7 Documents Every Independent Contractor Should Keep

Freelancers and contractors are projected to make up more than 40 percent of the US workforce by the year 2020, likely leading to more scrutinized employment laws. Protect yourself by keeping important documents securely stored and easily accessible.

Keeping track of business documents seems like an obvious obligation for an independent contractor, but the “what”, “why” and “when” of this obligation remains a gray area for many. With Uber’s recent legal challenges concerning the worker classification of independent contractors, documented proof is only sure-fire way to defend against fees and legal claims from the IRS.

But do you know exactly what to keep, and how long to should keep it for? Leaving a paper trail to prove independent contracting work is more important now than ever before, and Shoeboxed wants to make sure you understand the benefits of keeping the following documents safe, secure and accessible:

Invoices (7 years)
Key business ledgers like invoices should be kept for a minimum of seven years, and for good reason. It’s the best way to protect your contracted accounts against a conflict with a client project. Invoice statements also verify that you are subject to profits and losses, which is one of the factors in the Twenty Factor Test for an independent contractor. In the event of an IRS audit, this will help prove your status as a contractor.

Travel Mileage Logs (3 years)
Like any good expense reporting habit, keeping travel mileage logs ensures protection against tax audits and business disputes. They can also be used for travel deductions, earning you up to 57.5 cents for every mile you claim. There are plenty of travel miles that qualify, including business travel to and from airports and hotels, errands and supply runs, travel to client offices, and to and from business meals. Don’t miss out on those valuable deductions!

Business Cards (Forever)
Being a successful contractor requires agile networking skills. At any given moment, there’s a chance that you will stumble across your next great project, partner or client. Unfortunately, contractors collect dozens of business cards every month that are habitually trashed or misplaced. Keeping business cards can help secure resourceful relationships; you never know when one of those contacts will come in handy. Working for multiple clients is also part the IRS’s Twenty Factor Test, and business cards may provide evidence that you are not controlled by a single employer.

Service Advertisements and Listings (Forever)
Keeping copies of past service advertisements and listings is yet another easy way to formally and legally prove a contractor-client relationship. The IRS says that making services available to the general public on a regular and consistent basis demonstrates autonomy in the nature of the work. It also confirms your intent of work in the event that a client wants to claim you as an employee rather than a contractor.

Project Records (7 years)
Contractors are required to fill out form 1099-MISC, a detailed document that asks what you made for each individual job. Project documents, including the contract, change orders, correspondence, logs, monthly reports and schedules provide the specifications and technicalities needed not only to fill out a 1099, but they also provide detailed insight of your contract work to the IRS if your worker classification ever comes into question.

Tax Returns  (3 years)
Due to the IRS statute of limitations, three years from the date of your tax return (or from the date of filing, whichever is later) is typically the standard time to keep business tax returns for tax-related business documents. The statute states that you have three years to file a claim for a refund, and the IRS has three years to appraise a tax if your income was not accurately reported. Even if these two situations don’t apply to you, keeping recent tax records protects you from any doubts that may be raised against your tax filings in the future. (Source)

Professional Licenses and Insurance Certificates (Forever, or until expiration)
Many jobs require contractors to be professionally certified in a given field of work in order to complete a client project. Though the regulations vary state-by-state and city-by-city, having these documents on hand and ready to present to a potential employer streamlines the hiring process, increases the probability of getting hired for the job, and may even increase your potential pay. Clients want to know they are legally protected and are hiring the right person for the job — it pays off to gain their trust from the get-go. (Source)

Lastly
Freelancers and contractors are projected to make up more than 40 percent of the US workforce by the year 2020. Make sure you’re protected against new contract work laws and save your documents for secure and easy access. Shoeboxed offers mail-in services with premium plans, allowing contractors to send in their important documents and never have to worry about being able to find and provide legal supporting documents for their contract work. Focus on working for yourself and doing what you love — we’ll handle the paperwork.





6 Ways to Define Your Workspace at Home

A home office that promotes concentration and creativity and protects you from diversions is simpler than you think—and we’ve got six tips to get you there.

If you work from home even part of the time, chances are, you struggle with distractions. You’re certainly not alone. While some distraction is perfectly natural, if it’s getting in the way of a productive day, it’s time to make a change. A home office that promotes concentration and creativity and protects you from diversions is simpler than you think—and we’ve got six tips to get you there.

home office 31. Make room for work

Of course, distraction is an issue at the office, too, but it’s more manageable because the entire space is dedicated to work and efficiency. You don’t want to turn your entire home into an office, but you do want to set a clear and distinct space that is just for work and outfit it accordingly.

Ideally, your workspace is as far away as from the living areas of the house as possible, or has a door that you can keep closed. That way, when you’re working, it’s all about work, and when you’re not, you don’t have to be distracted from a relaxing evening at home by your inbox. Your first defense against diversion is to create a space that you actually enjoy spending time in. Indulge in a favorite paint color, hang some prints or photos that you love, and pop on some music when you walk through that door.

2. Outfit the space

Ever notice how your house is really clean when you have a deadline? Organizing doesn’t feel like procrastination, but it often is. Keep your home office easy to organize by making sure you have the space and equipment to do the job—and to keep the space tidy. Shelves, rather than cabinets and drawers, keep everything accessible—not only so you can easily get at what you need, but so you can easily put it away, too. Simple bathroom hooks installed over the desk do wonders to keep the desk clear, and give you easy access to headphones, charging cables, and keys. So many of our clients who work from home also do a lot of shipping from home, and a stylish towel rack repurposed above the workspace is another great way to keep things in order.

home office 23. Don’t go cable crazy

A tangled twist of computer and electronics cables gets in the way of productivity in the inevitable event that you need to move equipment or a cable comes loose. But it’s also the kind of thing that promotes procrastination every time you sit down and see that mess staring you in the face. I mean, how can you get any work done until that’s taken care of? Choose one of the many cable management systems available today according to your particular work style, and cut down on the equipment as much as possible, too. Make sure your printer also works as a copier and fax machine, and use your computer for music and video.

4. Figure out the filing

People often overthink filing. Accessible and organized files are very important, but filing cabinets are not always a necessary or convenient choice. Here, too, shelves with baskets and binders for files you use frequently keep the work flowing and the clean up simple. My rule is to touch everything no more than once, so if I don’t have to head for cold storage every time I need to file an invoice, I’m much more likely to do it right then.

home office 15. Let in the light

One of the first reasons we get distracted is because we get tired. Though we tend to forget it, our eyes are what we use most when we work, and a day spent looking at computer screens, invoices and spreadsheets can be exhausting. That’s why good lighting is crucial to keeping you focused both visually and mentally. You want three layers of light: Ambient, task and accent lighting.

Use a dimmer switch on the main source of overhead light so you have strong light when you need it, but can tone it down, too. Desk and floor lamps will help you keep your eyes on the details, and accent lighting will be helpful in maintaining an attractive and intimate space that’s pleasant to be in.

6. Sit up straight!

Finally, make sure to invest in a good office chair. It’s hard to sit up straight for long stretches of time, but today’s ergonomic office chairs make that a much simpler and more relaxing affair.

Keep it simple to look at, but make sure it has the ergonomic controls that address your personal body issues. One of the first reasons we walk away from the work in front of us is because we’re tired of sitting, so the right chair removes one more source of distraction.

Now, tell us your tips for creating a workspace that keeps you working!

Interior designer Kerrie Kelly writes on home organization and home office décor for Home Depot. Kerrie’s ideas focus on helping you become more productive at home through the creative use of design and décor. To view office bookcase and shelving options that could improve your home workspace, you can visit Home Depot’s selections online.

5 Essential Gadgets for Clearing Up Cord and Cable Clutter

A pile of dusty cables on your desk can be distracting (and dirty!). Here are some gadgets to help you find a solution for your cord and cable clutter.

When I decided to abandon my cushy office job and join the world of the self-employed, the first thing I needed to do was set up my home office. What many people forget about a home office is that it’s in your home, so it needs to look attractive. Where piles of dusty cables behind your desk in an office building don’t concern you much, they’re far more of a bother in your home environment.

IMG_0287When I set about coming up with a simple solution for managing my home office cord and cable clutter I had three main goals:

1. Accessibility
With no IT department hanging around in the basement to help me when my network cable came unplugged, I needed quick and easy access to all my cables, plugs and paraphernalia.

2. Minimalism
‘Wireless, wireless, wireless’ was my mantra. Less wires equals less clutter.

3. Aesthetically Pleasing
As you can see from the picture, my desk is in a very central location in my house, between the living room and the kitchen, so it needed to look as attractive as possible.

After a lot of trial and error I came up with this system for controlling cable clutter using these 5 simple gadgets.

IMG_02851. Surge Protector
This vital piece of equipment performs double duty, protecting your gadgets from electrical surges and keeping all your cables neatly organized. I opted for a Belkin 8-Outlet Surge Protector. The 6 foot cord and detachable cord-management clip, combined with the option to wall mount it, means I can keep the cables neatly tucked away and up off the floor.

I mounted it centrally under the desk and labeled each cable with a handwritten bread tie (an idea I stole from ThePhotographersLife via Pinterest). If you want to get a bit fancier, or don’t eat bread, you can find a vast array of ready-made cable labels at office supply stores for around $6.

2 & 3. Wireless Gadgets
I have a wireless keyboard and touch pad and a wireless printer. It is amazing how much cable clutter this reduces — easily a third of my cables are no longer an issue. And when wireless charging for phones and tablets is finally ready for primetime I’ll be first in line, cutting out another third of my cable clutter. I dream of the day where the only cable on my desk is that elegant Apple iMac power cord.

IMG_01484. Keep the Cables on the Table
Until that wireless charging revolution becomes a reality however, I will rely on this ingenious little gadget by Quirky. Cordies quite literally does what it says on the packet, keeping my charging cables on the table and within in easy reach, i.e. not constantly dropping behind the desk.

5. iPhone Dock

This was a bit of a splurge, but totally worth it as it does double duty as a stand and a charger for my iPhone, which is easily my most used accessory. I purchased a short lighting cable to connect the dock to the back of my computer so that I don’t have to deal with hiding an unwieldy charging cable. A good tip if you have lots of devices you charge on your desk regularly is to charge directly from your computer, rather than taking up precious space on your surge protector.

IMG_0284As you can see, the combination of the Cordies and the iPhone Dock, combined with Apple’s ingenious cord holding design, keeps the cable clutter at the back of my computer pretty streamlined:

Conclusion
I truly believe a cluttered desk equals a cluttered mind, and even if you have a pile of paper and cables off to the side of your desk, you’ll be surprised at how much having a clean, clutter-free surface to work on will boost your productivity.

Jennifer Tuohy is a writer who works from her home office. She writes for The Home Depot about the challenges of being self-employed and provides technology solutions to make things run more smoothly. To find a selection of cable management products, visit homedepot.com.