Well, the tax gal is running a little behind schedule so we're waiting. And I thought I'd share more things I wish I knew my first year out.
TAXES - Here in California you are an independant contractor, a freelancer, not an employee. The term "staff reporter" means nothing in terms of your taxes. If you work for an agency, then you are going to get a 1099. Not a W-2. The only way you will ever be an employee as a reporter is if you're working for the Superior Court, Federal Court, or are a hearing reporter for the workers' compensation board in California.
So what does this mean? If you've held a job before, you probably got a W-2. That means the employer took out fun stuff like SDI, Social Security, state taxes, and federal taxes, and probably some other stuff if you have a 401(k) or something like that. Since you're now getting a 1099, none of that will get taken out. You must pay your own taxes.
I urge you to pay as you go. It's much better than going to do your taxes in February/March and freaking out about how much you owe. You can send in an ES (estimated tax amount) on a quarterly basis for both state and Federal taxes. This will be based on the amount that you think you'll be making for the year.
You are no longer for eligible for unemployment benefits unless you make specific arrangements to pay into the unemployment benefit fund w/the county/state.
You are still eligible for Social Security when you retire because you are paying into the Social Security fund with your Federal and State taxes that you send in. Remember Social Security benefit, when you retire, is based on the amount that you earn.
Now, back to that no unemployment benefits and short-term disability. If you get hurt on the job, you can't apply for that. unless, like I said, you pay into the fund. It's no longer being automatically taken out. I urge you, if you are married, get yourself on your significant other's health insurance or purchase your own insurance.
Remember, there's no safety net, take care of yourself. I know the first year out, money is tight. I urge you to get errors &omissions insurance, health insurance at the minimum, and pay your taxes. And if there's any money left over, try to save a little. Remember our work is very cyclical and there will be slow periods. EVERYBODY has slow periods. If you save some money, you will not have to be forced to take the really crappy job for a really crappy rate bec. you need money so bad.
MOST IMPORTANT, do not plunk your first check down on a brand new Mercedes. Maybe w/the second check;)