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Tag Archives | Freelancing

From the vault: A freelancer’s perspective on health insurance

health_care_freelancerIn March 2007, an innocent time when people believed Hillary Clinton would be the next president, Barack Obama was an American citizen, and John Edwards had a future, I posted my thoughts on health care and the self-employed:

A freelancer’s perspective on health insurance

I just reread the piece and, yes, I still agree with myself.

While the topic is less fun than self-portraits in airplane restrooms, women baring their breasts at a Bruce Springsteen concert, or crank phone calls from Paris Hilton’s publicist, I reckoned it was a good idea to mention the post with health care reform being such a contentious issue right now.

Talk to The New York Times about being an uninsured worker

Katie Zezima, a writer with The New York Times, sent me an e-mail this afternoon after reading my post, A freelancer’s perspective on health insurance.

She is writing an article about working people who do not have health insurance and is looking for subjects to interview (thankfully I no longer qualify).

If you, however, are working but uninsured and would like to speak with her, please let me know and I will forward you her contact information.

A freelancer’s perspective on health insurance

health_care_freelancerWith the 2008 presidential race beginning and several states implementing universal health care coverage, health insurance has been in the news recently.

Here’s my take:

Many labor experts and economists believe that workers in the United States stay in jobs they don’t like because health insurance here is tied to their employers. While I broke out of that shackle, I understand why so many people tolerate underpaying jobs that are beneath them just for the health insurance.

When I started freelancing a few years ago, I was on my previous employer’s COBRA plan. It cost over $300 a month. (I later discovered that I could have obtained cheaper insurance, but I had heard it was difficult to find as a freelancer, so I just kept my COBRA. I felt lucky to even have that.)

When my COBRA expired I was uninsured for about six weeks while I waited for an insurer to process my application. Now I am paying about $170 a month, which includes dental coverage. My deductibles are a lot higher than when I had COBRA, but thankfully I do not have any health issues, so that expense is not much of a concern.

While affordable insurance was available—at least for me—there are still drawbacks. A cheaper insurer pays doctors and dentists less than a more expensive one. Therefore doctors and dentists obviously are less inclined to accept new patients from insurers who pay less than other insurers.

Hence, I needed to make an appointment four months in advance with a dentist 75-minutes away to get my teeth cleaned. Unless, of course, I wanted to go back to paying $350 a month for health insurance. I reckon that experience helps counter the claims from opponents of universal health care that it will create long waits for medical treatments. For many of us, long waits already are a reality.

If you are a freelancer and are opposed to universal health care, please let me know why in the comments.

The editing process: 17 steps to a finished paper and happy client

Here’s a 17-step process for editing a document. Obviously, many of the stages can be broken down into more detail. This list, however, is a simple reminder that I keep on my desktop to guide me through each editing job.

  1. Create a folder in the computer for all of this project’s files.
  2. Create a job in QuickBooks under this client if it’s an existing one; create a new client profile and job if the client is a new one.
  3. Create an invoice to track the hours worked.
  4. Turn on Microsoft Word’s track changes in the document (Tools > Track Changes > Highlight and Changes > Track changes while editing; some editors also select Highlight changes on screen, but I find it hard to read a document when the changes are visible).
  5. Make sure there is just one space between sentences and not two.
  6. Edit the body of the document (the specifics of this step vary based on the document).
  7. Compare the references section with the in-text citations; look for multiple publications from an author in the same year and edit the citations and reference to differentiate between them.
  8. Edit your queries to the client to make sure he or she will understand them.
  9. Review the acronym list you created while editing and add it to the document.
  10. Run a spell check to catch any words missed while editing.
  11. Update the table of contents and ensure it is consistent with the headers that are in the text.
  12. Update any other tables (such as a table of figures or illustrations) and ensure it is consistent with the headers that are in the text.
  13. Select Highlight changes on the screen (Tools > Track Changes > Highlight and Changes) so the client won’t wonder if you forgot to use track changes.
  14. Return the document to the client. Call him or her to make sure he or she received the e-mail—corporate e-mail filters have been known to kill many an e-mail with a large document attached.
  15. Follow up with the client to make sure he or she is happy and has no further questions.
  16. Submit the invoice and add an action in your calendar to follow up on its status once it is past due.
  17. Thank the client once payment is received.

Coping with IT-support problems, especially Apple’s .Mac, as a freelancer

I was at a retirement party for a now-former employee of the Fish and Wildlife Service a few weeks ago. When he was given an iPod as a gift, someone joked that now that he’s retired, he won’t have access to an IT person to help him use it.

The same is true for freelancers. Unless you shell out for the Geek Squad (which has a bad reputation, according to Consumerist), you need to solve your own technology problems.

As a Mac user, I handle part of my IT needs by using .Mac. For $100 a year I get access to several services that benefit me as a freelancer:

  • address book, calendar, and bookmark syncing between computers so that information is always current on all of my computers
  • access to my address book and bookmarks on the web so I don’t always have to lug my iBook with me
  • an FTP site for easy file sharing with clients
  • scheduled backups of up to 1GB of files on a secure server so my most important data won’t be lost if my apartment done blows up

In addition, when I bought my iBook, I purchased Apple’s AppleCare protection for about $300, which “extends your computer’s 90 days of complimentary support and one-year repair coverage to up to three years of world-class support.”

Unfortunately, as great as .Mac’s features seem, they don’t work.

  • I’ve never been able to restore data with the backup (and an Apple Store Genius told me that feature doesn’t work that well).
  • My contacts and bookmarks stopped syncing even though .Mac is set up on my iBook to sync automatically.
  • My calendars won’t sync on my PowerBook.

And as comprehensive as AppleCare seems, it doesn’t cover .Mac. Hence .Mac users need to address their problems with .Mac’s customer support, which only offers support via e-mail with a hoped-for response time of 72 hours. A three-day wait is unacceptable.

When I submit feedback to .Mac about these problems, and others I’ve had, invariably I receive an e-mail telling me to read four articles, create two test accounts, and report back to them. And that response isn’t a solution, as a lot of these problems don’t happen immediately or are sporadic.

I’ve elaborated about the advantages of freelancing a lot on this site, but last month when I experienced these problems with .Mac–and some other ones with my iBook–I missed being able to wander down the hall and talk to an IT person.

If you are a freelancer, how do you handle your IT-support needs (especially backing up data to an off-site web server? And if you hare a Mac user, is there any software you’d recommend that does what .Mac promises?

Freelancing, Word styles, Bill Clinton, and Russia: Articles worth reading

Here are some good reads on an assortment of topics:

  • Freelancing tips from an illustrator. It’s obvious that Megan Jeffrey has 17 years of experience freelancing; there’s not a single suggestion with which I’d disagree (link via Lifehacker).
  • Macworld: Save time with Word’s styles. One of the biggest ways to make publishing a document more efficient is to get everyone in an organization using Word’s styles. It makes an editor’s job easier, as he or she won’t have to waste time reformatting a document and instead can focus on improving the text.
  • The New Yorker: “The Wanderer”—The ex-presidency of Bill Clinton. This article in the September 18, 2006 issue isn’t available online, but it’s worth picking up at the newsstand. David Remnick’s profile of President Clinton is fascinating and examines his work fighting HIV/AIDS.
  • The Economist: Russian health and demography—A sickness of the soul. It’s hard to think of a country that put the first man in space as having problems usually reserved for developing nations in Africa and Asia, but that’s what former superpower Russia is facing.

Investment advice for the self-employed

My Money Blog has an insightful post about retirement savings plans for the self-employed. It looks at the differences between SEP-IRAs and self-employed 401(k)s.

One of the negatives of freelancing is that you have to establish and administer your own retirement plans. Thankfully my two years of brokerage and banking experience, coupled with reading The Motley Fool, has given me the knowledge to make informed decisions.

I’ve just been saving for retirement in a Roth IRA, but am thinking about opening a SEP-IRA as well.