How to succeed as a freelancer in publishing
A few months ago, a friend who had done some work for our company decided he would like to establish a proper freelancing business. He asked my advice on some questions central to his enterprise: how do you market your services? how can you get to meet potential clients?
I gladly responded to his request – in so far as I was able – but I was conscious that structuring that advice, rather than simply delivering a stream of consciousness, wasn’t easy. And I had to do some trawling on the internet to find the resources I needed.
I didn’t then know about How to succeed as a freelancer in publishing, written by Emma Murray & Charlie Wilson and published by How To Books (2010). Had I done, I would happily have recommended it – not as a comprehensive guide (which it isn’t), but as an initial resource.
The book covers the kinds of things you’d expect in such a book – how to set up a business, market your services, deal with money, and so on. It does these things well enough. It is adequately researched: though it isn’t one of those books that tells you about dozens of useful bits of software or directs you to fantastic websites you might not have come across yourself, it does provide useful mainstream information.
The book’s real strength, however, lies not so much in information-giving as in its sense of empathy. Murray and Wilson have a good feel for the concerns and attitudes of freelancers – and, as a result, help to steer their readers away from common pitfalls. One might say the book mentors its readers.
Where I found it really came into its own was in its more ambitious chapters, where the authors seek to move beyond the merely essential. In particular, the chapters on ‘Frenemies’ (potential competitors who can also be collaborators), ‘Dealing with Different Types of Clients’ , and ‘Exploring All Avenues’ (on moving from one type of freelancing to another) provide some icing on the cake.
In a few places I find the authors over-casual. Searching the internet to find a ‘basic agreement [on non-disclosure] you can tailor for your needs’ or to find contracts [dealing with copyright] you can adapt’ might work in some circumstances, but could prove dangerous in others. Lawyers are expensive, but sometimes paying for a model contract can be a wise investment. Similarly, though this book would not be the place for all-encompassing business advice, some mention of insurance – both of a general kind and with the specifics of freelancing in mind – is surely called for. A combination of (a) saving legal expenses and (b) ignoring insurance could indeed prove lethal!
But that is to say that when setting up shop as a freelancer, one wouldn’t want to rely solely on this book. But the final emphasis here should fall on the positive. If, like my friend, you were starting out as a freelancer in publishing, would you find this book helpful? It is highly likely that you would.