Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Freelancing

Before I Started FreelancingI quickly signed on for my first contract gig right out of college. What an exciting feeling it was to be one of the few who started work immediately after walking across that stage! I was paid in full bi-weekly, responsible for setting aside my own taxes each paycheck and keeping track of any expenses – everything from internet bills to gas mileage. This went on for about four months, then my job was done – the client and I moved on.

There are some things that came before, during and after my very first contracting job that I was not expecting. Unfortunately, this made for a slightly more frustrating experience. Don’t get me wrong, I still learned a lot and valued the experience, but there are things I just wished I known ahead of time – many of them tax-related. I’m here to share those life lessons with those of you still fairly green to the freelance game.

1. Know your tax forms and classification.

There is a big difference between a W-2 form that you would fill out for fulltime employment and a 1099-MISC, often a required form for freelancers being paid $600 or more for their work. Do your research, talk to a tax professional and absolutely make sure the client is providing you the right tax form for the work you will be performing.

The misclassification of workers is alarmingly common. In 2011, a federal study noted that 3.4 million workers are incorrectly classified as independent contractors instead of employees. It is often an honest mistake due to the lack of education surrounding the classification of freelancer, but some times employers will try and avoid certain fees directly tied to fulltime employees (FTE) including unemployment compensation taxes and workers compensation insurance. If you feel as though you are a misclassified worker, it’s important to take steps to correct the issue. Start by talking to your state’s Department of Labor.

2. Write-offs add up. Do not neglect keeping track.

I remember my client telling me that write-offs were going to be key come tax season. For the first month or so, I found myself blowing it off. Keeping track of all the expenses was overwhelming. However, once I saw how much money was coming out of my own pocket for work-related items, I quickly saw the value in keeping track.

I often found myself making office and client visits and traveling to special meetings or conferences. For any job-related travel, I implore you to track to your expenses. I kept a spreadsheet that included the travel dates, miles traveled, addresses of locations that I was going to/coming from and my reason for travel. I also kept all my receipts and bills for office supplies, computer hardware/software, electricity, cell phone and Internet.

Are you spending the majority of your time working out of your home office? Did you know that you can write-off a portion of your rent? That’s right. It just requires a small bit of math. First, I calculated the amount of rent I was paying per square foot (Total Rent/Total Square Feet). Then, I measured the square footage of my “office”. In my case, this included a large desk, chair & printing station. I was paying around $55 in rent each month for my office, but come tax season I was able to include this in my deductions.

3. Oh, you have a cold? Do not expect a paid sick day.

Freelance Sick Day

I am sorry to get your hopes up, but unless you have a really excellent deal with your client, you will be not getting paid for sick days like your FTE friends. Freelancing has a ton of perks, but paid sick days are not on the list. Consider putting a little bit of money into a savings account each month to act as your safety net so you can afford to take the sick days you need. Just don’t forget to keep your clients in the loop about your absence and get the rest and fluids you need so you can get back to work.

4. Do not forget to pay your future self with an SEP IRA or a Roth IRA.

Due to the nature of freelancing, saving for retirement is an independent venture and your personal responsibility. There is no match offering available like you would find in a traditional 401K plan offered with fulltime employment opportunities. Instead, I would recommend an IRA– either a traditional Roth IRA or something called a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP).

An SEP is designed for those at least 21 years old, having earned a freelance income for three of the last five years. It’s typically more appealing than a traditional IRA because the contribution limit is much higher. With SEPs, you have the ability to contribute up to 25% of your income or $53,000 (whichever is less), not to mention these contributions are tax-deductible. I do recommend you conduct your own research, but planning for retirement is one of those things you’ll be thankful for starting now.

So there you have it. Those are the top four lessons learned I wish I knew when I started freelancing back in 2012. For those who have been in the game even longer than me, I encourage you to leave your tips in the comments below. For those who are just starting out, belonging to a network of freelancers is a great resource to get the ball rolling. OnForce is always looking to expand its network of service professionals and pair them with clients who have new work needs. Sign yourself up today to kick start your freelance career.

OnForce Users Rejoice! Application Enhancements are on the Horizon!

With a New Year comes new changes, and we couldn’t be more excited to bring you the new OnForce experience. Beginning January 17th, you will see changes to the application’s user interface (UI). This new look and feel will make OnForce easier to use.

What can I expect from the UI enhancements?

Expanded Information Displays

If you are accessing the application on a large, wide-screen monitor, the existing UI does not take advantage of the additional screen space. The new expanded display makes better use of all that screen space and more information will be visible to you at a quick glance. For example, below is a screenshot of our new and improved Buyer Home Page:

OnForce Buyer Home Page Enhancements

When we asked one user how he felt about these wide-screen enhancements, he said, “Love the setup. Really easy to navigate and get all of the info I need without scrolling too much.”

Keyboard Shortcuts

Do you ever need to search for information quickly within the application? With one keystroke, you now have access to faster and smarter search capabilities. Simply hit the “S” key from anywhere to initiate a quick, simple search.

If you’re trying to add new notes to your work order, all it takes is a push of the “N” key while viewing the work order to create a new note. These new tools help you to work smarter, not harder, when interacting with OnForce’s interface.

OnForce Work Order Screen Enhancements

At-a-Glance Work Order Details

Speaking of work orders, leverage the new at-a-glance functionality to more easily view your work order summary details.

One user, when asked about our work order updates, said “I love the new look, especially the info box on the right side of the [work order page]. It’s very helpful.”

Another user said she is “enjoying the new UI and the way that it makes the work orders appear. They are easier to see and understand”.

OnForce Create Bundle Enhancements

Better Performance & Navigation

You need a reliable tool that runs fast and efficiently. Enhancements to OnForce’s overall performance have resulted in fewer page reloads.

An updated navigation now includes feature descriptions, allowing you to move throughout the application more efficiently

One user in particular was extremely pleased with our navigation updates and said, “I like the [navigation] bar at the top because it makes it easy to navigate back to the list of work orders. Before, I had to go back to the left side and click on ‘Active Work Orders.’ Now, I can go back step-by-step with the [navigation] bar at the top.”

How and when can I get these updates?

All updates will be available on January 17th. We hope you enjoy these new features as much as we do, but we are always interested in hearing your feedback.

OnForce Showcases First Freelancer Management System at Staffing Industry Analyst’s CWS Summit 2014

Members of the OnForce team were on hand to present the OnForce Freelancer Management System (FMS) at Staffing Industry Analyst’s (SIA) Contingent Workforce Strategies Summit in Las Vegas, Oct 8-9, 2014.
Julie Semler, Shannon Dugan, and Dana Fallon of OnForce attend CWS Summit 2014

OnForce’s Freelancer Management System is a private software-as-a-service solution for managing an enterprise’s extended workforce. Our FMS is the first software platform to integrate into the current Managed Service Provider (MSP) and Vendor Management System (VMS) landscape and provide a way for enterprise Contingent Workforce programs to expand their reach (beyond agency temp workers).

The summit was a great venue for us to educate Human Resource, Procurement, IT and Category Managers and Executives on how to improve the efficiency of their contingent workforce programs with an FMS solution.

James Fabiano, OnForce Senior Vice President of Enterprise Accounts moderated a special roundtable discussion on “Online Staffing and the Contingent Workforce –Technology.”

Based on the roundtable and the summit overall, Peter Cannone, OnForce CEO offers his insights on this year’s CWS Summit:

• Large enterprise clients are extremely interested in FMS and want to be educated on how to manage freelancers in a more cost effective and efficient manner
• Present VMS models do not provide the ability to create an optimal experience for the freelancer which results in both worker and client satisfaction issues
• OnForce FMS continues to lead the next generation of technology for both staffing and clients to manage their non FTE workforce

If you were unable to attend this year’s show and/or would like to learn more about the benefits of a Freelancer Management System, GET THE WHITEPAPER here.

What is a Freelancer Management System (FMS)?

If you are a Human Resources or Procurement executive, you may be hearing the new acronym “FMS.”

As we are the first Freelancer Management System, let me take a moment to explain the basics of FMS.

Especially if you use a MSP/VMS solution, the time is now to familiarize yourself with the benefits of an FMS to gain a highly effective (cost-reducing) extended workforce program.

FMS is a private cloud-based SaaS platform to allow enterprises in all industries to engage, manage and pay an extended workforce which can include:

  • Freelancers
  • Independent Contractors
  • Retirees
  • Alumni
  • Interns

An FMS offers:

Work Management Tools: includes job templates and work routing rules as well as complete visibility into your worker’s capabilities, work history and performance.

Talent Consolidation: Assimilates your company’s existing labor pool or allows you to build an entire network from scratch with your entire extended workforce program consolidated onto a single platform.

On-Demand Job Filling with Smartphone Mobile Apps: Provides a direct connection between you and your extended workforce with visibility into skills, quality and proximity factors.  OnForce’s mobile app iOS and Android can reduce time to fill a job to within minutes of posting a work assignment.

Risk Mitigation: Collects and analyzes all of the data related to a work event and provides analytical evidence of compliance that mitigates the risk of misclassification.

Consolidate Invoicing, Administration and Reporting: Eliminates virtually of the manual processing of freelancer payments and 1099 administration.  Consolidated invoicing can be performed through an existing MSP tool set–reporting all work history and associated costs to the MSP for consolidation.  All administration and reporting is done under the umbrella of the MSP.

Timekeeping and Payment: Prevents rogue spend by consolidating your extended workforce onto a single platform, bringing cost traceability to the individual, the work performed and the supporting organization.  Timekeeping and invoicing are virtually eliminated as workers are paid through the software via a prefunded account that results in payments within days.

That’s it in a nutshell.  To learn more, download our whitepaper, The Freelancer Management System: What is required For The Next Frontier of Enterprise Contingent Workforce Management. The Freelancer Management System: What is required For The Next Frontier of Enterprise Contingent Workforce Management.  Just click on GET THE WHITEPAPER.

5 reasons a Freelancer Management System (FMS) will make your life easier

Are you a Human Resources, Procurement, or Talent Acquisition Manager? This blog’s for you!  Why will a Freelancer Management System rock your world?  Here are 5 reasons:

Freelancer Management System Benefits

1)  Manage your freelancer and independent contractor information and performance ratings in one cloud-based platform.  No more “Hey, I need that tech we used last time. I think his name was Joe?  How do we find his information?” Organize your talent network you have built over the years in ONE place.  Freelancers can be accessed in minutes.  No more searching databases or even paperwork to find and engage that talent.

2)  Happier freelancers make for happier Human Resource employees. By engaging, managing and paying your extended workforce in one place, you are able to connect with workers faster (even via their Smartphones!) and pay them in a more timely manner—who doesn’t like that?

3)  You can integrate an FMS into your current MSP and VMS programs.  Simply incorporate the FMS so that you can easily expand your extended workforce beyond agency temp workers to manage workers that typically work on your short assignments—ranging from hours to days at a time.

4)  No matter your industry, an FMS can benefit your company.  Enterprises employing a high number of freelancers in the information technology, media, oil and gas, health care, and education industries have already been able to simply the hiring process, retain the most qualified talent and lower labor costs considerably.

5)  Gain a competitive edge.  The freelance market, according to an Intuit study, will comprise of 40% of the US workforce by 2020.  As your need for freelancers expands, having one solution to effectively:

  • Locate
  • Engage
  • Manage
  • Retain
  • Pay

this extended workforce will significantly cut down on time, effort AND (it’s worth repeating) lower labor costs.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of FMS.  For more information, click here and download The Freelancer Management System: What Is Required For Contingent Workforce Management.