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self-employedI want to share with you my first business breakthrough when I became self-employed.

There’s an accountant I work with who often says

“it’s not about how much you make that matters, but how much you keep”.

When I was younger I didn’t really understand what this meant. I mean, yeah, it sounds intelligent, but I figured “keeping” money was just another way of saying “spend less”.

However, after the first year I started working as a self-employed freelance digital marketer and was doing my personal tax returns, I realized that this advice was really about finding ways to reduce your taxable income.

Of course I’m talking about reducing your taxes by law abiding means and not being a crook.

The last job I had before going off on my own was working for a telecom company making a $50,000 salary.

So, when I did go off on my own, my goal was to match that and make $50,000 in the first year.

In my mind, I figured if I could make $50,000 on my own, essentially unemployed (cause you know, I wasn’t on anybody’s payroll), that it would be a great life experience. A fate far better than still sitting inside a cubicle office any longer.

And I thought even in a worse case scenario where somehow I totally screw up and lose all my money, I’d still have the experience of knowing how to make $50,000 all on my own. And nobody could ever take that experience away from me. Even if I lost it all, I’d know how to make it back because I have the experience of no longer relying solely on employment income.

So there I went off on my merry way, making strategic professional relationships, finding my own clients, doing work I’m proud of and eventually invoicing those clients and getting paid.

Inevitably I climbed past the $30,000 mark, registered my business name with the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) and started adding HST tax to my invoices. I kept going and managed to reach that goal of $50,000 by year’s end.

Now here’s the cool part with the business breakthrough…

Everyone knows that whatever your annual salary is, you always take home less because of taxes and deductions on each of your pay cheques.

Here’s a snapshot look at what you lose if you make $50,000 a year working in the province of Ontario.

50000 salaryYou lose about $11,500, which is almost 25% of your earnings. It totally sucks, I know. But that’s the life of an employee.

However, when you’re self-employed things work a bit differently. You see, you can reduce your taxable income amount by claiming business expenses.

This is how it works, when you charge HST tax on your invoices you’re suppose to keep that money to the side and pay it to the CRA (the government). You can choose to make these HST payments annually, quarterly, monthly and I think you can even choose to pay bi-weekly. In my first year I paid it all annually at the end. Since then I’ve been doing it quarterly.

Here’s the cool thing with being self-employed, you can reduce the amount of HST tax you owe by offsetting it from the HST tax you pay on your business expenses.

So anytime you buy office supplies, computer upgrades or software, automobile expenses and gas, your phone and internet bill etc. all these things can be claimed as a business expense.

To figure out what you owe the government in taxes, you take all the HST you’ve collected from your invoices (in other words your income) and subtract it from all the HST you spent on your business expenses.

Chances are very likely that you’ll owe less taxes than someone who works as an employee.

So, what did I owe the government in taxes for that first year I was self-employed? Let me show you!

taxable income

That’s a photo of the letter my accountant wrote for me on the front page summary report of my personal income tax return for the 2016 fiscal year. I legally only owed the government $3,564.43 in taxes.

If you ask me, that’s a much sweeter deal than being an employee.

However, there are 2 caveats with this.

  1. The government forces everyone to make a CPP (Canada Pension Plan) contribution of 10% of your income. When you’re an employee you pay 5% and your employer matches the other 5%. When you’re self-employed, in the eyes of the CRA, you are both employee and employer of your own business, so they make you pay the full 10% on your own. But you don’t have to pay EI (employment insurance) deductions when you’re self-employed.
  2. Because it was the first time I had to manage all my income and expenses on my own, my accountant told me I was lousy at bookkeeping and I should have been better at keeping all my receipts. My accountant told me I could have paid even less tax if I was better at keeping track of all my expenses. (Fuck me, I guess).

So you better believe I went out and bought Freshbooks Cloud Accounting to help me with that! And guess what, my accounting software is a business expense so now I can deduct that too!

When it comes down to it, when you’re an employee making $50,000, you’ll pay roughly $11,583.60 in taxes and deductions. Compare that to the $8,564.43 (combining the HST I owed plus 10% CPP) I had to pay as a self-employed individual who made $50,000.

You can clearly see that I walked away at the end of the year with more money being self-employed. And that was my biggest business breakthrough in the first year. Now, it’s only a difference of about $3,000 and you might be thinking that’s not much. But think about all the cool stuff I can do with that extra $3,000. I can reinvest it back into my business, or put it towards retirement savings, hell, an extra $3,000 is even a good chunk of money for a vacation!

Now that I’ve learned this, I don’t think I’d go back to working for someone else as an employee. I’ve also been reading and educating myself more about small business taxation and how money works. It turns out that the small business tax rate in Canada is 15%. Compare that to the 100% tax you have to pay on every dollar you earn as an employee.

Although I haven’t incorporated my business yet to get that small business tax rate, it is my next goal to achieve. As well as continuing to increase my annual income well pass $50,000.

It does seem however, that the more I learn, the more I realize being an employee is the worst career choice you can make from a financial stand point.

Now, being an employee isn’t terrible. I started out as an employee, as do most other people. It’s a great way to get into the labour market and to get on-the-job experience in your field. But remaining an employee for the entirety of your career, well, that’s probably not the best choice you could be making for yourself (or your family). Although, every individual is different and I don’t want to come across as someone with a self-employed bias…

…but if you were to ask me what’s the moral of this story?

Simple: if you can be self-employed, you should!

pairing-typography

Pairing typography is a lot like wine tasting: making educated and inspired choices where the history, personality and unique details of each flavour bring out the best of its complement, creating an experience worth savouring.

Here are 3 quick steps to help give you some things to think about when pairing typography.

Step 1: Consider Classifications.

Know your classifications when it comes to pairing typefaces. Take the time to study things like humanist, grotesque and geometric type classifications. The generic pairing is typically a serif and sans serif. More unique pairs will come by mixing typefaces from two different classifications. Try not to pair two within the same class.

Typography Classifications

Source: lisagarnerdesign.co.uk

Step 2: Blend Characteristics.

Compare the x-height and character width of both of the typefaces. If they are relatively close, they will be a good fit, and easier to use next to one another for hierarchy and in running copy.

x height typography

Step 3: Find the Balance in the Details.

Seek similarities in anatomy and stress, achieving harmony with character details make all the difference. If one typeface has more character, then let the second one take a backseat and be a bit more generic.

Take a look at how I’m pairing typography on my own website. As of right now, (things may change at a later date) I’m using Futura for my headings and Helvetica for my body copy. Futura is a geometric sans serif, while Helvetica is a humanist san serif. For my <h1> tags I’m using the Futura extra bold weight, whereas for my <h2> tags I’m using the medium condensed weight. Both the extra bold and condensed weights have character that contrasts and balances well with the regular Helvetica I’m using for body copy.

Follow these three steps and you should be able to narrow down possible fonts that work beautifully and taste well together.

Check out TypeEd for more great learning resources on typography. It’s where I go.

Keep on typesetting deliciously!

It’s a crazy time to be a marketer. The shift from traditional channels to digital ones has been immense and it means marketing skills are always changing. Digital strategies and tactics have become so ubiquitous that there really is no difference from a “digital marketer” and a regular ol’ “marketer”. It’s pretty much all the same thing now.

Kinda like how responsive web design was all the rage a few years back. But now, making responsive websites that properly display for desktop and mobile devices is considered the norm. Whenever a website is created it’s just expected that it’s responsive.

Similarly, today’s marketers are expected to have a diverse set of skills, who can play various roles on a team, and know how to execute anything digital. From writing content and understanding data to demonstrating UX/UI design and actually knowing how to increase profits with audience segmentation and automation software, it’s all a part of the modern marketer’s arsenal.

And this expectation is justified. In 2017, spending on digital marketing is projected to increase by 12% to 15% on average.

In order to stay relevant today and tomorrow (digital) marketers are going to need these 10 skills in order to prosper.

  1. Analytics

Wanna hear something crazy? Apparently, 84% of marketers have indicated that they cannot measure and report on the contribution of their campaigns for business owners.

That’s disappointing.

But at the same time that’s awesome. It means that for those who work our butts off it’s going to be easier to rise to the top.

There’s no way around it, business owners want to see a bottom line return on their marketing and advertising spend. Marketers need to become fluent in analytics to show relevant data and prove their worth.

Being able to measure ROI is in high demand. Companies want to know exactly what their getting for their money. Anyone who can continuously measure and optimize campaigns based on data will increase their chances of rising to higher positions within a company and making more money.

Creative minds aren’t enough anymore. You’ll have to develop an analytical mindset to stay on top of your game. Start number crunching!

  1. Writing and Communication

Content is still king. You know it. I know it.

74.2% of companies have declared content marketing has increased their marketing teams’ lead quality and quantity. Artificial intelligence and machine learning tools may be creeping into the workspace but nothing compares to a human telling a good story.

Marketers need to understand how to craft a content strategy around the buyer’s journey. It’s a significant role considering how content plays into educating, informing, inspiring, and motivating buyers and prospects, and as such, marketers need to understand how to create content that converts at each of these levels.

Marketers who can write and communicate well have an edge over employees that cannot. It’s just that simple.

Though writing and communication in themselves are basic skills, marketers should continually be improving their copywriting to communicate sales messaging in the most effective manner.

Those who can persuade buyers through writing or speaking will rise to the top of the pack.

  1. Marketing Automation

Marketing automation can significantly increase your campaign performance, and should be a required skill for any professional in the field. Learning how to use automated workflows that continually nurture leads through emails or content is not easy, but it works -research shows that marketing automation can drive up to 14.5% increases in sales productivity and 12.2% reduction in marketing overhead.

Practitioners can stand out if they learn how to create steady workflows for various prospect levels and understand how to analyze the corresponding data. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t is important with marketing automation, and those that can master this task will be ahead of the game.

So get out there are start building automation sequences in MailChimp or InfusionSoft for small businesses. If you want to work with enterprise clients learn Marketo and Salesforce’s Pardot.

  1. Research

Marketing campaigns begin with research, so honing this skill is important. For those who have been to university you’re probably already pretty good at this.

Marketers need to have a deep understanding of buyers, market trends, analytics, and opportunities in their field – this requires advanced research skills that go beyond a Google Search.

With research skills, the marketer should focus on improving the subject matter expertise of their business and gaining a better understanding of their buyer and market. Marketers that can research effectively—and quickly—are an added bonus to any team.

  1. Coding Skills

    Marketers who don’t know HTML and CSS are becoming washed up. I’d even argue that anyone who doesn’t have basic HTML skills probably won’t be employable in the future. It’s slowly becoming an expected skill for any office employee every coming year. However, learning the basics of both can help you quickly resolve any minor issues you may come across when managing a blog or website. Understanding how to modify a MailChimp email template or research a competitor’s website also require these skills. Again, these are becoming expected rather than desired skills.Encourage yourself to learn another language in how it relates to marketing. While they’re not expected to master Python, marketers can learn how to build a search engine crawler using Python to master SEO. Those types of additional coding skills are what employers will start to look for as HTML and CSS become the norm.

  2. User/Customer Experience

    While companies generally have a separate design team, marketers that understand basic design skills are in demand. Marketers already know a lot about the target market, so if they can work with the design team to help create a website experience that caters to that market, the site will most likely drive better engagement and results. 95% of customers agree that good user experience just makes sense, so why not pair up marketing and design teams to create a layout that’s appealing to the customer? Marketers should learn basic design skills in order to jump in and make a positive impact on customer experience.

  3. Inbound marketing

    Inbound leads cost 60% less than outbound, which means inbound marketing is a must-have skill.Using content, social, and SEO tactics, marketers must be able to bring potential customers to a website, but more importantly than that, marketers need to be able to bring the right customer to a website. Increasing traffic is possible by simply posting content throughout a bunch of Groups on a social media platform, but what marketers need be able to do effectively is bring qualified leads to a website. Use the right tools to bring real potential buyers to a site with specialized inbound marketing.HubSpot offers a free Inbound Marketing Certification course that’s got just what you need to get in on the ground floor.

  4. Understanding the Buyer

    Going along with inbound marketing, marketers must understand buyers and the buyer journey if they’re going to bring them to a website and eventually get to a sale.Marketers can learn and understand the buyer process by collaborating with the sales team. Once marketers know the buyer cycle, they can create specific content around each stage of that process.95% of buyers prefer brands that provide content throughout the buying process, which means the sales and marketing teams must align. Marketers that can create content to push potential buyers down the sales funnel to create sales are valuable — and can measure that value in dollars.

  5. Mobile

    There seems to be no slowing down in the growing use of smartphones for Internet users. I recently ran a Google Adwords campaign where 65% of all our paid traffic came from mobile! Marketers need to understand how to implement timely and location-based campaigns that target mobile users. With mobile optimization the norm, marketers can utilize other mobile tactics, such as text message offerings and location-based offers, to entice users to interact with a brand. Mobile is growing at a rapid rate. I’ve even noticed some companies in Toronto are hiring a separate mobile team. Marketers that can create mobile-specific messaging and drive engagement on smartphones will be well sought after in the near future.

  6. SEO

    Every year I come across headlines declaring that “SEO is dead,” but SEO never really dies, it just changes.Being able to get your brand or client to the first page of Google, or the #1 result, is the desired outcome. Users are less likely to click on page two of search results anymore. But is Google constantly updating itself and the way we search online changes. By keeping up with SEO trends you can stay ahead. Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, said that high quality content and link building are the two most important signals used by Google to rank your website for search. Marketers that produce high quality content and can effectively link build, while maintaining other SEO best practices, will always be in demand.

The Future Marketer

If you want to keep your skin in the game you’ll need to constantly learn new skills and adapt to online changes.

As online behavior and algorithms shift, so do marketing tactics – and therefore marketing best practices. When it comes down to it, it’s simple, marketers that thrive on change and continue to learn new techniques will always have employment. Those that don’t keep up will fall behind.

These are the 10 skills I think marketers need to ensure they have today to succeed. But I’ll be honest, I’m certain this list has to change going into the future. The very best marketers will be called upon to learn even more. Here in Canada, it’s never a bad idea to be bilingual. It only helps your employability. But I can definitely see a future from here where being multilingual would only help marketers serve more businesses globally. And as business owners want more numbers, marketers should strive to learn more in-depth data science such as data mining.

If you’re a marketer and you practice continually improving your skills, research abilities, and self-educate, you can stay at the top of your field.