The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) included several provisions that affect how independent journalists are taxed on their business income. We asked Matthew Apodaca, a certified public accountant and executive vice president at NCH Tax & Wealth Advisors in Fullerton, California, to help us understand the current tax situation for freelancers.
I recently decided to become a full-time freelance journalist after working in the field part time over the past few years. As a full-time doctoral student, I knew I needed to do something that allowed for a flexible schedule and fulfilled my academic needs as well.
I started freelancing nearly a decade ago, before the recession had taken hold. I’d worked at a community newspaper for several years, covering education, neighborhood news and the arts, and I wanted to explore new ground. At the time, it may have sounded risky to trade the downtown office for my sunroom, but the housing market hadn’t yet collapsed.
In the last Freelance Toolbox column, I shared my teachable moments in pursuing digs as a freelancer as part of the issue’s Freedom of Information theme. The short version of the article is: learn from my costly mistakes. Do not submit a single word, or even discuss stories at length, without a cast-iron contract.
You’re a freelancer who decided to pursue a dig. You hit some sticky spots along the way. There are a few common issues that freelancers face. Gregg Leslie, legal defense director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and SPJ’s Ethics Committee chairman Andrew Seaman weigh in here and in the next issue of Quill on a few legal issues freelancers face.
We freelancers live in our own world. So the concept of a shared office space, where individuals and small companies produce from one happy hub — working alongside one another but not necessarily with each other — seems ideal. It seems especially ideal to have access to an office at a discounted rate, with tools and equipment, and every journo’s lifeblood, endless coffee.
Once we start digging into freelancing, it doesn’t take long before we find out that editors receive all kinds of queries every week. Even editors of publications with modest circulations receive lots of emails. So getting noticed can be tough, especially when one is just starting out.
Travel is more a state of mind and less about where you go. Maybe that sounds New Age-y, but you don’t have to be a swingin’ single backpacker hiking hostel to hostel or a wealthy globetrotter to carve out a growing travel writing career.
One of the hardest lessons to learn when freelancers start out is how to charge for services. Those coming out of professional careers may have a different perspective, but I’ve seen personally and among my artist friends that asking for money for a job you love to do sometimes feels like panhandling for spare change.
Writing is hard. If writing comes easy, my guess is you’re either doing it wrong or you’re a genius, and I’ve never met a genius. Freelancers are faced with the toughest part of a tough job: finding the story. Beat reporters have the advantage — if you want to call it that — of tending small gardens of public interest, such as cops or schools, in which each blossom might decorate the next day’s publication; but freelancers trod acres upon acres of generally disregarded underbrush.
Welcome to the (official) freelance community! You’re taking a bold step along with SPJ. The freelance community is a virtual chapter that meets online, linking SPJ members who are freelancers, no matter their locale. The most powerful thing about SPJ is its breadth.
Taking a look at the news business, most viewers and readers would assume firms that deal in information are destined for extinction. While large newspapers shutter their operations and broadcast outlets form partnerships and try to consolidate, a few news organizations are staying viable and even turning a profit.