We all know the frustrations of trying to carve out enough time every day to actually sit down and write. In light of that, most of us at some point will daydream about having someone else do our research, handle administrative tasks, deal with  bookkeeping headaches, and so forth. But then we are suddenly yanked out of our daydream when we think about the reality of our revenue streams vs. the cost for acquiring such help. But should we so easily give up on the possibility of having an extra pair of hands? Not necessarily.

Carefully consider what aspects of your writing job you need the most help with. Then think about how much writing time you lose every day in order to accomplish those tasks. Then ask yourself, Does the time I would save balance the cost of hiring someone? After all, time is money. If your goals include submitting X number of query letters a week to magazines, or X number or proposals a month to book publishers, and you’re not even coming close to that because of everything else you have to do, having some help just might be worth it.

Publishing, like any sales-related field, is a numbers game; and any successful writer needs to view it as such. So, you can’t just look at the money outflow of hiring someone. You need to balance it with the inflow of productivity you will gain.

Depending on the type of help you need, you may be able to find good sources at local colleges. You can advertise through the English, Journalism, or Communication departments for an intern or part-time employee. Many colleges have vehicles already in place for such employment, so they can help you locate the right person. And, it’s great experience for a college student to have on his or her resume.

If you are a more-experienced writer who needs a regular critiquer, proofreader, or perhaps some marketing help, your best bet is to try to gain referrals from other writers in your genre. You can also find listings of professionals through various writing networks–either locally or nationally. I’ve found it best to try to work with those who tend to be specific to what I write. If you’re a novelist, you’d be much better off with someone who specializes in fiction as opposed to a generalist who does everything from nonfiction articles to young adult books.

I’m not suggesting that you hire someone for 40 hours a week right off the bat. Writers who are making a comfortable living from their work have the luxury of perhaps having a few full-time staffers to help with everything from accounting to research to publicity. But for the other 95% of us, we need to start small.

Write down everything you realistically want help with in order to free up your time to write. Group your list into various skill sets to determine how many different types of help you need. For instance, one person could be assigned to all things marketing, while it may take another person to help you with admin tasks. Depending on the kind of writing you do, you may need someone very adept at research, but could this person also handle administrative work?

Next, get a picture of the kind of person you want and need to do these jobs. You may not be able to be excessively picky, but at the same time, if you can find a jack-of-all-trades who has a personality that meshes with yours, that one person may be able to do the job of three.

Start with just a few hours a week. This would be ideal for a college student or maybe someone from a temp agency. Once you get a feel for how much extra time you’re gaining each week, you’ll be better able to determine if your money is being well spent. If so, after a few months, try to increase your weekly number of hours of help. At some point, you’ll find the perfect balance of time vs. money.

Don’t be afraid to step out and hire the help you need, just be smart about it. Plan ahead to determine exactly what you do need, then start small. You might be surprised as to how much you’ll actually gain in the long run!

Ah, it’s that time of year. The time when our thoughts turn to new beginnings, new goals, and …taxes! If you’re new to the business of writing, and if you’re trying to make the transition from hobby to business or from part-time to full-time writing, you’ll soon find–if you haven’t already–that there’s lots to learn when it comes to handling your business expenses and making the most out of your tax deductions. And, if you’re a veteran writer who’s been in business for a while, read on anyway…you might just pick up some helpful nuggets, or perhaps you can add your own two cents worth to help others. I’d love to hear about any deductions I may’ve missed. (I’m sure there’ll be some, as this is the short list!)

Before launching into specific deductions, I want to encourage any freelance writer to be sure to always keep your business expenses and revenues separated (preferably in a separate bank account) from your personal expenses and revenues. Not only does it make the accounting work much easier in the long run, but it will help you to better gauge on a regular basis how your business is doing.

Also, keep in mind that the IRS is seriously cracking down on small businesses and sole proprietorships right now (let’s face it, they need the money!), so they are looking for any reason you give them to come and audit you. Don’t give them any. Keep detailed records of every transaction, or hire someone who can do that for you. It could save you big down the road.

As mentioned, this is the short list of possible deductions if you are a freelance writer, working as a 1099:

~ Office space: You are allowed to deduct a portion of your mortgage expense (equal to the percentage of space your office occupies in your home) for your office. The only caveat here is that your office must be a dedicated space. So, if your office also functions as your family’s TV room, or you share the space with your kitchen, then you can’t deduct it.

~ Office supplies: From paper clips to computers, any and all office supplies that you need for your business are fully deductible. Hold onto all of your receipts! Those paper clip expenses add up over the course of a year!

~ Mileage: Anytime you have to travel to meet with clients, publishers, to go to writers’ conferences or workshops, to conduct research at the library, or even to purchase those supplies I just mentioned, keep track of your mileage. It is also deductible. Purchase a mileage log and keep it in your car. You’ll use it more than you think.

~ Entertainment: If you engage in working lunches with co-authors or editors, if you take an editor out to dinner as a thank-you for all his hard work on your book, or even if you use a round of golf to pitch an editor on your latest book (Of course, you may lose your editor in the process if you spend 18 holes pitching her!), these are all legitimate business, and therefore, deductible expenses. Keep all of your receipts, and write the purpose for the event on the receipt so you don’t forget. And, don’t go overboard with these, or red flags will fly with Uncle Sam.

~ Conferences/Workshops: All expenses associated with going to writers’ conferences, seminars, workshops, or other events used to further your career or business are considered deductible: meals to and from and while you’re there, travel to and from, rental car expenses, lodging, etc.

~ Educational materials: Anytime you purchase books or CDs on writing (or something similar), reference materials, subscriptions to online databases, magazines, or anything else you need to conduct your business and aid in your writing is deductible.

One more thing to note is that the IRS makes a distinction between a hobby and a business. If you’re writing is not profitable after a certain period of time (the last I checked it was three years, but this may’ve  changed), it is considered a hobby not a business and you will not be able to use your deductions. Once it does become profitable, however, you may start deducting again.