Under the Radar

Under the Radar 116: The Going Indie Spreadsheet, Part 2

 

  welcome to under the radar show but

  independent iOS app development I'm

  Marco Arment

  and I'm David Smith under the radar is

  never longer than 30 minutes so let's

  get started so today we are kind of

  doing the part two to last week's kind

  of I don't know going into 101 or going

  into the spreadsheet way discussion

  where we talked a little bit about

  forming a forming your business

  considerations around taxes and to

  considerations around income so if you

  haven't heard that go listen to the head

  before this before you listen to this

  because those are more important in some

  ways and more foundational to kind of

  what we're gonna talk about now but

  really what we're going to be unpacking

  for the rest of this episode is trying

  to think through all the different

  expenses that you are going to have once

  you kind of workout at a vague level

  what your income goals might be what the

  tax is around that are going to be and

  then you have to like work out well what

  are the other expenses when suddenly if

  you're self-employed and you're becoming

  you know you're suddenly becoming

  responsible for all of the expenses

  associated with running a business

  what are those going to be so you're not

  caught out or surprised by what they

  they may be and some of these you may

  not have thought of but the one that was

  probably going to start with that you

  almost certainly have thought about if

  you live in the United States is health

  care and health insurance because almost

  certainly if you work at a traditional

  employer currently there you know that

  employer is providing in some way your

  your health care yeah they're they're

  paying for it themselves or you're

  paying for it but they're choosing it

  and it's a group plan and this is

  something that I feel is so often the it

  can be a little emotional and personal

  because you know health care is a very

  if not it's not this kind of it's not

  like choosing your business card

  provider or choosing you know which

  computer you buy like those decisions

  while important for your business

  perhaps like aren't nearly as personal

  and impactful for things that other than

  you know this affects your family and

  can affect you know your family in a

  very substantial way

  so can end up being I think feeling

  something very scary now but I would

  encourage you to always think that the

  health insurance is just another number

  that you have to pay for and

  it's not the you know it's like you can

  easily become something that is a bit

  you can build it up to be something

  that's a bit more emotional or a bit

  more scary like you know right now my

  employer just takes care of that now I

  have to do that it's like well hey

  you're kind of already paying for it now

  because you're it's not like your

  employer gets their health insurance for

  free like they're paying for it for you

  and that's in some ways your money that

  is just being their you know their core

  they're having control over it so at

  least one advantage of paying for your

  own health insurance is you can you know

  tailor and choose and match it to your

  family's needs goals risks tolerance

  savings etc like you can choose that but

  ultimately just understand that it is

  just a number it is something that you

  now have to choose and make that those

  choices can be complicated and you know

  kind of challenging perhaps but it is

  just a number and once you turn it into

  a number I thought I found for myself

  that it made it a lot less scary a lot

  less problematic that I could just say

  like okay I'm gonna spend this amount of

  money on health care I put that into my

  budget I put it into my spreadsheet it's

  and then just it's just covered it's

  taken care of I don't have to think

  about it or worry about it because you

  know ultimately that's all it is it's an

  expense and then you know it'll have

  implications perhaps you know put in

  your personal life in terms of the

  different depending on the kind of

  insurance you have you know when you go

  to a doctor different things will happen

  you may have a high deductible or you

  gave to pay a copay and you know that

  part of it is certainly something that

  you can is worth considering but it's

  not this big scary thing it's mostly

  it's just an expense and it's pretty

  expensive it's probably after taxes your

  next biggest expense but it's not

  anything more than just another number

  and just another budget item that you

  have to take care of exactly like the

  the debate in your head should not be

  like I can't go indie because I would

  need to pay for health insurance or I

  wouldn't be able to health insurance

  instead it's when I go indie I have to

  find a way to make you know X extra

  dollars per month then what I then what

  I might have originally thought because

  it has to pay for health insurance cuz

  you know like as you mentioned like

  right now like someone's paying you know

  what whether you're paying for part or

  all of it yourself or chances are your

  employer is paying for you know part

  of it you know there's there's a lot

  that employers pay to have an employee

  that is not just the salary that you get

  and you know we started talking about

  this last week with with like you know

  the employer half of a lot of these

  taxes and other various you know

  employee employment taxes that you will

  have to either pay or pay some kind of

  alternative to now but also you know

  health care is part of that you know

  just office expenses like if they pay

  you say fifty thousand dollars a year

  you might be costing them sixty five

  thousand dollars a year or seventy

  thousand dollars a year or more like

  that you know depending on what kind of

  expenses they have to have employees and

  and so when you go independent it's not

  that you can't do that it's not that you

  can't pay for those things you just have

  to know how much to charge for your

  consulting services how much you how

  much income you need from products like

  stuff like it's these are not numbers to

  scare you off but to instead inform how

  you make your projections how you know

  what you need and how you set your

  prices I remember early days and I was

  doing consulting I would sign a contract

  to do a work and the number like the

  income that I was getting seemed so big

  and so like wow that's like that's a lot

  of money like I'm gonna use like this

  contract just for $20,000 like which in

  a in regular day-to-day life is a lot of

  money like but it the important thing

  that I always had to in the back of my

  mind have and this is just a rule of

  thumb that I found to be pretty helpful

  is to say like whatever that

  top-of-the-line number is it's like at

  least half of it is going to something

  else and so like it's not that I didn't

  I didn't just make in that in this in

  that example I didn't make $20,000 I

  made $10,000 and that additional 10,000

  is going to be going to all manner of

  things taxes health care office expenses

  etc and so it's important to just have

  that in the back of your mind that you

  know think these are all just numbers

  that you just have to balance and know

  what they are but you know it's good

  then the reason you're doing this is so

  that you can make sure you're charging

  enough because you know ultimately if

  you don't then that's when things like

  health care can become problematic

  you need to have the money to afford to

  pay for it exactly because like you

  weren't like I kind of said last week

  like your whole mindset of like how to

  pay for things has to change to some

  degree and your mindset about how much

  money you need to make also has to

  change because like your whole like if

  you've been only employed by other

  people until now your whole life up

  until now you've had a certain amount of

  money in your head is like what's like

  what's my salary or what's a good salary

  or what kind of salary do I quote need

  you know to maintain the lifestyle I

  want to maintain and you you still have

  to make those kind of calculations the

  numbers just have to be higher and it's

  not that like you know the idea of

  spending say two thousand dollars a

  month for family health insurance which

  is a reasonable number actually these

  days which is sad but you know the idea

  of spending $2,000 a month if you are

  getting paid and you know regular

  middle-class job that sounds insane like

  that sounds incredible why would anybody

  how can anybody pay that much but the

  answer is not thinking of it from the

  from the point of view of a payroll

  employee thinking about it as the point

  of view of somebody setting prices for a

  business to know like okay how much

  income you need every month do we need

  $8,000 a month of income to sustainment

  we need okay then that's the number like

  you know it's it's almost an any figure

  out how to do that you know you kind of

  backs off you start with what kind of

  income do I need to cover all this stuff

  and then you back solve to say okay how

  do I get there you know like a quick

  story here like when we first moved to

  New York we moved to a very nice suburb

  and I didn't know what the heck I was

  doing I moved to where my cousins lived

  because it was nice got an apartment

  there you know just renting and I looked

  around and you know TIFF and I were in

  our relationship and we wanted to you

  know get married and get and buy a house

  and we looked around the neighborhood we

  were living in which was a very very

  expensive neighborhood and all the

  houses were like a million dollars and

  so and sometimes even more than that for

  like a basic house so rather than do

  what we eventually did but just move

  somewhere cheaper I initially thought

  well I guess if a house is a million

  dollars I guess I have to figure out how

  to make a million dollars that like

  inform like salary negotiations all

  sorts of things until I eventually rose

  like I just moved somewhere cheaper but

  like for a while like that's that was

  the right way to look at it which is

  like all right well here's the

  environment I'm in I don't want to

  change the environment I'm in or

  the certain goal that I want to reach so

  rather than seeing it as this impossible

  thing that I could never do instead say

  alright this is what I need to reach

  that goal how do I get there like how do

  i how do i afford a house that cost that

  much you know and yeah and so when

  you're looking at a business you know

  you have to think like if the idea that

  I just said making eight thousand

  dollars a month has a minimum if that

  sounds crazy high to you

  backs off a little bit and instead so

  I'm thinking alright what could I do to

  make eight thousand dollars a month yeah

  so that it is just numbers like it's

  just that's why I love spreadsheets for

  this kind of stuff you just kind of work

  it out backwards and one of the side

  note too and a lot of these expenses is

  the one a nice thing about business

  expenses is that almost all of them are

  tax-deductible so it's also just need to

  keep in mind that the you know if health

  insurance costs you $2,000 a month

  it isn't $2,000 in the in the way that

  you would have had that money after

  paying taxes like theirs if you don't to

  go get carried away with like the

  discount that you're getting essentially

  by things being tax deductible but it is

  certainly something to keep in mind that

  a lot of these expenses are the raw

  number is much bigger than what it will

  actually end up costing you yes it's not

  for free

  but it is discounted it's like you

  getting your paying you get like

  one-third off you know all these a lot

  of these types of expenses but anyway so

  back to health care there's really two

  ways that you can get health care in the

  u.s. right now anyway there's two main

  ways that I think I've seen people use

  and I've to use both of these myself the

  first and this is often the easiest way

  when you're starting out is there's a

  it's called Cobra I don't know what that

  stands for but it's the essentially in

  the United States you your employer is

  obliged to allow you to continue on your

  previous group insurance plan premium

  for I think it's up to eighteen months

  after you leave it leave a job and

  basically you pay I think it's a hundred

  and two percent of the cost that you're

  the total cost that the employer was

  paying so whatever that actually is and

  you can just sort of keep whatever the

  insurance that you have now

  and this is a really useful thing even

  if you don't end up doing it in the

  early stages of kind of working out you

  know putting together your spreadsheet

  about what going independent is going to

  be like this is probably going to be

  your it's often going to be your

  cheapest version because group insurance

  is just cheaper than individual

  insurance

  well sometimes sure I mean not

  necessarily but if the very least it's a

  great baseline and it's a really easy

  baseline because the number of working

  out what your the cost of your current

  plan is is should be relatively

  straightforward to you in terms of your

  employer should be leather tell you that

  or it's on your payroll stub or whatever

  and you can look at that number and you

  can say well I can just keep my current

  insurance you know if you some you like

  it I suppose but like you can keep that

  and that should be able to get you going

  you can do it indefinitely

  you know it's free the first year year

  and a half or something but it's a good

  way to just kind of get started with

  this process and it has the least

  disruption to your family in the sense

  of you know your insurance just sort of

  stays the same it's you're just paying

  all of it yourself rather than sharing

  that expense with your employer and if

  that doesn't work or if that but for

  every reason you don't want that

  insurance the alternative is usually to

  go to one of the health care exchanges

  used to you previously it used to be I

  went to like a insurance broker and

  worked it out that way recently I just

  go to healthcare.gov like the Affordable

  Health Care Act insurance marketplace

  stuff and you kind of fill in a bunch of

  forms it takes the process takes a

  little while so if you're thinking about

  this process like you can this probably

  wise to go through that and just

  understand what all the things you're

  gonna have to do like you provide a lot

  of data and then you'll just you know be

  shown a variety of health plans and you

  can choose whichever one sort of fits

  your needs and your family's goals and

  you know it's depending on where you are

  in your life and your family life

  different plans might make sense and I

  will say it's kind of nice that I've

  been able to as since I've been

  self-employed I've been you know I was

  able to tailor my insurance based on you

  know life stage like when we were in the

  the phase of life when we were

  you know having children so having the

  process of having children in the u.s.

  is very expensive and so we had very

  good insurance during those periods and

  as we've transitioned out of that phase

  like I've been able to transition to

  slightly less robust insurance I guess

  I'll have good insurance but it's not

  quite to the degree it was before and it

  is kind of nice because it shows that

  but you know you go through the

  marketplaces and you'll get be given a

  whole variety of choices of different

  styles you know it's the large a lot of

  them end up being the high deductible

  style plans or you can there are still

  typically options for like the PPO copay

  version of it but you just kinda have to

  choose and decide make a plan and you'll

  you know tell you is it's just like is

  it's weird but it's kind of like just

  like you're just shopping for anything

  else online like you'll get a cost and

  you just start paying that to the

  insurance company yourself yeah it's

  it's way easier than it used to be like

  back in it with like when we had to go

  to brokers and everything and and you

  know not to get too political but like

  before the ACA there were a lot of

  there's a lot more things you had to

  worry about of like if you pick the

  wrong kind of plan or if you missed like

  some small print you might open yourself

  up to some major risks whereas with the

  ACA normalised a lot of that and it put

  it put in place a lot of like minimum

  guarantees of levels of coverage such

  that it's a lot less stressful than it

  ever was now to shop for health care

  yeah and so in that sense like you say

  decide what decide what plan works if it

  works for you and then you just buy it

  and now you have a number you just put

  that in your spreadsheet and move on and

  you know the big scary thing okay you

  know being self-employed is really hard

  to do you wouldn't because from a

  healthcare perspective like it isn't

  really it's it's it's expensive but it's

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  this show so beyond health care there

  are probably a few kinds of insurance

  that you may need to think about these

  depend you may want to have some kind of

  professional liability or errors and

  omissions insurance it depends on the

  kind of work you do personally in my

  experience I haven't carried this type

  of insurance unless a contract requires

  it so sometimes you'll be you know doing

  a big consulting project and the people

  you're consulting with will one of the

  clauses in the contract is that they

  require that you cover perform have a

  professional liability insurance and so

  you may have to have that depending on

  your state you may need to have things

  like workman's compensation insurance or

  unemployment insurance usually those

  only kick in if you have employees that

  aren't yourself for yourself and your

  spouse or something like that but just

  good to keep in mind I highly suggest

  not doing that if you could help it it's

  having having any other full-time

  employees like not not just paying

  contractors here and there but if you

  have any of full-time employees it

  massively complicates a lot of these

  factors and I I did it very briefly I

  think you did too I would HIGHLY advise

  if if you can do your work with just

  yourself and occasional help from

  contractors do that and it certainly is

  one of the benefits of this type of work

  is that you probably won't need

  employees at least to start with in the

  sense of the work you're doing is just

  you know you and your laptop or you and

  your iMac you know working away you're

  not it's not like you need a production

  facility that you're like me

  gang widgets in and so hopefully you can

  avoid it or at least defer having

  employees for a while you also now may

  need to think about retirement types of

  investing like 401k or IRA type of stuff

  this is something that I mean you

  depends depends on how you view this

  type of thing you could potentially

  defer this for the you know the first

  couple years of being self-employed but

  that's up to you but either way it's not

  going to be something that your employer

  is providing anymore so it's some that

  you have to take care of yourself and if

  it's something that you would like to

  contribute to in your as you're setting

  up your business you know you have a lot

  of choices available to you I think the

  ones that most self employers would you

  is the simple IRA or a SEP IRA seem to

  be the two that you will likely take

  advantage of interestingly depending on

  your situation they may actually be able

  to consummate it but be able to

  contribute a lot more than you would

  have from a traditional 401k so

  something that could be a benefit to you

  but it's again it's just another line in

  your spreadsheet that you need to

  understand and you're gonna be setting

  up the plan yourself like you'll be

  going to you know a investment bank or

  you know Vanguard or somewhere like that

  and you'll be setting up the accounts

  and making the contributions yourself so

  that's just something you'll have to

  know now as with all the stuffs like now

  it's now that's your job now you have to

  take care of that and if setting that up

  is scary to you you know be thoughtful

  about if this really is for you well and

  also like you know you can also do

  things like hire a financial planner to

  talk you through a lot of this stuff

  especially when it comes to when it

  comes to things like long-term

  retirement savings and things like that

  that that often helps I'm sure you know

  whatever accountant you have for your

  business to do your taxes which you are

  definitely now doing that you know the

  accountant can probably give you some

  basic guidance on this as well to give

  you some idea of the much higher

  contributions a SEP IRA the limit this

  past year I believe was $54,000 that you

  could contribute total now there are

  some limitations on this so for instance

  first of all if you have employees that

  the whole thing that's messed up don't

  have employees but if you but but if you

  the I believe the limitation is it can

  be up to 25% of the business's income

  for the year so if you want to

  contribute

  to 4,000 you had to make like 200 and

  you know 12,000 whatever but anything

  you contribute to the Sepp I believe is

  either a tax deduction or a credit it's

  a it's a big advantage in your taxes so

  like these are things that you know any

  good accountant should tell you you

  should investigate you know if you have

  enough income coming in to a business

  where you where asset makes sense it can

  be a pretty substantial tax savings yeah

  and the other advantage to this just as

  a side note there is it's nice that you

  have more so much more control as with

  so many of these things over this and so

  it isn't the kind of thing where you

  have to like on January 1st decide

  what's your employee retirement

  contributions are gonna be for the year

  you have a bit more flexibility about

  when you do that about when you time

  that so if you have a great year and you

  get to the end of the year you know you

  can make it larger or attack the

  retirement contribution that year so

  that you can lower your tax liability if

  that makes sense like there's lots of

  cool things that you can do because you

  have flexibility because you're not just

  you know one of a thousand employees and

  so you you had you you actually have the

  ability to make these choices yeah also

  by the way if you didn't know about this

  stuff it is not too late to do this for

  this past year because you can

  contribute to at least a step I don't

  know what the other ones but you

  contribute to except I think up through

  up until tax day up until April or

  something so yeah so like you can do it

  for the previous year so so definitely

  like if you're into this for this year

  ask somebody about it ASAP because it

  isn't too late and but yeah it's these

  are things that you know again and you

  know which is with the control it's

  great because like if you had a not so

  good year you can either skip it and not

  contribute or you can contribute a

  smaller amount and you otherwise

  would've if you had a fantastic blowout

  year you can contribute as much as you

  possibly can you know it's it really

  puts everything in your hands just like

  much of self-employment yeah other

  expenses so you're to get into things

  that like just otherwise your employer

  would have typically covered for you so

  things like mileage to are from

  consulting clients potentially those

  type that type of thing or travel for

  work to conferences any educational

  expenses you may have so if you need to

  take a course or a certification or

  something like that for your for your

  work that's now like a you know a

  business expense and it'll in debate it

  deductible from your income

  as well as just something you need to

  take into account that if you know if

  your employer every year is sent you to

  WTC and took care of all the expenses

  that's now going to be you paying for

  that and so working out you know what

  that costs are associated with that

  whether that still makes sense you'll

  need to use by your own office supplies

  you know whether that is you know

  pencils and paper or if that's the

  business cards and letterhead like I

  mean depending what kind of business you

  have you may or may not need any of

  those but that's now something that

  you're gonna have to take care of

  yourself so you're gonna buy your own

  coffee for the breakroom yeah that's

  that's true they you can't you can't

  just mooch off their terrible's your

  coffee anymore

  oh I should get a water cooler installed

  on my office there you can I know you

  can have conversations with yourself

  there on a regular basis those are

  probably expensive can you get can you

  have a guy come and like bring those

  giant glass dude those giant jugs to it

  is that a thing you can do your house

  I'm sure if you paid for it they would

  be happy dude they would be happy to

  bring the giant five gallon drums into

  your house and set it up for you

  probably not very cost-effective and you

  just did a tap with a filter on it might

  be more effective or probably just a gas

  so you may you now be responsible for

  your own hardware in terms of your

  computer any testing devices that you

  now need in depending the kind of work

  you do you may want to have a collection

  of test devices that's now your

  responsibility to purchase probably also

  something just as it's always a good

  idea but I was going to mention it in

  this kind of topic is make sure you also

  like your fun of your first purchases it

  was probably gonna beat if you don't

  have it already like a good backup hard

  drive because suddenly now you are

  personally responsible for you know your

  work like if you somehow your hard drive

  you know your computer dies and you

  suddenly don't have that project that

  your your client has been paying you for

  six months to build like that is a

  tremendous problem so you need to make

  sure you have a very good back of

  situation both in terms of physically

  like having a like I do a daily mirror

  of my main machine in addition to a

  variety of cloud backups but like that's

  an it's a hardware expense that you may

  need to

  to factor in a really good chair sure if

  you sit in a chair for two hours a night

  after you come back from work that has a

  very different needs and if you're

  sitting on one for eight hours a day

  yeah yep you'll have a variety of kind

  of home office things like and all say

  don't go no necessarily go crazy right

  away it's it's like we as if you listen

  to us talk for long enough you

  understand we take these things very

  curiously like having good good

  ergonomics make sure you have a keyboard

  and a mouse and things that work but but

  like if it's gonna be hard to get

  started like you know you could these

  are the kind of things they can be nice

  goals for you know buying at the end of

  the year if the year goes well these are

  like Cydia things that you can certainly

  you don't need to do these right away in

  the same way like I fur my fur to start

  with like I didn't have that great of a

  laptop or that great of a computer I

  just made it work you know you may not

  necessarily go out and buy a

  top-of-the-line iMac pro on your first

  day of starting your new business like

  yeah that's a terrible idea

  that's probably unnecessary like you can

  kind of get started with what you have

  and then grow and develop as you may

  have need you're also going to probably

  have to buy some software like things

  that your employer may have previously

  provided like if you use Photoshop or

  illustrator or transmitted or tower-like

  any of the kind of utilities and tools

  that are just a part and parcel of you

  know B being an iOS developer you are

  gonna need to now pay for those yourself

  similarly you'll have a bunch of certain

  online services that you're gonna pay

  like I you know I have accounts with

  Dropbox you may have things with github

  or Linode for hosting you have some a

  havoc an account to something like fresh

  books or QuickBooks you may probably few

  have any kind of web servers you'll

  probably have a count to like Kingdom or

  hover you may be doing backups with

  Backblaze like you're gonna be a variety

  of these kind of services and well any

  one of them individually is may not be

  that expensive in aggregate you know

  they're not an insubstantial part of

  your expenses so make sure you have them

  in the spreadsheet and know what they're

  you know what what that what kind of

  expenses you're gonna have to to manage

  with that are also make sure that the

  licenses or the service plans that you

  are getting for things allow business

  use most of the things we've mentioned

  it's the same no matter what you use

  for but there are occasional services or

  some or some software packages where

  like if you're using it for business use

  you're required to pay more to be

  compliant with a license yeah it's just

  good advice in general yeah it's pretty

  rare but but those do still exist sure

  early you know make sure that you're

  being up above board with all of these

  these types of things exactly like you

  hear like this is not a place to like

  pirate your copy of Photoshop like you

  can't no you can't do that with your

  business stuff because suddenly you're

  the liability that you're putting

  yourself under and your clients under

  and things suddenly become very

  problematic so like in general good

  advice like be above boards like

  understand that this is a business

  treated as such

  and if you've factored these costs

  incorrectly into your you know into your

  spreadsheet into your expenses like it

  shouldn't be a problem in that regard

  and so it should be fine and then by the

  last area to think about is professional

  services so you're like we've talked

  about many times you Vega need to have

  either a lawyer in an accountant or just

  an accountant or some kind of in terms

  of some type of professional advice on

  the financial side you may also need to

  periodically hire a graphic designer not

  entire as an employer but just hire in

  terms of do some consulting for you if

  you need even even icon the icons for

  your apps or an icon for your business

  if you think that's important or

  whatever like these are kind of

  professional services that you're going

  to need to suddenly start paying for

  that you just need to keep into mind and

  they're not typically crazy expensive

  it's just an expense that needs to have

  its I have a have a line item and be

  considered as you're going into this

  with your eyes open this all sounds like

  a lot and it is a lot when you when

  you've never done it before but you know

  it's not that different from like the

  transition from renting the place you

  live to owning a place that you live or

  the transition into being becoming a

  parent if you've done that like it's

  it's a thing where like you might not

  beforehand you might not have fully

  appreciated like all the things that

  were needed that were being done for you

  or that you that weren't necessary to do

  that now you have to do but millions of

  people do this millions of people have

  figured this out before you many of them

  you are smarter than

  it's it has a lot more to do with

  experience with these things than it has

  to do with skill or intelligence or

  anything else like if you want to tackle

  this you probably can yeah and we'll say

  - it's probably just a good indication

  of whether you should that like if the

  if the thought of starting this process

  is completely overwhelming and you just

  can't handle it maybe being a regular

  employee is for you but if you can get

  over that like obviously we both

  recommend it we both like this lifestyle

  but it's a probably a good litmus test

  for doesn't this make sense for me that

  if the last you know this episode in the

  previous one is just like totally blown

  your mind then like okay maybe it's not

  for you and that's okay like this is

  like neither one is like the right one

  the right choice for you but you just

  have to it's a good thing to understand

  that these are these are the things that

  you're gonna have to take care of if you

  go down this road Thanks listening and

  we'll talk to you next week bye