Freelance writer. The job title sounds amazing — and it is. But it’s not quite as simple as it sounds.
Because ultimately, this is a business you’re running. And that means you have to take on many other roles:
- Office Manager
- Marketing Rep
- Internet Research Assistant
- Idea generator
Copywriting legend Bob Bly has often said that he doesn’t do anything he can pay someone else to do. Otherwise, it takes time away from the core business activities he’s an expert at — thinking, research, and writing.
But I’ll be honest, as a new copywriter I’m not that eager to send a share of my freshly-printed paychecks to other people. I’ve got a mortgage to pay and three kids to send to college.
Then it hit me …
If I’m Going to Pay Them Anyway, Put Them to Work!
Like I said, I’ve got three kids — in this case, three wonderful daughters who cost an unbelievable amount of money.
While they all get a modest allowance, they also get additional chores to make money like washing windows or mowing the lawn.
But then my writing business started taking off … and that’s when I started learning how to place my kids on my payroll. I call it …
The Writer’s Life — Family Style
One of the many benefits of having a family business is being able to put your kids to work. If you can find legitimate tasks for them to do as part of your freelance business, you can legally pay them the going market rate, thereby shifting the tax burden from your business to them.
As minors, they can make up to the personal deduction without paying Federal or payroll taxes. (For example, it was $6,300 for 2015.) That’s a pretty significant tax savings for you and you won’t have to run your kids to the local McDonald’s for work.
So let’s take a look at that list of tasks again and see which ones make sense for a couple of money-hungry teenagers.
Putting Your Kids on the Payroll
I recently added both my 16-year old, Bailey, and my 13-year old, Megan, to the payroll of my business. As an LLC operating as a sole proprietorship, I meet all the conditions of a “family business” according to the IRS. But it is a business, so even though they’re my kids, I need to treat them somewhat like employees.
That means I gave them job titles, a job description, an industry-standard rate, and I keep a timesheet in Excel and pay them by company check on a regular basis.
So what do they do? Simple — anything I can have them do that allows me to spend time on thinking, research, and writing for my clients.
Bailey is in 10th grade. She’s an excellent student, a very good writer, and a naturally inquisitive kid. And she’s now my Internet Research Assistant.
In this role, she collects information on the companies in my writing niche — the financial industry. She routinely gathers information on products, including current price, current promotion, guarantees, ads they’re running on their site — essentially anything that helps me keep tabs on what my clients and my clients’ competitors are doing.
She also helps to manage my Swipe File and will do additional research on-demand for me when I need it for a promotion.
Bailey is also an excellent proofreader. I can have her follow the CUBA review guidelines, meaning she goes through and looks for anything that is confusing, unbelievable, boring, or awkward. If she finds and highlights something, then I know I have some editing to do.
Megan is in 8th grade and she recently signed on as an Office Assistant. She loves to organize things — something my office needed badly.
Megan’s duties include printing background data for my new projects and organizing them into binders, helping to file my offline Swipe File, and general cleanup and organization of my office.
Megan also acts as a proofreader. As an 8th grader, she’s right in the sweet spot for a real-life version of the Flesch-Kincaid (FK) score. Any words or phrases she highlights tell me that maybe I started getting too refined with my word choice.
But while the financial benefit is unbeatable, there are also a couple extra perks of my family version of the writer’s life …
How to Raise Smart, Confident, Self-Reliant Teenagers
If you happen to figure this out, then please email me!
Okay, seriously … I want to touch on several other things I’ve realized during my first year as a freelance writer:
- If your kids love reading and writing, having them get involved in your business is a great way to grow your relationship in a totally different way.
- Saving on taxes should never be underappreciated, but it pales in comparison to helping your kids learn the value of a dollar earned.
- Look for places to apply all you’ve learned as a writer with your kids. I can’t tell you how much the “So What?” method has helped my kids with various aspects of their schoolwork. (This is where you dig deeper for benefits, asking yourself “So What?” every time you want to explain the importance of something.)
I could go on and on. For now, I’ll just say that living the writer’s life with your kids may be an even better option than living it for them.