by Joe Wallace
I have a set of unusual resources I like to use to keep pushing my freelance career forward. A lot of them are things I use to keep tabs on the next big thing, some of them are related to finding freelance jobs, and some of them are about the craft of writing. In no particular order, here are my favorite freelance resources:
Google. Not the search engine, which I use for research, but all the other features. I give my clients access to my work via Google Documents instead of e-mailing attachments, I use Google Alerts to keep me posted when people are reposting or otherwise discussing my writing, and I like to keep track of how my blogs are doing via Google Analytics.
Craigslist. I never use Craigslist to look for freelance work, but I do use it to look for deals on office equipment and other things I should be spending money on to further the business. Sometimes I use Craigslist to hunt for new advertisers for Freelance-Zone.com, too—a company advertising jobs for freelancers on Craigslist is one I probably want to get to know better.
Wired.com. Some people read Darren Rowse to take the pulse of the pro blog world, but I do my own research a bit differently. I like the info Darren Rowse puts out, but I find that information to be far more valuable when coupled with reportage coming from and intended for techies and word nerds not necessarily involved in the pro blogger side of things. Call it triangulation of information–I like to find the sweet spot in today’s fad-driven marketplace by using a combination of intel from a variety of sources.
Small, unknown blogs. There’s nothing more valuable to me than reading the perspective of a new freelancer, pro blogger, or other creative just starting out in the business. A fresh set of eyes on old problems often reveals plenty of new insight. When it doesn’t, you’ve had a good laugh.
Marketplace. I listen to American Public Media’s daily finance report on my Chicago NPR station, and in the two years it’s been quite valuable to be as a freelancer. Financial literacy as a self-employed creative–especially when you’re successful enough to worry about changing income tax brackets and other problems related to cash flow issues–is NOT an optional pursuit. If you want to be a successful freelancer, you have to be aware of your finances, the issues that affect them, even the ones that don’t seem to hit close to home–the collapse of Lehman Brothers, for example–but ultimately DO change the landscape for you as a self-employed business person.
I suppose I should throw a freelance gig-related resource in here. Part of the secret to my own personal freelance success has had much to do with networking, being creatively diverse, and not putting all my eggs in one basket. That’s one of the reasons why I’m a big believer in creative temp agencies like Artisan Creative. Creative temp and placement agencies are not for everyone–they don’t take all comers and your creative chops are only one part of the picture. But if you’re skilled, you’re a people person who can work as part of a team, and you bring an optimistic attitude to the table, a creative temp agency is a great addition to your list of freelance job options.
When it comes to doing the job hunt on your own, I strongly recommend scoping out the Careers and About Us section of any media website you run across. Going directly to the source has been a very productive strategy for me, and while I can’t knock the job sites for passing on the latest details on current gigs, my own personal experience has been better when I take the direct approach. Your own results may vary.