Self-Employment and the Trouble with a Business Account Economy

Hopefully it’s clear by now that I work from home? If my generally lackadaisical approach toward providing you with timely content isn’t getting the point across I will have to start posting pictures of myself drinking martinis in my bathrobe at 2 PM.

By and large this is a pretty great way to work, as Hugh’s knowing grin over there might suggest. The only real problem with self-employment is that every once in a while you, like all businesses, have to buy basic business necessities.

And then holy fuck does the trouble start.

Let’s be clear: actual small-business start-ups are expensive. Staggeringly so, most of the time. Even without taking a sizable property or specialized equipment into account you’re already looking at tens of thousands of dollars in starting investment, minimum. Everyone knows this and everyone writes their business plans accordingly.

That means that when it comes time to stock the brand-new office, most businesses have a big chunk of (usually loaned) cash in the account. Spending that stuff is like driving on the freeway for a while: once you exit, it takes a little while to reacclimate to the smaller numbers.

So a business owner might drop a couple thousand in down-payment on a property or as a set-aside for rent, then toss in another few thousand for payroll and insurance, a couple hundred a pop for all the local licenses needed, and so on…by the time you’re done with all that, figures in the hundreds are basically chump change. They do not even register as numbers.

And thus is the three-figure mesh chair born.

Look at some of these things:

“Screen-back Chair” – $139.99 at Target.

“Mesh Manager’s Chair” – $249.99 at OfficeMax

“Mesh Office Computer Chair” – $95.00 at Walmart

These are not particularly nice chairs. The fanciest thing in any of them is a bit of chrome; the rest is all cheap plastic mesh. We’re not talking about ass-cuddling executive monstrosities of leather and rare waterfowl down. But the price on all of them (once you figure in tax, in Walmart’s case) is over $100.

This is a real problem for people who do not have business loans or expense accounts or any other ready-to-hand source of cash. Supply and demand does not help you, because the people doing the demanding have way more money than you. And the supply is priced accordingly.

Happily, the one bright spot in a freelancer’s taxes is the ability to write off business expenses (like, say $100+ chairs). So there is that. But for the starving artist on a budget who finds him/herself in sudden need of basic office supplies, I don’t have much in the way of help to offer, other than to say “start combing the thrift stores and make do.”

Welcome to the business account economy.

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