chance to dig out your trusty LabelMaker.

4. Receipts for the current year. File if you’ve already entered them in your accounting system, or put them in a labeled folder to work with later.

5. Unpaid bills. This category also includes forms, and miscellaneous business items you need to deal with. You should already have an inbox of some kind. Stash it all there.

6. Stuff you can throw away. Include old catalogs, industry publications, junk mail misprinted documents, information on past events, and any other items you no longer need to keep.

Pick up every piece of paper on your desk and on the floor and put it into one of those boxes. Don’t get distracted reading everything; for now, the goal is to get a paperwork-free surface in the office and the trash out of your way. Throw away old envelopes, newspapers, advertising, dried-out pens, and anything else that does not need to stay in your office or your files.

Once the floor is clean and your trash pile is gone, sort through the remaining piles, one by one. Start with the items that need to be filed in existing spaces. Pull the appropriate file folders and stash each of those items. For the remaining items, sort by category, place in new, clean file folders, label, and put away.

Now for the actual cleaning part. Your goal for today is to get the office clutter and dirt under control.

Dust any open shelves. Remember to clean off photo frames and any decorative knickknacks. Wipe the dust off your light fixtures and replace any burned-out bulbs.

Using the edge attachment, vacuum corners. Check for cobwebs. Vacuum the open floor.

If you have blinds or curtains, now is the time to scrub them.

Go through your supplies and make a shopping list. on my last run I stocked up on Ink, binder clips and envelopes, among other supplies.

Pick up a can of compressed air and blow out your keyboard. Find an electronics-safe cloth and wipe down your monitor.

Vacuum or wipe down your office chair.

Using an alcohol-based spray to kill germs, wipe down your desk area and all the items you frequently touch, such as your phone, doorknob, and mouse.

There! Your office is clean, tidy, and ready for a new paperwork avalanche! Happy spring!

 
KateI’m blogging my way through my first novel in 2016. Subscribe to the RSS feed on the home page or find me on Facebook for new updates!

Freelance Fridays: Spring Cleaning the Home Office, Part 1


Now that the tax season rush is mostly over, Project Locate My Office Floor is commencing. Neatnik, I am not, but at some point, I am going to have to get to my chair. Employees like to get paid, as it turns out, so  I really must unbury my checkbook before they show up with pitchforks and moldy tomatoes.


Maintaining a functional workspace is one of those annoying but necessary chores that for easily bored people like me requires gearing up every so often, preferably armed with loud music and a boost of sugary caffeine. Spring cleaning the home office enables me to get a fresh start on the new tax year as I finally put last year’s sky-high stacks of receipts and forms to bed.

As highly as I recommend regularly dosing your keyboard with compressed air and de-germing every visible surface with those little alcohol wipes, today’s post is for the rest of us, the busy, creative clutterbugs currently plopped in the center of about a square foot of bare floor space, wishing we could be doing anything else. Seriously, I’d even reconsider my stance on skydiving right now, and I hate plummeting to my doom and crunching all my bones up into human soup. But, no, we’ve got to do this organizational crap, and I know it sucks, but bear with me for a little while.

Step 1: Load the dishwasher
Quit looking at me like that! Get your dishes off the counter, throw a load of laundry in the machine, or feed the dog. The goal is to hide at least some of the other clutter in your house and get at least one quick, simple chore that mostly does itself out of the way. Also, hungry dogs are hugely distracting. You won’t be able to use your messy kitchen or your laundry stacks as an excuse to get out of cleaning the office if you’ve already started tackling those things, and seeing one newly clean surface helps get you into the proper cleaning mode.

Step 2: Make coffee
You can have tea, if that is your thing. Cocoa is also acceptable. Basically, any sort of drink that you routinely enjoy that gets you energized and excited about your day is what you want here.  Sip slowly and happily for at least five to 10 minutes. No chugging. This isn’t a frat house, although it might look like one.

Step 3: Pick your soundtrack
No sitting for hours creating playlists. I’m on to you. Turn on the radio, find your favorite channel. Stay off YouTube and quit pretending you’re searching for music videos; watching adorable kittens isn’t going to get your office any cleaner.

What will? Find out next Friday when we continue with Part 2. Happy scrubbing!

Kate


I’m blogging my way through my first novel in 2016. Subscribe to the RSS feed on the home page or find me on Facebook for new updates!

Freelance Fridays: Tax Time

After a couple weeks’ worth of balmy weather, springtime seems to have arrived early, bringing at least two annual inevitabilities along for the ride: mud and tax prep.

While I feel compelled to offer the standard disclaimers at this point–I am neither an attorney nor a CPA–there are a few general things I can point out, such as that if your business structure involves any employees or partners, you may need to start your tax preparation process well in advance of April 15. Employees and contractors are due their W2s and 1099s by the end of January, and if your business has to file any K-1 forms, they’ll most likely be due around mid-March, unless your fiscal calendar does not follow the standard calendar year. Other fun things, such as annual reports and state income taxes for workers, may or may not apply to your operation.

Although the IRS has extended the traditional filing deadline slightly for the current tax year (it’s been bumped back to April 18 across the board this year, and if you live in Maine or Massachusetts, you’ll get an extra day), it’s never a great idea to wait till the last possible minute to file, because some sort of time suck invariably comes up: a math mistake, a missing form, a complicated work sheet, an uncooperative printer. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to run a year-end profit and loss statement on your freelancing income and check for missing or duplicated data. I like to label a couple of folders for the outside tax-related forms that always come in for specific personal and business items–stuff like medical expenses, 1099 forms from people who paid you, student loan payments, and mortgage interest. If I forget to do that, they’ll end up scattered everywhere.

If you have other income sources (from a spouse, investments, or a second job), you’ll want to see how your freelancing money is likely to affect your overall income tax liability. Remember, too, that as an independent freelancer, you’re technically self-employed, which makes you responsible for paying both halves of the payroll taxes you and your employer would have been splitting if you were a traditional employee. Since it’s mid-February now, you still have a couple of months to set money aside if you expect to owe some taxes when you file.

Do you have any quick tips for tax season? Share them in the comments!

Kate

I’m blogging my way through my first novel in 2016. Subscribe to the RSS feed on the home page or find me on Facebook for new updates!

Freelance Fridays: Getting Your (Financial) House in Order

There’s a pumpkin-spiced chill in the air that can only mean one thing: tax season is fast approaching. Photo credit: Randy Heinitz via VisualHunt.com / CC BY

 

 

It’s full-blown winter for many of my pals up north already, but here in the Rockies, fall is in full swing. There’s a pumpkin-spiced chill in the air; the leaves are turning; the bears, pronghorns, deer, and elk are out; and all anybody really feels like doing is taking long naps and eating all the food. It’s also the perfect time to take a hard look at the books before the holiday season hits and all the quarterly and year-end filings come due.

As we discussed last time, running your own business, even a tiny home business, necessarily generates a ton of paperwork. A whole lot of that is going to be financial records: receipts, bills, pay stubs, bank ledgers, tax forms, more tax forms, and still more tax forms you probably never knew existed before. If you hire anything out, you’ll enjoy a whole new level of record-keeping that occasionally results in random visits from people who want to inspect all of that stuff to see if you’re doing it wrong.

Freelance Fridays: Coffee
Drink up freelancers, it’s Friday!

To that end, it’s a good idea to take stock of your business’ performance by getting your financial records in order a month or two before the year ends. This not only lessens your tax prep workload later but also enables you to determine whether you should make changes to your operations before the tax year closes. You may find that you should be holding additional funds to cover tax bills, or that you need to update your insurance coverage, or that it makes sense to purchase deductible equipment.

Part of this process, if your business is old enough, should involve a tentative year-to-date profit and loss comparison with the previous year, and perhaps the last five or 10 years, if applicable. How does your performance compare overall? Are your numbers on par with past years’? Are you surpassing them? Where do you see the most significant changes? What’s driving those figures?

If you have employees, check to see how your payroll expenses may have changed. How will that impact your tax obligations and insurance costs? Can you afford to give holiday bonuses? What about accrued leave and holiday time?

Keeping things organized and checking up on your P&L stats at regular intervals is generally proper practice, but an in-depth analysis is especially important to complete before the end of the year. Give yourself a little extra time to make changes and plan for additional expenses. You’ll save a lot of headaches later on.

Kate