Freelancing while in college or, why you should keep track of where your money is and should be going

This week, I signed up for four other freelance sites besides Demand Studios: Break Studios, Constant Content, Examiner, and Experts 123. A good mix of upfront and revenue payments. If I commit to writing regularly for each, I’ll always have a steady stream of money coming in. That’s great and all, but there’s the great inevitability that I’ve realized I have to start preparing for. Not death. The other one.

Taxes.

The dirtiest of dirty words for anyone who loves money, taxes are a harsh reality for those whose earnings aren’t tied to lemonade stands or being the reluctant caretaker of a small child whose sole purpose in life seems to be to make you miserable for the six hours its parents are out getting wasted on top shelf liquor while they pretend to actually give a damn about the other’s work problems (“Sorry you got passed up for another promotion, darling. If only you worked as hard as Steve, maybe you’d actually get somewhere in the company!”) April 15th, for those of us who have accepted the fact that Social Security won’t exist when we can finally retire at 80, is the annual coming of the Antichrist, and have mercy on those who haven’t repented their financial transgressions to Uncle Sam by then.

Of course those of us in college, for whom taxes are just an annoying added cost to our alcoholic beverage of choice during our weekly liquor store run, aren’t thinking about those abstract terms “W-2,” “1040,” and “pay up or you’ll never see your friends, family, or the light of day again because, damn it, tax evasion is a felony!”

We really should be doing more to think of those abstracts as actual things that have actual consequences.

I, for one, rather like being able to eat, shower, and use the restroom on my own time, so I’ve started planning for April 15th. I’ve set up spreadsheets for each site that I write for, complete with the title of the articles I’ve claimed, how much I’m getting paid for them, my total earnings, etc. At some point in the next couple of days (OK, let’s be real, it’s probably going to be another couple of weeks, if not months), I’ll set up yet another savings account solely for what I expect to have to pay come tax time. Is it the most efficient way to ensure that I won’t end up like Wesley Snipes? Not at all. But it’s a good start.

Then again, I could always flip Ol’ Sam the bird and someday become the Secretary of the Treasury. At least I’ll have a backup if this journalism thing doesn’t work out!

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