Self-Employed? Lower Your Tax Bill!

Self-Employed? Lower Your Tax Bill!

Tax season is probably the most important time for independent consultants to think like business owners. This especially means being smart about how we handle our money. Our motivation is simple: pay as little tax as possible, ideally without triggering an audit. We all should be asking ourselves (and our accountants) this question:

As a business owner, what can I do to lower my tax bill? 

The answer is to maximize your tax deductions for this year and take steps to reap tax saving benefits every year. This article touches on the first and explores the second in depth.

For the Near Term: Take Standard Business Owner Deductions

You don’t have to have a legal business structure like an LLC or S-corp to take advantage of standard business-owner tax deductions. Sole proprietors qualify for deductions too, even if you only consult part time.

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Why and How Personal Branding is Vital for Independent Consultants

Why and How Personal Branding is Vital for Independent Consultants

Everyone in business recognizes strong brands and understands their importance. Coca-Cola. Nike. Apple. These brands represent certain values. Their branding helps drive sales by keeping their products or services fresh in the consumer’s mind.

Independent consultants need to think the same way. You need to be top-of-mind when the need for your expertise pops up so the client thinks to call you, or their colleague thinks to refer you.

In our field this is called personal branding. It’s not about creating a fancy logo or website; it’s about being known for something and consistently emphasizing your expertise. It’s about your reputation. It’s about your image, how you’re perceived in the workplace and online. It’s how you promote yourself and “go to market.” And it’s an ongoing effort.

Personal branding is not just some touchy-feely, trendy idea, or something that just happens. It takes conscious thought and repeated attention.

 

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For Independent Consultants, Business Development = Relationship Development

For Independent Consultants, Business Development = Relationship Development

The biggest stressor for self-employed management consultants is business development: how to cultivate meaningful regular work. It’s vexing for a variety of reasons. First, consultants are good at helping clients solve problems but usually aren’t trained in sales or marketing. Second, when knee-deep in projects and facing deadlines, consultants are hard-pressed to find time to publish thought-leadership articles or create, launch, and manage marketing campaigns.

To meet the challenge I recommend changing your frame of reference. Instead of thinking of how companies or consulting firms typically handle business development, use an approach more like how we work as individuals and soloprenuers. Take for example real estate agents, who are experts at keeping their names fresh in people’s minds:

  • At least once a week I get a postcard listing recent home sales in my neighborhood.
  • Once a week I get an email with an interactive map showing which homes in the city closed escrow and at what price.
  • Once a month I get a memo pad with the realtor’s name, photo, and area of expertise.
  • Once a quarter I get a postcard of upcoming social and sporting events in the city.
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Do Independent Consultants Still Need Résumés?

Do Independent Consultants Still Need Résumés?

The biggest stressor for self-employed management consultants is business development: how to cultivate meaningful regular work. It’s vexing for a variety of reasons. First, consultants are good at helping clients solve problems but usually aren’t trained in sales or marketing. Second, when knee-deep in projects and facing deadlines, consultants are hard-pressed to find time to publish thought-leadership articles or create, launch, and manage marketing campaigns.

To meet the challenge I recommend changing your frame of reference. Instead of thinking of how companies or consulting firms typically handle business development, use an approach more like how we work as individuals and soloprenuers. Take for example real estate agents, who are experts at keeping their names fresh in people’s minds:

  • At least once a week I get a postcard listing recent home sales in my neighborhood.
  • Once a week I get an email with an interactive map showing which homes in the city closed escrow and at what price.
  • Once a month I get a memo pad with the realtor’s name, photo, and area of expertise.
  • Once a quarter I get a postcard of upcoming social and sporting events in the city.
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Your Consulting Niche vs Jack-of-All-Trades Myth

Your Consulting Niche vs Jack-of-All-Trades Myth

Many people who embark on the independent professional path think they should define their services broadly so they will look like a good fit for many projects. The exact opposite is true.

My company represents self-employed professionals across the country, and over the last seven years I have interviewed, coached, or worked with more than 200 independent management consultants. Thanks to all these interviews and projects, I am convinced that the people who always seem to have work are those who “own” a particular consulting niche or service area.

Let’s look at some examples.

I know a highly talented professional with over 20 years of experience with several Fortune 500 companies. Several years ago, my company agreed to represent her. She believed in the jack-of-all-trades myth: she would get more work if she described her expertise in a variety of ways. Here is a verbatim snippet from her résumé at the time:

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What Legal Business Structure Do Consultants Need?

What Legal Business Structure Do Consultants Need?

This is one of the questions I get asked most frequently by independent management consultants. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the hardest to answer because every person’s situation is different and there are multiple factors to consider. While this article will help you think through the various factors, here is the short answer: 90% of the self-employed consultants I know are set up as either a sole proprietorship or a single-member LLC.

Why is this decision so important? Although it can be a boring subject, your business structure will have significant implications, including:

Taxes. Not only how much or how little you pay but also the ease or complexity of preparing your taxes.

Lawsuits. We live in an extremely litigious society and need to consider asset protection; this is why business insurance is also an important consideration.

Image. Potential clients will perceive you differently if you have “LLC” or “Inc.” as part of your business name. More about this below.

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One Easy Step to a Polished Professional Image

One Easy Step to a Polished Professional Image

When you're a self-employed management consultant, conveying a professional image is critical to maximizing pay and profit.

Consultants who present a professional image as a stand-alone business can charge more for their services. It’s all about perception. If you look like you are doing consulting on the side or between jobs, clients won’t take you as seriously as someone who is a dedicated professional.

You will pay less in taxes—possibly a lot less—if you take advantage of business-owner tax deductions and contribute to your own retirement plan. To do this you should be paid on a 1099 tax basis instead of on a W-2 basis like a temp worker. To understand why, watch the 70-second video, “Why Friends Don’t Let Friends W-2.”

To be paid on a 1099 or business-to-business basis, you will likely need to demonstrate that you are an established business. There are dozens of ways to do this, but let’s keep this simple and pinpoint just one: your email address.

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Independent Consultants: Excellence Begins Here

Independent Consultants: Excellence Begins Here

Have you ever dreamed about starting something and the idea just won’t go away?  You give yourself all sorts of reasons not to pursue it.

“I don’t have time.”

“Someone else has probably already done it.”

 “It’s too big. I’ll never be able to accomplish it.”

“I can’t commit to another thing!”

Or in my case, “I hate to write.”

But the idea still won’t go away.

Now, you start thinking about all the reasons you should do it. As you talk yourself into it, the idea spawns scores of related ideas, and you can’t not do it.

So here I am, launching this blogwhich will help you become a better management consultant and solopreneur.

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