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Monthly Archives: December 2018
A Quick Guide to Becoming a Freelancer
Freelancing comes with endless freedom, but also endless responsibilities. Businesses have accountants, marketing teams, benefits administrators, and everything in between. However, if you want to be your own boss, then these responsibilities fall on—you guessed it—you! Before taking the plunge into freelancing full-time, consider sticking with your day job with a steady income until you get your footing.
Before you can begin your freelance career, you need to figure out what it is you want to do. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? Why do you want to freelance? Can you afford it? How do you plan to present your “brand” to future clients? Who is your target audience? Asking yourself these questions will help set you up for success in your field. Most companies and start-ups want a specialist to complete the job – wouldn’t you? Decide what your biggest selling point is and go from there. If you love graphic design, think of one area that you’re best at. Maybe your niche is designing graphics for t-shirts, but consider who those t-shirts are for. Continue narrowing down your market so you can brand yourself as a specialist in whatever field you’re in. This will allow you to build a dependable reputation and control how clients perceive you.
Showcase your skills by creating a portfolio or a website that features your best work. When a potential client sees your website, they’ll want to see your past experiences, your personality, creativity, and, most importantly, how to contact you. Keep your website domain name and social media handles consistent so it’s easy for potential clients to find you. Your online presence is often the first impression a new client will have of you, so make sure it’s professional, consistent, and on-brand.
Now that you have some of the groundwork out of the way, it’s time to start selling yourself and landing gigs so you can start earning money. If you already have a few clients lined up, great! If not, there are job sites for freelancers to help you get started. Ask friends and family for referrals, and consider reaching out to companies directly to offer your services.
Managing money as a freelancer can be tricky, especially when you’re just starting out, since you won’t know how much income you’ll have and how steady that income will be. Now’s the time to put on your accountant hat and start to develop a monthly budget. Start by tracking your revenues (income) and expenses. Find your monthly income by adding everything you’ve made in a year and then dividing it by 12. This will give you a rough estimate of how much you can spend and save each month. Each time you get paid for a freelance project, write it down, and every time you purchase an item to complete a project (e.g., a Photoshop subscription), write that down, too. Keep track of all of your fixed expenses, like rent, insurance, car payments, etc. Create a spreadsheet or use an app like Mint to track and organize your income and expenses.
If your budget is doing its job, you should be earning more than you’re spending. It’s tempting to use that extra money for travel or fun activities, but it’s more important to start saving some money and funneling at least 30% of every paycheck into a separate account to cover self-employment taxes. Don’t forget about retirement (you do want to retire, right?) – consider contributing to Individual Retirement Account (IRA) each time you get paid for a project. Your future self is already thanking you!
Freelancing is an enticing choice for many reasons, but it’s still a huge career choice that requires a lot of work, especially in the beginning, in order to be successful. If you’re ready to make the leap, congrats! If you’re still on the fence, why not freelance part-time to see if it’s right for you? After all, freelancing is about flexibility and freedom.
Atlanta Love Bomb: Q&A with Xavier Perry
Much like his signature Love Bomb design, Xavier Perry (and his infectious smile) is making his mark on Atlanta and adding a touch of positivity wherever he goes. Xavier, who is a recent graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in illustration, was selected to design a t-shirt as part of the Xfinity Art Series program. Ne[x]t Magazine spent a few minutes with Xavier to learn more about him and his work. See what Xavier had to say below.
How did you find out about the Xfinity Art Series? What did it mean to be chosen as one of the artists?
An Xfinity Art Series representative actually reached out to me about participating in the project. Xfinity selects a handful of local artists, who each gets to design a t-shirt for Atlanta’s MLB team. Each artist then gets to participate in a shirt signing at the Xfinity Rooftop at SunTrust Park during a game and another shirt signing at an Xfinity store. It was a great honor to be chosen for the series – collaborating with both corporations was a dream come true, because I’m originally from Atlanta.
What was the inspiration behind your t-shirt design?
I wanted to incorporate my signature design (Love Bomb), which symbolizes the rippling effect of spreading love and positivity throughout the community.
How did being selected as an artist for the Xfinity Art Series impact your career as a freelance artist?
Sharing Xfinity’s platform allowed me to reach a more diverse audience, and it also helped fuel my confidence.
When did you first spark a passion for art and wanting a career in the art industry? What keeps you motivated?
Becoming an artist was unexpected – art chose me. Art allowed for self-expression and it provided an opportunity to speak for others. My support system and community inspire me to keep going.
Where do you see yourself in 5 (or 10) years?
Because my art is for the people, I’d rather focus on the now. My audience may need another message in 5 – 10 years.
In 2017, you helped create “The Largest Toilet Paper Roll Sculpture” and set a Guinness World Record. What was that like?
The opportunity was given to me while working with ABV Gallery. We built a rocket ship using only toilet paper rolls, hot glue, and duct tape, and, once completed, it measured 24 feet tall and 12 feet wide. The experience taught me anything is possible with time and consistency. (Curious? Check out the project here.)
What is one of your all-time favorite projects?
My first Love Bomb mural is my favorite because it was my first community piece.
Georgia’s Own and Ne[x]t Magazine are all about helping our members make smart financial decisions. Any tips or tricks you’d like to share with our readers?
Budget your money with personal growth and responsibilities in mind – but don’t forget to enjoy life!
Just for fun – what’s something many people might not know about you?
I enjoy running, and sometimes jog as much as 7.2 miles.
Learn more about Xavier’s work on his website, and check out his Xfinity Rooftop shirt signing below.
New Year, Better Finances: 5 Resolutions for 2019
Every year, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions – whether it’s trying to lose weight, find a new job, reduce stress, and everything in between. One popular resolution is saving money, but this goal can be difficult to achieve. So, here are five, simple ways to start (and keep!) your financial resolution for 2019.
Create a budget with your goals in mind
Set a financial goal, and with that in mind, make a realistic budget that you’ll stick with throughout the year. If you’re not sure where to start, check out free financial wellness tools like BALANCE or GO Financial Education. Don’t forget to take advantage of budgeting tools. With apps like Mint and other online programs, budgeting has never been simpler! Or, if you like to keep things traditional, create a spreadsheet with all of your expenses and income, and lay out a plan so you’re able to put some cash back into a savings account. And speaking of savings…
Stop shopping, start saving
Since the holiday shopping season is over, it’s time to focus on savings. It’s extremely simple to set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings using online banking. If you’re currently setting aside $20 each month, consider upping that amount by $10 (or whatever amount works for you). By saving $30 per month instead of $20, you’ll have an extra $120 by the end of the year. Odds are you’ll hardly miss that extra $10 per month.
Pick a weekly “no-spend” day
Start the new year with a new habit by committing to “no-spend” days. Once a week, try not to spend anything. Cook the food in your fridge or cupboard (get creative!), and make your morning latte at home with some steamed milk. If your no-spend day falls on a weekday, prepare breakfast and lunch the night before, wake up a few minutes early to make coffee, and cook for dinner later that night. Find some free entertainment by watching a movie or playing a board game with family and friends. It’ll be a fun reminder that you’ve kept a couple extra bucks in your pocket for the week.
Clean out your wallet
No, we’re not talking about the mess of receipts you may have stashed in your purse (we’re all guilty). Do you have more credit cards than you bargained for? Take a closer look – are you using all of your cards enough to warrant any annual fees or payments? If not, consider which ones are worth keeping, or if it’s time to upgrade to a credit card that better fits your needs. If you’ve opened up a store card for a couple of benefits here and there, but have to pay an annual fee or an insane interest rate, is it still worth it? Ask yourself these questions and lighten the load in your pocket by closing a few cards. (Heads up: if you’re concerned about your credit score, think before you close long-time cards. Length of credit plays a major role in your credit rating.)
New year, no debt
Saving money is key, but it’s hard to save when your money is going toward paying off debts. Make 2019 the year you take control of your debt. One option is to consolidate (or combine) multiple debts into one, which usually means a more favorable interest rate and payoff terms. Plus, you’ll have one payment versus many. Before consolidating your debts, do the math to make sure you’re getting a good deal and a manageable payment. Consolidation is best used with student loans and credit card debt, so see what works best for you. Keep in mind if you consolidate federal student loans, you may lose certain borrower benefits from your original loans, such as interest rate discounts.
Balance transfers are another option for managing and reducing credit card debt. Many cards offer balance transfer perks, such as reduced or no interest for a specified period of time. As long as you’re able to pay off the transferred balance in full within the timeframe, you’ll save money on interest and knock out your higher rate debt sooner.
What are your financial resolutions for 2019? Let us know in the comments!
Kids in the Kitchen: Fun holiday recipes to try with your little ones.
Holiday baking is a time-honored tradition that makes those festive winter months just a little more special. Cooking with kids, whether they’re sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, or just some friendly next-door neighbors, can be a treasured time together. Go ahead–make some memories and then feast on these deliciously decadent holiday treats.
Compliments of In the Kids Kitchen
- 1 package of Double-Stuffed Oreos
- 1 box of M&M’s
- 2 bags of Ghiradelli white chocolate melting wafers
- 1 package of small edible eyes
- 1 cookie sheet fitted with parchment paper or a non-stick silicone baking mat
- Using a double boiler, melt one bag of white chocolate wafers. Adults should do this step. (Note: You can also melt in a microwave safe bowl, but only heat for 20 seconds at a time, stirring in between. Handle bowl carefully as it may be hot).
- Gently pull apart the Oreos, making sure that the cream stays on one half of the cookie.
- Lightly press two yellow M&M’s into the cream, so that half of each M&M sticks out of the cookie. These will be the “ears,” so you want to place them at what will be the top of your Polar Bear cookies, about one finger width apart.
- Place the other half of the Oreo cookie back on top and slowly dip the top half into the melted chocolate.
- Lightly shake the cookie to get excess chocolate off and place onto the cookie sheet.
- Repeat steps with all remaining cookies.
- Place cookies into the fridge for 10 minutes to harden before continuing.
- Place the Oreo cookie into the melted chocolate.
- Using a fork, lightly flip the Oreo cookie so that both sides are evenly coated.
- Lightly tap the side of the pot to remove the excess chocolate.
- Place Oreo cookie onto the cookie sheet and repeat step with remaining cookies.
- Place a non-melted white chocolate wafer onto the lower part of the cookie to make the nose. Then, put a dab of melted white chocolate onto the letter side of a blue M&M and press onto the white chocolate wafer.
- Use melted white chocolate to attach two eyes to the cookie, above the nose.
- Allow cookies to dry for 30 minutes before enjoying.
Compliments of Kitchen Fun With My Three Sons
- 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1 tsp. Vanilla
- 2 large Eggs
- 1/4 tsp. Baking Powder
- 1/3 cup Cocoa Powder
- 1/4 tsp. Salt
- 1/2 cup Flour
- Edible Candy Eyes
- Red M&M’s
- Chocolate Cookie Icing
- Pretzel Twists
- Round scone dish
- In a large bowl, mix oil and sugar until well blended
- Add eggs and vanilla; stir until blended.
- In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients.
- Stir dry ingredients into the oil/sugar mixture.
- Pour the mix into the round scone dish until it’s about 3/4 full.
- Bake about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Poke the broken pretzel twists in each side of the top of each of the brownie slices.
- Add a dot of chocolate icing where the eyes and nose will be placed.
- Gently press the edible eyes and the M&M nose in place.
Compliments of Averie Cooks
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 18 Oreo cookies, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup M&M’s (red and green)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
- In a large, microwave-safe bowl add the butter and heat to melt, about 1 minute on high power.
- Wait momentarily before adding the egg so you don’t scramble it. Add the egg, brown sugar, vanilla, and whisk until smooth.
- Add the flour, salt, and stir until just combined; don’t over mix.
- Add the Oreos and stir to combine.
- Add the M&M’s and stir to combine.
- Turn the batter out into prepared pan, smoothing it lightly with a spatula and pushing it into the corners. Tip – Strategically place a few Oreos and M&Ms on top for visual appeal.
- Bake for about 18 to 21 minutes, or until top is set in center and done; don’t over bake. Bars firm up as they cool. A toothpick test is a bit tricky because there aren’t many bare batches, but if you hit a patch of just dough, the toothpick should come out clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter.
- Place pan on a wire rack to cool for at least 90 minutes before slicing and serving. Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Compliments of Mom on Time Out
- 20 pretzel rods
- 1 – 11 ounce bag caramels, unwrapped
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1 – 16 ounce package Candiquik chocolate candy coating
- Assorted sprinkles
- Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place caramels and water together in microwave safe container. Heat in microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until caramel is fully melted and smooth.
- Pour into a canning jar for easy dipping. Let cool for five minutes.
- Carefully dip pretzel rod into caramel leaving two inches at the end free for the handle. Gently tap off extra caramel.
- Use a silicone spatula to smooth if needed. Place on parchment paper.
- Repeat until all pretzels are coated with caramel. If you notice the caramel puddles under the pretzel, use less caramel next time. The caramel will stick to the parchment paper until it is completely set. Once set, it will easily release. You can trim away excess caramel if needed.
- Let caramel set fully.
- Melt chocolate candy coating according to package directions.
- Pour into a canning jar for easy dipping.
- Dip pretzels into melted chocolate and tap off excess.
- Sprinkle on desired sprinkles and/or candy.
- Place on parchment paper to set.
Compliments of Mama Cheaps
- Brownie bites
- Fresh Strawberries (rinsed, hulled)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter –softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoon half and half
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Arrange brownie bites on a tray.
- *Make frosting: combine butter, sugar, half and half and vanilla in a bowl. Beat with a mixer for 2 minutes or until it becomes fluffy.
- Place your frosting in a Ziploc bag and snip the corner to make a piping bag.
- Swirl frosting on top of each brownie.
- Top each brownie with a strawberry, cut side down (pointy side up).
- Dot the top of each strawberry with a tiny bit of frosting.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
*TIP: If making your own icing doesn’t sound like fun, use the Betty Crocker cupcake icing in an aerosol can and a fancy tip. Tadah!
How to plan and budget for a kitchen renovation
Whether you’re updating your home for comfort, safety, or to simply increase its resale value, it can cost a pretty penny. While experts say you can expect to recoup, on average, 56% of a renovation’s cost, the amount varies widely among projects.
Since modern families spend most of their time in the kitchen, updating its functionality is a popular investment. Minor remodels are estimated to pay an 81% return, while higher-end remodels are closer to 59%. Whichever you choose, it’s important to think about a few things before you give your contractor the go ahead:
How long do you plan to stay in your home? If it’s less than five years, keep your renovation costs at a minimum. But, if it’s longer than five years, give more thought to what would make it more comfortable for you and your family. Spending a little more now and being able to enjoy it for a considerable amount of time in the future may justify a bigger budget. While you may recoup less of its cost, the value of your enjoyment is worth something, too.
You don’t want to have the most expensive house in the hood, so a top-of-the-line kitchen in a modest neighborhood might be a mistake. While you want a quality remodel that improves the value of your home, it’s critical not to over-improve so that it significantly sets you apart from the rest of the neighborhood.
Making a list of your wants and needs will help you decide where to spend your money. You should choose quality cabinets and appliances, but might think twice about a wine fridge. Is crown molding a must? Do you absolutely need a double oven and a warming drawer? Remember that buyers won’t pay extra for “niceties” so unless they’re important to the overall functionality of the kitchen, they may need to be closer to the bottom of your list. Your priorities list will also come in handy if you run into some unexpected expenses and need to revise some choices or remove some improvements from the project.
In any home renovation, it’s critical to set a budget and stick to it. Remodels have the potential to cost more than you anticipated, but without a spending limit, you’re almost guaranteed to be overextended. As a general rule, labor will account for 20% of your project cost, Allow 35% for cabinets, 20% for appliances, and 5% for fixtures. The remaining 20% should be earmarked for other items, including unexpected issues that need to be resolved.
To keep your budget as low as possible, you may be able to handle some of the prep work yourself. We’ve all seen Fixer Upper—there’s no reason you couldn’t remove the cabinets, pull up the floor, and remove the appliances instead of paying a contractor to do it.
You’ll also want to keep a spreadsheet of all your expenses and check-in with the contractor regularly. While they should keep you informed of any overages, you don’t want to be caught off guard.
Consider how you’ll pay for your kitchen remodel. You may have money in savings or might be thinking about a home equity loan. You might also consider refinancing your home or even applying for a personal loan. Whichever you decide, be sure to have the funds available at the start of the project. You’ll likely need to pay your contractor for materials and pay for labor as the project progresses.
If your kitchen will be under construction, don’t forget to factor in the cost of eating out and maybe even another place to stay until the renovation is completed.
A kitchen renovation can bring new excitement into your home, but it can also be stressful. Create a budget, follow the plan, and closely monitor the project’s progress. In the end, you’ll have a kitchen that works for you and your family and the funds to comfortably afford it.