I was looking at a post at FreelanceSwitch about active listening, and for some reason it made me think about this type of advice and where people are at when they get it and put it into practice. I am always grateful for sites like FreelanceSwitch for dispensing targeted, specific advice like this that newcomers can use in the earliest days of their career.
There was no FreelanceSwitch when I started freelancing. What effect would that article have had on my early days as a freelancer? That’s what I was thinking when I realized that if I had to go back and do things all over again, I’d do them a LOT differently if I knew just a couple of really critical things.
What would I do differently? For a start,I would NOT buy all the books and e-books I purchased over the years. I would have saved my money for the most part, but I would have purchased any e-book that outlined mistakes that freelancer had made that others should avoid. I would have purchased any authoritative e-book or hard copy book about freelance taxes and finance issues. I definitely would NOT waste my money on writer’s market guides (with one really notable exception which I still pay for when I feel the need–you know who you are.).
Why that last one? The others are fairly obvious, but I’ll say for the record that I personally have only succeeded in landing a writing gig when I chased down my own leads. I have a theory about this–I think when I go after a particular market, I work harder to get it and my effort shows in the cover letter, the pitch and the story ideas. It’s not always that writer’s market collections suck (some do) or are somehow lacking (some are). I just think I want it more when I’ve taken the trouble to chase after it.
Another thing I’d do differently–I’d stop taking people’s advice without customizing it. In my earliest days, I followed advice to the letter, thinking there was some kid of formula I needed to discover. How wrong I was…the best advice for me was the stuff I read and modified in some way.
And finally, I would have purchased a laptop sooner, and gotten a smaller, lighter one to boot.
Oh, and to the people who make writers guides and writers market products, my advice to you is to incorporate both market information AND solid advice about freelancing issues connected to dealing with the markets you list. For example, small informative articles about freelance tax issues, where to find the right IRS forms, advice about how to turn early freelance successes into more writing gigs, etc. The best writer market guides include stuff like this, and you should too.