Connie Terwilliger – ISDN Voice Talent

October 24, 2015

Are you an Independent Contractor? Maybe. Maybe not.

Filed under: Business, Marketing — connieterwilliger @ 4:27 pm
Connie at KCOE-FM

Early radio days – KCOE-FM. Their tools, their schedule. MY MIX!

If you are not being paid W2 wages, then you may fall into the category of self-employed, freelance, or independent contractor. Or, you may simply be being paid incorrectly. If this is the case, then don’t be surprised when the red flag goes up and the IRS comes knocking.

The Business Dictionary defines independent contractor this way…(I added the bold.)

Self-employed person (architect, consultant, engineer, etc.) who provides certain services to a second-party called the principal (or client or owner), or to a third-party on behalf of the client. An independent contractor is not under the control, guidance, or influence of the client and, unlike an employee, does not owe a fiduciary duty. The client neither deducts the payroll (or the withholding) taxes from payments to the independent contractor, nor contributes the employer’s share. To be legally designated as an independent contractor, an individual must (1) be free from the control of the client, (2) be able to exercise his or her judgment as to the manner and methods to accomplish the end-result, and (3) be responsible for the end-result only under the terms of the contract. The client is not responsible to the third-party for the actions or torts (civil wrongs independent of contracts) of the independent contractor unless the client (explicitly or implicitly) has authorized them, or where the actions of the independent contractor are (more or less) controlled by the client.

Some people THINK they are independent contractors when they possibly aren’t.

The IRS has some specific guidelines that might help you stay under their radar if you are working job to job and filling out a Schedule C. Or if you are hiring people and want to avoid an audit with potential fines and penalties.

Ask yourself a few questions. There are a lot more than this, but these three questions get to the heart of the issue.

  1. When you are hired for a job, does the person hiring you have the right to control the result of your work, but not the means and methods to achieve it?
  2. Who has control over when and where you work?
  3. Who provides the tools you are using?

For more details, here is the link to the IRS website –

I found another article on the ABS Payroll site that has some good information.

Most of my production career I have worked both as an Independent Contractor and an Employee at various times.

  • Staff Announcer at a TV station – Employee (union contract, W-2 wages) I went there at specific times and used their equipment.
  • Video production producer – Independent Contractor. I worked for various companies on my own (or jointly negotiated) time and determined the schedule and duties for other people.
  • Scriptwriter – Independent Contractor. My tools, my time, my process to achieve a result.
  • Radio DJ – Employee (non-union, W-2 wages) Again, I went to the station when they told me and used their equipment.
  • Teacher – Independent Contractor (personal private seminars with a partner and without) My experience, my time, my process.
  • Teacher – Employee (union contract, W-2 wages) Although I use my process and experience as the basis for this work, my schedule is set by the college and the location and the equipment is provided.
  • Staff Producer/Writer/Talent – Employee (non-union, W-2) Full-time staff position initially as a worker-bee, but then as a supervisor for a large government contractor. While our creative department wasn’t regimented like most cubicle farms, we still needed to be there. My creative process was the same, but I didn’t get to pick my crew and they provided my computer and other tools.
  • Voice Talent – sometimes Employee, sometimes Independent Contractor (union jobs are W-2, the vast majority of the other voice work I do is Independent Contractor).

Voice acting today is very different than it used to be. Most of the work I do is on my own time, in my own space, with my own tools. Sometimes I will have a director on the line. On rare occasions I will go to someone else’s studio to record. Sometimes I will pay to go to a studio when I need specialized equipment, or when my equipment isn’t working (usually due to some snafu with the phone lines).

On-camera acting is different. Unless you are picking your own wardrobe, using you own camera in your own studio and delivering the self-directed takes to the producer, you are (according to the IRS) most likely doing employee work. On-camera actors do pay for a lot of things out of their own pockets to improve their craft, but in the end, they show up on the set and are told where to stand and when to take a break. Sometimes the lines are pretty clear.

But today’s voiceover talent is truly an independent breed of talent. We may have agents scattered here and there, but we have our own websites, our own expensive studios and related equipment (mics, computers, sound cards, mixers, and more mics). We have a business license and paid the fee for the fictitious name ad in the local newspaper. We spend hours marketing our services and honing our image. We spend money to have customized demos created that showcase our talents. We work to improve our craft taking classes and attending conferences that we pay for ourselves.

We negotiate our rates. We send out contracts detailing what we will be doing and when. We send invoices. When invoices are not paid, we spend more time trying to get paid.

What’s my point? Think about what you are doing and how you are doing it. No matter what your role is in a production, take a little time to visit the IRS site. While it is not specifically targeting the video production business, it has a lot of great resources to help you pinpoint whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor.

No one wants to be audited.

And if anyone can find a comprehensive guide specifically for the video and digital media production business, please post some links!

October 17, 2015

A little (on purpose) down time

Filed under: Life, Musings — Tags: , , — connieterwilliger @ 3:26 pm

Many people have written about the importance of taking time off. It’s good for you according to an article in the Huffington Post – “Taking Time Off Can Improve Health and Productivity.”

A lot of people agree with this – an article in US News and World Report said – “45 percent of Americans agreed that “they come back to work feeling rested, rejuvenated, and reconnected to their personal life” after vacation…”

Some people swear by taking lots of mini-vacations. I’ve talked about that before. My current “job” as a voice talent allows me to take time off pretty much whenever I want – a couple of hours at a time. I do this on a regular basis. Take off on a hike up Cowles Mountain, or down to the Grinding Rocks in Mission Trails. Head out to the beach (when the water is warm enough) to catch some waves on my body board. Take a long walk to the Post Office to check for sacks of money. Putter around the yard. Maybe do some art.

I’m lucky. Not everyone can do this. And, of course, there are days when the schedule is so tight that I can’t break away. But no one is peering over the cubicle wall at me wondering why I got back 10 minutes late from lunch. But, I do spend a LOT of time in my studio in front of the computer.

Getting out of town requires a bit more planning, but it is doable. Mostly on weekends because of class I teach on Monday’s and Wednesdays for a couple of hours. But since I don’t have a travel partner to get away for an adventure somewhere, these slightly longer trips are mostly to attend voiceover or media production related events. Lucky for me, these gatherings are a delightful mix of business and pleasure. Over the past several years, I have been able to get to at least 2 per year.

Statue with offeringsHowever, taking a 2-week break is daunting. And rare. My last 2-week break was in 2010 to Germany, Italy and Austria. And I had my laptop with me for auditions. And I stayed for a short while at a friend’s place who owns an audio studio where I did do some actual work. It was a vacation with a little bit of work, a little bit of family and a lot of time on my own with no set agenda.

This time was different in many ways. I left my laptop at home and traveled a full day to (and a full day back from) Bali meeting a dozen smart, funny, adventurous women for 12 days on this amazing island. I may need to watch “Eat, Pray, Love” again to see if I recognize the Bali that it portrayed, because the Bali I saw seemed very different. The bustling center for Art and Music – Ubud – is where we spent most of our time. With the narrow streets filled to capacity with people, scooters, motorbikes and passenger vans, you needed to be aware at all times. But step into a doorway and suddenly that falls away. Restaurants bubble with mouthwatering aromas. Your eyes can hardly absorb the colors and shapes of the flowers and statues. Your very person feels welcomed by the smiles and warmth of the people of Bali.

The trip was organized by Myle Walsh – Water from the Moon Travel – who has been traveling there for more than 30 years and leads small groups (of mostly women – handpicked to invite harmony) through her adopted second home. She surrounds you with wonderful Bali people who share their homes and businesses, their lives, and their time with you. The schedule was fast-paced, but several days at the beach in Amed on the East side of Bali in the middle of our trip offered us time to process what we had seen and done so far and primed us for the rest of the adventure.

Bali ingredients

Ingredients ready for chopping, grinding, woking and eating.

Myle’s website says – “The Balinese believe in the balance of life, nature and spirit.” I believe it.

We saw dance and music performances, temples, monkeys and museums. We made art. We cooked. We visited a village school bringing school supplies and toys. They sang us the Indonesian National Anthem. We taught them the Hokey Pokey. We relaxed on the beach. We had massages. Some of us attended a cremation. Some rode elephants. Some rafted. Some rode bikes. We walked in the rice paddys. We shopped. We ate – and we ate – and we all dropped a pound or two in the process.

I was as unplugged as you can get these days with Wi-Fi in every corner of the globe. My time online was spent uploading pictures of the wonderful experiences we had in Bali. Email did come in with a very few needing an immediate response. I did lose at least one job because I wasn’t available. I had to pass on a number of auditions. But other jobs waited for me to get back.

So, now I’m back. After a little “on purpose” down time. What I am finding is that it is taking a little bit of time to just jump back into the pace I’ve been setting. I want to stop and read a book. I want to leave the studio and go find a massage somewhere. I want to gather fresh greens and things from the market and stir fry some Gado Gado.

We’ll see how long this lasts. For right now, I’m basking in the Bali glow.

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