Unexpected Expenses

Last week I reported that I had the best month yet in February. Doesn’t it just figure that as soon as I say it, unexpected expenses pop up out of nowhere? Good thing I had such a good month. So far this month, I’ve had to pay taxes – okay, I knew this was coming and I did indeed save enough. But I found out that for next year I have to pay quarterly taxes which means that the first payment is due in April. Also with my taxes, I found out that I should be saving more of what I make. Last year I saved 30% of everything I made, but my accountant recommended that this year I strive to save 40% of what I make. To me that sounds crazy. I mean that’s almost half of my income, but I would rather save too much than not enough so I think I’ll be taking his advice.

On top of taxes, the clutch went out in my car. There’s nothing I hate more than shelling out big bucks for car repairs when I hardly drive anyway – but I do need a car because I do occasionally meet clients, run errands and in general drive places.

I’m sure I’m not the only one that this happens to, but it just feels like as soon as I’m getting ahead the unexpected happens to take me right back to square one. It’s like hitting a brick wall. However, on a positive, with the unexpected expenses, I feel like a fire has been lit under me and I’m more motivated than ever to keep the good month I had last month going.

Okay, I’m done with my mini rant. Thanks for listening:)

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

If I had my choice, I would never leave my comfort zone – that place where I can work happily along every day without ever having to feel the least bit nervous or awkward. But, nothing is ever that easy. Over the past year, freelance writing has really pushed me to step out of my comfort zone on a daily basis and while going there is often nerve racking to say the least, going there is essential to improving myself as a writer and businesswomen. Here are five ways I’ve had to step outside of my comfort zone:

Talking about money. I hate discussing rates and giving quotes. I am always worried that I will quote a client too high and they will run for the hills never to be heard from again, or I will quote too low and then I’ll be unsatisfied with what I’m making. Either way, talking about money is terrifying to me, but in this career it’s completely unavoidable.

Following up. A close second to discussing money and rates is following up. This I find myself doing for a few different reasons.

  • First (and I’m lucky, I’ve only had this happen once or twice) is following up to get paid. You know those clients who you do the work for and then wait weeks to get paid. To me following up to ask for money is almost as bad as quoting my rates. It’s awkward, but completely unavoidable.
  • The second scenario is when I have to follow up after quoting my rates or when I do work on spec and hear nothing back. This too is awkward, but if I have learned nothing else, I have learned that persistence is a key to success in this field.

Cold calling/emailing. I know that I won’t get work unless I put myself out there in many different ways. That being said, cold calling makes me nervous, I’m always worried about saying the wrong thing or sounding stupid. When I cold call or cold email a business I always try to think to myself: What’s the worst that can happen? So they might say no, but they could also say yes. Or they could say no, but remember me a few months down the road when they need a writer. Or they could just say no and I can move on to someone else. No big deal

Saying no. Okay, this one probably sounds weird, but I am a yes person. I don’t like disappointing people. However, I have come across some really bad offers while looking for writing gigs. A potential client offering to pay me a whopping $2 per 500 word blog post – no way will I even consider that, but it’s still awkward saying no.

Writing on topics I have no experience in. I like a challenge, so I tend to take on challenging work and often that means stepping out of my comfort zone. If I’m not experienced in a topic, I’m always afraid that I’ll come off seeming like I don’t know what I’m talking about. But you know what? That has never happened. With good research, I’m learning I can write on almost anything. Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t get nervous with the unknown.

Like it or not, I can’t deny the fact that most of what I’ve learned has come from stepping out of my comfort zone. The comforting part is that the more I step out my comfort zone, the easier these things become, and while I may not ever be completely comfortable discussing rates or asking for payment, it is getting easier. I know that no matter how nervous or awkward I feel, it’s worth it in the end.

When do you step out of your comfort zone?

My Progress

Progress

While I was out and about this weekend, a couple of people asked me how everything is going with my writing. Since I haven’t given an update in a while and the main point of this blog was to document my transition into the freelance writing world. So for those of you who are wondering here we go:

Clients
I have done pretty good getting new clients. I am still applying for 5-10 writing projects a day, although I have to admit that it gets a little old sometimes. I have managed to get quite a few projects this way and a couple of times lately, I have had so much work, that I haven’t had time to apply for jobs every day. Just last week I signed a contract with a new client that will keep me pretty busy through December which is exciting!

Financials
My money situation is better than I thought it would be at this point. That being said, I am only making about half of what I was making in my full-time job. One of the reasons for this is that I’ve taken some lower paying jobs, just to have something to fill my time and bring in some form of income. Now that I am having a lot more work come my way, I am trying to narrow some of the lower paying jobs down and only take higher paying gigs so I can hopefully bring my income level up.

Published Work
A while back I said that I was going to start sending queries to more magazines. That is still hit or miss for me. I feel like querying magazines takes a long time. It’s something that is worth it, but it’s certainly not paying my bills right now. However, I’m happy to announce I do have an article that will be published in November in a local publication. To see my name in actual print again will be awesome and I can’t wait!

Overall, I am finding my weeks more and more full –I even have some projects lined up for the future which is great! I am definitely becoming more comfortable telling people what I do, giving my rates to clients and in general with running my own business. I even have business cards now! Most days I really feel like I am on my way to success and that right there is an accomplishment.

Tips to Save Money

coach purse

Photo courtesy of Coach, Inc.

I’ll admit it, when I was in a full time job with regular pay I never worried about money. I’m a fan of brand names, especially in clothes and accessories. The Coach store regularly calls my name and I love nothing more than high end jeans. My clothes budget per month was needless to say pretty much limitless. For most of my adult life, if I wanted something, I bought it without hesitation. Now, you are probably thinking I’m spoiled, but the truth is, as part of a couple with two good incomes and no children, what else was I going to spend my money on? All that changed when I threw in the towel on my full time job and struck out on my own as a freelance writer.

What I realized is that while working from home has its perks – like setting my own schedule, deciding who I work with and not having to dress up every day, it has its downfalls too. My income – at least starting out has been greatly cut. To adjust to this I had to make some big changes. Here are some things that I’ve done to save money – maybe they can help you too.

Cut out coupons. I’ve never been one to cut coupons, but one of the things my husband and I decided to cut down on was our grocery budget. I am continuously amazed by how much money I save from using coupons found in the Sunday paper. Just this week I saved $30 at the grocery by using coupons.

Buy store brands. At the grocery, instead of buying the known brand names, I have switched to buying store brand items. The savings are as big as $2-$3. It’s amazing and with the exception of a few things, the food tastes just as good.

Use a store card. This is easy, but again I never thought of it. There are so many discounts offered at the grocery and other stores when you use their store card.

Don’t eat out. Okay, this one has been hard for me. I love nothing more than grabbing a bite to eat and washing it down with a cocktail. In the last few months I have gone from eating out three to four times a week to eating out two to three times a month. It’s getting easier, as I learn to cook and it’s starting to be fun to experiment in the kitchen.

Shop around. This applies to clothes and gadgets. Where I once would just purchase something on the spot, now if I see something I want, I shop around to find the best deal. There are a lot of deals that can be found online too.

Don’t buy brand named clothes. This is hard. I love Steve Madden shoes, Ugg boots, Seven Jeans and Express, but sacrifices must be made. Now instead of buying up the newest line at Express, I go to places like TJ Maxx where I am able to find good deals on clothes that are fashionable and fit just as well. Sometimes they even have brand names.

Sign up for mailing lists. I hate receiving junk mail, but it is worth it when I get great coupons in the mail. Stores like Bath and Body Works, and New York and Company regularly mail out great coupons when you sign up for their mailing list.

Don’t impulse shop. Nowadays, I never go to the mall or store without a clear idea of what I need. When I need something, I go shopping look for what I need and if I don’t find it I leave empty handed. I don’t buy things just to buy something.

Clean out your closets. I have never done this before, but last week I decided it was time to figure out what I really needed clothes wise for the winter and what I can do without this year. Surprisingly what I found was that I don’t need much. I literally had clothes with the price tags still on them or clothes that I had completely forgotten that I had.

Organize a clothes swap. My love for Coach purses will probably never go away, but fortunately, my friends all love Coach too. So we are having a clothes and accessory swap. We are all gathering a handful of things that we will trade with one another. This makes it feel like we are getting something new and fresh without having to go buy it.

These things have enabled me to work from home and do something that I love. What do you do to save money?

Rates – Let’s Talk Money

MoneyApparently the event planning world in Ohio is a very small world indeed. Since making it known that I was leaving my job, I have gotten call after call from fellow event planners, colleagues and my general network. There are rumors flying around that I have been (gasp!) laid off or worse, fired (yeah right – they begged me to stay). Everyone wants to know what I will be doing and why I decided to leave. Once they find out the real story the next question is: What are your rates?

Now I was expecting some rumble about my decision, but I was not expecting this. People actually want to meet with me, give me advice and most importantly they want to hire me. So now I am left with setting my rates, and fast. I already have several meetings set up next week for potential projects. Ah! I thought this would take a while. But work is work and I want to take advantage of this buzz while I can.

So all day, instead of doing actual paid work, I have been researching rates. There is a lot of contradictory information out there on what to charge. Some people charge by the type of work, while others charge a flat rate per hour. I have decided to go with a flat rate per hour. I think it will make it easier for me come tax time and easier for my clients to understand.

So this is what I have decided to base my rates on:

• What I was making as my salary, broken down into an hourly rate for 50 weeks a year (factoring in 2 weeks of vacation).
• My estimated expenses such as, my taxes, my benefits, equipment, location, etc.
• What other people are charging for similar services.
• A price range of pure profit that I would like to make.
• The fact that most freelancers only work 23 billable hours a week – the rest is spent marketing, bookkeeping and the general duties of running a business.

That gave me my base rate. Next, I put it into an equation to see what my estimated yearly income would be. Here is the equation I used to get my estimated yearly income:

(Billable hours a week) (my hourly rate) (50 working weeks a year) = yearly income

Wow! I can only hope to make that much! Which means I must start asking for these rates and pushing my skills and services! What do you do to figure out your rates? Do you charge per hour, or per project?

Time is Money

Today I worked my first official day as a freelance writer, and I have to admit, I felt a little lost. Not that it wasn’t blissful to sleep a little later and not have to get dressed up to go to work, but I still felt a little out of sorts. There are just so many things I want to do, I don’t really know where to start. Plus I feel very torn between writing $15 articles for Demand Studios and actually putting together a website or searching for jobs. Time is money and a website and job searching don’t have the immediate pay off. I do realize the pay off in the long run will be well worth it and I need to make time for those things, it’s just hard. What can I say? I’m an instant gratification type of girl.

My day started out good, I was ready for the day at 9am. But when I actually sat down to work, I remembered that I wanted to start the laundry, then I remembered that I had been meaning to water the plants and so went my list of housework. By the time I actually got back to my computer it was 10:30.

Needless to say, I didn’t get nearly as much done today as I had envisioned. So now I have a plan. Today when I finished writing for the day, I made a task list for the rest of the week. This is nothing new to me. I have always done this in my previously full time job, it makes sense to try it with my freelancing to. Freelance writing is now my full time job, I’m going to have to be more diligent about staying focused.

I think it is going to be an interesting transition for me. I am so use to a strict schedule and perfectly laid out tasks. It will really take some getting used to, being on my own with no one to talk to but the dogs. I’m sure I will find ways to make it work and stay on track, but my first day wasn’t as productive as I had hoped. Tomorrow I am off to work my one of two days at my old job for the week. But watch out Wednesday – time is money and I am ready to buckle down and get to work.

Just in Case or Just in Time?

I actually had time to catch up on some of my reading this weekend (gasp!) – we had a lengthy car ride, so I literally couldn’t work. Hidden in my O, the Oprah Magazine, I came across an article that really got me thinking. It was written by Martha Beck, an author and a life coach.

This article asked the question, are you a just in case (JIC) type of person or a just in time (JIT) type of person? A JIC person is someone who lives their life thinking everything is in scarce supply – meaning food, material goods, love, friendship and money. Their mentality is to stock up on everything just in case. On the flip side, JIT people have the mindset that things will work out. No matter what happens, they aren’t going to starve to death, the world will not run out of toilet paper, shoes (in my case), clothes or people to love. As I read her article, I knew without a doubt that I am a JIC type of person and that I absolutely, 100% want to become a JIT type of person.

The article illustrates that JIC people tend to be overweight because they literally horde food and stuff themselves every chance they get. Where a JIT person eats until they are full and don’t feel the need to stock up on food because, well because let’s face it, most people are not going to run out of food. They just don’t worry about not being able to find something to eat. JIT people overall lead less stressful lives, just by trusting that things are going to be okay.

In thinking about the way I live my life, I realized that I stock up on things whenever I get the chance. Our house is constantly cluttered. No matter how many times I clean out my closets, I continue to hold onto things just in case. Our dining room table is covered with paperwork, coupons and catalogs that we hold onto just in case (and then most of the time, we forget to actually use them). I also realized, that a lot of times I try really hard to make people like me, even if they would probably like me anyway if I were just myself and didn’t go over the top trying to get their approval. The same applies to our finances and work. At work I stress myself out taking on way more than I can handle just in case there comes a point when there is absolutely no paying job available in the whole world to me. My husband and I have saved money, horded our money for years just in case, but in the meantime I can’t even tell you the last time we actually took a vacation. Yep, I am definitely a JIC person.

But I want to change. I want to be able to trust myself and my resources and have the confidence that things will happen as they are suppose to and everything will happen just in time. I think that mind set could be extremely freeing. After all, as a freelance writer don’t we all have to take that leap of faith? Don’t we have to remind ourselves all the time that things will work out and happen just in time? That very faith is what makes it possible for me to even think about leaving my full time job – I’m not talking about luck, I’m talking about hard work and the confidence that it will work out, and if it doesn’t, it’s not going to kill me, it will just make me explore other ways to make it work.

To change my mind set, I am going to stop running out to stock up on shoes, clothes, purses, makeup and hair products. I am going to stop saving every single coupon that comes in the mail that I insist on saving whether or not I actually use the product. I am going to clean out my closets and really get rid of clothes that I have had since high school. I mean, really, what is the point in saving them? I’m always going to be able to put clothes on my back. I’m going to stop trying so hard to make people like me, and trust that they will anyway because of who I am. And ultimately, I am going to leave my full time job that is slowly draining me. I’m going to have faith and confidence that I am talented, hard working and things will happen for me just in time. You know what? I might even take a vacation this year and pack lightly because wherever I go – I’m sure they will have shampoo and Advil just in case I run out, and even if they don’t it won’t kill me to go without.

I’m going to follow Martha Beck’s advice and think about times that I ran out of something but I survived. I’m going to think about things that I have too much of. And lastly, I’m going to start a list of the great things that have entered my life at just the right time.