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Business matters
Five reasons to pay attention to business

On Your Own: A Guide to Freelance Journalism

> Home

> Introduction: The freelance side of life

Freelance journalism 101

> Vocabulary lesson

> Dollars and sense

> Contracts are essential

> Copyright 101

> Dressing for success as a freelancer

> Staying productive even when you’re not working

Business matters

> Five reasons to pay attention to business

> Contracts and copyright — beyond the basics

> Getting your business organized

> Separating yourself from your business

> Keeping track of business

> Taxing matters

> Insurance considerations for freelance journalists

Making a living

> Time and money

> Budgeting without a salary

> A simple way to boost your pay: Ask

> Retirement planning: Where to stash your cash?

Finding work

> Finding your way to work

> Trolling the web for work

> Inspiration for finding the story

> Brainstorming ideas you can sell

> Pitching your way to a full story calendar

> Tips on freelancing for newspapers

Marketing yourself

> Paying attention to business

> Making a home for your business on the web

> Networking: the key to staying happy and fed

> Business cards help make the best first impression

Tools of the trade

> Why journalism ethics matter

> Four tips for better self-editing

> Selected websites for finding freelance journalism assignments

> Journalism organizations

> Journalism reading list

Whether you are freelancing to earn a living or to supplement your primary means of support, chances are good that you did not start out thinking you wanted to own a business — but being a successful freelancer often means having to think like a business person. Here are five reasons you should think of your freelance activities as a business, and of yourself as a business owner.

1. No one else is going to take care of business matters for you. Questions like “Do I need a business license?” and “Did I make a profit last year?” won’t get answered if you don’t tend to them yourself. And, if you don’t tend to them, you may have to spend time playing catch-up later on. Wouldn’t you rather be writing, editing, producing, [fill in the blank] than filing appeals or claims?

2. People who might hire you to write, edit, photograph, film or record journalism for them will take you more seriously if you present yourself as a business. Unless you are among the lucky freelancers who have more work than they can handle, thinking — and acting — like a business owner will help you compete in an increasingly crowded field of journalists seeking freelance assignments.

3. The IRS will let you deduct more expenses against your freelance income if your activities constitute a business rather than a hobby. If your business-income claim is challenged, you have a better chance of convincing the tax authorities to allow your deductions if you can demonstrate that you take your business seriously.

4. You may incur liability from your professional journalism activities. Planning your business structure and weighing the risks of your business activities will help you limit your exposure.

5. Approaching business issues (contracts, pay rates, collections, taxes) as if they matter to you will help you earn more money and keep more of what you are paid.

In a packed freelancing session at an SPJ regional conference several years ago, many of the participants indicated they had not thought about some of these issues. Some of them weren’t declaring their freelance income on their tax returns, and many of those who declared it weren’t taking deductions for their expenses. A business bank account? A business license? Insurance? Some of these thoughts hadn’t crossed their minds.

This section of the Guide will help you think about business issues in a way that makes your work time more productive and gives you more time to devote to your professional activities. Whether you rely on your freelance income for living expenses or use it to supplement another means of support, these topics are worth your consideration.

Last updated: January 2015

Copyright © 2012-2018 by Society of Professional Journalists. All Rights Reserved.

Questions or comments? Please post them in the Freelance Guide Comments forum of the Freelance Community Board or email fcguide@spj.org. We'll answer as soon as we can!


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