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Expenses That Writers Should Track

So, one of those things that I always dread each year is taxes.  I don’t mind paying taxes, but having to figure out what I can expense and what I can’t can be painful.  I started early on in my career saving every receipt and bringing a huge envelope full of them to my accountant.  I quickly learned that just about 75% of the expenses that I had in my envelope, were NOT deductible from my taxes!  That became a lesson on what is and isn’t eligible to be deducted and since then my accountant has been MUCH happier to see me each year.  Before I continue, I am NOT an accountant and you really need to talk with yours to make sure you have what you need for your taxes.

The Key Word: PROFIT

The first question you can ask yourself is, am I writing as a hobby or as a job?  Do I intend to make money from my writing?  The government sums up the difference between the two in one word: Profit.  The important part of this is that you will have to have a strong, provable case that you are writing as a business instead of a hobby.  Unfortunately, you and I both know that sometimes it may take years before we see a profit for any of our work.  I would highly recommend you find a great accountant that understands this and can help guide you through this.  Also, a good accountant can be there for you if you ever get audited.

Writer taxesDo I Have To Make A Profit Before I Can Write Off Expenses?

In most cases, the answer is no, you don’t have to make a profit.  Businesses lose money all the time and some businesses have existed for years without turning a profit.  As I said before, you just have to be able to show that you are not writing for fun and that you hope to make money in the future.

What Can I Write Off?

Ahh the big question is finally here.  What things can I write off?  The list will vary depending on your specific situation, so again talk with your accountant.  The list my accountant gave me include some of the following:

  • books
  • office supplies
  • research tools
  • home electronics
  • website creation
  • website maintenance costs
  • promotional materials
  • travel
  • food
  • gifts
  • fees for services
  • home office space (this one is tricky)

This is just a part of the list of things that can frequently be written off.  Talk with your accountant and see what other things in your particular situation might qualify.

Ack!  I Got Audited!

Well if you have, and I haven’t yet, if you used an accountant, call him immediately.  The most important thing you can do in preparation is to be organized.  Make sure you have all your documentation and keep it organized.  This is a great way to prove to the IRS that you are serious and you mean ‘business’.  Just make sure to keep your business and personal expenses separate if possible.  You might also consider opening a separate checking account and running all your expenses through that account.  It helps keep things separate.

Should you keep this in mind and work closely with your accountant, I’m sure you’ll be in great shape.

Preventing Writer’s Cramp

My mom jokingly says “You were born with a pen in your hand!”, which isn’t true but isn’t far from the truth. I do have to say though that there are hardly many moments of a day when I have a pen or pencil in my hand. Well there are those moments when I am typing on my macbook, when I’m showering, eating linguini or sleeping. However, I digress.

The one issue I’ve had numerous times when writing a lot, is writer’s cramp or scrivener’s palsy. Whatever you call it, it hurts and it prevents me from getting my work done. So I’ve done a bunch of research and came across a great listing of ways that you can keep it from causing you pain.

My cat likes the Pilot Dr. Grip too!

My cat likes the Pilot Dr. Grip too!

Choose A Comfortable Pen

One of the best ways to keep writer’s cramping at bay is to make sure you have a comfortable pen. Personally I prefer one with a wider diameter and one that has a padded grip. You also want one that writes smoothly and doesn’t pull as you move along the page. I’m a big fan of the Pilot Dr. Grip pens..  You can also find add-on grips that fit around your pen and make it larger in diameter.

Use A Loose Grip And Don’t Press Hard

When writing, try to relax your hand and use a loose grip around the pen. It’s not a rope during a match of tug-of-war! When you are writing, pull the pen along lightly. It needs to flow smoothly without stressing you out.

Use Your Arm Not Your Fingers

Writing is more about using your whole arm with limited support by your fingers. If possible keep your wrist still and move your whole arm from the elbow and shoulder. A good way to think about it is to pretend that you are writing on a whiteboard.

Hand Position

I know it might bring back painful memories to elementary school, but do you know how to properly hold a pen? Yeah, well neither do I! What I did learn is that you should hold your wrist straight, keep the chair and writing surface close enough so you don’t have to stretch and are at the right height. These will help you hold a better position.

Just keep in mind that if you continue to have pain, you really need to go see a doctor.  If you continue writing in pain, it could severely damage your wrists.

Anyway, be sure to take care of your body because you need it to continue doing your work.  Or at least I do.

Put The Pen Down!

When you aren’t writing, put the pen down. This gives your hand a chance to relax.  You need to take a moment and let your muscles relax and stretch out.  In fact, there are some simple stretching exercises you can do to keep them limber and flexible.  One of those exercises is to take your wrist and flex it up and down slowly, like the move done in the movie Karate Kid.  Up and down, up and down, slowly.  Also it’s a good idea to take breaks from writing in general throughout the day.  It’s not good to stay in a similar position all day long.  Get up and walk around a bit.

 

Essentials For A Travelling Author

As a writer, over time you will start to figure out a list of items that you just have to have with you if you ever take a trip or a vacation.  And we all know that writers never really take vacations!  One thing that I’ve discovered is that travelling is a great way to gather research for the next story I’m working on.  It gets me outside of my comfort zone and helps me see the environment around me in a fresh new way that sparks ideas and details I might not have ever considered by sitting in my home office.  When I do travel, here is a list of items that I take with me in my travel bag that help me get in the zone and write.

1. Pocket sized notebook

When travelling I like to keep a pocket sized notebook on me at all times.  I never know when I’m going to see a building or talk with a native of the area that will capture the essence of either a location in my store or a person who fits a character perfectly.  I’ll use this notebook to jot down those ideas as they come to me.

2. Pencils

Yes, I said pencils.  I do carry pens as well with me, but a pencil is the one writing instrument that is likely to fail when I need it.  There are not batteries to die on you, no ink to run out and it fits nicely in my pocket.

Roland R-053. Audio Recorder

When I’m walking the streets in an area that would work well in one of my stories, I like to record the ambient noise of the area.  I can later on then use this recording to try and capture the sounds and describe them to my readers.  You’ll never be able to get the full effect of being there but this helps later on.  Also use it to interview people that you meet.  I personally prefer the Roland R-05.

4. Camera

I like to have either a small pocket camera or a cell phone with me.  Take photos, lots of photos with it.  Take photos of interesting landmarks, scenery, events and people.  You can use these later on to more accurately describe them in your story.

5. Ziploc Bags

If you find yourself exploring and end up doing something wet, you’ll want something to keep your electronics and paper items dry.  Having a few large ziploc bags with you will save the day.  You can also use them to manage small items like batteries.

6. Fanny Pack

You need something to lug all this stuff around with you as you explore don’t you?

7. A book to read, for pleasure

Yes, you should also engage yourself in just reading a book for the fun of it.  It helps to relax your mind and give you ideas.

8. Travel Pillow

A good inflatable travel pillow can be wonderful to have if you need to sleep somewhere where it’s hard to get comfortable, such as a plane.

9. Field glasses

These are ideal in getting a good look around you at the scenery around you.  Not required but I’ve found them to be useful many times.

Bose Headphones10. Noise cancelling headphones

When you want to sit down and concentrate on writing, a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones are just the ticket.  I like these headphones because I can turn on the noise-cancelling feature without having to listen to anything at all.  They work even without music.  Plus people will often leave you alone when you are wearing them.

11. Backup items

And finally I would recommend that you have backups of some of the items above in your primary luggage just in case you lose them.  Keep extra pencils, pens, paper, notepads, batteries and a cell-phone charger.  It never hurts to be prepared.

4 Tips for Better Blog Posts

Photo by xioubin low and reproduced under Creative Commons

With the use of the technology, more business owners are now starting to move their business operations into their homes. Gone are the days when business owners had to spend a fortune on operational costs, which include equipment, office space and staff. Visit this website to find out the benefits of working from home, aussieworkfromhome.com. With the use of the Internet, most business owners can now operate their businesses from the comfort of their own homes and even use blogs to be able to promote their products and services effectively. As blogs are effective means of promotion, they are commonly used for effective promotion.

Here are some tips on how you can better utilize this mode of marketing to ensure that you are able to market your product or service well:

  1. Use a catchy title. Being one of the more effective tools of marketing, a blog that discusses your home business is a sure way to bring in clients and sales. However when starting a blog entry, make sure that you start off with an interesting title. You might have the best content. But if you have a boring title, no one will bother to even to read the rest of the blog entry.
  1. Add in photos. When writing a blog entry, it is good to add in a photo or two. But do make sure that you add in a photo of good quality. It will be advisable if you can take a photo with an actual camera and not one with your phone, as photos taken by phones tend to be a bit blurry. Also make sure that the photo taken would be relevant to the blog entry. It will be helpful if you can add images of your actual products or clients who are using your services, rather than use stock images. That way would-be clients will have a better grasp of your business model.
  1. Format is important. Always remember that the format of your blog entry is important. Use subheadings, bullet points and numbers. Otherwise the blog entry will just seem like a long essay, which might turn off people from reading it. By using subheadings and the like, you are breaking the monotony that an essay has. That way your blog entry will be more appealing.
  1. Content is the most important thing. You can have the most interesting pictures and the catchiest titles. But it is your content that will keep readers coming back. Always make it a point to write an entry of substance. Do your research before writing the blog entry. You need to back up your ideas with facts and figures. If readers feel like your content is just full of fluff, they will not bother coming back to read.

Use these tips while slowly building your blog. Make sure that you update your blog on a regular basis so readers will keep coming back for more information. Want to know the best home based business ideas in Australia? Find out by clicking here!