Review: My So-Called Freelance Life

My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for HireMy So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire by Michelle Goodman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are considering a freelance gig–full-time or part-time, and especially if it’s in a creative field–pick up this book. Goodman leverages her extensive background as a freelance writer and editor to explain the tricky points of starting your own business, and does it all in a friendly girl-next-door tone that is reassuring despite a sometimes-stressful topic.

The book is divided into three parts: Initial set-up (“You Fled the Cube, Now What?”), Getting Ahead (“Sell, Baby, Sell”), and general topics (“Your So-Called Freelance Life”), and each part is divided into chapters on particular topics, like setting your price or figuring out insurance. And she covers a lot–despite the fluffy fun title, starting your own business is serious work, and Goodman reflects that. She offers practical advice, a trove of books and online resources, real anecdotes from freelancers of all stripes, and some wit along the way.

It’s not just for creative professionals, and Goodman does a great job of creating examples for people of all industries–for example, in a section about why you might want to go freelance and still be able to pay the bills, she says “More often than not, your breadwinning work will help you fuel your enthusiasm for the screenplay, crocheted handbags, or life-size ceramic replica of Margaret Cho you’re chipping away at on the side.”

Interestingly, this book IS targeted to women freelancers, something I guess I was supposed to assume from the cover’s pink writing but honestly surprised me when I realized it 20 pages in. Nothing about the front or back cover (except the pink) says this is a no-boys-allowed book, and I don’t think it really needs to be. Despite the occasional mention of things that are slightly gendered, like childcare, I think a man starting out on his own would benefit from Goodman’s sound advice as much as any woman. (I’m pretty sure the IRS doesn’t come after female freelancers only, if you know what I mean).

While it does claim to help freelancers from the beginning up, I’m not sure it quite does. I would have liked to see a whole chapter related to “getting your business started,” beyond the nuts-and-bolts “what do I charge?”-type questions. Though she mentions that all freelancers she knows have taken some kind of temp job to support their freelancing, she doesn’t really explain, and you don’t get a sense of the reality of the beginning of a business except through cobbled-together snippets scattered throughout. While the chapter on time management (at the end of the book–I had to skip ahead and read it sooner because it felt pretty urgent to me) might help a phone-always-ringing professional like Goodman, it doesn’t offer much for a newbie, so you’re more or less on your own there.

Similarly, I plan on picking this reference up again as topics become more relevant to me: protection against lawsuits isn’t at the top of my list when I’m still figuring out if getting a business card is worth it.

Overall, this was a very helpful and inspiring book and I’m glad I found it before I got my editing business off the ground.

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