Though I’m still a relative youngin’ compared to lots of other gaming folks in our midst, I remember a time before the NES existed. And I remember subscribing to Nintendo Power magazine when it first was launched. Many years later, I was lucky enough to fulfill a childhood dream when I scored a steady freelance gig writing for the magazine. I’ve really enjoyed penning articles for the mag the past few years and working with some great folks on their editorial team, which makes today’s news that Nintendo Power will be closing down all the more crushing.
Looking back to the very first year that I made enough income from freelancing for gaming publications to have to pay estimated taxes, I was freaked out. Like very freaked out. On one hand it meant I was doing well – making some decent money and pushing closer to my goal of eventually quitting my day job as a news reporter and pursuing game-focused writing full-time. On the other hand, it meant being forced to wade neck-deep into the murky, putrid swamp of tax hell.
Estimated taxes in particular are the bane of every freelance noob, and the first year you’re stuck doing them is usually the most confusing and terrifying. How the hell do you hit a moving target that fluctuates widely depending on how much income you make from one year to the next? Very carefully. It gets easier after you clear that first hurdle. Since every person’s situation is different, I’ll leave the real in-depth nitty-gritty on estimated taxes to the tax professionals. But one piece of advice that I’ve come to live by as a freelancer when it comes to estimated taxes and keeping your ass covered is to follow the 30 percent rule. More on that in a minute.
In very much the same way that I’ve been procrastinating doing my taxes this year, I’ve been putting off writing a piece on the subject too. Perhaps that’s because it makes me seethe with a red hot anger more potent than the fires of hell. Navigating the tax season minefield for the first time is a nightmare for newcomers to the freelance world. Just when you think you’re safe, you step on a Bouncing Tax Betty and it takes your limbs clean off. It’s messy stuff. But it does get easier with practice, and you’ll lose fewer appendages over the years, assuming you have any left by the time your seasoned and grizzled.
Since I spent hours last night immersed in the primordial goo of expense receipts, income spreadsheets, regulations, and other tax paperwork only to emerge dripping with the awful stuff, it seems a good time to write about how you can cut back on the amount of your hard-earned money that gets sucked away by The Man’s big stupid tax vacuum each year. Here are some of the common things freelancers in the gaming industry write-off as business expenses.