In the past, I’ve gotten some questions about the business of illustration & about how taxes work. Filing taxes is a bummer, but it sucks even more when you have no idea what you’re doing. After progressing from Completely Clueless to Somewhat Experienced* during the past 5 years of doing my own taxes, I thought i’d write (& illustrate!) a generalized rundown. Here’s hoping it might provide some insight for the curious!
*This info is from my own experience and I am by NO means a tax professional! I’m simplifying a lot of the info here, so please don’t take my word as law—check out the specifics on the IRS website instead.
First, the basics:
If you earn an income, you have to pay income taxes, and Uncle Sam has a “pay as you go” system. If you want to avoid a pricey penalty, you are expected to pay taxes throughout the year as you earn income, not all at once when you file your income tax return. There are 2 ways this happens:
1. For people who receive regular paychecks from an employer, your employer will withhold a certain amount from your paycheck to pay for federal (and state) income taxes—you fill out a W-4 form when you’re hired, which determines how much they withhold for you. Easy-peasy!
2. If you’re a freelancer, you don’t have a regular paycheck or a regular employer to withhold your taxes for you, so you have to pay quarterly Estimated Taxes yourself. Estimated taxes cover your income tax and self employment tax*, for both the federal gov’t and your state gov’t (if applicable).
*Yes—as a freelancer, you not only have to pay income tax, but you also pay self employment tax! (basically, a tax that goes to Social Security/Medicare)
I’m just going to focus on federal estimated taxes first:
If you’re a freelancer, the trick is to make sure you pay enough in estimated taxes throughout the year to avoid the underpayment penalty.
You will avoid the penalty if you:
Owe less than $1000 in taxes after subtracting withholding and credits
(A)Have paid at least 90% of the tax amount owed for the current year, or (B) have paid at least 100% of the tax shown on last year’s return — whichever is smaller.
So let’s break down these scenarios a bit:
If you’re a student just graduating from school and you haven’t done many freelance jobs (i.e. probably making less than $8,000 in taxable income from freelance), it’s likely that you don’t have to pay estimated taxes, because you’ll probably owe less than $1000 in federal taxes from your freelance work. So don’t sweat it!
If it does look like you will owe $1000 or more in taxes, you have 2 choices for calculating how much to pay in estimated taxes—the aforementioned (A) or (B).
(A) Make sure you pay at least 90% of the tax amount that will be owed for the current year.
(B) Make sure you pay at least 100% of the tax shown on last year’s return.
There’s an estimated tax worksheet that you can use to help figure out either one.
Since my freelance income fluctuates and I’m lazy enough that I don’t like trying to predict how much tax I will owe for the upcoming year (and adjust quarterly payments if needed), I prefer to just use option (B).
That means that I can just pay an equal amount each quarter, and make sure all 4 estimated tax payments add up to the tax amount I paid for last year’s return (or more).
So, for instance, if I owed $7000 total in federal taxes for 2012, I won’t be penalized for underpayment if I pay at least $1750 each quarter ($7000 total) for my 2013 federal estimated taxes—regardless of whether I owe more taxes in 2013 or not. If I earned a higher income in 2013 than in 2012 and didn’t pay enough estimated taxes to cover it all, I’d still have to pay the difference at tax time, but at least I wouldn’t have to pay the underpayment penalty!
Not too difficult, so long as you have enough in your bank account, but tricky to figure out at first!
All of this information also generally applies to state estimated tax payments, though the specific numbers and percentages can change and a few states don’t charge income tax at all. In most states, you have to pay a state income tax as well as a federal income tax, so I pay quarterly estimated tax payments to the federal government, as well as quarterly estimated tax payments to Maryland, my state of residence.
Your state will also likely have a free online tax system you can use.
Some tax filing methods:
-Just use a tax professional! Seriously, especially if this is new to you and you don’t have any outside help. I know plenty of professional illustrators that use one. Better than messing things up and getting in trouble with the IRS.
-Use online tax software that helps to walk you through the tax experience and will do all the calculations for you, like TurboTax, TaxAct, etc. (I use TaxAct) They usually have a free version for your federal returns well as pay options, (which may include your state return as well). They will also let you schedule your federal estimated taxes, which I take advantage of. I recommend having a tax-savvy friend or relative you can call if you get stuck! I owe huge debts of gratitude to my own tax-savvy relatives that patiently answered questions & put me on the right track.
-Print out all the pertinent tax forms and worksheets, start to fill them out by hand, alone in your paper-strewn room, and then jump out the window in wild frustration when you can’t figure out all the jargon and your math skills aren’t as good as they used to be.
“Happy” taxing, everyone!
Not only do you get to choose the date (and change it if necessary) but for $15.00 per month you get to choose any combination of 30 tampons, pads, and panty liners (choose from Kotex, Playtex, and Tampax). The box will also include chocolate and a gift that will vary from month to month.
WOW THIS IS REALLY COOL. SO I WAS RESEARCHING FOR MY NON-EURO MYTHS SERIES AND I FOUND OUT THAT UNESCO HAS INFO ON A WHOLE BUNCH OF CULTURAL PRACTICES THEY’RE TRYING TO PRESERVE AROUND THE WORLD.
Here’s the site:
And then you just put in the country you’re interested in that box:
For example here’s Vietnam’s page:
And you just click on any of those AND THIS IS SO FUCKING COOL YOU GUUUYYYYSSSS!!!!
SO NOW I’M LEARNING ABOUT THE WORSHIP OF HUNG KINGS IN PHU THO:
AND THERE’S SLIDESHOWS AND AN INFORMATIVE VIDEO. KAERNGVAKCSDKMVN
9 Ways to Generate Your Best Ideas
Idea generation is often seen as the magic side of creativity, and although I love the magic of it, I also feel like I have learned there is a practical side to it as well.
The great idea spirit seems as unpredictable as the weather. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that idea generation has a mystical side, I just think we have more power to be the catalyst of this spirit than many creatives believe.
Here are 9 ways to flip your own idea generation switch:
1. Think Hard & Then Let Go
This idea comes from Jason Lehrer in his talk for 99u.com. Basically proof that the epiphany moment actually comes from a state in your mind when you are unfocused!
This is so true because often I will get so worked up trying to come up with an idea, let go, leave the ‘drawing board’ and take a shower or go on a walk and BAM! The idea pops into my head!
2. Brainstorm Ideas You don’t Intend to Use
This is such an important practice and it takes the relaxed approach from number 1 on this list. When you brainstorm ideas that you don’t intend to use, you are free to fail, the pressure is off. This is where the good ideas are often born.
3. Sketchbook / Notepad
Figure out a system that works for you. If you are like me you grew up with a ton of sketchbooks that you started strong with, but only filled in the first couple pages. Start small if it’s a struggle. The true point of this needs to be something you can always have on you to catch those breakthroughs when they happen. I consistently use my iphone to note ideas.
4. Get a Brainstorm Partner
My wife is my brainstorm partner (she doesn’t really have a choice). I run all of my ideas by her, and she is so honest that it used to actually scare me, BUT this is what you are looking for in a brainstorm partner. You need someone who can quickly identify when ideas have no merit at all, and to help you discuss and develop the good ones before you actually get started. You especially need this if you do your primary mental processing externally.
5. Cling to the Constraints
Idea generation can be daunting when the paper is completely blank. A good practice to is to fill that blank sheet with what you do know. If this is for a specific purpose, list the requirements. If this is for yourself, list what you want to get out of it. If this is for a specific topic, list what you already know about it, list what other people have told you, research and list what you can find. Ideas can be so elusive and cloudy, constraints and requirements give us something to hold onto in this uncertain and mystical area. This is a great talk from Katie Hawkins-Gaar on the importance of limitations or constraint.
6. Start with First Idea, Then Go Back to the Drawing Board
Sometimes your best ideas come in the middle of the execution of other ideas. So if you are having a hard time coming up with more than one idea, and you don’t feel good about that idea, just get started anyway. Sometimes the project becomes more clear when you are actually working on it. While you execute that first idea, you may start to understand what’s not working with the idea, and this gives you a good springboard for brainstorming new ideas.
7. Loosen Your Brain with Free Association
Just start writing or talking. This practice loosens my mind. I find it really easy to talk nonsense, if you know me very well at all you probably already know this. Often though in this silliness I find a creative groove. Free association is a Freudian psychological practice where the patient just speaks what comes to mind. Personally I like to get into this pattern and then start the ideation process.
8. Observe the Pattern
Look back, when do you create your best ideas? Sometimes it’s hard to see how it happened, but if you look at enough of these moments a pattern should emerge. For me it has often been a certain type of music, and depending on the type of idea I am looking for, I will put on a specific type of music.
9. Start the Day Over with a Nap
Michael Hyatt, a well known leadership blogger, is a big supporter of daily naps. He even wrote a blog post about it. I can’t say I support daily naps for everyone, I can’t practice it daily, but I do love Winston Churchill’s ideas on napping. He believed it was like starting your day twice. I love this because it’s sort of a restart button on your day. If you have the opportunity and your brain goes into gridlock and you can’t think of any ideas, take a short nap. When you wake up your mind will definitely be in a different place because you literally can’t sleep without your mind changing states.
Learning how to come up with ideas consistently will make or break your creative path, so it’s important to find what works for you.
How did you come up with your best idea?
As someone who writes fics with action sequences and the use of guns, I thought maybe it would be helpful to pass some things on. Even though I’ve done lots of research and talked with family members (I live in WI which is a big hunting state and we have lots of guns), I still catch myself making mistakes with specific terms and their usage. Reading more James Bond fics lately, I catch others making mistakes also. So here is a little guide to help writers.
- A ‘clip’ is something that stores multiple rounds of ammunition. It is not what you would insert into a handgun to load it. Clips make loading into a magazine easier because they simply store the rounds. It helps with organization.
- A magazine is what feeds the ammunition into the barrel. Magazines vary in capacity. They, unlike clips, are spring-loaded, which helps the ammunition move in the gun. So, when you want a character to reload, they would use a pre-loaded magazine, NOT a clip.
- A silencer is really a suppressor. ‘Silencer’ is a word that’s used in media to refer to a suppressor that doesn’t exist in real life. Guns that are suppressed will still be loud and have a sound. This is because compressed air will still leak out of the end of the barrel, you can’t silence a bullet moving extremely fast through the air, and you can’t silence the mechanical parts on a gun. There will be a noise, but it just won’t be as loud or more importantly, alert people in a nearby area that a gun was just fired. SO suppressor is a much more accurate term technically speaking.
- There are different kinds of suppressors. One important kind suppresses the muzzle flash. It’s likely a sniper would use this more than they would want to use a sound suppressor, as the muzzle flash more easily enables you to be spotted when you don’t want to be. These are simply referred to as flash suppressors.
- After a handgun runs out of ammunition, the slide will lock back into place and you will know that it is out. There is no ‘click’ signifying an empty weapon that is so dramatized in movies and tv. A more likely scenario that would prevent a gun from firing would be a jam. Or programming the gun to recognize certain palm prints.
- A great place for writers, in particular fanfic writers, who want information on guns is imfdb. You can find out what guns are used in movies and shows, and what guns characters use. You can also just search for guns.
- If you want to get really specific, check out YouTube. There are users who will post reviews of guns on there, which can be really helpful if you want to see how a particular gun looks or how to shoot it.
So yeah! Here are just a few basic tips if you want to write a fic where a character uses guns.
I see you’ve got terminology down, now let’s go for a little technicality.
- Firstly, let me explain the “kick” of a gun. A “kick” is the feeling of the round leaving the barrel of the gun. Every gun has one, the impact of the “kick” depends on the caliber, make and type of gun.
- Another way to describe a kick is the feeling of the gun exploding in your hand. Of course, the gun doesn’t literally explode, but it is a great burst of power that only lasts a second.
- For example: A .45 mm hand gun with have a bigger “kick” than a .22 mm hand gun. If someone is a first time shooter and does not know what to expect, they would most likely drop the gun after firing it once due to the shock of the force being released in their hands.
- Sniper Rifles are incredibly accurate and mainly used for long distance hits. They are also ridiculously heavy, as most rifles are, therefore, be prepared for a gigantic “kick”.
- Sniper Rifles are special because they are so powerful (they need to be in order to have the same impact a .45mm would 10 feet away compared to the shell half a mile away), thus a stand is required to use it.
- No matter what you will always need a firm holding to place the rifle (besides your grip) in order to prevent the gun from falling over after it is discharged and injury to your person. There are ridiculously powerful guns.
- General rule of thumb is that you place the butt of the rifle next to your shoulder, just below your clavicle. I’m not very good at describing this position, so I suggest looking it up. DO NOT place it anywhere in the armpit area, dislocation is likely to occur. Depending on how prepare you are and the type of rifle being used (excluding snipers), bruising might occur.
- You will be standing if you use a normal rifle, so make sure you are steady and prepared for the “kick” that follows after.
- If you are using a sniper rifle, you will be on the ground or leaning against something. Some people have special rests for their snipers specifically to fire the gun from any spot. Point is: do not stand alone while firing this. You will get hurt.
Other helpful tips:
- Earplugs or Ear Protectors are your friends.
- Safety glasses are also your friend to avoid shells from flying into your face.
- Keep the safety on until you are ready to fire the gun.
- If you are NOT currently firing the gun, whether it is loaded or unloaded, and it is in your hand, ALWAYS hold it with two hands and point it at the ground at your feet. DO NOT get distracted.
- NEVER joke around with someone by pointing the gun at them. EVEN IF YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE THAT THE GUN IS TOTALLY UNLOADED, MAGAZINE OUT OF PLACE, DO NOT RISK IT. It is not funny. Even if the gun is on safety, do NOT do it. You could accidently switch off the safety or the gun could misfire despite the safety.
- Lastly TWO HANDS. One on the side near the trigger and the other underneath. This is not the movies, do not attempt to fire a gun with one hand. Not only will your aim be incredibly off if you are inexperienced but you will also endanger yourself as well as others if you lose control of it.
- Guns can be scary and if you ever feel nervous or uncomfortable about firing one, do not do it.
This is a free website similar to Google Sketch-up that allows you to design the interior of your home. This is an easier interface than Sketch-up and allows you to add little things like electrical outlets and move the walls of the room so that you can see exact dimensions.
Eplans.com is a website that sells blueprints for houses.
This might not seem that helpful but if you want a characters house you can make selections based on what sort of house you want them to live in.
Then browse through the results and find the house you want. Then you can view the blueprints and have a room layout for that house, which can help with visualising the space they live in.
It makes describing generic homes so much easier.
Oooooh, that’s awesome! I was actually thinking about that a few days ago, how it would be splendid to have a website do the work and plan houses for you. I’m no decorator and need these references.
I have some basic architecture programs that I use to design houses from scratch but this might be even better (what with me not being an actual architect). But I will say having a floor plan to work from ABSOLUTELY improves art and writing when it comes to detailing the scenery.
This is a wonderful summation of Gender politics and whatnot. I like that Hank mentioned Romantic Orientation. I’ve only ever been bothered by the Asexual identification by the fact that I feel like it isn’t answering the right question. I don’t think people mean SEXUAL Orientation when they say it. Identifying immediately as Asexual feels like they’re completely leaving out the possible romantic orientation they have… This is terribly worded.
What I’m trying to say is, if we feel we need to know SOMETHING about people’s Orientations(Which we really don’t, unless we intend to court them,) we should focus more on their romantic orientation rather than their sexual one. Maybe that’s just me. It just seems like Asexual as an identifier isn’t answering the question anyone is asking. To intensely exaggerate(with no intention of perverting what it means to be asexual,) It would be like someone asking you who you’re attracted to and you answering you’re a whips-and-chains-sexual… They weren’t asking about that. Aromantic should be a thing. Asexual too but… yeah.
(I want to ramble and clarify more, but I’ll leave that for if someone actually replies to this. If I clutter it too much now, nobody will even read it.)
Ah wow, really great video. Also interesting commentary. If I’ve understood you correctly, I think I agree to some extent: Someone saying “I’m heterosexual” is usually implying that they’re heteroromantic as well, but that’s not always the case - even less so for asexuals. And knowing whether someone is attracted to female people or bigendered people or no people is pretty much the same as knowing whether someone like redheads or dom/sub play and private, personal details like that. It’s not really relevant. Then again, neither is romantic orientation, but that might be slightly more relevant in terms of the initial search for a partner. I reaaally don’t know that much about dating, but I think a lot of people try and see if they have compatible personalities before worrying about the sex part? It’s easier to gain knowledge of someone’s gender than their specific kinks, so it’s easier to search for a romantically compatible partner than a sexually compatible one.
This is a well done video.
As for the asexual thing… I think it depends on the individual. Considering how often relationships are expected to lead to sex, or that sex is a vital and necessary component to a relationship, then relaying that I have no interest in it and don’t experience sexual attraction to anyone is important to me and the asexual label does that. Yes, it often goes hand in hand with romantic attraction, perhaps more so than any other sexual identity, but it’s still information I feel should be conveyed before entering into any sort of relationship.
Again, that’s all personal opinion and it’s possible I may be misinterpreting what you meant.