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Get More Positive Stress at Work

Positive pressures create a way to balance out anxiety and worry

This post by Mark Swartz was originally published on the Monster Career Advice Blog.

Get More Positive Stress at Work (Positive pressures create a way to balance out anxiety and worry)Here’s some sunny news about stress: certain types can actually be good for you. A bit of pressure and nerves gets you focused.

But too much of what happens at work creates “distress” (negative tension). Like lack of control. Or not enough resources to do the job well. That can lead to ailments of the body and mind.

Creating more positive tension, also known as “eustress,” takes a conscious effort. A number of techniques are available to turn this into a healthy habit.

Good Stress Builds You Up

We all know the symptoms of stress. Over time the bad kind can lead to health problems, or play havoc on emotions unless dealt with.

Eustress does the opposite. There’s still tension and pressure involved. Only it challenges you to try harder, reminds you to concentrate on what’s important, and generates results that improve self-confidence.

Good stress is a great antidote to negative tension. There is less wear and tear, more drive toward accomplishment.

How Eustress Is Experienced

You know that feeling of butterflies in your stomach? Not the kind that makes you violently nauseous, or leaves you paralyzed with fear.

It’s more like the nervousness you feel on the way to a job interview you’ve prepared for, or before making a presentation in front of your colleagues.

The adrenalin is flowing. Your heart pumps faster and louder. All of your senses seem amplified. This fight-or-flight response makes you more alert and ready for the tasks at hand. It seems like whatever is about to happen will be within your coping abilities.

When the challenge you’re facing is completed, relative calmness returns. Eustress tends to be short-term and event-specific.

Typical Good Stressors At Work

There are lots of examples of positive personal stressors on the job. These may include:

  • Starting a new job or career you’re excited about
  • Receiving a desired promotion or raise
  • Relocating for work after asking to be re-assigned
  • Getting ready for a much needed vacation when things are busy
  • Preparing for retirement

 

Big events such as changing jobs or relocating don’t arise frequently. So you’ll have to produce your own eustress on a more regular basis. Consider the examples below.

Learn a new skill

It can be stressful to try and pick up new knowledge or skills. Yet it ultimately brings about self-improvement and increased personal marketability. Those are the hallmarks of eustress.

Set Firmer Boundaries

Have you said “no” recently when the boss asked you to work nights and weekends? Standing up for yourself takes gumption. It often creates tension at first, which encourages you to take care and do it respectfully.

Volunteer To Do A Presentation

Few things boost your profile like giving a well-prepared talk. Yet few things are as nerve-wracking as public speaking. The secret is to know your stuff, cater to the needs of your audience, and rehearse till it hurts.

Deal With Workplace Conflicts

It is risky to confront an annoying colleague or supervisor. However if something must be done, proceed in ways that are likely to generate eustress. Plan your approach carefully. Try to propose win-win solutions. And do your best to keep emotions in check.

Take On A Stretch Assignment

Step out of your comfort zone every so often. Offer to work on a committee that puts you in a leadership role. Attempt to solve a problem that no one else has been able to.

Eustress Versus You Stress

Worry and strain are among the many aspects of working life. They need to be balanced with positivity in your daily routine.

Eustress is beneficial pressure that ignites your resolve to succeed. Insert more of it into your overall activities. At first you may feel increasingly vulnerable. But as you learn to manage the fears, you can harness those butterflies to fly in formation.

Terrible Tax Advice Exists — Here’s How to Spot It

This post by Janet Berry-Johnson originally appeared on the Freshbooks Blog in March 2012

Terrible Tax Advice Exists—Here’s How to Spot ItHow do you know you have a great accountant? He has a tax loophole named after him… All jokes aside, tax is a complex subject and, despite decades of talk about simplifying the tax code, it just seems to get more confusing each year. After a decade of working in public accounting, I can’t count how many times clients came to me to ask about sketchy tax advice they’d received from dubious sources.

“My neighbor says Social Security income isn’t taxable.”

“My girlfriend’s dad told me I can deduct all of my vehicle expenses if I set up an LLC.”

“I saw an ad on TV that promised me a bigger tax refund than the competition.”

“I heard that paying taxes is voluntary.”

When you’re seeking out sound financial answers, be wary of the source. Next time someone offers their tax advice, look out for these 8 red flags.

  1. The Advice Sounds Too Good to be True

This kind of advice usually involves tax-free income or being able to deduct personal expenses.

According to the IRS, all income is taxable unless the law specifically says it isn’t. Life insurance proceeds, scholarships, gifts and inheritances, child support payments, welfare benefits and damages for physical injuries or sickness are all types of income that may not be taxable. However, there are a few situations where they might be. When in doubt, consult with a qualified tax pro.

Personal expenses are rarely deductible. Some common exemptions are home mortgage interest, real estate taxes, medical expenses and charitable contributions. They’re allowed as itemized deductions on Schedule A of your Form 1040. Other expenses for your personal residence or vehicle are only deductible if they are used for business. If a friend tells you he writes off all of his home or vehicle expenses, he’s practically telling you he’s committing tax fraud. Don’t take tax advice from a crook.

  1. The Advice Lacks Context

Above, we mentioned that certain types of income are usually non-taxable, but may be taxable under certain circumstances. The tax code is rarely absolute. When you read the code, you’ll see a lot of words and phrases like “generally,” “except under certain conditions,” “usually” and “in most cases.”

Most tax pros joke the answer to any question starts with the words “that depends.” Be wary of any advice that doesn’t take your unique situation into account.

  1. You Have Difficulty Understanding It

The tax code is complicated, but a good tax pro should be able to explain any basic rules, deductions and credits that apply to your return.

Remember: you are responsible for everything on your tax return, whether or not you paid someone else to prepare it for you. If you don’t understand something, ask! If you’re getting a much larger return (or owe more money) than expected, consult someone and find out why.

  1. There Might Be a Conflict of Interest

Look out for tax advice from people who are seeking to receive a commission or kickback. Some tax pros are also qualified to give financial advice but avoid taking advice that comes with an ulterior motive. The person might suggest you invest in a real estate venture that they hold a stake in or recommend financial products for which they receive commissions or referral fees.

Don’t be afraid to ask, “How will you benefit from this?” if you suspect the advice is not in your best interest.

  1. The Advice Suggests Taxes is Voluntary

No matter how many times these arguments get shot down in court, some people continue to claim that the payment of federal income taxes is “voluntary.” This claim is based, in part, on the fact that the IRS itself describes the way we file and pay federal taxes as “voluntary compliance.”

As the fact-checking website Snopes points out, “common sense dictates that if paying income tax were really voluntary, that tidbit of information wouldn’t be known to only a small cadre of tax protesters while millions of other Americans annually forked over considerable amounts of money they weren’t obligated to pay.”

As numerous tax court cases have shown, neither the obligation to file a tax return nor the payment of income taxes is voluntary. File your return and pay what is owed. Otherwise, you’ll soon find out just how mandatory paying taxes really is.

  1. The Advice is Referred to as a “Tax Shelter”

There are a few bonafide tax shelters such as those related to oil and gas exploration and development. However, most are at least bad deals from a business viewpoint, and at worst they violate tax law. Any business deal that needs to be structured as a tax shelter to be profitable is not a sound business deal. Good business deals show profits before tax considerations.

There are also tax shelters that promise you’ll receive $400 in deductions for every $100 you invest (or some similar “too good to be true” scenario). The tax authorities are constantly investigating such tax shelters. If you get caught avoiding income taxes by illegal means, you’ll have to pay back taxes, plus interest and some hefty penalties.

  1. Someone Promises You a Big Refund… Before They Look at Your Info

Every year during tax season, the commercials, ads and billboards that promise huge tax refunds begin to flood in. No accountant can get your refund faster or bigger than anyone else. You are entitled to the same refund, whether you prepare the return yourself or hire a professional.

Anyone promising they’ll get you the biggest refund may be padding your return with credits you’re not entitled to. Don’t fall for the hype.

  1. You Receive No Advice at All

Even if you normally prepare your own tax return, you may occasionally run into a new situation and need help. Major life changes, such as selling real estate, buying your first home, starting a new business or adopting a child usually means significant changes to your tax filing.

Don’t be afraid to seek out the advice of a professional. Even if you want to prepare your own return, most tax pros will be willing to sit down with you to answer questions and offer advice on your unique situation. The hourly rate they’ll charge may be well worth avoiding an audit—or paying a penalty for filing an incorrect return.

If you’re unsure, seek that advice from a certified and experienced tax pro. Look for someone with a credential, such as a CPA or EA. These professionals are well-trained, held to a code of ethics and required to maintain up-to-date knowledge.

At a minimum, all tax preparers in the United States are required to obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). You can use this search tool available on the IRS website to find a preparer who holds a professional credential or voluntarily obtained a certain number of continuing education hours each year.

Getting professional advice is more expensive than getting advice from your skateboard buddy, but think of it as insurance: pay a small premium today to avoid an expensive disaster tomorrow.

About the Author
Janet Berry-Johnson is a CPA and a freelance writer with a background in accounting and insurance. Her writing has appeared in Forbes, Parachute by Mapquest, Capitalist Review, Guyvorce, BonBon Break and Kard Talk. Janet lives in Arizona with her husband and son and their rescue dog, Dexter. Outside of work and family time, she enjoys cooking, reading historical fiction, and binge-watching Real Housewives.

How to Handle Office Pet Peeves and Annoying Coworkers

This post by Joe Issid first appeared on the Monster Career Advice Blog

How to Handle Office Pet Peeves and Annoying CoworkersIf you’ve ever worked in an office, it is inevitable that you have held on to some unhealthy feelings towards one (or more) of your colleagues. Whether it is your impolite boss or a hygienically-challenged cubicle mate, ill-feelings can develop pretty quickly and can linger for longer than necessary. Personally, I have had my fair share of annoying co-workers over the years (my personal favourite was the co-worker who built a temporary wall to divide our cubicle because he suspected that I was stealing his work). I am also reasonable enough to admit that I must also be guilty of being that guy to other people with whom I have shared an office over the years. No matter the case, no one is immune to these feelings of frustration and we are all equally eager to rid ourselves of these regular annoyances. Here are some suggestions that may help:

Don’t suffer in silence

One of the worst things you can do in a professional setting is to hold on to grievances. If there are some elements in your work life that are not living up to your expectations, it behooves you to discuss then with the relevant people involved. I’ve seen far too many people suffer in silence, which only serves to further their feelings of frustration and alienation. So, if you share a cubicle with someone who insists on cutting their toe nails at your desk every week or floss right in front of you, it is probably best for you to address this before you get to the point of destructive confrontation. So, how do you do this?

Effective feedback

Whenever we consider providing feedback in a work context, it is usually perceived negatively as it is often associated with some form of consequence. As such, it is somewhat understandable why so many people refrain from providing unsolicited feedback. However, providing effective and constructive feedback is the single best option that you have to resolve any work issue you may encounter. According to Chantal Westgate, Adjunct Professor of Organizational Behaviour at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management, “[for] feedback to be perceived differently, one has to convey that it is the only way we can improve.” So, if you have a colleague whose behavior is distracting and/or bothersome, providing constructive feedback is an excellent way to address an ongoing issue.

When to speak up?

While I would certainly advocate an open dialogue in all offices, there are certainly some situations that may be best left untouched. For example, a former boss did not like the fact that one of my team members came to work wearing a very short skirt and asked me to address it with her. After deliberating for a while, I chose not to raise this with the team as I did not feel that it had any real merit. Firstly, the company did not have a formal dress code, so my staff member was not violating any defined protocol. Additionally, her attire was not impacting her work nor was it impeding anyone else in the office from performing their work. As business was not being impacted, I felt that raising the issue may have had a negative impact on the workplace despite the fact that the boss’ sensibilities were being tweaked.

It’s not getting better

As with most work-related disputes, I would suggest you try and resolve them among yourselves. In some instances, however, you may need to escalate the matter if the issue has grown into something more substantial. Personally, there have been some situations where I simply could not reconcile the differences between a co-worker and myself. In such a case, you need to be honest with yourself and determine whether these differences are deal breakers. In some cases, these annoyances are minor and can be ignored when looking at the bigger picture. For example, are you really willing to go to war over a co-worker who noisily chews gum during meetings? On the other hand, is the issue significant enough that it is impacting productivity and happiness at work? If so, you may need to look into speaking with your boss or someone from human resources before the issue gets out of control.

Am I the problem?

To paraphrase a bawdy expression that my grandfather used to say: if everyone around you is annoying, maybe you are the problem. If you find that your default mood at the office is aggravation or hostility, you may want to consider the possibility that you may be the source of much of this negativity.

Over the course of my career, I have been very well-served by looking inward whenever I encountered difficult situations. Let’s face it: we’re not all perfect!

Communication is Key for a Successful Job Interview

Making the Most of That One Big Chance to Make a Lasting First Impression

This guest post was provided by the good folks at Effortless English

Making the Most of That One Big Chance to Make a Lasting First ImpressionThere is a good chance that you have had at least one job interview, and probably more than that, where you review your performance and feel frustrated that you could have given some better answers to the questions put to you.

Trying to anticipate the sort of questions you are going to be asked will help you to prepare for the process and stop you from freezing in the headlights when you get thrown a curve ball question.

Rise above the crowd

Of course, it is not just about rehearsing some carefully crafted stock answers to certain questions, as your interviewer will probably have come across these responses many times before. To get the job or even be considered for the job, you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd and make it easy for your interviewer to remember you and mark you down as a potential candidate for filling the role.

As this resource demonstrates, the mindset that you need to adopt is that you are not applying for a job as such, but selling yourself in the style of sales presentation. Your pitch might well amount to the same thing as submitting your application for a position, but the mindset and approach are different.

If you are trying to perfect your English and want to come across as grammatically correct as possible, the fundamental point being put across by the Effortless English service in the link above, is that to present yourself in the best possible light, it is not a case of sitting down and laboriously going through a set of rigid grammar rules, it is much more a case of learning to think English grammar.

There is a difference between the two learning methods, and that can definitely come across in a much more personable way when you are sat across the table from an interviewer, and trying to sell yourself as the best candidate they have seen.

Good listening skills are essential

The art of listening is also often grossly underestimated when it comes to coming across as a strong candidate.

Some consider listening to be one of the most important communication skills that you can possess, and it could be argued that one of the most powerful ways to make a meaningful connection with another person, is to listen.

This is an attribute that can serve you well in an interview process. Yes, you are expected to do a lot of speaking and provide convincing answers when being interviewed for a job, but just as important is knowing when to stop and listen to what is being said to you and what is specifically being asked.

Listening doesn’t just mean interpreting the words being spoken. It also means non-verbal as well as verbal communication skills.

Your ability to listen successfully hinges greatly on the extent to which you are able to accurately perceive and understand the verbal and nonverbal messages being portrayed to you in the interview process.

Many companies put a lot of emphasis on good communication skills, and if you are able to demonstrate this ability in abundance during your interview, by the way you speak, listen and present yourself, you will be increasing the odds of getting the call to say the job is yours.

Want to Start a Business While Working Full-Time?

You Can — Just Keep These Tips in Mind

This post by Nellie Akalp first appeared on the Freshbooks Blog on October 20th, 2016

Want to Start a Business While Working Full-Time? You Can—Just Keep These Tips in MindWhether you’re about to venture out on your own as a solo professional or launch a new business, it’s often easier to lay the groundwork while still employed. The stability and steady paycheck associated with full-time employment comes in handy when you’ve got real-world responsibilities like a mortgage and student loans—or you just want to eat something other than ramen every day.

Working on a business or freelancing while still at a full-time job builds your experience, confidence and project pipeline. You get to explore the different aspects of solo work and see if you enjoy wearing all the hats that come along with business ownership. As they say, you need to learn to walk before you can run. And staying employed while you learn the ropes can help you do this.

Balancing a job and a budding business is possible, but it does take some careful consideration—including legal, personal and professional matters. If you’re thinking about starting a business while keeping your day job, here are 5 things to keep in mind.

  1. Check Your Employee Contract

Before you begin taking on side projects, you should become very familiar with your employee contract and/or handbook. Some companies include non-compete clauses, which can mean you aren’t allowed to accept work on the side. The strictest clauses are usually found in ad and creative agencies who don’t want their employees to poach company clients.

Poring over legal fine print is no one’s idea of a good time, but it is essential. If you’re caught breaking the terms of your contract, you can be fired—even sued. Fighting a lawsuit while unemployed isn’t the best way to help get your small business off the ground. So, read your employment agreements carefully. If the wording seems vague, you can decide for yourself whether you’d like to approach your boss or HR for clarification, or keep your plans to yourself.

  1. Give 110% to Your Day Job

No matter how excited you are about your new venture, you’re still committed to your current job and company. It will be obvious relatively quickly if you aren’t holding your own in the workplace. This means staying on top of deadlines, getting to meetings on time, being enthusiastic—basically just doing your job as well as you always have. Underperforming at the office can hurt your professional reputation and long-term prospects.

There’s one important difference now. Since your new business is going to take up most of your spare time, you can’t stay late or work weekends for your “day job.” This means you need to make every minute in the office count. Master the arts of prioritization and delegation in order to get as much done as possible during your normal work hours. These are essential skills for being a freelancer and entrepreneur, anyways.

  1. Create a Disciplined and Regular Routine

There are only 24 hours in a day, so you’ll definitely be feeling a scheduling crunch when you first start out. Try to develop a steady rhythm for working on your new business, setting time aside in the evening, early in the morning and on your days off. Creating a regular schedule will help you stay disciplined. You need to make time to work on the business whether you have projects or not—there’s always important work to do such as creating your business’ website, networking or hustling for new business.

If you are struggling to find time to work on your business, take a careful look at the root cause. It could be circumstantial; for example, you’re just really busy right now for a major project at work, but things will quiet down soon. Self-employment requires a lot of discipline, self-direction and self-motivation. It’s very different than previous experiences with a boss or professor. This means it is important to identify early on if the solo work style is right for you.

  1. Treat Your New Venture as a Legitimate Business

You may still be a full-time employee, but the minute you accept money for your work, you’re also a business owner and entrepreneur. This means you need to treat your side work as a legit business—and learn all the responsibilities that come along with owning a business, including how to organize your finances, report your income and pay your taxes.

This would be a good time to meet with a CPA or tax advisor who is familiar with the needs of small business owners and freelancers. Setting up good practices early will help you scale later. One interesting point is that if you form a business and it takes a loss during the first year, you can actually deduct that loss to offset your income from your regular job (talk to a CPA/tax advisor for the details).

In addition, consider creating a formal business entity (such as a Limited Liability Company) to help lower your personal liability should your side business be sued or can’t pay its liabilities.

  1. Determine When You’ll Dive into Solo Work Full-Time

As your business grows, you’ll surely experience periods of intense work overload. At this point, you will need to decide if it is better to quit your job or turn down new client projects. How do you know if it’s time to start working on your own full time? It’s not an easy question to answer, but here are a few thoughts…

Unless you’re willing to blow through your savings or take out a line of credit, you shouldn’t consider leaving your job until your business can bring in as much income as your current job (or close to it or at least enough to meet your needs). That’s the practical consideration.

In addition, it may be time to rethink your situation if you find yourself so excited about your new business that it’s hard to muster any enthusiasm for your day job. This can drain you personally and professionally and you don’t want to just stick around until your employer kicks you out. If you’re having a hard time going to work each morning, then it’s time to accelerate your new business. Figure out how to build a runway of clients and have some cash flowing in—then take the jump.

About the Author: Nellie Akalp is a passionate entrepreneur, small business expert, professional speaker, author and mother of four. She is the Founder and CEO of CorpNet.com, an online legal document filing service and recognized Inc.5000 company. At CorpNet, Nellie assists entrepreneurs across all 50 states to start a businessincorporateform an LLC, and apply for trademarks. She also offers free business compliance tools for any entrepreneur to utilize. Connect with Nellie on LinkedIn.

7 Signs Your IT Resume is Outdated

7 Signs Your IT Resume Is OutdatedYour resume is the most important tool that you have in your job search arsenal. It’s your ticket in the door to an interview, and without one, you might as well just give up on finding a job.

Yet all too often, IT professionals rely on resumes that are outdated, poorly formatted, or full of irrelevant information, and then wonder why they aren’t hearing back from employers. If it’s been a while since you updated your resume (i.e. more than a year or two) or if you’re still relying on the format you learned back in college during the 1990’s, there’s a good chance that employers are ignoring you because of it. In a field like IT, where having the most up-to-date skills is a necessity, an outdated resume sends the wrong message.

If you are embarking on a new job hunt and still using the same resume that landed you your current job, you need to spend some time updating — and that means more than just adding your current position to your work experience. In fact, you might need a complete overhaul, especially if you spot any of these problems.

  1. You Have an Objective Statement

Perhaps the biggest indication that you haven’t kept up with trends is the fact that you have an objective statement highlighting your career goals at the top of your resume. Simply put, no one does this anymore. Employers don’t care that you want a challenging position or want to grow in your career. They want to know what you can do for them. Replace the passé objective with a short value statement and summary of strengths, showing employers what you can do for them.

  1. Your Certifications Are Old

Most employers want to hire IT professionals with the latest certifications, but if your resume doesn’t reflect your most recent achievements, you aren’t going to land the interview. Make sure that your resume accurately reflects all of your current certifications; if you are currently working on additional certifications by completing CISSP preparation or other coursework, mention that with an expected completion date. You want to demonstrate your commitment to growth and development, and be sure that your qualifications are obvious and relevant to the position you want.

  1. You Focus on Tasks, Not Accomplishments 

How do you describe your previous work experience? Do you list your responsibilities and rehash the job description? If so, you aren’t telling employers what they want to know. Employers want to see accomplishments, and how successful you were in your previous jobs. Instead of listing your day-to-day activities, highlight your successes using quantifiable data. If you can’t quantify your achievements, use quotes from testimonials or other accolades.

  1. You Still Have Unrelated Experience Listed

If you have been out of college for 15 years, but still have your college job at the supermarket listed on your resume, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. Typically, resumes should focus on what you have done in the last decade or so, and be highly focused on related experience. If you are just out of school and don’t have much experience, including unrelated jobs is fine if you can show transferrable skills, but as you get more experience, those jobs should fall off the resume.

  1. You Aren’t Keyword Focused 

Most employers use applicant tracking systems to scan resumes for keywords, and then rank candidates according to how many keywords appear. Therefore, if you don’t include the right keywords, your resume could be rejected even if you are the perfect candidate. When revising your resume, then, you should review job postings for your ideal jobs and incorporate the same language used by the employer; for example, if the employer asks for “strong knowledge of computer science fundamentals,” you should include “knowledge of computer science fundamentals” somewhere in your resume to ensure a match.

  1. Your Resume Doesn’t Highlight Technical Competencies

When applying for IT jobs, you need to clearly demonstrate your technical competencies and your skills. Don’t make employers search for that information or guess what you can do. Spell out your technical skills in a specific section. If you have any special achievements in these areas, include that information as well.

  1. You Don’t Highlight Transferrable or Soft Skills

Finally, many employers are looking for IT professionals with specific soft skills, such as teamwork, communication, and time management. Make these connections throughout your resume, including information about how you have demonstrated these skills when you discuss your achievements.

These are the major red flags that your resume is outdated and needs a makeover. Others include noting that references are available (employers know this), listing basic skills in your skill summary (we hope you can use Microsoft Office by now), and using an old email address from AOL or your university. If you make these changes, you’ll have a much better chance of landing the interview, and the job you want.

Author bio: Tiffany Rowe is a marketing administrator who assists in contributing resourceful content throughout the World Wide Web. Tiffany prides herself in her strong ability to provide high quality content that readers will find valuable. She enjoys connecting with other bloggers and collaborating for exclusive content in various niches. With two years of experience in blogging, Tiffany has found herself more passionate than ever to continue developing remarkable content for all audiences. http://www.seekvisibility.com/

Does Calling Yourself a ‘Freelancer’ Hold You Back?

This post by Susan Johnston Taylor first appeared on the Freshbooks Blog on September 28th, 2016

Does Calling Yourself a ‘Freelancer’ Hold You Back? One of the perks of freelancing is choosing your own title. So, what exactly should you call yourself? A freelancer, an entrepreneur, a small business-owner, something else?

In my experience, solopreneurs who choose not to self-identify as freelancers tend to fall into one of two main camps. The first camp chooses some other title to post on social media, print on their business cards and use in their elevator pitch (for instance, “independent web developer,” “creative director for hire” or “entrepreneurial journalist”).

Or they set up a business (for instance, “Sam Smith Media, LLC” or “The Red Pen Unlimited”) officially or unofficially that de-emphasizes their solo status and allows them to call themselves the owner, CEO or similar. In that case, maybe they plan on eventually scaling up to include others or they want to give the impression of being a larger company so they can attract bigger clients.

Here’s a look at the advantages and disadvantages of calling yourself a freelancer.

Advantages of the ‘Freelancer’ Title

Clarity

In certain circles, people will know immediately what you’re all about if you call yourself a freelance web designer or a freelance copywriter. They may not understand what you mean by a “web design ninja” or an “independent content marketing strategist.” That’s especially true of LinkedIn profiles. No client or employer searches LinkedIn for people with cutesy or creative titles like “copywriting maven” or “SEO guru,” so in that context, you’d want more a straightforward professional title that makes it clear what you do.

Camaraderie

Freelancers are a pretty rad tribe of free-thinking, creative people. Self-identifying as a freelancer means you’re part of that community and gives you the ability to tap into the collective wisdom of the tribe through online forums, in-person events and the like. Of course there are also forums and networking events for people who self-identify as solopreneurs or small business-owners, but freelancers tend to share some similarities that they may not share with the broader community of small business-owners who have brick and mortar locations or employees to manage.

Disadvantages of the ‘Freelancer’ Title

Lack of Respect

Alas, some clients just don’t respect freelancers. They may pay their freelancers late (or not at all) or email them at all hours of the day or night assuming the freelancer must have nothing better to do than wait at the client’s beck and call. Calling yourself something other than a freelancer could help establish yourself as a legitimate business entity deserving of greater respect.

Negative Associations

The term can have negative stereotypes for those who assume that a freelancer is someone who couldn’t hack it in the corporate world or who loafs around in pajamas watching daytime soap operas. For most freelancers that isn’t the case, but using a term other than freelancer could help bypass some of these misperceptions and position yourself as a bona fide professional.

Self-Perception

Aside from how others treat you, calling yourself a small business-owner or a solopreneur could also shape the way you think about your own work. If you view freelancing as a casual thing you do in between full-time jobs, you may not behave like a business or charge what you’re worth. But if you think of yourself as a business, then you’re more apt to get agreements in writing, send professional-looking invoices and take other steps that establish you as a business.

Possible Limitations

Some creative professionals grow from freelancing on their own to subcontracting work to others or even creating a virtual digital agency with multiple contractors or employees. If you see yourself as a digital agency of one, then that could create a smoother transition into a larger business in the future. Branding yourself as something other than a freelancer means you won’t have to rebrand when you decide to expand or change how you think about and describe your work. Of course, scaling up isn’t for everyone. Some freelancers are happy to remain a company of one.

Distancing Yourself from Your Work

Some solopreneurs choose to incorporate as a business to provide an extra layer of protection in case there’s a legal dispute around their work. Also, some freelancers define themselves by the success or failure of their work (an unhealthy, but all too common mindset). Using a business name other than your own name could also have the psychological benefit of reminding you that you are not interchangeable with your work.

In my case, I vary my word choice depending on the context. If I meet fellow freelancer, I’m apt to self-identify as a freelancer as well so that we can find common ground. If I’m hobnobbing with other solopreneurs, I might self-identify with that group. Ultimately, I think behaving like a business-owner is more important than what you call yourself.

About the Author: Freelance journalist Susan Johnston Taylor covers entrepreneurship, small business and lifestyle for publications including The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and FastCompany.com. Follow her on Twitter @UrbanMuseWriter.

 

The Dreaded Project Gap

How Your Contracting Business Can Plan for Continued Financial Health

This post first appeared on the CA4IT Blog on February 16, 2016

The Dreaded Project Gap—How Your Contracting Business Can Plan for Continued Financial HealthAs an independent contractor, you know that your business relies on a consistent project load to maintain profitability. However, at some point, you may face a gap between projects. This situation creates many concerns, but with careful financial planning, these rare occurrences should have little, if any impact on your bottom line. By utilizing some commonsense tips, you can safeguard against any effects from project gaps or other unforeseen disruptions.

Tips for Minimizing the Impact of a Gap Between Projects

  • First and foremost, you should always have a plan in place for project gaps. If you are just starting your small business, you need professional accounting advice as to how to plan for downtime not just between contracts, but for all unexpected events that could disrupt your business, such as illness. Remember, your business relies on your ability to perform, so if you suddenly cannot work for any reason, you need a financial back-up plan. This can include a focused savings plan or an emergency plan to liquidate assets or scale down expenses.
  • Stay on top of every expense and think ahead for tax deductions. Tools like cloud-based accounting for small businesses let you keep track of every income and expense in real time so that you always know how you’re doing. The most powerful tool you have is information, and when you can see your business’s financial picture on demand, you gain the power to manage it proactively.
  • Use downtime wisely. Whether your gap lasts a few days or a couple of weeks, never look at this as vacation time. Brush up on your continuing education, or go after than certification you need. View every day as an opportunity to grow and refine your business.

As a business accounting service specializing in independent contractors, CA4IT believes that you need careful, conscious preparation for changes in your workload. We can help you plan for any scenario and fro continued financial stability. Turn to us for all of your accounting needs so that you always feel confident about your financial outlook. To learn more, contact a CA4IT representative for the best accounting help in your community.

How to Be Productive at Work? Master Your Sunday!

This post by Karin Eldor first appeared on the Monster Career Advice Blog

How to Be Productive at Work? Master Your Sunday! Sunday has two different identities: there’s #SundayFunday and then there are the Sunday Blues.

Well, I’m campaigning to create a new image for Sunday: #SuperSunday.

The timing is actually perfect. With Labour Day having come and gone, September has become the new month for turning over a new leaf and having another go at your New Year’s resolutions (author Gretchen Rubin has even coined September the “other January”). Maybe it’s the back-to-school vibe and back-to-work feeling — likely both — regardless, it’s nice to get a second chance to make those resolutions work.

And does this look like one of your resolutions? Be more productive.

It seems many of us are still learning how to be productive and take control of our days — and one of the ways to do this is by mastering your Sunday.

If you flip Sunday on its head and make it more about looking forward to the week ahead rather than dreading it, your entire perspective changes. (Pro tip: start to perceive Monday as an opportunity to make changes during the upcoming week rather than counting down the minutes to Friday).

It starts with feeling refreshed, rebooted and reorganized enough on Sunday, that you don’t head to work stressed and already overwhelmed by the massive to-do list you need to tackle.

Of course there are the obvious Sunday activities, like doing the laundry, getting groceries, and watching football or Netflix.

Below are the other important tasks to check off your list, which you should try to finish before Game of Thrones starts.

The Sunday success plan

1) Map out your week

Sit down with a calendar and task list, and map out all your deadlines, checkpoints, meetings, and appointments.

Take it even further and block off your gym time and/or sports activities for the upcoming week. This will help ensure that your fitness plans don’t fall by the wayside.

The other key thing about this practice is that once complete, you’ll be able to see where you have some breathing room and can schedule social activities. Conversely, this will help you visualize your challenging days that are chock-full of deadlines; as a result, you might need to plan ahead in order to complete your tasks on time.

I once heard someone say this and I am compelled to share: If something is not blocked off in your agenda by the time you get to the office Monday, it’s not happening that week. So as ruthless as this sounds, it’s important to be disciplined. Of course this doesn’t apply to projects your manager is assigning for that week, as it’s challenging to give that kind of pushback. But it does mean that if a friend texts you to go for coffee, it will have to be shifted to the following week if there is simply no wiggle room between events.

2) Reach out to contacts

Networking is one of those “always on” activities. Sending friendly “How are you?” emails to former colleagues, mentors or even a previous manager that you had a great rapport with is simply good practice — and there’s no better day to do it than Sunday.

You want to avoid only emailing contacts when you need them, so keep cultivating your relationships by touching base every now and then. (BTW: no need to email them every week…)

3) Read up about your industry

Sunday morning is a great time to sit with a hot drink while tackling your favourite magazines and/or papers. Or even all the articles you bookmarked throughout the week and finally have time to get to!

This helps you keep abreast of industry movers and shakers, and any disruptive news you need to know.

4) Work on your hobby

Make time on Sunday to dedicate to a passion project. Studies show that hobbies are important in order to be successful as they help you relax and unwind, which leads to greater creativity.

A recent article published in Quartz magazine, fittingly titled “If you want to be a better person, find something to do outside of work,” makes a strong case for having a hobby: “Hobbies are of central importance to our psychological well-being.”

The article quotes a recent study by Kevin Eschleman at San Francisco State University, which found that workers recovered more quickly from the day-to-day stress of their working lives if allowed to indulge in hobbies in their free time. The Quartzarticle also mentions that Google has a 20% rule, which allows employees to spend 20% of their work time pursuing projects of their own choosing — a perk that leads to more fulfilled and productive employees.

So whether your thing is painting, gardening or playing sports, allow yourself time to dedicate to the personal activities that energize you.

5) Work out your body and/or mind

Speaking of hobbies, perhaps yours is weightlifting, yoga or meditation. Dedicate some time to your deadlifts or downward dog — it will help revitalize you and will make you feel less guilty about all the food you indulged on all weekend.

6) Make time for a digital detox

Whether you go device-free for 10 minutes in the morning or during your mindfulness / fitness session, it’s important to let go of your digital reliance at some point throughout your Sunday. So make a habit of either not checking into your social media feeds for a determined amount of time, not checking your email all day (Meep, is this even possible?!?) or best yet, being away from your phone completely for a couple of hours, at least.

In France this is known as “the right to disconnect” — and you can also exercise this right when it comes to evenings and weekends!

7) Plan your meals

OK so the idea of cooking for the entire week might be totally overwhelming — I get it. At least prep your menu so that you can get the ingredients in one shot when you do go grocery shopping. Planning your lunches in advance is efficient, healthy and a cost savings.

8) Write your Monday to-do list

In the same vein as mapping out your week, take a few minutes to write your Monday to-do-list, so that you’re ready to tackle the new day and week the second you arrive to the office.

It’s also a great way to do a “worry list” — i.e. a brain dump of all the minutiae on your mind, which might be keeping you up at night.

Sunday strong

Many of these habits are important for every day of the week, but especially on Sundays. It also goes without saying that getting enough sleep is key in having a successful, productive week — so make sure to decompress before going to bed by reading (not your email though!).

By flying through your daily to-do lists and feeling more productive, Mondays will feel less manic — and even enjoyable.

Keep Cash Flowing – Avoid Invoicing Mistakes That Keep You From Getting Paid

This post by Janet Berry-Johnson first appeared on the FreshBooks Blog on August 30th, 2016

Keep Cash Flowing: Avoid Invoicing Mistakes That Keep You from Getting PaidRunning a business is a balancing act. You’re focused on providing top-notch services, keeping clients happy, paying the bills, preparing for tax time and juggling a million other demands to keep your business moving. As if that wasn’t enough, you also need to keep up with invoicing to make sure you get paid. We agree—billing is a time-consuming chore but it’s one of the most crucial functions of any business. If you neglect to do it right, it will affect your cash flow.

Invoicing isn’t just a matter of catching typos and ensuring it’s sent to the right client. A mere error on your invoice can result in delayed payments, miscommunication and loss of client satisfaction. Communicating the terms and promptly sending invoices are some obvious ways to ensure your billing is accurate and complete. Here are a few other invoicing mistakes you perhaps haven’t considered.

You Didn’t Upload a Logo (Or Don’t Have One)

If you don’t include your logo on each and every invoice you send, you’re missing out on a simple branding opportunity. We live in a visual world. Even down to the minute details—like invoicing—there’s no exception. Many people spend hours of their days on website design and business cards, but spend very little time thinking about how their invoices represent their brand.

Consider this: your invoice is potentially your last contact with your client, so it should reflect the same branding and attention-to-detail as your website and printed materials. Take the time to create a beautiful, clear invoice—your clients will appreciate it!

You Forgot to Add a Due Date

Many invoicing templates include the generic wording “Payment due in 30 days” or “net 30.” Those phrases seem simple enough: if the invoice is issued on July 30th, payment is due on August 30th—right? Actually, to ensure you’re actually getting paid on time, consider communicating the due date a little clearer.

Consider the situation from an accounts-payable perspective. First, your client has to locate a date on the invoice. They probably receive many invoices each month. After they’ve located the due date, they need to establish the payment terms, which may or may not be located near the invoice date. Maybe the payment terms aren’t included on the invoice at all. Then, the client has to calculate the due date based on these two pieces of information.

When you consider how many invoices an accounts payable department processes every day, it’s easy to see how a wrong due date may be entered. To make matters worse, many accounts payable systems default to the current date as the invoice date. The current date will always be later than the actual invoice date, so unless your client takes the time to enter the information correctly, your invoice will be paid late.

The solution? Make it as easy as possible for your client by providing a clear due date on each invoice. Consider writing the due date clearly at the top, and including additional payment terms below.

Adding this information in a prominent location will make it less likely that your client will enter inaccurate information in their accounts payable software.

You Sent Your Client a “Surprise” Invoice

Some people love a surprise, while others not-so-much. But no one enjoys a surprise invoice—rather, a charge they didn’t expect.

If your client is asking for additional work or it’s taking longer than originally planned, notify them immediately. Never send a surprise invoice without informing your client ahead of time. Perhaps your client expected to pay for your time, but didn’t know you’d be billing for expenses. Or, maybe you initially thought the project would take five hours, but it took 10 instead. Whatever the issue may be, don’t keep your client in the dark. Contact your client, outline the changes and have a conversation. Chances are they’ll appreciate you were forthcoming and explained the billing charges to your invoice. Remember: transparency is key.

You Failed to Follow Up

Ask most entrepreneurs what their least favorite task of their business is and most will say “collections.” Following up on accounts receivable is an odious chore, yet one that is absolutely crucial to the health of your business.

No matter how accurate and detailed your invoices are, you will occasionally encounter a client who doesn’t pay on time. Once a payment is past due, you have to choose between getting paid or potentially irritating the client and damaging your relationship.

That’s why it’s important to have a procedure in place for following up on late payments and to adhere to that procedure consistently.

Some business owners prefer to call the client  with a friendly reminder, others wait a week or two past the deadline. Either way, your initial contact should be a friendly reminder. In most cases, this reminder is all it takes to have your invoice paid promptly. Perhaps your invoice was lost in the mail or was redirected to your client’s spam filter. The customer reads your email or takes your phone call, is apologetic and sends the payment that day.

If you have customers who are chronic late payers, perhaps they need a little financial motivation to pay on time. In that case, you can set up Late Payment Fees to charge after it is past due. You can even enable or disable late fees for specific clients if you’d rather not apply the policy to everyone.

If you do choose to initiate late fees, clearly communicate it immediately. Remember, as we explained above, surprises are never a good thing when it comes to invoicing! Ultimately, billing is about getting paid and nothing is more important to optimizing your company’s cash flow than your invoicing process. Good invoicing practices keep revenue flowing into your business. No matter how many you issue, if those invoices are not getting paid, you won’t have the cash you need to pay your employees or purchase the products and services your business needs to keep going.

About the Author

Janet Berry-Johnson is a CPA and a freelance writer with a background in accounting and insurance. Her writing has appeared in Forbes, Parachute by Mapquest, Capitalist Review, Guyvorce, BonBon Break and Kard Talk. Janet lives in Arizona with her husband and son and their rescue dog, Dexter. Outside of work and family time, she enjoys cooking, reading historical fiction, and binge-watching Real Housewives.