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Book Review Home  |  Libary of Home Business Books

BOOK REVIEW: "Working For Yourself" by Attorney Stephen Fishman

List Price $39.95 ($27.99 at Amazon.com and $33.95 from publisher’s website: www.nolo.com -- Used copies available through Amazon.com from $27.94)
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Nolo Press; 4th edition (August 2002)
ISBN: 0873378547

Reviewed by Elizabeth H. Cottrell - Staff Writer of the IAHBE

Nolo, the publisher of Working for Yourself, has such a strong reputation in the field of self-help legal matters, that this reviewer ordered the book on the strength of that alone. For over 20 years, this company has committed itself to making all aspects of the law--personal and business--accessible to the likes of you and me. It has been interesting to watch them evolve from print to online dissemination of information, and to see them expand from basic personal legal issues to all kinds of small business issues as well. Their Website, www.nolo.com, is a remarkably comprehensive resource center, which you should bookmark and with which you should familiarize yourself.

The subtitle of this book is “Law & Taxes for Independent Contractors, Freelancers, & Consultants.” It covers a broad range of information for many types of self-employed professionals and should be a well-used resource and reference on your bookshelf. It’s the kind of book which could, in one small chapter, save you thousands of dollars by giving you the guidance you need to set your business up correctly and know how to minimize your professional and tax liability.

Dubbed “The Independent Contractor Bible” by a reviewer writing for Small Press Magazine, Working for Yourself is geared much more toward consultants and freelancers than it is toward a product-based business that involves a lot of inventory, though the discussions about tax entities, insurance, pricing, and record keeping would apply to any business. You can view the Table of Contents from a link at the book’s listing on Amazon.com to see if the topics are relevant to your own business. Chapter one may be read from the Nolo.com Website.

Author Stephen Fishman has been a legal writer for over 20 years and practiced both government and private law before that. He is author of The Copyright Handbook, Web & Software Development: A Legal Guide, and Hiring Independent Contractors. As most Nolo writers, he has the ability to use “plain English” instead of the "legalese" that so often discourages us from reading what we should about how to run our businesses. If knowledge is power, this book will make you a powerful entrepreneur. Reviewers who posted comments on the Amazon.com Website were universally complimentary of the author’s clear and pertinent presentation and the choice of material that they felt they needed to be better business owners.

Topics that the author covers very well:

• Considerations for setting up and choosing a legal form for your business--the pros and cons of sole proprietorships, corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies.
• Choosing and protecting your business name.
• What you need to know about self-employment taxes, estimated taxes, and the potential for an audit.
• How to legally minimize your income taxes.
• The basics of business insurance and worker’s compensation insurance to limit your personal liability.
• What records you should keep and for how long.
• The nitty gritty on copyrights and trademarks--“who owns what when an independent contractor creates intellectual capital for a client.”
• How to ensure that the IRS knows you are running a business instead of a hobby.
• Wording and considerations for client agreements--sample language is suggested for many difference situations.
• What you should know about retirement plans for the self-employed.
• How to price your services competitively and handle collections.
• Troubleshooting for those who need to hire employees.
• Avoiding disputes with clients.
• Making sure you don’t jeopardize your independent contractor/self-employment status.

The discussions of these topics are sufficiently detailed to be very helpful and practical in a wide range of applications, yet they are clear and concise. References for additional information are available if needed.

The Appendices of this book are quite valuable all by themselves. Not only do they provide forms and documents such as logs, journals, and invoices, but there are also sample contractor agreements and nondisclosure forms. There are resource lists for those who need additional information and a listing of state agencies that provide business, tax, and trademark information.

If you labor under vague apprehensions, that lack of knowledge (about your business tax entity, about tax and legal procedures, about your record-keeping and form filing) could get you in trouble. This book will bring you not only knowledge, but peace of mind and a good night’s sleep. If you are an independent contractor, consultant, or freelancer, the information in this book will lay a strong foundation for a successful business. It will not replace the need for a good attorney, but it can save you a great deal of time with your attorney if you learn the basics on your own.

© by Elizabeth H. Cottrell. All rights reserved worldwide.

Elizabeth H. Cottrell is a home-based entrepreneur, freelance technical writer, and owner of Riverwood Technologies, a desktop publishing company in Maurertown, Virginia. She is currently a staff writer and editor for IAHBE.

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