There are only two things I miss about working in a regular office job (besides regular interaction with the rest of the working world, of course).
1) IT – Tech Support. I can’t even count the number of hours I’ve spent tearing my hair out over some computer problem that an IT department could fix in minutes. Or how many hours I’ve spent on the phone with obnoxious “help” desks that are horribly misnamed. My own personal IT department is number one on my freelance wish list.
2) HR. Granted, HR departments can be a big pain in the ass, but generally, they help you get paid, on time, and work out all those little details like taxes, benefits, vacation time, and personal/medical leave. I had a baby last May, and I just assumed that because I work for myself, I wasn’t entitled to any kind of maternity or other medical benefits, even though I pay hefty self-employment taxes. Turns out freelancers do qualify for maternity benefits under the Paid Family Leave program (part of State Disability). Only hitch is that you have to pay for related but separate California’s Disability Insurance Elective Coverage. (Essentially, you pay in a certain percentage based on what you make, and if you go on leave, you get back a certain percentage of what you would be making if you were working. The rates are pretty reasonable and the benefit certainly seems worth it.)
I have no idea how I was supposed to know this. It’s not like I could sit down and have a meeting with myself about the benefits available to me as a freelancer. I suppose when I became self-employed I should have done more research about what was available to me and what wasn’t. But mostly I was just trying to get PAID (and keep my equipment running.)
Now I know. And hopefully someone else can benefit from my lack of foresight.
I’m trying to figure out how this site can best serve freelancers. My original idea was to create a go-to place for people looking for freelancers in various fields. They could come to the site, scroll through the links on the right, find the freelancer that best meets their needs, and contact the freelancer directly.
The other option is to make this site an overall resource for freelancers – using the lists on the right to link to resources for each field – how to sites, pitching and pricing guidelines, funding and awards opportunities, legal advice, inspiration, etc.
mediabistro.com and others are already doing this, though you definitely have to do a bit of searching to find the information you’re looking for. I would like this site to be more straightforward.
Ultimately, I would love to include both links to freelancers and links for freelancers, but I fear that would be too much information for one page.
We had our first official workshop Tuesday night – a tax presentation and Q & A with freelance CPA Jason Stallcup. It wasn’t a huge crowd – about 15 people – but I have to say I’m thrilled with how it went. Jason did a fantastic job of presenting tax information in an interesting, informative, and accessible way. The workshop attendees were totally engaged, asking lots of questions. And the location – Sandbox Suites (owned and run by another freelancer on the list) was perfect. But most importantly it was an example of the Freelance Cafe group working. It was a presentation for freelancers, by a freelancer, hosted at a co-working space owned by a freelancer. Love it. I hope this will be the first of many events like this one.
And if you need help with your taxes – call Jason!
Jason Stallcup, CPA
Also, if you’re looking for a workspace, check these guys out.
123 10th Street, SF
For those of you who saw the old freelancecafe.org website, you’ll understand why I made this change. I know there are better options than a blogger blog for a website, but this is what I know and I’m sticking with it for now. If anyone feels like kicking down about $10k for a real website, let me know.
In the meantime, I’m hoping to make this site as useful for freelance folks as I can, so feel free to send me links to useful resource sites or your own websites/blogs and I’ll add it this site.
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted to this blog and a lot has changed. Most importantly, Freelance Cafe is thriving on Facebook and the email list has grown to more than 150 members. We recently merged with a journalism MeetUp group in San Francisco, and the gatherings are getting bigger by the month. (We had at least 30 people at our holiday party, mostly thanks to the amazing friends-seeing-other-friends-attending-an-event phenomenon of Facebook.)
We have our first official workshop coming up on Feb. 10 – a tax seminar. And we have other workshops/events in the works. This is exciting! Clearly there are others out there who are as eager as I am to connect with other freelancers. And I will continue to do my best to make that happen.
For now, the blog is back. Stay tuned.
I was inspired by my friend Robin who created a monthly happy hour for folks who work in the environmental field. I’ve been to his Green Drinks gathering a couple times and it’s impressive – 100 people or more. They now have monthly sponsors. Such a great idea.
So I’ve been asking around about doing a similar thing for freelancers, and it seems that there is some interest. I thought Pacific Coast Brewing Company would be a good spot, and I’ve set the first one for 5/31. The Freelance Cafe Final Thursday gathering for lonely independents like myself. A step in the right direction. Pass it on.
Another resource to offer members – group discounts for the Chicago Manual of Style online. I’m sure there are similar sites/discounts for AP and other style guides.
Small user-group prices:
||$25.00 per user if the group subscribes by September 30, 2007
||10% discount – $22.50 per user if the group subscribes by September 30, 2007
||15% discount – $21.25 per user if the group subscribes by September 30, 2007
||20% discount – $20.00 per user if the group subscribes by September 30, 2007
So apparently my idea is called “co-working” and it’s not a unique idea by far.
Dave Gilson sent me this BusinessWeek.com article about “co-working facilities” popping up all over the place. I’ve logged some of them in previous posts, but there are a number of new ones that opened in 2006.
There’s even a coworking wiki to help coordinate people and coworking facilities across the country and abroad. But there’s still not one in Oakland.
Also check out this slide show of alternative work spaces connected with the article.
Rob Gunnison put me in touch with Doug Merlino – a fellow j-school grad who is now working as a writer in NYC. He works out of a place called the Writer’s Room. It’s been around since 1978 and was founded to create an affordable workspace for writers of all kinds.
Here’s what Doug says about it.
“I love the place I work… Basically, you apply for membership and, assuming you are accepted (you send them a resume and some references), it costs $100 a month to work there. It’s basically a big room with cubicles and a separate kitchen and phone area. You keep your stuff in a locker and, when you come in, grab a place that’s free to work.”
He also told me about another similar place called The Paragraph. This place was founded by two women who wanted to create a work environment similar to what they had in grad school. YES! Their space is gorgeous – I need to find out how they funded it. They also do special events, round tables, etc.
And here’s yet ANOTHER one in Tribeca – The Village Quill. Apparently the waiting lists for these places get so long they have to keep opening new ones.
Finally – Doug pointed me to this NYT article that basically proves the value of these kinds of work spaces. So very encouraging.
Oakland Workforce Investment Board – a city organization helping employees and employers get matched up in Oakland. On the surface it sounds like a lot of dysfunctional city bureaucracy, but maybe there is something here. Need to look into it further.