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How to Become an Independent Contractor With the Commonwealth of Virginia

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Independent contractors do a variety of work from website development to construction on a freelance basis. What sets them apart from full-time employees is that they work project to project without being absorbed as part of a business' staff. People working as independent contractors in Virginia must withhold their own income taxes. Because independent contractors essentially work for themselves, there is no safety net of a salary when work slows down, but the style of earning gives a worker flexibility to manage their time on their own terms.

Look for clientele. Consider your knowledge or computers, construction, marketing or other service people may need. Review the membership directory at the Virginia Chamber of Commerce (see Resources) for businesses that could benefit from your talents and call a few to discuss their business needs.

Market your services. Consult with a business like Vistaprint for business cards clearly listing your contact information and where in Virginia you are based. Put up a website or host a blog to help businesses find you. Unlike sole proprietor businesses, independent contractors work on their own without business registration.

Negotiate contracts for work. Keep in mind that the state of Virginia will be charging you anywhere from 2 percent to 5.75 percent of your earnings come tax time. Because your contracted employers will not be withholding that for you, you should factor that into your rates.

Track your contracts. Use a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel to list when you did a project, who you did it for, their contact information and how much you were paid.

Fill out the IRS forms. A W-9 is to show your taxpayer identification or Social Security information to the businesses that have contracted you. A 1099 reports payments made in the course of freelance work. Virginia state income taxes are levied quarterly and can be estimated and paid online through the Virginia Department of Taxation (see Resources).


David Hunt became a professional journalist in 2001. He's covered courts and politics for "The Florida Times-Union" and "The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review." He also was a copy editor at "The Meadville Tribune" in northern Pennsylvania. Hunt received his Bachelor of Arts in literature from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 2001.