Being Freelancer, Finances and Taxes, Freelancers, Marketing Yourself, On Your Own, Self-Employed, The American Dream

Splitting The Most Common Business & Personal Expenses

Splitting even the most common business & personal expenses takes time. So, if you’re part of the on-demand society, you’ll have to carefully calculate your business expenses when tax season is just around the corner. You’ll write these off on your Schedule C and it’s crucial that you do it correctly. As an independent contractor, properly calculating your business expenses can greatly reduce your tax liability and save you money.


The difficult part is actually calculating these expenses. When you’re self-employed, many of your business expenses are mixed in with personal expenses so it takes some work on your part to figure out only the business portion. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the three most common business and personal expenses.

Keep in mind – when deciding between business and personal expenses, the IRS requires that business expenses be ‘ordinary and necessary’. Use your judgement when making this decision.

Cell Phones

If you use your cell phone for work purposes, you most likely use it for personal reasons as well. With cell phones, you have a little more room for judgement when deciding on how much is used for business. Typically, you have to calculate how much of your cell phone bill is used for business, including voice and data.

For example, if you make a lot of calls for business purposes and you have to switch your plan for one with more minutes, you can probably write-off the difference between the two plans.

Cars

A car is another common expense that freelancers use for both personal and business reasons. There are two ways to calculate this business expense:

  • Standard mileage rate: The standard mileage rate is the easiest way to calculate your car’s business expense. To use this method, you would calculate your business mileage by the IRS approved rate. The rate for 2015 was 57.5 cents. This rate includes gas, maintenance, lease payments, and insurance.
  • Actual costs method: Alternatively, you can use the actual costs method. In this method, you need to calculate the actual costs of your car expenses for business use. This method is a bit more complicated compared to the standard mileage rate. If you choose to use this method, make sure you keep careful records of all your car expenses.
  • Home Office: If you’re part of the on-demand economy, chances are you work from home at least part of the time and have a home office. You can write-off a portion of this expense. To the IRS, your home office is anywhere in your home your primarily meet with clients, do work, or store business inventory. Using the home office simplified method, you can multiply the square footage of your home office by the IRS approved rate, which is around $5 per square foot. The maximum allowed square footage is 300 square feet.

Calculating your business expenses can be overwhelming but it’s important that you do it carefully and correctly. In the event of an audit, you want to be able to back up why you wrote off the amount you did.

Community, Future of Work, Gadgets and Apps, Industry Research, News, The American Dream

Mobile Moms and the Sharing Economy

Recently BabyCenter.com announced it’s latest findings from its U.S. Mobile Mom 2015: The Sharing Economy report. It outlined how moms are participating in our On-Demand Society. Some facts about and results from the survey.

  • For the survey Baby Center contacted Mom’s in the top 10 U.S. DMAs – Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Ft.Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington, D.C.
  • 42% of moms in those urban markets say they have tried a “sharing economy” or concierge-type app in at least one of these categories: beauty on-demand, clothing rental, grocery delivery, home cleaning, household chores, private car/taxi, vacation/temporary home rental, and valet/parking assistance.
  • San Francisco, where many early adopters of new technologies live,  claims the most moms on the “on-demand” bandwagon, with 56% saying they have tried one. Outside of those major markets, the percentage of moms who have used one of these apps drops to just 21%.
  • The study also shows that moms’ lack of familiarity with these services is a critical stumbling block in greater penetration across the board.
  • When talking to mothers about household chore services like TaskRabbit and Airtasker, nearly 2 out of 5 in each of the top 10 DMAs said they were not acquainted with these types of “sharing economy” apps.
  • Three out of 5 moms who live outside those urban centers said the same. However, when asked, moms showed strong interest in using a household chore service app – 60-70% in top markets and 57% outside – pointing to a disconnect and missed opportunity between a target audience and utilities they want and need.
  • There are two categories of “sharing economy” apps that are the exception to the rule, with a larger number of moms being familiar or actively using private car/taxi apps, such as Uber and Lyft, and vacation/temporary home rental services, like Airbnb and HomeAway.
  • Private car/taxi mobile services were far and away the most familiar to moms, with those in San Francisco, New York City, and Chicago being most likely to have used those services or be considering giving them a try. Still, numbers take a tumble when talking to moms who live outside of the top urban areas.

 

 

Companies, Freelancers, Future of Work, Politics, The American Dream

Building a Team with Free Agents and Freelancers

Many Millennials are freelancers and free agents. Unfortunately, the people hiring them are older ‘fuddy duddies’ leaders who view Gen Y as  lazy and unloyal. While they do have some unique characteristics (which I outlined in my book, Millennial Leaders), it is important for both parties – the young folks and the older folks – to work together to create a good on-demand relationship between the free agent and the manager.

Duke University’s Basketball Coach, Mike Krzyzewski recently provided some great guidance on how to work with the younger generation. His basketball players and the rest of today’s college athletes  are free agents and freelancers. More and more of them adopt a one-and-done approach, playing with one team for one year and then going pro. Or, if they don’t like their school’s program, they transfer to another university. And it’s not just basketball players who are doing this. More and more white collar professionals are also free agents, riding the trend of a contract-based career.

In this On-Demand Society, Coach K indicated that coaches and leaders need to be more adaptable and allow for some slippage, a word he uses to describe that there is less time to work on fundamentals and to develop the perfect team. Corporate America will increasingly deal with the same issue — the free-agent culture makes it more difficult to build and maintain institutional knowledge and company team-work.

Today’s leaders and young workers both need to be flexible. Corporate leaders can’t just say ‘millennials are spoiled and therefore they can’t learn company’s system or way of doing things. Every generation is different and as Coach K states ‘I have to be in their world and they have to be in my world and there has to be a good common ground where we both meet.’ Coach K tries to understand his younger players perspective on life — to understand their culture, such as their music, their language and event their use of social media. Now is the time for corporate leaders to do the same and to try and understand the needs and wants of Freelancers.

Too many on-demand companies need to be schooled by Coach K. Too many treat 1099s as ‘replaceable parts.’  Although this approach is not new, it will backfire and will come back to haunt them later on. They need to understand that we are in what Reid Hoffman calls a Tour-of-Duty economy (although he used the term to describe full-time employees). Since close to 40% of our workforce will be independent contractors by 2020, their voices at center court (and in superior court) will become louder and louder.  Hopefully, the Uber’s of the world will listen to them.

Click here a good interview with Coach K.

Handy’s Corner of the Gig Economy Is a Mess. Doesn’t Bother Startup Investors!
Companies, Health Care, Industry Research, Ondemand Platform, Services, The American Dream, Uber

Home Services need to be Cleaned Up

Originally Published in Slate

The startup world is full of ironies and poetic justices. The bubbly race to wash your clothes. The club of billion-dollar “unicorns” that boasts more than 100 members. And the undeniably messy market for on-demand cleanings and home services.

In recent months, the home-services market has repeatedly proven one of the riskiest and most muddled in the burgeoning “gig” economy. The clearest evidence of this came in mid-July, when Uber-but-for-cleaning platform Homejoy announced it was shutting down. At the time, the company attributed its exit to problems with raising money and to a lawsuit over its employment practices;other reports since have traced the collapse to substantial losses, poor customer retention, costly expansion, and Homejoy’s inability to keep its best workers on the platform.

Similar problems have plagued Handy, another Uber-but-for of the home-services sector, and Homejoy’s main competitor before it went under. Like Homejoy, Handy poured money into scaling up its operation, spending tens of thousands of dollars a week—if not more—to onboard cleaners. Like Homejoy, Handy struggled to retain those cleaners, with 20 to 40 percent becoming inactive after two to three months. Like Homejoy, Handy is in litigation over its independent contractor-based business model. On top of that, Handy has faced tough criticism about its customer service—in particular, a signup system that automatically enrolled users in repeat bookings and made it extremely difficult to cancel them.

And yet the gig economy keeps chugging. Handy said Monday that it had raised $50 million in a Series C funding round led by Fidelity Management and several of its current investors. That brings the company’s total funding to $110 million, for an unofficial valuation of around $500 million.

In its press release, Handy points to its 1 million-plus bookings (a milestone it celebrated over the summer), and that 80 percent of them come from “loyal, repeat customers.” Presumably a good deal of the company’s valuation and new funding is tied up in this claim—repeat customers are much more likely to actually pay off than one-time users—though the fact starts to sound less compelling when you wonder how many of the 80 percent were repeatedly using Handy of their own volition, and not because they couldn’t cancel those automatic recurring bookings.

“Handy has demonstrated to consumers that it is the company to trust when it comes to finding professionals to take care of their homes,” Handy co-founder Umang Dua says in the release. “Professionals love the flexibility, high-paying jobs and high demand for their services, while consumers enjoy the convenience and high quality.” It’s nice PR boilerplate that becomes less convincing once you consider the cleaners who have filed lawsuits against Handy, the customers stuck with followup bookings they didn’t want, and the customer-experience employees at Handy’s headquarters who had their jobs outsourced and were fired en masse between late 2014 and early 2015. For more on most of that, see my Slate story from this summer.

On the other hand, it’s possible that Handy, in the spirit of its sector, has started cleaning up its act. In late August, a former Handy employee notified me that the company had finally reviewed its compensation and payroll practices and issued back-pay to some customer-experience employees for their rest periods. As part of that, back-wage recipients were asked to “stipulate and agree that my accepting this payment does not constitute, for any purpose whatsoever, either directly or indirectly, an admission of any violation of law or contract or any other legal obligation whatsoever by Handy,” according to a copy of one agreement provided to Slate. They also released Handy from “any and all individual and/or class claims under the New York Labor Law and, to the extent allowable, any other federal, state or local law, related to the payment of wages, benefits or other compensation related to my employment with Handy,” so you have to assume that’s something the company was nervous about.

Could such changes, plus the Homejoy exit, be enough to pave Handy’s way toward establishing a profitable, sustainable business?Or is the market for home-cleaning and other household services fundamentally too tough? Those are questions that as of yet don’t seem to have clear answers. For now, though, Handy doesn’t need to convince the world one way or another. It just needs metrics that are aspirational enough to attract a few investors—to keep the cash flowing in from one end to be burnt up on the other. Fifty million dollars might not feel like much compared to the $1 billion rounds that Uber raises with casual regularity. But for a company in a space as murky and fraught as Handy’s, it’s an equally big vote of confidence.

 

Uber Protesters
Freelancers, The American Dream, Uber, Your rights: Presidential Election, Laws, etc.

Game Changer: Uber Drivers will get their day in court

Drivers for Uber Technologies Inc. will get their day in court.

A California federal judge has set a trial date of June 20, 2016 for a class-action lawsuit that could help decide the employment status of Uber drivers, according to the lawyer representing the plaintiffs.

The case, O’Connor v. Uber, concerns the ride service’s classification of drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.

The plaintiffs say that, because Uber controls things like ride prices and performance standards, they should be considered employees and eligible for reimbursement of expenses such as gas and vehicle maintenance.

Judge Edward Chen already certified the case as a class action, rejecting Uber’s argument that drivers should take their claims to individual arbitration proceedings. Uber has appealed the class certification to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.