Red Chidgey reviews a step-by-step guide to going freelance
Hands up if you’re an office outsider. Tell-tale signs include: a rotating handful of ‘work clothes’ to feign respectability, perpetual feelings of wishing you were anywhere else, the sure-fire ability to sleep in till lunch. Alternatively, what about you workaholics- doodling five year plans in Moleskins, fidgeting with Excel sheets just for kicks and volunteering more hours than is probably saintly. Whether slacker or over-achiever, it’s possible that there’s an army of freelancers in waiting amongst you: currently unnumerated, highly skilled and with a healthy distaste for The Man.
If you’ve ever thought about going solo, even in these miserable economic times, My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire by Michelle Goodman (Seal Press) will see you through the trauma and gumption of saying no to the conventional and building an alt. career success story from scratch.
With irreverent style, Goodman, of Anti9to5Guide fame, lays out the bones for how to live the freelance life well. From setting-up work spaces and stabilising income, to clever self-promotion tips, subcontracting and financial know-how, this guidebook is indispensable for self-employees with a creative bent. Thankfully, a BFF style keeps the pace lively:
Be true to yourself. Work when and how and with whom you want. Treat your clients well. Charge what you’re worth. Keep setting new goals for yourself. Branch out into new niches. Learn new tricks and acquire new skills. Plant your ass in the chair and make time to refine your craft. Read interviews with your career heroes. Follow the news of your field. Take classes on anything that excites you. Go to book readings, art exhibits, rock shows or whatever else inspires you. Rub elbows with like-minded indie professionals at happy hours and conferences. Encourage, cajole and collaborate. Celebrate your wins. Learn from your defeats, but don’t dwell on them.
Whilst geared towards the white collar worker (with lots of interview snippets from artists, interior designers, pet photographers, auctioneers and virtual assistants), demystifying the process of getting clients, negotiating contracts, racking up a hearty pay scale and becoming an indie professional are lessons applicable to many other fields (though the book presupposes a certain level of comfort or ability to risk the uncertainty of the freelancers’ life).
Of course, plenty of space is given over to the tricky subject of making moola. According to Goodman, the real trick is turning this angst into instinct and the book manages to hardwire the imperative of being well-paid, confident and persistent into your subconscious none too brashly. Saying that, My So-Called Freelance Life doesn’t attempt legal ins and outs; instead, it walks you through being smart about money without losing your individuality.
“Whether you’re new to freelancing and need some clients in a jiffy or an old pro looking to punch up your existing client list”, Goodman assures, “you’ll get a meaty list of tips you can use to land new customers, build networking and marketing into your weekly routine, and channel your inner haggler.”
With credentials such as writing for ABCNews, Microsoft, Bust and Bitch, Goodman shares personal anecdotes from 15 years on the indie highway; revealing horrible mistakes and swollen debt, as well as job-cool saviness and riches.
Note to self: freelancers work more hours than they can bill for – including negotiating terms, finding work and self promotion. To cover this, freelancers need to whack up fees to even out the end-rate and working-from-home expenses.
It was revelatory to see how Goodman lays out the sums, with plenty of “add 20%” and “you might as well round it up”. It was even more revelatory to learn that this is regular project pricing.
Above all, My So-Called Freelance Life elaborates on how to make the mind-shift from pleb to entrepreneur, all the time reminding one to combine creative work with bread-and-butter projects to pay the bills. Fusing business knowledge with a good dose of pop culture sensibility (who got the nod to Angela Chase in the title?), the book ultimately manages to avoid the usual dry fare of other business books and makes a freelance life seem not only possible but also entertaining. So here’s to creating the job you want and the flexible lifestyle you deserve. This book will help you on your way.