Frances Sales of the long-running and successful blog Topaz Horizon shares her insights about blogging and taxes, her tried-and-tested formula for success, as well as the things and people who inspired her along the way:
DISCOVERING HER PASSION
Tell us how you got started on freelancing. What were you doing before then, and what convinced you to work from home?
I was a magazine editor for an entertainment title, and it was the best job in the world back then. It was a job I loved, but I still wanted to write regularly for something that wasn’t work. My friend introduced blogging to me. I tried it, loved doing it, and the rest is blogging history.
Becoming a full-time work from home mommy blogger wasn’t actually my choice. I lost my job given the internet explosion and its negative impact on print publishing. I didn’t initially know what to do. But by then, I had my blog of five years, and had heard stories of people earning off their blogs, so I figured I’ll try it out for a year.
I want to remind you that I was in management already [at my publishing job, so I was already earning a lot. But within one year of blogging, I was earning even more than I did as an employee! So that convinced me that I made the right decision to take the leap into blogging and become an entrepreneur.
CHALLENGES AND LESSONS
What challenges did you encounter when you took the leap?
There were two challenges that I encountered when I took the leap into blogging.
One was reinventing myself as a credible blogger because before the leap, I only had one dream in life, and that was to become a magazine editor. But after reaching that dream, I didn’t know what to do next. At the time, I wasn’t taking blogging seriously, nor did people taking my blogging seriously!
They would comment things like, “Uy, totoong trabaho ba yan?” (Is that a real job?) or “Ano yung ginagawa mo? Paano ka kumikita diyan?” (What are you doing? How are you earning from it?)
So the challenge was to make myself credible again—this time, as a serious blogger.
The other challenge was making everything legal. It was a business and I had to pay taxes. I really had such a hard time looking for an accountant, going to the BIR, going to DTI, and submitting names for my business. I had hoped that things would be faster, but I found myself always waiting in line for a good half part of the day! There was just so much red tape. We are in a digital world, and yet our government and all the processes are still very 19-kopong-kopong. Having been an employee for the longest time, I was used to someone else taking care of the taxes and my deductions. But now, I have to do everything myself. In fact, that remains a challenge to many other sole proprietors like me.
What lessons did you learn that helped you grow in your field?
The learnings I got from my adventure into blogging and making it into a business were:
One, it’s never too late to start again. Yes, it’s going to be hard, but it’s not as hard as when you were starting out the first time because hopefully, if you have the right connections, if you have the right network, then everyone will help you. If it’s an entirely new industry that you’re going to get into, mayroon pa rin from your past who will still help you out, so I appreciated that kahit nag-iisa ako to start again, marami pa rin susuporta sayo. So it’s good to have a community.
Two, it’s good to make everything legal because it really helps your business. It really helps you get more clients, and it really helps people think you’re legitimate because like I said, it was so hard to convince people at the start that this is a real career. But when you start showing them the receipts and you start saying that I have accounting books, I’m paying my taxes, then people will think, “Oh, you’re not playing around. You’re real.” So, I appreciate that.
SHARING HER PASSION
What is Topaz Horizon? How did you start on it?
Topaz Horizon is my personal blog. It’s a parenting lifestyle blog. It started out as just a nothing-rant blog 11 years ago, but now I’ve focused on working mothers because that’s what I am, and working moms are people I relate to the most. It was really just a hobby, and then when it became a business and it became big, I really regretted that name because it doesn’t really mean anything.
You know, especially right now when people are talking about branding, [Topaz Horizon] is not a good name. People are like, “What is it? What are you about?”.
Whereas, if I had a name that’s like “beautyaddict.com”, everyone would know what I’ll be talking about.
But you know what, I’m just going to commit to that name because it’s 11 years old. So that’s what I do, I blog on TopazHorizon.com.
What does passion mean for you? Why do you think it’s important to pursue your passion?
Passion is a very strong emotion for something. You’re passionate about your career, you’re passionate about a hobby, you’re passionate about a cause—that is passion for me.
Because I’m passionate about stories, blogging is a dream job for me. Not only do I get to share my stories, I also get to learn the stories of my readers through their engagement with my blog. The money is great. But for me, what’s better is I really have found friends. Almost all of my friends now, I found through my blog or online. I think that’s the best thing about blogging.
Though I also believe that passion should also come with a purpose and a plan. And if all of these three work together, then you have direction. I have something to do, and I will do it, and this is how I’m going to do it. So for me, the passion is blogging. The purpose for it is that I get to use the influence and readership I have to help other working moms. The plan is to use the blog and my social media platform to create this community and to sustain it so that we can be one happy community of working moms who help each other and I think that it works out really well.
How do you inspire others to pursue their passion as well?
I’d like to think I inspire other working mothers to pursue their passion through my blog and workshops. I talk about how to earn from their blog, and the passion-purpose-plan formula to make your dreams come true. But mostly, I’d want to inspire them with how I live my life, based on the things that I really care about, like right now which is motherhood and being a working mom.
Through my blog, I get to tell my stories to fellow moms like, “You know, I had such a hard day today with my kids, with my work, with taking care of the house, and I don’t know how it happened but I was able to survive today.”
And when people see that, whether they may have less or more difficult circumstances, they realize that they too can be the best mommy versions of themselves.
What tips do you have for working moms wanting to pursue their dreams?
Number one, know who you really are and what you want. And then two, be brave enough to just go after it. It’s okay to fail. You’re not going to die. You will rise again another day to try something new and if it doesn’t work out, just try and try again.There’s no shame in who you are and what you want to do. If it’s true to who you are and it’s really what you want, just go after it. If doesn’t work out, at least you did it and you tried it out and you won’t spend your last day on earth regretting and wondering what could have been.
BLOGGING AND TAXES
Let’s talk about taxes. As an entrepreneur, how difficult were doing taxes for you? Was it something that you worried about? Why?
As a starting entrepreneur, I was really worried about taxes because blogging is a very public platform. Let’s say there’s this sponsored blog post based on a campaign I’m working on with brand X. It will be obvious that I’m making money from my blog.
So there was a part of me that was always worried that someone from BIR would ask, “Nagbabayad ba ‘to ng taxes?”
So I attended a workshop by Manila Workshops where this financial blogger said that when you legalize your business, one, you’re helping the government; and two, you’re really helping yourself.
No matter how big of a headache it is doing all those papers and paying all those taxes, it helps your business because it makes you an entity that big brands would want to work with. Before my blog was officially registered as a business, only small brands were working with me.
But as soon as I had registered, and I had the invoices and receipts to show for it, I started getting campaigns from big brands like telcos and pharmaceuticals. It was a big deal for me because my business leveled up, thanks to the bigger rates I’m able to command for my partnerships with bigger brands and companies.
TAXUMO AND ENTREPRENEURS
Tell us about how you discovered Taxumo.
I discovered Taxumo from my friend, Ginger Arboleda. She is the CEO of Manila Workshops. I attended one of her workshops and that’s how we became friends.
So she was telling me about how I can make my business bigger, such as how to pitch, how to send proposals to brands, etc. And I was thinking, how can I make it grow when I couldn’t even find an accountant to help me file my taxes (since I didn’t want to fall in line at the BIR.)
Even when I eventually did find one, the accountant failed me and I was like: “This is terrible and someone should just automate everything!”. Little did I know, she was already planning that service with Taxumo.
When Taxumo launched, I was one of its first beta users, and I LOVED it.
I would just input my income into this very simple interface and then the next thing I know, my taxes were already paid, my forms are already there, and I never even left the house.
So it’s so easy for me to do business now because I’m a solopreneur. That means I have neither an assistant nor team. It’s really amazing for me that there’s an online app for things I don’t want to deal with. It has really helped my business.
How has Taxumo helped you focus more on your passion and worry less about taxes?
Taxumo has helped me really pursue my passion and not worry about the nitty-gritty and the yucky stuff of business. That’s a big chunk of my brain that doesn’t go to stuff I don’t want to think about. I don’t have a team to help me. It’s great that I can partner with another entity who can just fix everything else for me.
Now that I don’t have to worry about that, all my passion, energy and time can go to my business, and most importantly, to my family.
So instead of me going to the BIR, lining up half the day or whole day, plus the traffic, I just pay my taxes online through Taxumo. It’s really the most convenient, most amazing, and the kindest thing for working moms like me.
Why would you recommend Taxumo to your fellow professionals?
I recommend Taxumo to everyone, even to those who already have accountants. A lot of my fellow bloggers don’t want to turn their blogs into registered businesses they can earn from because, like me, they’re intimidated by all the processes. Recommending Taxumo to them helped ease their fears.
I also recommend it to my friends who are doctors, consultants, and freelance writers & editors. With a lot of publishing companies now demanding an official receipt, I would tell my writer friends that they need not think about the ‘taxing’ part because there’s an online tool that can do the tasks for you.
LEAVING AN IMPRESSION
What characteristic of you do you want people to remember you most about? Why?
I want people to remember me as someone who had courage. Someone who was brave enough to know who she really is and to do what she really wants.
In everything I do, from the things I say, the things I blog about, the marriage I’ve made, the family I’m raising, everything is from choosing what I think is right for me and what is true to me—and having the courage to pursue it.
Like Frances, you too can be part of Taxumo‘s growing number of passionate entrepreneurs who have discovered how easy it is to focus more on one’s passion and purpose, and worry less about taxes! Sign up at Taxumo today.