Preparing for year-end: a freelancer’s guide

Freelancers guideIt’s that time of year again. When we vow we’re going to do all the stuff we didn’t manage to get done last year. Or the year before. Or the year before that.

For freelancers, year-end is an ideal time to look back and figure out what went right this year. And what you could’ve done better.

A checklist for freelancers

A checklist will make it easy for you to get organized ready for next year’s year-end.

Receivables

Take an honest look at your old A/R balances. Are you carrying old account balances  you know, deep down, you’ll never collect?

Maybe it’s time to give up on them. If the deadbeats pay you someday, great.

If they don’t, at least you won’t have spent any more time or effort trying to get blood out of a proverbial turnip.

Promotional Gifts

By the same token, reward your best clients — you know, the ones who give you a lot of business and pay really fast.

Use promotional gifts to tell them how much you appreciate them. We’re not talking about branded gadgets and trinkets. Show your clients some freelance love with a gift that sets up a win-win situation for both of you.

How about a discount coupon for a new service you’re offering. Or, for one of your existing services  they haven’t tried yet? How about printing up a  calendar of service specials, each good for just one month?

Disaster Prep

How much trouble would you be in if your computer didn’t boot up tomorrow morning?

You don’t even want to think about it, right?

That’s what we thought.

There’s no excuse for not backing up your data when you can back up all your important files online.

Year-end is also a good time to make sure your anti-virus and anti-malware programs are up to date.  Once you’re caught up, schedule weekly backups and software updates throughout the coming year. Trust us, you’ll sleep better.

While you’re at it, write down all the serial numbers and service telephone numbers for your computer equipment, TVs, appliances—anything worth repairing.

You may need a flashlight and a magnifying glass to find them, but your effort will be well worth it. You’ll thank yourself if you need to troubleshoot your wireless router but you can’t look your ISP’s phone number up on the internet because, well, your wireless router is out.

Taxes

It’s a good idea to look back on the old year with Uncle Sam in mind.  Don’t let the IRS put you in the penalty box for underpaying your taxes. You should be fine if you’ve paid at least 90 percent of the tax you paid last year. Check to be sure you have receipts for all of your business expenses and personal deductions.

Tax forms are already available online, so run a rough draft of your tax return before year-end. If you’re sitting on the edge of a tax bracket, it’s not too late to do some year-end planning to reduce your taxable income.

Making a charitable donation, paying tax-deductible expenses, and buying new equipment are a few of the ways you may be able to reduce your taxable income before year-end. Consult your tax advisor to make sure your deductions are legitimate.

Insurance

And lastly, don’t forget your insurance.  As you’re in the mood to review and re-evaluate, it makes sense to look at the coverage you’ve got and make sure it’s enough to protect your business. If you’re thinking of buying more equipment, for example, make sure your policy covers it.

Or, if you’re going to add to the range of services you offer, have a look at your errors and omissions insurance policy wording. Make sure they’ll be covered. If you’re in doubt, it’s best to talk it through with your insurance broker.

A little year-end housekeeping can help you stay focused and organized. Make this year a success by planning ahead and moving forward.

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