No matter what your work status, be it full-timer, freelancer, or somewhere in-between I think we can all agree that taxes are THE WORST. Sure they pay for important things like roads, and schools, and a variety of other things that our society needs to function, but at times they can seem needlessly complicated and difficult to get right. Oftentimes freelancers feel the sting of tax woes more than most folks because they are more likely to have a much more complicated tax situation than others. Fear not dear American taxpayer, there’s hope for you yet! Knowledge is in fact, power, and the better you can arm yourself with the right knowledge about taxes, the better off you will be.
Just out of high school, I still hadn’t shaken my teenage awkwardness and lack of confidence. Though a fire to change the world burned bright within, it burned aimlessly. I was unsure how or where to direct this passion and energy until I started volunteering. I cooked meals for the families of chronically ill children, built habitats for tigers, and served at soup kitchens. But throughout these experiences I was also growing. I learned to communicate my passion with clarity, practiced public speaking, and gained skills in marketing, fundraising, and more.
These experiences also taught me about the needs of my community and, within a few years, I launched my own nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire others to serve their community and help all of the wonderful causes I’d come to know and love.
I volunteered as the organization’s President and de facto Director for eight years and throughout that entire time, I knew the cause was depending on me. But I needed to make a living so I could pay my bills, and I so worked a number of jobs while running the organization on the side, from data entry, to quality control for clinical studies, to bartender. Everyone else in the organization was in the same position; we all volunteered, working extraordinarily hard out of love for the cause, but most couldn’t put in more than ten or so hours per week to progress it.
The organization stagnated. We were never able to serve more than a small handful of people or causes at a time, though the need was still great and demand for our help was growing. I knew we were going to have to invest more in building capacity as an organization if we were going to be able to meet this need, so I rallied our board of directors and we developed a business plan, bit the bullet, and hired our first paid team member.
The first time I worked on a website redesign, it was not pretty. Not the design of the site but the process. I had copy and pictures and figured we’d need to review layouts. So the button that leads to the donation page should be — wait. Who is making sure the donation page will work and be connected to all the right accounts after we change web hosts? Does the vendor do this? Will the project still be on time? What on earth is a merchant account or payment processor and why do we need two?!
To this day, I remember is what it felt like to ask a question, anticipate getting some super expensive or horribly complicated answer, and get laughed at by the web developer (good times).
Thankfully, I’ve worked with many more freelance developers (graphic designers, printers, consultants) who listened to my fumbling questions and said, “I hear that you’re concerned about or interested in X, and I can answer that, but I think the question you really want to be asking is Z.”
These were professionals who asked me questions to understand the context within which my organization was working, dug deeper into what success looked like, and held up a mirror to help us see our blind spots — rather than trying to skate by in them.
Tip #1 Own what you know. Also, own what you don’t know.
You don’t need to know anything to ask someone, “What else should I be thinking about? What have I missed? What questions would you have that I have not asked?”
Perhaps not obviously so, the nonprofit and freelance economies are interconnected. When policies are enacted that mean less government support for nonprofit organizations, that means the pressure on these organizations to fill gaps in human services, such as providing support for education, health, and to fight poverty increases. And that means already strained nonprofits need a larger workforce to help address these big needs — leading to half of surveyed nonprofits reporting plans to increase their staff size in 2017. At the same time, more than half of all employers across the sectors are seeking contract workers.
Many folks are currently gravitating towards meaningful work in the nonprofit sector, and yet many others are drawn to the flexibility and creative challenges of a freelancing lifestyle. Throw the two together, and you get a subculture of employees itching to do good through their work without wanting to sacrifice the freedom freelancing might afford them.
As the Nonprofit sector’s workplace style changes, those looking to freelance in the sector will feel it, too. Here are a few ways how:
#1: Greater demand for workers means more salary transparency
Whether you’re debating switching from 9-to-5 to full-time, being-your-own-boss kind of work, or graduating from college and knowing that traditional isn’t for you — that first gut feeling should only be considered the beginning of the conversation you should be having with yourself.
For some of us, it’s hard. It’s hard to make the connection between what we’re good at, what excites us, what makes us money, what connects us with other people, what will make us grow/learn, and what a business or our world at large could truly benefit from that only we can contribute to.
Jay Li from SecondDay sat down with Raul Flores, a freelance designer at Wethos teams interested in web design, photography, UI/UX, and digital media. They discuss how to break into the social impact/non-profit space as a “creative”, what it means to be a designer in today’s day and age, and how to move forward in our professional and creative development.
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou
The best fundraisers are authentic friends. They genuinely care about the wellbeing of their donors, understand their needs and what drives them and, when it’s time to “make the ask”, aren’t trying to pitch or sell. Rather, they are giving their donors a gift -- the gift of an opportunity to find meaning, purpose, and connection.
How To Use Your Friend Group As Your Personal Board of Advisors
One of the biggest gaps of being self-employed is that you're siloed out from coworkers and touch points that help you see where you're going. I've tapped into my friends often to run ideas by them and get feedback. There are certain ways to do this so that you're not overextending your friendship.
Nearly 15 years ago, I helped launch a nonprofit organization with zero dollars in our bank account and a handful of volunteers. Since then, we’ve learned and grown (and laughed, and cried), overcoming roadblocks in funding and marketing and volunteer management and more. We owe our growth and triumph over those challenges to a number of factors, but the most important one is, of course, the people we’ve worked with. Throughout my work, our organization has had a need for a variety of types of talent. We work with volunteers, employ hourly and salaried staff, and hire contractors and freelancers. From the freelance world, I’ve worked with freelance graphic designers, board development consultants, and web developers, each offering a degree of flexibility, the agility that only working for one’s self can bring, and great results.