Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Registering for self employment

This is how I registered for self employment and set up my writing business (simply named "Piara Strainge") to make it all official. As far as I know, I'm ticking all of the boxes. I’ve filed two tax returns now and so far so good.

NB: All of my information came from www.hmrc.gov.uk 

You need to register for self assessment as soon as your circumstances change. I think you have three months from the new business start date, or from when you first start earning money from the new business. My start date was July 2011 so I made sure I registered by October 2011. HMRC sent me the link to the self assessment form and I filled it out online, printed and posted it back. This information is important for HMRC to get your records straight because you don't want to pay too much tax or National Insurance contributions.

Details you can expect to divulge:

Your National Insurance number.

Your contact details and the contact details of your new business.

Your ten-digit Unique Taxpayer Reference number if you have previously completed a Self Assessment return. You’ll find this on letters or forms sent by HMRC about your tax return - I got my UTR number once I'd registered because this is all new to me.

The date your circumstances changed (basically your start date).

So, nothing too scary...

Once you’ve registered for Self Assessment, HMRC will set up your records and send you your new Unique Taxpayer Reference or UTR. Keep it in a safe place! You’ll then get a letter telling you when you need to send your first tax return. The letter will usually be in April, but it may be earlier if you need to send a tax return back for an earlier tax year. If you don't receive a notice or a tax return, you should contact HMRC.

The one other thing I did was to apply to exempt myself from paying Class 2 National Insurance contributions (using form CF10). Why did I do this? Because I honestly didn't think I'd make £5,000 in my first year of self employment.

Actually, I didn’t make that in my second year either.

Here's what HMRC say about this: 

If you have low earnings
If you earn less than £5,315 per year you can apply for a Certificate of Small Earnings Exception and not pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions. However, you might decide to carry on paying them voluntarily to keep your entitlement to the State Pension and other benefits.

More information about Class 2 National Insurance contributions can be found here.

Crescent moon with Venus

Taken at dawn this morning... pretty humbling.

Read about it here

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Contributing online

I've just started to write articles and posts for online magazines and blogs and I’m really enjoying it. It’s a great way to flex your writing muscles and ease into longer projects if you’ve been stalling.

I saved a tweet from ages ago - something along the lines of 30 websites that pay you to contribute. Here are some that caught my eye (with a writing focus of course). I'm pretty sure there are thousands more. Just Google it…

Writers Weekly
Niche: Make Money Writing
Payment Method: Unknown
Writers Weekly is an online publication that is distributed to paying subscribers. With Writers Weekly you will be paid anything from $40 to $60 for articles you submit.

One Spoon at a Time

Niche: Writing/Marketing/Blogging
Payment Method: Paypal
One Spoon at a Time features around 2 guest posts every month from guest bloggers, all of which will be paid. You can write any blog post based on the categories listed above, and you will be paid a flat rate of $50 for your article upon publication.

Make a Living Writing
Niche: Make Money Writing
Payment Method: Paypal
This is a blog where you can pitch an idea for consideration on subjects such as freelance writing and making money writing. You will be paid $50 for any of your articles that are accepted.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Making money as a freelancer

Some ideas for making money freelancing:

  • Sell ads on your website through joining a blog network such as BlogHer or putting Adsense ads from Google on your site.
  • Write guest posts on blogs.
  • Sell articles to magazines and newspapers online and offline.
  • Write marketing and / or advertising copy for local and online businesses.
  • Teach / coach on writing.
  • Edit or critique manuscripts.
  • Ghostwriting.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Starting fresh as a freelancer

Photo credit Shutterstock

I remember my head spinning for a few weeks after making the decision to finish with full time for the foreseeable future. You can feel lost without the camaraderie of an office environment; in fact, this was what I missed the most during those first, strange, non-routine months.

I think stepping back, reflecting and taking stock is really important, which is why I took a three-week break to spend time with family and clear my head immediately after leaving my full time job.

My next step was to plan my year, month by month (only roughly at this early stage, but it was good to get something on paper to see where I was heading). At the time I was turning thirty at the end of the year, so enjoying the last year of my twenties was really important to me, yet I still wanted to have time for writing – both working on my novels and testing out freelance.

Before I even started touching up my website, or looking at the notes I'd made on my saga, I was considering my options for every day freelance work. So I decided it might help to put together a resume covering my knowledge and experience, what topics I was an authority on, and what skills and qualifications I had.

I’m not going to lie - freelance writing IS a difficult way to make a living and you shouldn't try this if you don't have savings! Also mentally you have to stay focused, strong and passionate about what you're doing. There's a fabulous opportunity there to shape and mold your career into whatever you want it to be and actively create your dream job.

But you must write and write and keep writing!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

To be a writer...

It may sound odd, but when I embarked on the Writers Bureau comprehensive course a good few years back, I had no idea what being published really entailed. I honestly thought in my naivety that you could write what the hell you liked and someone would be up for publishing it.

Oh, how wrong I was!

Writing is a craft like any skill and the world of publishing is a tricky and complicated business. So, I was very quickly going to have to learn how to do it well and how to do it right to even have a smidge of a chance.

First and foremost, throw the ego out of the window and write the masterpiece in your spare time. The money is going to come from the hours you spend on targeted articles and other freelance work.

Improve your acceptance rate by researching the markets you want to write for.

Hone your writing skills so the style you use and the content you produce is suitable.

Then, spend the time to review and revise.

It goes without saying - be reliable and professional. The majority of freelance work is recommendation by word of mouth.

Follow guidelines when submitting. There are times to be maverick, but this is not one of them.

Keep your options open.

And finally, be prepared to work and work and work - sometimes at the most unsociable of hours!

Free e-guide for new authors!

If you are new to writing and publishing, pick up your free download of my handy 3-part e-guide An Introduction to the Publishing Industry today to help you get started.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

New Freelance series

Kicking off a new blog series about all things Freelance now...

At the end of 2011, my circumstances were such that I decided to leave the 9 to 5 for a while and try my hand at freelancing.

At the time I wrote a series about the preparation for setting up in business and included lots of advice and tips for laying the foundations to make a success of it.

I was learning as I went along and it was an interesting journey because I ended up getting sidetracked and freelancing in too much - too many projects on the go and unfortunately not ones that were making me any money. But we live and learn.

I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the series so you can see the "now and then" of my experiences.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Growing as a writer

As I mentioned in my last post, reading a wide variety of material does help you grow as a writer.

I was reading an article in Psychology Today about the things that happen in our sub conscious when we read.

I thought about how these different processes can be used to improve our writing and ultimately create a great novel. When I first started writing, I never considered my audience, but this was a huge mistake because if your reader can't connect on some level, they will give up on your book.

Pamuk says when we read we seek out the meaning of the story, so does your book have one central idea and theme, that initial hook to get them interested in the first place?

The transformation of words to images... have you built up enough descriptive text so your readers can picture your setting and characters and place themselves in your novel's world?

When you've experienced something, it is so much easier to write about because you've been there and know exactly how it feels and how you reacted, but that doesn't mean you can't touch on subjects that are new to you. If you research and interview enough, you have the potential to capture the moment so that the reader will wonder if it's real experience or just imagination...

However, make sure your scenes are realistic to your genre.

You have to love your text and put the time into editing and revising because then you will piece together a powerful narrative that your audience will love too. People who read are always looking for that next amazing book that really moves them.

Create believable characters. As readers, we are judging them, loving them, hating them, feeling sorry for them, willing them and questioning them.

As a writer, keep track of your storyline. A well written novel will connect the dots for the reader into a well rounded plot.

Bring all of these things together to write a satisfying story and do yourself justice.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

New project and Goodreads

I've finally joined Goodreads after all of this time and I've set myself a challenge to read twelve books this year. Yep, one a month! Reading a wide variety of work does make you a better writer, so I'm very positive about my pledge.

Also, I'm finally bringing together old material and writing new bonus material for an eBook I hope to go live with in the Spring entitled Getting Ready to Freelance and Write. This will be a guide to laying the foundations to give you the best chance of turning your writing hobby into a serious writing business. 

Monday, 3 February 2014

The key to self promotion

Some people can talk about themselves and what they do all day long, whilst others struggle to articulate their belief in themselves and their work. There's also a vast difference between shameless self promotion verses the ability to enthuse about your work and experiences, make people laugh and enrich their life with your tales. I know what side of the coin I'd like to fall on.

In the self publishing world, self promoting is not about forcing an audience to like you and your book. You shouldn't be constantly tweeting "Buy my book" and spamming people through the various social media channels. This kind of bombardment doesn't do you justice and it certainly doesn't add any value to your brand. A few sales may result, but most people will delete you to avoid the spam. We all know the social media code of conduct and not respecting it shows that you don't respect yourself, your fellow writers, or your audience.

Effective self promotion is about real belief in your book and yourself as a brand and pointing out the value of your knowledge and experience. It's a willingness to share, not bombard. This isn't easy with fiction as there are millions of stories, which is why a lot of wannabe writers (like myself) also have non-fiction blogs where we share our publishing experiences and offer advice on our specialist subjects. First you have to establish trust with your potential readers, then they become interested in your style, content, personality - and finally if they really like you and your work, they are more inclined to buy at this point.

Shameless self promoters only show up their chasm of ignorance - that they haven't bothered to do their market research, which could translate as they don't care who their readers are.

If self promotion doesn't come easy to you, just remember you are offering something of value to your audience. You don't have to hard sell anything!