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Business matters
Separating yourself from your 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

Business advisers are universal in their suggestions that small-business owners should separate their personal finances from their businesses. The reasons may vary depending on the adviser’s professional focus — legal, tax or business.

Among the reasons most applicable to freelancers:

• If you have set up a corporation, partnership or limited liability company, having separate business and personal accounts draws a line around assets that might be available to settle claims against the business.

• Separating personal and business affairs may help convince the IRS that your business expenses should be deductible if a tax dispute arises.

• Having business accounts may help you compete with bigger companies when vying for assignments with potential clients you haven’t done much work for. They may be willing to give you a small gig as a try-out, but hesitate to assign a larger project later on if you are having payments made to or depositing them into a personal account.

• Some banks, vendors and service providers offer special accommodations or programs to businesses. Having your business name on your charge card shows you are operating a bona fide business and makes it easier to show you should qualify for such resources.


Advisers recommend having separate bank accounts and credit cards for business and personal use, and not mixing transactions between the two.

• Deposit all business income directly into the business’s checking account. Don’t deposit business payments into your personal account, even if you intend to move the money into the business account later.

• If your want to park business cash in an interest-bearing account, open a savings account in the business’s name and tie it to the business checking account (if possible).

• If you operate as a sole proprietor or S corporation, have a separate, personal savings account to store money you set aside to pay federal and state income and self-employment taxes.

• Make all business-related purchases with the business’s credit or debit card, write checks from the business checking account or tie your PayPal account to your business account so you can use business money to pay business expenses. Don’t pay for personal expenses from your business accounts.

If you have a good relationship with banks where you already have accounts, check with them first to see what accommodations they will make for your business. Some waive fees either entirely or for customers with loans or other deposit accounts.

If you’re starting from scratch, check out the financial website NerdWallet.com — it has a state-by-state listing of banks that offer free small-business checking accounts and an up-to-date listing of “best credit cards.” If possible, sign up for a rewards or cash-back card to get a little benefit every time you charge.


Whether and how to separate business from personal communications is an individual decision that may depend on your circumstances. If you are particularly concerned about liability issues (for example, if you produce investigative pieces for print, Internet or broadcast media), you would be better off with as much separation as possible. Having a business email address, phone number and/or mailbox is the first step.

If your business has a website, you might find it relatively easy (and free or inexpensive) to set up an email address as part of the package from your website host. This also ties your communications together and begins to build your brand. Another place to try is your Internet service provider, which may allow you to have several email addresses on its system.

You might choose to go with a free or low-cost email provider. However, if you are particularly concerned about the security of your email messages and contact list, check out their policies and read the latest reviews on which ones get hacked the most — it can be embarrassing to have your business clients receive spam or phishing emails supposedly from you. Some freelancers reserve their free-email use for signing up for incoming emails and reserve their business email accounts for client communications.

Free phone numbers are also readily available, though most accommodate only incoming calls for free. Calls can be forwarded to your mobile or landline, and when you are “off duty,” callers can leave you voice mail.

Many freelancers find mail drops less important than phone numbers and email addresses, opting to receive business mail at their home addresses. Some who work at home find it is a nuisance to have to go collect the mail periodically from a post office box or mail drop. Others have a mailbox nearby and enjoy an excuse to get out of the office/home. If you don’t have a liability issue, or another circumstance that makes it important for you to keep your home life completely separate from business, this might be a matter of personal preference, not a business decision.

Contributors: Hazel Becker, Paula Pant

Resources: NerdWallet.com for finding financial institutions.

Last updated: January 2018

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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