It’s 2017, which means it’s a brand new year for your business…. And for making lots of money. No matter what you do for a living, there are some super-simple things any self-employed person can do that make things a lot easier.
You see, a lot of times we get caught up in the day-to-day lives of our business. We spend all our energy thinking about how we become better writers, coders, designers, teachers, or artists. But by doing that, we forget to pay attention to how to make more money.
Almost Millions is here to help freelancers and independent contractors become better at the business and money side of life–and to make things as easy as possible. That’s why we have these 10 business tips for 2017:
Set Your Goals
If you’re a freelancer or a 1099er, you’re responsible for your own business destiny–which means you need a plan. A great starting point for 2017 is figuring out your professional goals, and coming up with strategies to achieve them.
Sit down with a pen and paper, and make a list of your professional goals for the year. These can be as simple as obtaining more business from your favorite client, or as complicated as going back to school or launching a new product.
Once you write your list, rank each goal in order of importance–ask yourself which goals matter most to you. Then go over each goal, and write down the steps you need to take to achieve those goals. Use these baby steps to plan what you’re going to do in 2017, and always keep them in mind when you’re figuring out next steps.
Identify Your Clients
If you’re getting a 1099, that means you are working with clients. One of the best things you can do is to identify your target clients, and figure out how you will reach them in 2017.
Graphic designers, for instance, should think about which agencies or private clients they want to commission work from. Who do you want to focus on in the next year? If you’re an Uber or Lyft driver, imagine where the most lucrative fares in your city are and how you’ll reach them in 2017. Should you drive during rush hours or when the bars are closing? Are there certain parts of town where you have encountered better paying or tipping fares?
Use this exercise to help come up with your business strategy for 2017. Instead of waiting for clients to come to you, put yourself in a position where finding new clients is easy.
Build Up Your Website & Social Media Presence
These days, the way new customers or clients find freelancers is primarily through the internet. And when they’re on the internet, they find freelancers either through word of mouth or through online searches.
This means that you need to put together a portfolio and an easy way of contacting you so your business will drum up more business in 2017.
Services like Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress.com make it easy to put together a professional-looking website at a low-cost (or even free). There are also sites and repositories that make it easy to put together a digital presence in your chosen profession: Github, for instance, is a well-known resource for developers and engineers; Contently offers an excellent portfolio service for writers.
For some reason, many freelancers are afraid to promote themselves. They think that putting themselves out in front of potential clients or contacts is tacky, or unprofessional, or embarrassing. But it’s not.
For 2017, get yourself in the habit of putting both you and your work on the map. Go to meetups or conferences in your field, order more business cards, and practice cold calling (or cold emailing) potential clients. That’s how you make money!
Keep Track Of 1099s
Tax time is coming around in April 2017. Although noone likes paying taxes, the worst thing you can do is put off paying your taxes until the last possible minute. Not only does that cost more money, but you’re causing yourself extra stress and extra headaches that you can easily avoid. Because freelancers depend on 1099s in the United States, this means keeping close track of 1099s.
As your 1099s arrive, put them in a special folder in a place you’ll remember. Don’t lose them, file them away and make sure they’re easily accessible for you and your accountant.
Save Tax Money
Quarterly taxes are one of the biggest pains of freelancer life. The federal government requires quarterly tax deposits, and charges hefty penalties if they’re late.
Every time you receive a paycheck from a client, take out one-third of the amount and save it for taxes. What we like to do at Almost Millions is to create a separate savings account through a low-cost, online only bank like Capital One 360 or Ally. That account is only for taxes, and makes sure that tax deposit money is in a safe place–and not somewhere where we’ll spend it the first time Amazon has that really sweet sale.
For freelancers and independent contractors, tax deductions are one of the most important things when it comes to making more money. The IRS offers generous tax deductions for many work-related purchases: These cover everything from new computers used for work to lunches with clients to mileage visiting work sites to your business cards. In other words… a lot of things.
However, you need to keep detailed records and receipts of your expenses in order to stay in the IRS’ good graces and to save as much money as possible on your taxes. Depending on your personal preferences, either save receipts in a plastic zip bag for the year, or scan them and save them online through a service like Expensify, Evernote, or OneNote.
One of the easiest ways to give yourself an edge in your chosen profession is to make sure your skills are current. Knowing the latest innovations in your industry–whether a new piece of software, a new project management technique, or how to use a new kind of camera–can be crucial when it comes to landing new projects and new contracts.
Consider taking an extension class at a local university or courses offered through local professional groups. Or if you’d rather learn on your own time, there are some great options for professional education online. Check out Skillshare, Udemy, Coursera, and LinkedIn’s Lynda for every conceivable class you can think of.
The best part? Since it’s work-related, the cost is tax-deductible.
Keep Work/Life Balance
Burnout is an ever-present worry in the life of freelancers and independent contractors. When you’re your own boss, there’s always more work to do… and there are no co-workers convincing you to leave at 5pm so you can watch the game.
As a freelancer, the key is to take a break before you get tired. Build time into your daily schedule for coffee or tea breaks, walks outside, lunches with friends, and other activities.
Remember to keep a sense of humor about your self-employed life, and keep things in perspective. There will be times when work will be slow and you’ll be worrying about bills, there will also be times when you’re working 12 hour days because there’s too much work due.
Freelancing is usually a choice. Unless you live in an area with a sluggish job market or have circumstances that make finding a day job challenging, you always have the choice of exclusively working a 40 hour a week job instead of working for yourself. You make the choice to freelance and to be your own boss–and to enjoy the opportunities it provides. Make the most of it!