How To Keep Momentum After Startup Week Fort Collins

As Startup Week Fort Collins nears its epic end, let’s make a plan to keep the momentum into next week and beyond. Whether you got your first taste of coworking, got your mind blown by a musician or felt a much needed boost in motivation as a freelancer, it’s important to not let this enthusiasm dwindle.

Step 1: Outreach

Reach out to everyone in that pile of business cards you collected. Mention something that they said that really resonated with you. Invite them out for a coffee or beer just to talk and get to know one another better.  Ask to take a tour of their company. Mine through the Sched again and pull out company names or people you really enjoyed meeting. Follow them on twitter, like their Facebook pages and read their websites.

Step 2: Digest Your Notes

Did you take as many notes in your awesome FCSW17 notebook as I did? Now is the time to go back through all your notes. Check out the books, blogs or resources that you wrote down. Pull out action items and put them on your list to tackle next week. This post you’re reading right now was actually a footnote in my notebook. Look at me! Taking action!

Step 3: Participate OR Amplify

My key takeaway this week is a new awareness of how many people are doing AMAZING things in our community. Now is the time to participate in those activities by attending meetings or helping to push us forward as a group. If you can’t possibly take on another task, then please be an amplifier. Tell your friends and coworkers about the great progress that is being made. Awareness is the first step to Amazeness! Here are some things I learned about this week:

What are you going to take action on next week? Tell us in the comments below.

 

5 Things All Freelancers Should Do In The New Year

happy new year freelancers 2014

It’s the last day of 2013, and what a year it’s been!!! We’ve experienced ups and downs, failures and successes, but through it all one thing has remained constant: an awesome group of motivated people have gathered at Cohere to work, laugh, and be productive.

As we cross the threshold into 2014, it’s a good time to set goals and intentions for the 365 opportunities that lie ahead. Whether you’re just starting out, or feeling rather content and wondering how to push yourself to new heights, here’s a list of goals every freelancer and entrepreneur should be thinking about.

5 Things All Freelancers Should Do In The New Year

1. Use protection – No not that (well, yes that TOO), but for now we’re talking about professional protection. Despite the fact that freelancers make up the fastest growing segment of the workforce, we’re virtually unprotected in the professional world. Without the proper precautions, clients can refuse to pay, vendors can refuse to deliver, or worse, disgruntled humans can accuse you of wrongdoing, and you’ll be SOL. A solid contract and a good friend in the legal business is the first line of defense against this ridiculousness. Joining an organization that will advise and represent you is the second. Think about joining The Freelancers Union, or a similar union/organization in your niche that offers legal protection. You won’t be sorry.

2. Fail more – If everything’s going perfectly well, you’re not progressing–you’ve plateaued. That kind of complacency might fly in an office environment where you’re in at 9 and gone at 5, but it can be fatal in the freelance world. Push yourself. Say yes more. Fake it till you make it. And when you don’t, tell us about it because failure is a sign of growth and it inspires us.

3. Branch out – This is kind of an extension of the ‘fail more’ suggestion. How long has it been since you learned a new skill? Hired a subcontractor? Added a new service to your company menu, or figured out a way to go after a new demographic? Make 2014 the year that you stop answering these questions with “never.” Take a class. Make yourself available for bigger projects (and paychecks) by hiring help. Figure out what’s next for your company and don’t be afraid to go where the competition won’t.

4. Read a book – Freelancers spend plenty of time in front of a screen. If it’s not the laptop and work, it’s the television and brain-mush. This year, carve out time to read more. Read things that make you laugh, as well as cry. Read things that inspire you. Read things written by people you idolize. Read things that will teach you something. Just the simple act of reading will help you to be more creative, increase your life experience, exercise multiple complex cognitive functions, make you more empathetic and expand your attention span.

5. Work on you – Not taking care of yourself is the fastest way to sabotage your business, yet we almost always put ourselves last. Evaluate that mental list of “I wish I could…” and choose one item that you will do, and do often, in 2014. Maybe it’s spending time outdoors or taking cooking classes. Maybe it’s playing with your kids or volunteering for a cause you believe in. Maybe it’s working on your own website or sprucing up your resume. Whatever it is that you need to feel satisfied and excited about life, DO IT. It’s the only investment with a guaranteed return.

Image: librariesrock

5 Things Every Freelancer Should Know About The Affordable Care Act

ACA Logo

 

The past week has been hard, politically and economically, on America. The Government shutdown is having adverse effects on all of us, in many subtle ways that no one expected…and it’s all because of that pesky thing we call healthcare.

The Affordable Care Act (often referred to as Obamacare, though most Americans don’t realize they’re one in the same) is a big change for our healthcare system. Much has been made of its effect on small business owners, though precious few have broken it down for the smallest business owner: the freelancer or solopreneur.

So, setting the politics aside for a moment, let’s take a look at some important things freelancers should know about the Affordable Care Act:

1. Yes, It’s For You – The ACA is designed to (among other things) create a series of online marketplaces where individual consumers are able to choose which plan and provider works best for them. “Individuals, in this case, are sole proprietors, individual consumers, freelancers, and anyone else who isn’t already insured by an employer, a parent, or a government sponsored program such as Medicare,” writes Under30CEO.

2. Less Is More – “If your earnings fall between 100 and 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), the most you’ll have to pay for health insurance is 9.5% of your annual income. So if you’re not making a lot, you won’t have to pay a lot. Your tax credits will cover the difference between what you are charged and the actual cost,” reports The Renegade Writer. Also, having more dependents increases the subsidy for which you may be eligible.

3. Variable Income Matters – If you’re new to freelancing, or just work in an industry where income may vary wildly year to year, the ACA has elements designed to facilitate a flexible assessment of your income.

As Wonkblog explains, “if your income changes drastically you’re supposed to go online and report the shift in income. Any subsidies you’re receiving will be adjusted to reflect your new income. If you don’t report the new income (or lack therof), the government will assess the difference when you file taxes the next year and you could have to pay back some of the tax credits you received. Make sure to plan ahead for tax time.”

4. Haste Makes Waste – We all got better things to do, so it can be tempting to pick something fast to get it out of the way. This could mean missing out on great coverage and/or savings. “When shopping for health insurance options for freelancers, it’s important to compare apples to apples rather than apples to oranges. This means making a spreadsheet and listing the features of various options in separate rows across multiple columns, so that you can be sure you’re looking at the same features when it comes to comparing cost and coverage,” explains Planting Money Seeds.

5. Deadline? – Freelancers live and die by the deadline, and the ACA is no different. Although the state health insurance exchanges opened on October 1st, you have until March 31, 2014 to look at the plans and enroll. After that, however, you’ll be out of luck for getting a plan until the next enrollment period, which starts October 7, 2014.

Related Reading Recommended by Freelance Folder:

 

Overwhelmed? 5 Services That Make It Easy To Delegate

now hiring

I’m sure this will come as a revelation to you, while staring down the barrel of yet another Monday, but YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL.

If you’re in the happy predicament of having too much work and not enough time in which to complete it, you’ve reached the big moment. To delegate or not to delegate?

Subcontracting work out to another person’s heart and brain can be scary the first couple of times. As entrepreneurs, we’re ultimately responsible for the deliverable. We coax it with tender loving care into existence, and deliver it like a precious baby to its new parent, the client.

Initially, allowing someone else to get their hands on it feels wrong wrong wrong. But like I said, you can’t do it all. If you have dreams of growing bigger than a one employee show, you’re going to have to get used to it at some point. 

By now you all know at least a little about the sharing economy, and (hopefully) realize that coworking is a major part of this collaborative consumption trend that everyone’s been yammering about. Well, collaborative consumption can do a lot more than just give you access to a neat place to stay in San Francisco, or a bike in NYC.

It can also give you access to people. People who are eager to complete those tasks that you can’t or don’t want to. Below are 5 services that specialize in micro-labor: small jobs that pay a small fee. The brilliance is, you can cram lots of them into one day. It’s a win for those who are looking for lots of experience doing diverse tasks and those who have lots of random stuff to be done. (And if you’ve got extra time and are looking to turn it into extra money, these could be excellent communities in which to market your services.)

1. TaskRabbit

An online and mobile marketplace that connects neighbors to get things done. “Fully vetted, entrepreneurial professionals contribute their time and skills to helping people out, and those busy people find a little extra time in their days. Neighbors helping neighbors — it’s an old school concept upgraded for today.”

2. Fancy Hands

A virtual team of assistants ready to work for you now. For a low monthly membership fee, you’ll finally get the help you need. You can place your requests through the website, iPhone app, email, or ye olde telephone.

3. Agent Anything

Agent Anything unlocks the time, talent, and ability of a city’s university students. AA provides a platform where people and companies can post small jobs, tasks, and errands to a skilled and affordable workforce. “Agents can be hired to accomplish any task, errand or job you can think of. For the last two years, we’ve provided errand-runners for working moms, beta testers for startups, temp workers for small businesses, and street teams for major corporations.”

4. Gig Walk

The world’s largest on-demand mobile workforce connecting businesses large and small to their very own on-demand smartphone army. Since its launch in May 2011, over 300,000 Gigwalkers have completed temporary field work such as store audits, mystery shopping, competitive tracking, customer interviews, field photography and much more.

5. Swappin

Create a profile including what you have to give and what you need to get. Include skills and services you have to offer, and ones you’d like to receive. These can include anything from professional services to casual tasks and everything in between. You can even swap with old-fashioned cash if that’s what you have or need. After you’ve created your profile, Swappin will suggest people to swap with in your area. You can also browse other members’ HAVEs and NEEDs on your own and suggest a swap.

BONUS – The Second You

I know we said five services, but a fan of our Facebook page just reminded us that we have a local company providing these services to FoCo as well! The Second You is a personal assistant service that can help you shrink your to-do list…fast! Check ’em out on Facebook.

Local Business Spotlight: KDragonfly, An Agile Talent Network

kdragonfly logo

 

Coworking is about people. Yes, it’s also about productivity, and community and collaboration. But without people, it’s just a space with desks and wifi. When you add people, connections become possible. And it’s these connections that make independent professionals so powerful and successful.

We do a pretty good job of forging our own connections at Cohere, but if there’s one thing I swear by, it’s using an expert whenever there’s one available. I recently had the pleasure of stumbling upon a local, woman-owned company in our area that specializes in putting people and projects together. Called KDragonfly, this people-centered effort believes strongly that the way we work is changing, and they want to help Northern Colorado professionals lead the charge.

If you’re looking to land more gigs, or collaborate with local independent professionals outside the Cohere family, this could be the resource you’ve been waiting for!

Interested? Here’s what you need to know:

Q. What makes Kdragonfly different from other Contracting websites?

A. Kdragonfly recognizes the importance of 1099 Compliance and has built Vetting into our Guru Profile process. In addition, Kdragonfly personally vets any Guru Member who signs up for the Best Package. Look for the shaded dragonflies. Kdragonfly is powered by people. Gig Managers and Guru Coaches assist Gurus and Employers with customized, solutions.

Q. What if I just need help getting set up as a contract worker, aka freelancer?

A. The Kdragonfly Contractor’s Tool Kit can help get your business set up and provide tips and tools to spur ongoing success. The Kdragonfly Contractor’s Tool Kit is included with the Guru Better and Best packages but can also be purchased as a stand alone download for $49. Included in the Tool Kit are business forms and templates to help you set up your business and perform on a 1099 Contract basis. The Tool Kit also offers information on invoicing, insurance, tax filings, and business planning to help with business sustainment.

Q. How much does it cost to search for local professionals or post a gig?

A. Kdragonfly packages start at $149 a month, but for a LIMITED TIME you can take advantage of their Launch Package for absolutely no charge. Test drive the service until 5/1/2013 with the ability to post 3 gigs, unlimited guru search capability, and the ability to contact gurus directly for FREE!

Got more questions? Contact KDragonfly at info@kdragonfly.com, 970.325.5080, or follow on Facebook.

Income Tax Season Survival Guide for Freelancers

income tax

There are only 47 days until the federal income tax deadline. 

If a pile of 1099’s (rather than a single W2) landed on your doorstep last month, you might be a freelancer. Tax season is a stressful time for any working American, but for freelancers and business owners, it breeds a particular brand of terror.There are lots of different rules when you work for yourself, including lots of potential deduction and penalties.

If, like many of us, you’ve been trying to ignore the shoe box full of crumpled receipts you call an expense file, the idea of getting it all organized in the next month might seem impossible. But it’s not. Here are the three biggest things you need to know about filing income taxes:

1. Get an early start (you kind of already miffed this, so get started today).
2. There are tons of deductions no one knows about.
3. Hiring a professional who knows where to find them is totally worth the expense.

Now here are some stellar resources to help you achieve the above, retain your sanity, and pay as little as possible.

The Finance of Freelancing: Tax Tips for Confused Contractors: includes lots of hints about what forms you’ll need and deductions you might not have realized.

Tips, Tricks, and Tools from the Freelancers’ Union: a no-nonsense guide to what you need to know and do, including a helpful glossary of terms common to entrepreneurs and no one else.

4 Ways to Lower Your Tax Load: It might be too late to implement some of these for 2012 filings, but it’s never too soon to think about next year.

How to Choose a Tax Preparer: Straight from the IRS’ mouth. Also, feel free to ask one or more of your fellow coworkers for a recommendation  Many of Cohere’s members have been freelancing for years, and can tell you who’s a lifesaver and who to avoid.

Image via Images_of_Money/Flickr

Social Media: The Productive Freelancer’s Arch Enemy

It’s Monday, the first day of a new week. Although we freelancers tend to work 24/7, most of us can (and SHOULD!) eke out a little time for fun and family over the weekend. So today’s the first day back to a full-plate of work. We start off the week with the best of intentions, we’ve all got an enemy out there who wants to kill our productivity. No, it’s not a competing firm or terrible client, it’s that oh-so-innocent-looking social media MONSTER. It lurks in our bookmarks, our browser history, and for some, our literal muscle memory: we open, check, and browse social media websites constantly.

Unfortunately, sometimes social media is part of our legitimate work, so the temptation to flush hours down the drain clicking through photo albums and sharing clever memes is almost too much to bear. If you’re trying to make the most of your eight hour day, the key is to work smarter, not get up earlier, and smart work begins with eliminating time sucks like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and all the rest of ’em.

Scroll through the infographic below for shocking stats about how much your social media obsession could be costing your business, and then check out our list of tips for shoving this beast back in its cage.

Social Media Monster [Infographic]

Shocked by how much time (and money) you’re wasting? Here are some tips from Apartment Therapy about how to avoid the siren song of social media:

1. If you use Google Chrome, you can install StayFocusd , a simple browser extension which lets you set time limits on how long you spend on certain sites.

2. Clean house on your Friends/Followers list. Fewer unnecessary connections means less distracting junk showing up in your feeds and streams. Don’t want to delete loose connections? Consider using some of Facebook’s built in feed settings  to control how much you see.

3. Consolidate. Flipboard ( for Android , iOS ) lets you consolidate a digest of social media sources, prioritizing what it sees as big stories (based on your social graph). Bringing together content from Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and even Google+, Flipboard is a great way to get a quick dose of stories from all the social sites you frequent without hopping all over the web.

Got other tips for avoiding the social media time-suck? Share them in a comment!

Infographic Courtesy of Red e App

3 Reasons Some Freelancers Should NOT Try Coworking

Tomorrow is International Coworking Day. That means a lot of over enthusiastic freelancers are probably going to convince you to give coworking a try. But change is hard, and often uncomfortable, so here are three reasons why you should just ignore them and go back to whatever it is you were doing.

1. Coworkers are WAY too motivated. Because freelancers who cowork find it easier to keep their professional and personal life separate, they’re actually excited to put their skills to work. And on the rare occasion when a coworker has writer’s block or suffers from a bad case of procrastination, their fellow freelancers are on hand to talk it out or provide a little nudge in the right direction. If you prefer watching daytime TV and cramming all your work into the three hours before a project’s due, avoid coworking at all costs.

2. Coworkers get dressed (and brush their teeth) every day. Don’t these people realize that pajama pants, bed head, and poor oral hygiene are the freelancer’s uniform? Be careful, getting too involved in a coworking community could result in morning time energy and a desire to be around other people. You may be persuaded to comb your hair, put on makeup and do laundry on a regular basis. If you prefer comfort over community, avoid coworking at all costs.

3. Coworking will force you to advance your career. Coworkers take the time to continue their education so they can stay at the top of their game. They attend workshops, seminars, and networking events. They ask questions of their peers and get instant feedback from community members that helps them provide superior services to their clients. They challenge each other to remain competitive in their respective fields. If you’re happy with the slow growth of your freelance business, and don’t want to start pulling in more money or clients just yet, please, AVOID COWORKING AT ALL COSTS!

(But! If you’re the kind of freelancer that craves the support of a vibrant, motivated community, and is ready to meet deadlines, put on pants, and take your career to the next level….please, GIVE COWORKING A TRY!)

Image Credit: Flickr – tofslie

4 Free Invoicing Tools For Freelancers

According to the first Global Coworking Survey, more than half of all U.S. based freelancers make more money after joining a coworking space. Since increasing monthly income is the goal of almost every freelancer, this is good news. However, in the immortal words of the Notorious B.I.G. “mo’ money, mo’ problems.”

A more robust client load increases not only the amount of enjoyable work you must complete each month, it also increases the number of administrative tasks to which you must attend.

For freelancers, invoicing is a necessary evil of owning a service-based business. If you’re tired of scrambling to work up professional looking invoices at the end of the month or project period, here are three FREE, web-based invoicing tools that can help you streamline the process.

Billing Boss: This tool is a product of Sage, a leading supplier of business management software and services to 5.5 million customers worldwide. Billing Boss was developed by a small dynamic, sugar and coffee driven team within Sage (sound familiar?) Unlike other free online invoicing tools – Billing Boss is free. Not “Free” for 30 days. Not “Free” until you invoice 3 customers. It’s Free. Unlimited invoicing to unlimited customers. They also offer a ton of paid add-ons that can allow you to take payments on your mobile devices, etc., but you don’t have to buy them if you don’t want to.

Invoice Journal: Like Billing Boss, Invoice Journal is one of those rare programs that exists only in a free flavor; no commercial upgrade is available. Unlike Billing Boss, Invoice Journal is the creation of a single developer (as far as I can tell) instead of a large company. This tool features unlimited invoices and clients, multiple currencies, E-mail support (send invoices directly to clients), unbranded e-mails, payment recording, PayPal support, support for taxes and discounts, and custom templates.

Billing Manager: Made by Intuit, a brand that many businesses trust for their accounting needs, this flexible tool can allow you to manage your billing process from anywhere–in the office, on the road, and even on your iPhone. There are both paid and unpaid versions of this tool, but free Billing Manager will allow you to: create customized, professional invoices, send invoices by email, track status, and send reminders.

Apptivo:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekqP7aXGNC8

BONUS! All of these invoicing tools are great, and can definitely make your life easier, but one thing they don’t do is help you track your working hours so you know how much to charge. Luckily, Cohere member and coding whiz-kid Matt Rose has created a time-tracking and invoicing tool that’s now in beta testing. If you’re interested in helping him work out the kinks, let him know you want to test it out next time you’re at Cohere!

Image Credit: Flickr – miguelb

Top 5 Reasons To Give Coworking A Try

No Danger of Men Working

Today is Free Coworking Day at Cohere!

If you’re getting ready for the day, and wondering whether or not you should give coworking a try, here are the top 5 reasons to stop by 215 Jefferson Street and see what the fuss is about:

1. Pants are required. We know, we know, the greatest thing about working for yourself is that pants are optional. Your blog post or design project can’t tell whether you’re still wearing pajamas at 2 pm, so why bother? If it’s been a while since you’ve held yourself to a dress code stricter than stretchy pants and your favorite hoodie, you may have forgotten how motivating it can be to don a fresh pair of pants. There’s just something about getting dressed that says, “Ok, I’m ready; bring on the day!” At Cohere, we know that sometimes, putting on your pants and being in public is the biggest victory of the day. So toss those sweats, zip that fly, and come on down. We’ve got your victory coffee waiting.

2. You’re pretty interesting. There are some things about working from your home office or even the coffee shop that can’t be beat: it’s your home turf, you’re comfortable, and most importantly, it’s fairly free from distraction. Unfortunately, free from distraction often means free from interaction, which can be a slippery slope for freelancers that usually prefer a screen to a face anyway. One of the best parts of the coworking community is cameraderie. We think you’re pretty interesting. We want to know what you’re working on. We’ll talk about coding, or blogging, or marketing all day long. Try us.

3. The coffee is free. And tea. And sometimes snacks. ‘Nuff said?

4. It gives you an excuse to clean your laptop. Take a glance at your keyboard. If you can identify the remnants of more than one meal from the past three days…gross. Bust out your duster, your electronic-safe wipes, or hell, just turn the thing over and shake. You might be surprised at how much easier it is to work when you’re not typing around a crumb buffet.

5. It’s fun! I know, I know…you’re all about the productivity and working in a crowded room of freelancers doesn’t sound like the best way to break through your writer’s block or finally finish that proposal that’s been keeping you up at night. Or, does it? Who knows, maybe that problem that’s been bugging you is something another coworker solved last week. Or maybe there’s another freelancer here who’s got the perfect suggestion for your stalled project? Or, who knows, maybe just getting out of the house, having a conversation with some like minded people, and watching a video about unicorns (you’ll understand soon) is just the thing you needed to breath new life into your career.

It can’t hurt to give it a try, right? Also, did we mention it’s free? See you soon :)

Image Credit: Flickr – ben sutherland

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