Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Naked Marketers podcast, Episode 07

Good morning all. I've been swamped here and I should be writing instead of posting, but I needed a mental break, so it goes. It's a quickie, which assuages my guilt somewhat. Somewhat.

I had the great honor and pleasure of being the featured (and fully clothed) guest on the Naked Marketers Episode 07 podcast with my friend Pete Wright of Fifth & Main in Portland, whom I spoke about last year on my 10th anniversary of being in business. The whole episode is worth listening to, as the panel talks Tiger to marketing and social media trends to technology and Pete's infatuation with the new iPad. My segment, which dives into a variety of freelance writing topics—choosing your battles, the importance of experimenting, how to tighten up your copy, and how technology is changing the lay of the land—starts around minute 40.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Paging Dr. Freelance

I've been populating content into a separate blogging project for a while, and it's high time to release it into the wild:

I receive thought-provoking questions on a regular basis from a variety of colleagues, friends and over-the-transom folks, and I thought that an advice column for freelancers (or for clients with questions about working with their creative independent contractors) would be the ideal format to amplify that. The healthcare theme, ripe with metaphors of diagnosis, sickness, healing and wellness, seemed just goofy enough to be perfect for me.

And my parents always wanted me to be a doctor.

I'll still be posting regularly here at Jake's Takes, continuing to focus on my usual "business anecdotes with a moral" theme.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Just 15 more days till tax Canada

My family and I spent most of 2009 as expatriates in New Brunswick, Canada, but today, alas, I bring no bawdy tales of being screeched in as an honorary Newfoundlander, or of seeing mooses in Cape Breton, or of watching whales blow in the Bay of Fundy, or learning how to curl (which is far more difficult than it looks).

No, comrades, the topic du jour is an international freelancer's view of the differences in our income tax systems, which for some reason is on top of my mind today.
  • I can't speak for anyone else, but at our income level, a Canadian pays more than a comparable U.S. citizen. A lot more. Keep in mind, this is on top of an already-nasty federal/provincial sales tax (13% in N.B.) and, worst of all, wicked tariffs on liquor. Oddly enough, easy access to unemployment benefits (known shorthand as "EI," for Employment Insurance) and healthcare are not free. They are expensive.
  • Although we paid into the healthcare and EI systems, we were not eligible for benefits. We were covered by a Cigna International policy.
  • That being said, I admire how simple the Canadian T1 General Income Tax and Benefit Return is. Ours was 19 pages long, and it covered both federal and provincial taxes.  
  • By comparison, our fed and Arizona forms ran 47 and 16 pages, respectively. And to add insult to injury, the postage to mail our 1040 cost almost a dollar more than the T1!
  • The T1 is also admirably clear about what your tax rate calculation is, compared to the byzantine B.S. charts in the U.S. system. The Canadian government appears quite content to spell out how badly you're getting reamed.
On a final note, for U.S. citizen freelancers who find themselves outposted north of the border: Make sure you're an LLC. As it turns out, freelancing in Canada went very smoothly and my fears from last May of owing taxes to the Dominion on my worldwide income were unfounded. Our tax preparer concluded that "Boomvang Creative does not carry on business in Canada through a permanent establishment maintained in Canada."

Uncle Sam, you're very welcome.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Client communication 101 (and Schrödinger's Deadline)

I was recently working for a client for whom English is a second language, quickly discovering that our easiest form of communication was chat. The project at hand was hot, requiring a good chunk of my time several days in a row. On Day 2, he asked me how long I thought a certain section would take to write, and I answered, "Oh, about an hour." He responded that he thought that seemed fast, and I typed back that it might take a bit more time in revisions, but the first draft would indeed take around that long.

The next day, panic struck. I found out through a third party that I "wasn't hitting my deadlines." I was a bit dumbfounded, since I really hadn't been given a specific deadline in the first place. How can you miss a deadline that you didn't know about? (I'm coining it a Schrödinger's Deadline™, in tribute to the famous thought experiment with the cat in a box that might be dead or alive depending on whether a radioactive source had broken open a flask of poison. It's a quantum physics thang.)

Anyway, I puzzled for a while before coming to the explanation: He had expected to have the piece in his hands 60 minutes after our initial conversation.

I sent this knowledge back up the chain of command, and as far as I can tell, everything was effectively patched up. What I do know for certain, even if I'm still unaware of a deadline, I know in the future to cite not only the duration, but the projected time of arrival.

Friday, April 2, 2010

9 secrets to becoming Superclient

(OK, maybe "Superclient" is a bit strong, but at least a client who makes us creatives super happy and therefore super productive. And that's what you want, isn't it?)

The always-entertaining Ad Chick runs a little ad agency in Hooterville, U.S.A., and her Wednesday post, "Being a good client" hits the mark on a number of levels. I found it particularly interesting that it was driven by a client 1) realizing that they had been Behaving Badly and 2) wanting to turn that around. In all my years, I've never heard of that before.

For me, Ad Chick's list underscores the importance of respect and trust in the client-vendor relationship. (It's also a good reminder for those of us who put on the client hat when we sub out work to other solo entrepreneurs.) Not only is it more productive that way, it's a helluva lot more fun.