Archive for Working From Home
Meet Raven. She’s my new office mate. Until this winter Raven had always been an outdoor dog, living the high life in her oversized dog house and sharing a large enclosed run with her Rhodesian Ridgeback pal, Kodi. Unfortunately Kodi passed away this summer so Raven has been a little lonely. As the weather started getting cooler and the snow started piling up by the foot, Raven has casually made her way into the house and deemed herself my sidekick. Her two favorite places to sleep all day are by my feet under my desk or right in the middle of my office (as shown above).
Raven has been a great influence – she really does help me stay on task more. I’m less hesitant to get up in the middle of something for fear of disturbing her nap!
So, what have I been working on? Let me warn you – it’s all over the board.
I recently upgraded my system to Windows 7. So far so good – nothing really earth shattering new, but it did give me the opportunity to clean off my desktop, reorganize all my bookmarks and start the year fresh. Before I did the Windows 7 upgrade I backed up all my files to Carbonite (I initially tried the free Carbonite Online Backup – no credit card required – and almost immediately upgraded to the paid version – much cheaper than a second hard drive), synced my bookmarks to Xmarks (just in case I wanted them back) and wiped the screen down with the very cute little duck (Aroma Home Screen Wipe – too cute) that is perched on top of my monitor.
Project wise I have a few web design projects in the works – hopefully I will be sharing a few of them here in the next week or so. I’ve been playing with the new Genesis series of themes from Brian Gardner and the latest Headway release from Grant Griffiths. I am also getting ready to do some social media consulting for a client with a really important iPhone app (more on that later).
I am having fun field testing the Palm Pre Plus phone (which I used to take these photos – nice quality coming from a phone!) for Verizon. You can read my initial thoughts on the “Mom Palm” and stay tuned because I have another write up and a giveaway coming up as part of the campaign.
While I don’t really like the term “Mom Blogger,” I have been doing some writing in that department. You can find me at Snackpicks.com as part of their team of Mom Experts and recently the youth sports social networking site, WePlay, featured one of my articles from SportsGirlsPlay.com titled “Getting Past I Quit.”
And finally I have been keeping up with all of my own sites, from all the new guests on the Essential Tools series to tons of new printable activities and party ideas, girls sports insight and what’s for dinner!
Whew! I think I might just need a nap.
One of the biggest challenges of running any business – especially your own as a freelancer – is staying on top of the financial books. As we go into the final week of the year, our friends at Outright.com have provided this handy end of year bookkeeping checklist to help you get organized.
End of Year Bookkeeping Checklist:
1.Record Transactions: Make sure you’ve recorded all the transactions from your credit cards, bank accounts and receipts. And don’t forget to check your online accounts, like PayPal, eBay and Freshbooks. Record every expense and dollar received for your business, no matter how insignificant or questionable. It’s better to have everything written down and recorded so you’ll be able to make the most from deductions—because if you don’t record it, it doesn’t exist.
2.Double Check: Make sure you aren’t missing any income or expense transactions—it’s worth it to take the time to double check. Make sure you have a digital copy of receipts from any online transactions, whether they’re sales or outsourcing work to contractors or websites, so you have a record of all your transactions.
3.Proper Categorization: Here’s where it gets a bit tricky, but well worth the time in the end. Make sure all of your income and expenses have been properly categorized. Categorizing your income (for the most part all “Sales”) is not nearly as critical as those deductible expenses. The Schedule C categories can be confusing but they make the difference; mileage under “Car and Truck Expenses” is deductible while “Other Expenses” are not. Web services such as Outright.com can do most of the categorization for you; but when in doubt, ask a professional or hire a bookkeeper.
4.Don’t Forget Mileage: Any work-related travel can count towards deductions. Make sure you’ve recorded all the time you’ve spent in the car going to and from work-related sites—you can deduct $0.55 per mile for these trips! Your daily commute doesn’t qualify but regardless, for many, the deduction adds up to thousands.
5.Complete Your W-9’s: To properly file a 1099 for any contract or freelance work you hired, you must have accurate taxpayer identification, in the form of an IRS form W-9. Now is the time to request the W-9 form from your contractors as 1099’s are due January 31.
6. Pay Your Estimated Taxes: To avoid penalties when taxes are due on April 15th, be sure you’ve paid enough in estimated taxes for the year. Final federal tax payments are due by January 15th. The fourth installment of your 2009 estimated taxes should bring you up to at least 90% of what your final total taxes are for the year. If that’s still too confusing, pay the same amount as you actually owed from last year. Here’s how: Work with the IRS.
7. Triple Check Profit and Loss: Finally you should look at your profit and loss statement for the entire year. If you can’t easily get one from your bookkeeping software, find another. Do the numbers seem reasonable compared to how your income and expense totaled in prior years? Yes, we’re effectively triple checking your income and those expenses. Search your pockets for receipts, don’t neglect that credit card that was canceled because creditors are so stingy, and keep in mind that payment from your brother for some consulting.
Outright.com is the free online platform that manages all business finances, tracks income and expenses, and automates tax preparation. The company tracks over $1B in income from self-employed and micro-business transactions. They’re kicking off tax-time with their new W-9 automation to help get businesses organized for the months ahead. Visit them at www.outright.com to make sure you’re ahead of the game and not scrambling with important deadlines, looming as soon as January 31!
By guest author Joe Pawlikowski
If you’re reading this, then you’re likely already among the most fortunate group of people who work from home. It’s a great life, isn’t it? You can work when you want, take breaks when you want, rearrange your schedule so you can enjoy the things that matter in life when they happen. When you telecommute, you can plan work around your life, rather than the other way around.
Even with all the advantages, there are still limits to a telecommuter’s freedom. It’s just as tough to take a day off as it is in an office — and if you update a daily blog with timely material it might be even tougher (says the guy who hasn’t taken a full vacation in almost four years). There are yet other instances where you can’t go somewhere — possibly your child’s baseball game — because you have work which needs doing. There are many other scenarios, but it all comes down to one factor: your home office is immobile.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. There are ways to take your home office on the road: a day trip to the city, to a youth sporting event, heck, even to the coffee shop on the corner for a change of scenery. The issue with this kind of mobility, for the most part, is finding an Internet connection. In this post I’ll go over three ways you can pack up your office and bring it anywhere you want.
Mobile broadband with laptop modem
If you’re one of the many telecommuters who uses a laptop as your primary machine, you’re in luck. Over the past few years cellular carriers have introduced mobile broadband modems. These plug right into your laptop, usually through a USB port, and pick up signal anywhere you can get 3G cellular service. This gives you the freedom to travel and still do work.
The biggest advantage of mobile broadband, as stated above, is the freedom to go anywhere you can get 3G cellular coverage. Traveling by train? Just plug in your modem and you’re free to surf and work. At your kid’s soccer game? Even though you surely don’t want to have your head in a laptop, it’s better than not being there at all. Best of all, mobile broadband service is available from all four major cellular providers — Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile — and you can just add it to your existing service.
There are downsides, of course. The price is foremost: $60 per month. That’s a lot to add to a bill, especially at a time when many are looking to cut costs. The best way to determine if the cost is worth it to you is to determine how much your time is worth. How much do you earn per hour? How much more could you earn per hour if you could work while on the road? If it works out, you might want to consider adding this plan to your cellular bill.
The other major disadvantage is usage level. The major carriers impose a 5GB limit each month. This typically is not nearly enough for the typical Web worker, what with downloading images, streaming video, and uploading data of all kinds. It should suffice for the times you are working on the road, but by no means is it a substitute for your current home broadband plan.
Speaking of home broadband, understand that mobile broadband is not faster than most home connections. It ranges from 800 Kbps to 1,500 Kbps, with most services hovering around 1,000. This is a bit slower than DSL, and considerably slower than cable. It’s not about speed, per se. It’s about convenience.
Turn your BlackBerry into a workstation
More and more Web workers are turning to BlackBerry devices. This helps them keep up with email even when they’re not at the computer. Personally, I like it for the peace of mind it brings. Beyond the best email system in the biz, the BlackBerry is a powerful device which can perform a number of functions. Among them: allowing you to leave your home office while continuing to work.
While your BlackBerry alone can perform basic functions like Web surfing (and with new mobile Web browsers, that’s becoming even easier), but it also has word processing capabilities. In fact, with the swath of software available for BlackBerry, you can do most anything with the device. All you need is a little ingenuity.
For instance, check out this post on how to turn your BlackBerry into a virtual workstation. It goes over all the hardware and software that will allow you to do so — including a Bluetooth keyboard which will save your thumbs some agony.
The advantage here for current BlackBerry users is that beyond the one-time cost of the software and hardware, this won’t be any more expensive than your normal monthly plan. You might not get all the functionality you get on your laptop, but it’s more than enough to get by.
Get a netbook
Netbooks are all the craze these days. For those unfamiliar, they’re the tiny laptops you might see in your local coffee shop or on the train. They’re geared mostly towards Internet usage, but can also handle low-level tasks like word processing. Perfect for the work at home type.
Netbooks work the same as mobile broadband, so there’s no need to go over service again. The major advantage they have over laptops is size. While laptops, even the smallest ones like my Macbook, require a carrying case of some sort, Netbooks will fit in tiny bags and backpacks. They’re lightweight, too, which makes them easier to tote around.
The upside to netbooks: they’re becoming incredibly cheap. This isn’t because of the decreasing cost of technology, though. Instead, they’re subsidized by cellular carriers, just like cell phones. In exchange for signing a two-year agreement you can get a netbook for under $100 — and sometimes even virtually free. That’s the trade-off. You get a cheap machine, but two years is a long commitment, especially for a service that costs $60 per month.
While telecommuters already enjoy an incredible level of freedom, there’s still more for the taking. So what will it be? Will you continue to tie yourself down to your desk? Or will you decide to take advantage of modern technology and get out there?
Joe Pawlikowski is the editor of Wireless Internet Reviews, a site which provides information and news on wireless Internet services.