Friday, June 28, 2013

Thinking About Freelancing?

Have you ever thought about breaking away from the 9-5 and developing your career through becoming freelance?  Here is a great article reposted from all about budgeting to go freelance!

Breaking away from the 9-to-5 to go out on your own can be immensely rewarding. But it can also be terrifying—especially when you start to think about your finances.

Don’t let the seduction of a steady paycheck at your office job keep you from pursuing your own goals, though. By establishing a solid financial plan before you quit your day job, you can feel confident going at it alone. Here’s how to get started.

Calculate Your Bare Minimum

We’ve all heard the amazing success stories of those freelancers who’ve doubled their previous income. Chances are, though, they didn’t achieve that feat in their first month out.

If you’re not doing so already, I recommend tracking all of your spending for a couple months so you have an idea of what your normal cash flow looks like (there are all sorts of online tools to help—my favorites are Mint and LearnVest’s Money Center).

After two or three months, review your spending history with the goal of determining what, exactly, you need to bring in each month to live on. What’s the minimum amount of profit you need make to cover your bills and have a decent standard of living? While you may consider little luxuries essential (and hey, budgeting is all about allocating your money in a way that makes sense for you), this amount should at least cover your necessities like rent, insurance, and food.

Then, before cutting ties with your current employer, try living on that amount for a month or two, socking the rest of your salary away in savings. If you’re doing okay (or if the promise of a future payoff can keep you on track), that’s a great sign. This exercise will also help pad your savings a bit in case those first few months on your own are particularly lean.

Of course, you’ll also want to make sure that your bare minimum is realistic for someone in your field and of your skill set to make. Run your numbers through the FreelanceSwitch hourly rate calculator to help you determine how much you need to charge in order to meet your business and personal financial obligations, then do some research to see if that rate is realistic to charge.

Make a Plan and Stick to It

When you’re on your own, your income isn’t coming in regular paychecks. All of your clients might pay you one week—and you might go another six weeks before you get another check. So how do you prepare?

Having figured out the bare minimum you need to live on will help you here, but what’s more important is sticking to that number—even on those months when you bring in more business. Read: When your two biggest clients pay you on the same day, don’t celebrate your good fortune with an expensive night out and a shopping spree. You’ll be giving yourself future peace of mind when you save what you don’t need for your next lull—or for when you need a new laptop ASAP to meet your deadline.

I also recommend having a back-up plan in case you don’t have work coming in for a period of time. Keep in mind that there are only two ways to increase your profit: Cut costs or work more (or for more money). Which makes more sense for you— can you further cut your expenses to make it work? Can you take on a side gig?

Don’t Forget Taxes & Retirement

One thing you definitely need to keep in mind as you set up your budget? Taxes. As a freelancer, you should pay quarterly estimated taxes. Don’t wait to pay them all in April, or you’ll face fines from the IRS. Work with an accountant familiar with the tax code for the self-employed to determine how much you should be setting aside out of every payment you receive, and set up a separate savings account where you can stash the money that needs to go to Uncle Sam.

Also remember that it’s up to you to handle retirement contributions that your employer may have arranged in the past. As you plan the future of your business, make sure that you also continue to save for retirement. If you have an employer-funded account like a 401(k), now’s the time to roll it over into an individual account like an IRA or mutual fund. A trusted financial advisor can help you review your options.

Setting yourself up for financial success isn’t the most fun part of starting out as a freelancer—but it’s arguably the most important. So, create a solid budget, have a back-up plan, and prepare for the future—and then you can enjoy the fact that you’re out on your own!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Facing Your Fears of Returning To School

The increasing availability of career colleges offering online programs is making it easier and more convenient for working professionals to finish college or earn more degrees. Re-enrolling in college is a great way to make a career transition, learn new skills, study subjects of personal interest, and enhance marketability in the job market.

Unfortunately, many people wanting to make a career change or return to college do not do so because of fear.

The First Step is Admitting It

The following concerns are voiced by many working professionals reluctant to return to school:

Many working professionals are concerned about the cost of returning to college, the time commitment involved, and attending classes with younger students. Many adults considering a return to college are concerned that their employers will be unimpressed with their new degrees or certifications.

However, most working adults re-enrolling in career college, regardless of whether they attend or complete classes online, fit-in well and do not have the aforementioned problems. These students usually enroll with fears and concerns only later to realize that they were overreacting.

Because of the benefits of returning to college, many working professionals that have re-enrolled in college are glad that their fears did not prevent them from obtaining more education.

I'm Afraid I Won't Fit In

Many middle-aged adult returning to college are concerned about standing out and not fitting in with younger students. According to the U.S. Department of Education, college students 25 years or older comprise 40 percentage of all students enrolled in college. Likewise, in 2001, close to 3 million people 35 years or older were enrolled in college, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Middle-aged adults with concerns about fitting in at college should consider the following factors:

Many classes can be completed online for those with concerns about attending classes with younger adults. However, increasing numbers of adults not in their twenties are attending college. In fact, many adults enjoy interacting and learning with younger students enthusiastic about education.

I'm Afraid It Will Be Too Expensive

It can be expensive returning to college. The expense alone is enough to cause many working adults to reconsider their decision to return to school. However, when education is viewed as an investment, the costs of attending college do not seem as large of an obstacle. It’s best to have a long term rather than short term perspective. In fact, salary increases associated with obtaining more education often offset the costs of returning to school. Many colleges, including those offering online courses, are inexpensive to attend. Before deciding against returning to school, consider how a return will help you achieve your long-term career and educational goals.

I'm Afraid It Will Take Up Too Much Time

It’s not unreasonable for working professionals to feel overwhelmed with their current responsibilities. As a result, returning to school can be very intimidating. Working full-time, raising a family, and fulfilling other responsibilities are enough to occupy already full schedules.

However, it’s possible to make time to return to school. It may require sacrificing time spent enjoying leisurely activities, but it is possible to make the time. If you set a goal and have unwavering commitment to reach it, you can develop the ability to make sacrifices.

Working professionals wanting to return to school but concerned about the time commitment should consider enrolling in online classes. These classes can be completed whenever students have time, whether it be early in the morning or late in the evening. Students are not required to attend classes and course requirements can be completed at home.

I'm Afraid It Will Take Forever To Complete My Degree

It usually requires four years to obtain a bachelor’s degrees, two years to obtain a master’s degree, and nearly eight years to complete a doctorate program as a full-time student. That may not seem as an impossible task for a young adult with the time, but it can be very intimidating for someone with a full-time job and family responsibilities.

However, most colleges offer accelerated learning programs. As a result, these programs require less time than would be required if one pursued their degree the traditional way. Semesters are shorter, usually 5 weeks, and educational quality is not sacrificed to speed through course material. Many students obtain degrees in under a year.

I'm Afraid That Employers Won't Take My Degree Seriously

People often decide against going back to school because they cannot attend an ivy league or other well respected institution. These people frequently assume that their employers will be unimpressed if they earn a degree from a lesser known institution.

However, most companies consider degrees obtained from career colleges as acceptable and of the same quality as degrees obtained through traditional programs. In the past, employers may have not considered online degrees from career colleges in the same way as they viewed programs obtained through traditional colleges, but the quality of online programs continues to improve and offers the type of training and education available at a traditional college. Likewise, students completing online programs will develop, or further develop, technology skills highly sought after by many companies, and they may impress their employers by taking initiative to broaden their knowledge and acquire new skills.

I'm Afraid I Won't Learn Anything New Or Valuable

Working professionals often become concerned that returning to school will not significantly benefit them. In other words, they feel that they will not learn anything new they haven’t learned working or develop skills that will improve their marketability in the workforce.

However, most people who’ve completed online career college programs will attest to the exact opposite. College classes at accredited schools are taught by qualified individuals with expertise and experience in the subject they teach, and classes at most career colleges are full of working professionals from various backgrounds. If students decide to attend classrooms or complete classes online, they will still learn new things they never considered and benefit from the opportunity of interacting with other professionals.

Likewise, programs offered at many career colleges emphasize group learning and team work. In these programs, students work closely with instructors and their fellow classmates. Group work and interaction enables students to learn from other professionals with various work experiences. New knowledge acquired from group interaction can immediately be applied to work situations.

Why Make The Move?

Since many online colleges cater exclusively to working professionals, there are few, if any, reasons why an adult should hesitate returning to school. They can greatly benefit from deciding to pursue more education. The following are benefits of returning to school as a working professional:
  • Promotion or career advancement opportunities: Returning to school is one way to improve your chances to get promoted, or it is one strategy for beginning a career transition.
  • Finish a started degree: Many college students find opportunities in the workforce before completing college. However, it is never too late to return and finish a degree.
  • Demonstrate to your children and future generations the importance of education: If you set an example for your children, they are more than likely to attend college and enjoy the benefits of earning a degree.
  • Gain the necessary knowledge and prepare for managing your own business: It is very challenging to successfully run a small business, so developing skills and acquiring business knowledge will be very beneficial.
It can seem intimidating to re-enroll in college, but this should not be a reason for missing out on the benefits of acquiring more education. Adults or working professionals with a plan can smoothly make the transition back to school.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Overcome Procrastination

Sometimes procrastination can stand in the way of us taking big steps forward in our career and personal development.  Is procrastination an issue for you in your life?

Procrastination, the habit of delaying or avoiding tasks, is one of the most significant obstacles that holds people back from accomplishing their professional and personal goals.  Everyone has experienced it at some point in their lives and most people experience it on a daily basis.  However, getting into the habit of procrastinating can be detrimental to your career.  It can also take a toll on your health. 

Studies have shown that people who procrastinate regularly on priority tasks have weaker immune systems, are more susceptible to flus and colds, and are also more likely to have problems sleeping.  In the workplace, a procrastinator’s habits will have a negative impact on teamwork and productivity.  Procrastination can cause our relationships to suffer as well.  If people are counting on us to get things done and we continue to put it off, they may end up thinking we are unreliable.

Putting off job searching or career development activities can also have negative consequences.  I have coached many people who lost their jobs due to the economic problems and said that they had sensed beforehand that they should have been working on their resume or job searching, but kept putting it off until it was too late.

The good news is that there are plenty of helpful tips to help us overcome procrastination and reach our goals.

  • Identify what tasks you keep putting off.  There is probably a common thread.  You may notice that it’s more common when it comes to administrative tasks at work or job searching or eating healthy meals.  

  • You may be putting it off because it’s an overwhelming task or goal.  Break it up into smaller pieces to make it more manageable. 

  • Figure out if it’s possible to delegate it to someone else (this is only possible with certain tasks).

  • Ask someone you to trust to hold you accountable for finishing the task(s).

  • Brainstorm ways, to make it more enjoyable.  For example, listen to your favorite music while doing those annoying household chores or while exercising. 

  • In order to avoid thinking about it all day, schedule a certain time during the day that you will do the task and stick to it.  Give yourself a small reward for finishing the task.

  • Keep a journal of how you were able to beat procrastination and refer to that journal for help on future goals.

  • The mind frame that we have to do something perfectly can also hold us back. Realize that you are not expected to complete the task perfectly.  Then, break it up into smaller pieces and figure out a way to reward yourself with each step you take toward your goal.   

Make this summer the time that you procrastinate less and accomplish more.

Sheila Nazari is a Human Resources / Training Consultant and Career Coach who guides organizations and people in setting and reaching their goals and achieving their definition of success.  She has worked with Fortune 500 companies, medium sized, and small companies including Target, Apollo Group, University of Phoenix, Corporate Psychologists, Knight Transportation and Auckland Museum.

Sheila received her Master’s degree in Human Resources from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and her Bachelor’s degree from Boston University.  Sheila runs her own consulting company MyLeadership Solution LLC and can be contacted at

Friday, June 21, 2013

Managing Student Loan Debt

Student loan repayment is a constant reality for many of us. If you’re among the fortunate college grads employed in the career field of your choice – and your salary is what you expected, repaying student loans may not be a concern, but if you’re among the many recent college grads who are unemployed or “mal-employed” (in a job that doesn’t require a college degree), your student loans soon may begin affecting your post-college finances.

According to 2011 research from the U.S. Department of Labor*, less than half of last year’s 2.7 million college grads under age 25 had jobs requiring a college degree. What’s more, about 700,000 college grads remained unemployed six months after graduation. These numbers are troubling, especially as student loan re-payment plans are scheduled to begin.

Employed or not, the next 10 to 15 years will include managing monthly payments for those who took out loans. If you’re in this group, it’s up to you to do everything possible to repay that debt and avoid the consequences of defaulting. Here are a few strategies designed to help you through the student loan repayment process.

Step 1: Do all you can to avoid default

Defaulting on a financial obligation can harm your finances in the short and long run. When graduates default on a federal student loan, the total loan balance becomes due immediately. Your credit score also takes a major hit and the government can garnish your wages or seize future tax refunds. Defaulting on a private student loan happens much more quickly and if you obtained the loan with a co-signer (like a parent) they’re also at risk.

If your income doesn’t allow you to cover your monthly student loan payment, do some research to determine if you’re eligible for a deferment. Be proactive. Contact your lender and ask to lower the monthly payment or, if unemployed, ask about interest-only payments for a set period of time. If you have multiple loans, consider loan consolidation with one lender to make the repayment process easier - but consolidate with caution. You shouldn’t consolidate federal loans into a private student loan, or you may lose the repayment options and borrower benefits – like unemployment deferments and loan forgiveness programs – that come with federal loans.

Step 2: Ask for help if you need it

You’re in charge of creating your own financial security, even if you move back home with your parents or accept money from them to help make ends meet as you’re starting out on your own. It’s OK to ask for help. But keep your financial end goals in mind along the way and remember your parents and grandparents have their own financial needs and goals as well.

Step 3: Vigorously pursue all job opportunities

If you’re qualified for a job opening, even if it’s not in the field you studied in college, go for it! You’re on the front-end of your career and obtaining job experience (and a paycheck) is your priority today. You can pursue your career field of choice throughout your lifetime, so don’t limit yourself. Research what industries are expanding and hiring (like technology and green companies) and explore how your education and skills might fit with these organizations. For example if you have a degree in communications, search for jobs where you can apply these skills – even if the industry is unrelated to your educational background.

Step 4: Consider part-time or evening work while searching for a full-time job

Some income is better than no income and having a small, but steady paycheck will help keep bill collectors at bay. If you live with parents, they’ll likely appreciate the effort you make to contribute, too. Part-time work also gives you the opportunity to remain socially connected, gain job experience and network with the working world.

Step 5: Stay sharp

Use your free time to educate yourself about national and global issues that will help you when you land a job interview. Volunteer or sign up for a free class, like a creative writing workshop or basic accounting course. These activities will keep you occupied, help you network and provide additional experience to add to your resume. Hiring managers will notice that, even after graduation, you’ve been deliberate about expanding your horizons and skill level.

Ultimately, your student loan obligation will likely get easier with time. Managing the process – even when it’s a challenge – by being proactive will help you appreciate the degree you earned and paid for all the more.

* U.S Department of Labor, 2011 Current Population Survey
Renée A. Hanson, CFP®, CEP®, CDFA™, CFS, is a private wealth advisor with Hanson, Ayala & Associates, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Her passion is in helping women achieve their dreams and financial goals, regardless of life’s many obstacles. Renée is licensed/registered to do business with U.S. residents only in the states of AZ, CA, CO, GA, IA, IL, MI, MN, MT, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, SC, TX, VA, WA, WI. Please visit: to learn more.
Brokerage, investment and financial advisory services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA and SIPC. Some products and services may not be available in all jurisdictions or to all clients.
© 2012 Ameriprise Financial, Inc. All rights reserved.                                                                      File # 144857

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How to Get Ahead in Your Career - From the Experts

This inspirational post with advice straight from successful CEOs, entrepreneurs, and women at the top is reposted from  Learn how these women got ahead in their career development!

Everyone has a fear: heights, spiders, the ground opening up and swallowing you whole. (OK, maybe that’s just me.)

But fears at work can be particularly debilitating. What if I fail? What if I’m not good enough? What if the ground opens up and swallows my cubicle whole?

Letting fear get the best of you at your job can keep you from getting the recognition that you deserve—whether it hinders you from nabbing a promotion or stops you from applying for more challenging positions.

So what’s a timid (yet ambitious) person to do? We talked to successful CEOs, entrepreneurs, and other go-getter titans at the top to hear about the take-charge moves that got them ahead in their careers.

Don’t Be Afraid to Let Others Challenge You

"You should surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. If you partner with those who can elicit a debate and shed new light on things that you may never have thought of, it will make your idea, product, or service that much stronger.”
Marc Sampogna, CEO and Founder of Canopy Brand Group

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

"I really hate the ‘I did it all by myself’ style of business stories. Everyone either needs help—or has had help at some stage from someone. Years ago, I used to think that I was the epicenter of my success. It wasn’t until my business almost wasn’t a success that I realized I needed assistance from others. That’s when I learned that there’s no such thing as self-made. Not only is it important to have your own vision, but it’s equally important to understand the vision of those around you.”
Troy Hazard, Entrepreneur and Author of Future-Proofing Your Business

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

"It may sound counterintuitive, but you can spend years analyzing every detail of your business plan and never pull the trigger. When intuition tells you that you have a winning idea—even if you don’t know every single detail—just get going on implementing it!
When my daughter, Ariana, and I launched Superstar Nail Lacquer, I had no idea how to manufacture and package the product. But I still started the business, figuring it out along the way—and it all came together quickly. In the past, I have missed out on some very big opportunities while waiting for the perfect conditions. But not anymore.”
—Stacia Pierce, Founder of Ultimate Lifestyle Enterprises

Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Out a Mentor

"One of the best ways to get out of a career rut is to find a mentor or surround yourself with highly motivated people in your field. Sometimes all we need is to talk to someone who has been through the same circumstances. Encouragement is a great motivator—and having someone hold you accountable for progress can be the fuel that you need to achieve newer and loftier goals.”
Wendy McMonigle, Owner of WM Design House

Don’t Be Afraid to Show Your Passion

"My motto? ‘Nothing great in life is ever accomplished without enthusiasm.’ I pride myself on my passion for my company and the energy that I bring to our office every day. If I’m excited, then I know it will be contagious. I really believe that’s what separates someone from being OK to being at a level of greatness.”
Chad Johnson, CEO and Founder of Lady Jane’s

Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes

"Entrepreneurs often share stories of how they started a company or organization in their garage—and then it magically became a multi-million dollar company overnight. But they skip over the hard parts: the sleepless nights, the obstacles, and the mistakes made along the way. When I started my company, what kept me going is how I chose to look at those mistakes. A failure is only a true failure if you don’t learn from what it has to teach you.”
David Simnick, CEO and Co-Founder of SoapBox Soaps

Don’t Be Afraid to Trust Your Instinct

"My best advice? Do what feels right for you. Each of us have different motivators that make us happy, and if you understand those, you’ll create a career that’s meaningful. If it’s money that motivates you, you might make different decisions than someone who’s driven by helping others.
You can’t make a bad decision—unless you do something unethical—so long as it moves you in the direction that fills you up. And if you start down a path that turns out to be wrong, you can always course-correct. That’s the power of being fearless.”
Jane Miller, Founder of