Working for Yourself: Law & Taxes for Independent Contractors, Freelancers, & Consultants by Stephen Fishman

Unlike the first Nolo guide I read, which was about how to buy your first house, Working for Yourself is not directly related to my everyday life.  I don’t have my own business, and though the thought of working for myself is appealing, I don’t really know what I’d do.  I read this guide more out of my own personal interest as to what laws and regulations business owners have to take into consideration.  For my goal, Working for Yourself is more than adequate, because I think anyone could use it to get their business started with a stable legal and tax foundation.

The most valuable chapter of Working for Yourself is, in my opinion, the first one.  “Working for Yourself: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” discusses the pros and cons of setting up shop on one’s own.  The most important thing I took away from this chapter was that my workplace actually provides me with many benefits I hadn’t really thought of before, like automatically taking my taxes out of my paycheck and providing me with a modicum of job security.  This really is the chapter that taught me two important things — one is that people who employ themselves do a lot of work besides their work, and the other is that I’m probably not cut out for running my own business.

The rest of the book provides plenty of legal advice, most of which centers on tax law.  I had no idea that self-employed people have to pay estimated taxes four times a year, which is a little scary in its frequency.  I knew that there are different kinds of companies, but Fishman goes into detail about the pluses and minuses of being considered a sole proprietor as opposed to a partnership or a corporation — did you know that a sole proprietor is a lot more likely to be audited than a corporation?  I found a lot of the information interesting in the abstract, at least.

A couple of lines in Working for Yourself were a little questionable to me.  At one point, when Fishman discusses renting business property, he says something to the effect of that, as opposed to when you rent an apartment, you aren’t covered by as many laws because you’re considered to be “an adult”.  While this sentiment might resonate with many self-employed people, the last time I checked, very few minors are allowed to rent apartments.  We’re all adults; the two spaces are used for different things.  Businesses aren’t as covered by regulations protecting the renter because people don’t live in their businesses.  Housing is essential, business offices aren’t.

The other line that bothered me was when Fishman, referring to a fee for starting a business, calls it “basically a tax”.  No, it’s not a tax.  It’s a fee.  That’s why you don’t put it on your tax form and you pay it up-front.  If it were a tax, they would call it a tax and assess it as such.

Other than those couple of bumps, I thought Working for Yourself to be a comprehensive resource on business law and business taxes.  I’d recommend it without reservation to those interested in setting themselves up.

Rating: 4/5.

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Filed under 4.5/5, Book review, Favorable, Nonfiction

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