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TexasDude's avatar

What should I know about "informal" self-employment?

Asked by TexasDude (25274points) May 19th, 2011

Two things:

1. I’m tired of being broke.
2. I keep failing those goofy pre-employment quizzes that jobs give you before they hire you. You know, the ones that are like “If you knew someone was stealing from the company, would you A) Tell your manager or B) Call the FBI. Oh you chose A? I’m sorry, the correct answer is B. No job for you.”

With that in mind, I’ve decided to take full advantage of the pseudo-capitalistic system and put my myriad skills to work in exchange for delicious monies. I’ve already been hired out to give guitar lessons, and I’m currently designing a logo for an up and coming home inspection business. The issue here is that I have a number of services I’d like to offer, but I want to consolidate them under the umbrella of a jack-of-all-trades/independent free lance contractor-designer-laborer type thing just for convenience and identities sake.

The problem is that I have very little business acumen, and I don’t want Uncle Sam to come skullfuck me because I made too much money or didn’t get some goofy license from the city county building before advertising that I can clean pools.

This is where you come in, Fluther. Are there any inherent problems to me just coming up with an informal business identity and hiring myself out to provide random services within my skillset to voluntarily paying customers? How much income can I make before Uncle Sam wants his share? Do I need a business license? What are some good ways to advertise my services or to network?

Thanks in advance, dearies.

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25 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

Start with and develop something you are really good at. Shotgunning a lot of things you are marginally good at will usually just get marginal results. Add to your repertoire as you get work/gigs and a reputation. I saw a kid here make a small fortune air brushing leather jackets and motorcycle gas tanks and in 18 months opened up a shop and made big bucks doing just one thing he got really good at.

One last piece of advice….do not take on a partner…EVER!!

Good luck.

TexasDude's avatar

@Cruiser, thank you sir. I have zero interest in partnering up with anyone, for the record. This is mainly a way for me to earn some income until I go back to school in the fall and I find some more stable employment.

The reason I want to offer a diverse range of services is to basically open up more market opportunities for me. I’m definitely the best at designing, but I only have one client at the moment. I’ve been told numerous times that I’m a great guitar teacher, and I’m pretty confident in my yard maintenance abilities, so I’m not too worried about offering a myriad of shoddy-ish services when I should be doing one thing well. I do see what you mean, though, and I do see the benefit to focusing on a specific niche. Thanks!

sliceswiththings's avatar

Uncle Sam won’t care if it’s just for the summer. My friend Jasper offered his services as “Jolly Jasper.” He took a picture of himself in this elf costume or something, and put up a ton of fliers. He listed a few services, like weed whacking and dog walking, but people called Jolly Jasper for all kinds of things. You just need a gimmick!

TexasDude's avatar

@sliceswiththings, sweet. That’s awesome. I was thinking of coming up with a catchy, slightly tongue-in-cheek, yet serious sounding name to play on the kind of absurd aesthetic that is so popular these days. Something like Renaissance Industries or whatever. I could design a fancy logo. Like a coat of arms or something.

marinelife's avatar

Ok, you owe social security and medicare tax starting with the first dollar above $400 that you earn:

“Paying Social Security and Medicare taxes

The Social Security tax rate for 2011 is 13.3 percent on self-employment income up to $106,800. If your net earnings exceed $106,800, you continue to pay only the Medicare portion of the Social Security tax, which is 2.9 percent, on the rest of your earnings.”

You need to file the following forms if you make more than $400:

“You must complete the following federal tax forms by April 15 after any year in which you have net earnings of $400 or more:

* Form 1040 (U.S. Individual Income Tax Return);
* Schedule C (Profit or Loss from Business) or Schedule F (Profit or Loss from Farming) as appropriate; and
* Schedule SE (Self-Employment Tax).”


My advice:

1. Figure the percentage of tax that you will owe and bank that amount of money in a separate tax account each time you get paid.

2. Let me echo Cruiser. Do not, under any circumstances, enter into a partnership.

TexasDude's avatar

@marinelife, oh damn… Thanks for the info. That’s the kind of legalese stuff I was looking for.

augustlan's avatar

The licensing question depends on your local government (city/county/state). Some places require a license for everydamnthing. In my area, I have to have a business license to rent out the other half of my duplex.

Also, I vote for Renaissance Man or Jack-of-All-Trades.

BarnacleBill's avatar

You might want to package yourself as a personal assistant. We know people who hire college students to do things for them like renew their car tags, run with them several times a week, pick up the dry cleaning, take elderly relatives to the doctor, deliver papers to the attorney, packages to UPS, rearrange furniture, be a working guest at parties, etc. The guy has people contract for X number of hours a week, at $X per hour. He has 3 clients right now and works 35 hours a week. The hours can be screwy; sometimes he sets up and clears up dinner parties on the weekend, and drives drunk guests home afterwards. The guys he works for are divorced men, business owners, doctors, etc., who miss all the stuff their ex-wives did for them, but don’t miss being married.

I guess it’s a modern day version of Jeeves.

TexasDude's avatar

@augustlan, I’ll be sure and check. And thanks for the input on the name :D

@BarnacleBill, thank you so much… that’s pretty much exactly what I want to do, though I didn’t really have a professional-sounding designation for it.

BarnacleBill's avatar

This is an interesting business idea

TexasDude's avatar

@BarnacleBill, yeah, I’ve heard of them! I like their style and their business model.

anartist's avatar

You are a jack-of-all-trades. Market that. Colorfully. You are someone who could pull that off.
Although I have had a :“real career-type job” for many years I have always done something on the side—for me the hats have ranged from art and design to writing and editing and I would even maybe walk a dog or two. I am now retired from my “real” job and do a variety of things—have even helped a friend sell Christmas trees at his Eastern Market stand one winter.

A couple of suggestions—

1. if you are small potatoes, you don’t need to get balled up in “business bank accounts” or any of that complicated crap. Just be sure if any of your clients pay you by check they use your name, not your business name [unless it follows your name as in—Fiddle dba The Mighty Quinn] or you might find that you cannot deposit your check in your own account abnd your bank will pressure you to open a business account.

2.Package yourself well—cool biz cards/ads/posters.
3Get around where those who do what you do are to network—I got involved with dc webwomen and dcpubs listserv on yahoo—full of leads, problem-solving stuff for technical stuff—also Market your services at places you like to be—gun/militaria shows, re-enactors groups

4. Don’t discount the barter system [will work for beer etc]. don’t discourage cash payment

5 don’t get complicated with your taxes. A graphics studio claimed in a 2 room apartment is an IRS red flag.

6. stay under the radar. stay fluid.

anartist's avatar

playing card jack jack of all trades even a historic image maybe—i think I have images of some historic playing cards from a museum exhibit somewhere

TexasDude's avatar

…working on a logo….

TexasDude's avatar

…Alright, check this out.

augustlan's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Not that I don’t appreciate the direction you’re going in, but with the image and the “whatever you need, consider it done” I’m picturing a philosophical hit-man! Also, don’t use unnecessary capitalization. :p

anartist's avatar

Leonardo cool—don’t think you need to isolate the image more lines and vellum texture like the drawing? The title is too heavy, the pitch too light. the gold color is too overpowering without contributing
May not have the right font for the mood
his inventions or the man as a measure of all things might work better

augustlan's avatar

Gah. Can’t believe I didn’t recognize Leo! Should have said “artistic hitman”.

Also: Gold? I’m seeing kind of an olivey green.

TexasDude's avatar

@augustlan, lol, I know what you’re referring to…—Consider this a mockup ;D

@anartist, thanks for the suggestions… I’ll keep those in mind when I make future drafts.

Bellatrix's avatar

Oh, and don’t take on a partner! I agree on the comments about your logo. I quite like the tag but I agree with Auggie… whatever you need, consider it done… might get some very interesting propositions!

TexasDude's avatar

@Bellatrix maybe that’s what I was shootin’ for ;D

Bellatrix's avatar

Hey, well go for it :-D I have absolutely no doubt you will be a success!!

Bellatrix's avatar

Now I am thinking about that awful television programme… Hung…...... back to work!!!

Nullo's avatar

In case you were wondering, the answer is ALWAYS “tell a manager.” It doesn’t flatter a person’s sense of autonomy, but then, autonomy isn’t what they’re after.

TexasDude's avatar

@Nullo tell a manager isn’t what Spencer’s Gifts wanted, apparently o_0

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