The Freelancer’s Bible
Freelancing has its challenges, but there’s more and more support out there these days for those of us who’ve chosen to hop on the freelance roller coaster. One of the latest freelancer resources comes from Sara Horowitz, founder of the U.S.-based Freelancers Union. Her new book The Freelancer’s Bible has something for every freelancer, offering advice on everything from from setting prices to networking to dealing with isolation.
“Freelancers are at the center of a huge shift in the workforce that has finally reached critical mass,” says Horowitz in her introduction, “and that’s great news for freelancers: As many as one-third of workers in the United States work independently.”
Horowitz says freelancing in the U.S. grew by 27% between 1995 and 2005, and was given a further push by the 2008 recession. Since it first evolved in media and entertainment, however, Horowitz says, “freelancing was associated with creative work and seen as a ‘lifestyle choice’ which allowed businesses and governments to view freelancers’ challenges as ‘not our problem.'”
Horowitz is frank about the downsides of freelancing and includes regular “advocacy alerts” that draw attention to areas of freelance life that need improvement. But she also talks in great detail about the benefits of working independently.
Horowitz argues that now is a perfect time for freelancing to take off: with companies paring down their in-house staff, there are more opportunities than ever. Technological advances have made freelancing a sustainable employment option, and the huge increase in the number of freelancers has created a wider community that provides both camaraderie and, in theory, political influence.
Although some of the book is quite U.S.-oriented (the information on tax, insurance and 401ks, mainly) there’s an enormous amount of useful information here for Canadian freelancers, too. Earlier chapters include practical advice on price setting, contracts, negotiating, setting up your office and optimizing your online presence. The chapter on business management is filled with useful tips, charts and checklists for figuring out your priorities and your goals.
If you’ve ever had a problem with your workload, you’ll likely find the section on balancing your freelance portfolio enormously helpful. How many of us accept any contract that comes our way and forget to make time for the projects we really want to work on? Horowitz offers suggestions for how to make sure you have enough of the right kinds of work to sustain your business while still seeking opportunities for growth in the directions you want to move.
Some of the most engaging reading is in the chapter on community. Horowitz explores the challenges of building a community among isolated workers and makes some strong statements about what a strong community can do for freelancers on both a professional and personal level.
Building community “isn’t just a feel-good thing,” says Horowitz. “It’s a survival thing.”