Being self-employed has a lot of perks, especially for military spouses. Self-employment gives you the ability to work from wherever you’re located and the flexibility to create the right amount of workload that fits your lifestyle.
Self-employment gave me the power to make my career work with the military lifestyle. But “with power comes great responsibility.” Thank you Spider-Man for bringing to the forefront an important point!
In a typical office setting, there are departments that have experts to help piece together an efficient business. Freelancers and solopreneurs have to be their own human resources, accounting and any other pertinent department that ties in with your field. It comes down to us to make sure everything is squared away.
At the end of the year, I find myself taking a little extra time to make sure I’m at a good place with my business affairs, particularly income-wise for when tax season hits. In addition, I evaluate how the year mapped out and plan out the year ahead to make sure I continue to see growth and improvement.
It seemed fitting to share my end-of-the-year checklist, in hopes that it would help another self-employed military spouse. Here are 7 important tasks to cross off as you wrap up 2016!
1. Calculate your income.
Hopefully, you’ve outlined and tracked your income throughout the year. If not, do your darndest to get the most accurate figure for tax purposes. I keep my clients and contracts separate from each other on an Excel spreadsheet. I also keep all my invoices handy for reference, in case I forget to update the Excel file.
2. Tally up your receipts.
I’m guilty that I don’t do the best to save all my business expenses (i.e. the Metro rides for meetings or the binder I threw in my basket at Target among other things). That’s OK. You can have ballpark figures for your expenses as long as you could prove somewhere that you purchased it for your business. For example, I typically buy $20 dollars at a time on my Metro card, where half of it might go toward business and the other leisure.
I have to stress that you shouldn’t discount anything! My daily planner and new laptop that I use for my mobile work station, count as business expenses and if you’re filing your taxes as self-employed, it gets completely deducted from your income.
Note: If you have specific questions about business expenses as a self-employed military spouse, please talk with a CPA or tax adviser. We, at NextGen MilSpouse, are crazy smart, but we aren’t tax experts. Obviously.
3. Know your write-offs.
There are other specifics that benefit self-employed individuals. To be honest, I’ve hired an accountant that helps me keep everything straight. She helps me calculate my home office deduction and pretty much everything else tax-related on the federal and state level. Try to hire a military spouse accountant, so you too can keep it in the family.
4. Clean and purge your workplace, plus shred and file important items.
I like to think I keep my home office clean, but I do have the habit of stacking things for the sake of looking organized. When I’m working on getting my receipts, paid invoices and other relevant documentation together, I shift through other paperwork to see if I really need it. If not, I shred it.
If I need to keep it, I file it or scan it, depending on what it is.
In addition, I go through already filed documents to see if these documents would be beneficial for tax filing or potential 2016 evaluation or 2017 goal setting, which brings me to my favorite end-of-the-year checklist item!
5. Review your 2016 goals list.
At the beginning of each year, I outline major goals and several minor ones to keep me on track. In December, it’s the perfect time for me to dig into the numbers. Because I typically pay estimated taxes per quarter, I have to think about my estimated income.
When I sit down with my accountant, I tell her the amount of money that I hope to make this year. I aim for an amount that is more than the year before. Not only does that give me personal encouragement, the fact that someone else (besides my spouse) is tracking my potential income makes it more real to me.
6. Set goals for 2017.
With the year closing, it means that I’ve gained one more year of experience. Consider that when you put together new proposals, quotes or pay negotiations. Compensation is an important goal for me each new year. Also, there are several other non-monetary driven goals that could be important.
In January 2016, I started graduate school. That was an important goal for me in this year and I will be (hopefully, gulp) graduating in 2017.
7. Lastly, celebrate your successes!
My spouse and I tend to slot out vacay time in December/January because it’s easier for us to take time off. We budget for our vacation throughout the year, but really ramp up efforts closer to the end of the year. This family vacation is our way of celebrating a year of career and personal successes.
Celebrating your successes doesn’t necessarily mean a vacation. There are so many different ways to make a celebration special, so think about something (outside of work) that makes you happy – and do it – with your loved ones!
Here’s to a successful 2017!