Tag Archives: freelance work

A Totally Non-Scientific Look at Books On Freelancing

book and script editor for hire Joe Wallaceby Joe Wallace

I was browsing through Amazon.com today looking at all the books on Freelancing, wondering what the market for “teaching people about freelance work” is like these days. Full disclosure–I have an Amazon Affiliates account and the links here take you to Amazon where if you click and buy, I do get a wee cut for referring you.

That said, it was interesting to see all the different titles. Some looked good, some books seem out of date, and some seem like snake oil. I won’t really go into which I thought was which…but I do urge careful attention to titles, implied promises, and caution.

Is it really possible to take some of these book titles at face value? “How To Earn A Bizillion Dollars Freelance Writing In 90 Seconds Or Less” and similar titles just seem off-putting to me. The exception to this rule is a book titled Break into The World Of Freelance Writing: How I Went From $0 to $1,100 In One Month With No Experience.

Written by Megan Kutchman, this book (which I have never read) has a title I very much respect.

Kutchman doesn’t make ANY promises with this title. I love “How I Did It” books, and the title of this says it all. She doesn’t say YOU will do this, and doesn’t say “And YOU CAN TOO” in her title. This book has earned my respect…

One book I won’t mention by name DOES imply a promise in its title, basically saying YOU can earn THOUSANDS per month–not as a freelance writer, but as a professional BLOGGER. This is a bit more misleading. Yes, you may be able to do this. Hell, I myself do this. But it’s getting into sticky territory to write a how-to book about something as nebulous as pro blogging unless your advice itself is fairly nebulous. (Update: I welcome anyone to contradict that statement…as I like to say, “Tell me I’m wrong and I’ll believe you”. But please be sure to tell me WHY I’m wrong!)

Again, full disclosure–I HAVE NOT read that book, either. But I’m talking about first impression factors here and “should I buy this book” things. If it were my money on the line, I would gravitate more toward “how I did it” titles and farther away from “YOU can earn ZILLIONS By Freelance Whatevering”.

In the end, it’s your call…but setting and getting realistic expectations are important. Sure, marketing hype sells copies, but at the end of the day if you don’t sell some steak with your sizzle, you’ve failed as a writer. Some people are better marketers than writers, a fact of life in this biz…so let the reader beware.

–Joe Wallace

Is This Wrong?

Joe-Wallace-Vinyl-Collector-and-authorLet yourself get on a few PR mailing lists and eventually you get flooded with press releases, requests for work, product reviews, an endless supply of e-mail. And on the day you post a “help wanted” ad for a creative person, whether they’re writers, editors, photogs, etc…you can expect an even larger pile to deal with. It’s my own fault, I know.

But I feel slightly guilty when trying to manage all that incoming mail, for one simple reason; I round-file anything that looks even vaguely like spam and aggressively delete emails from the clueless, the hopeless, and the inept. I’m sure they are all nice people, I just don’t have time for them right now. I have deadlines to meet, material to edit, audio to create, mixes and uploads to contend with.

A multimedia freelancer’s life is a very busy one–something a lot of these e-mail senders don’t seem to appreciate. Especially the ones who want me to hire them.

It’s sad, but it’s true. Long, rambling preambles, irrelevant details, people who won’t GET TO THE VERB, as it were. I am guilty of doing this myself, but fortunately, it’s mostly contained to my blog posts.


Lately I’ve been aggressively deleting ALL emails, unread from the moment I encounter the following pet peeve: people who write “free-lance” instead of “freelance”.

Having worked as a freelancer since 2003, I find the use of “free-lance” to be a red flag. A warning sign. An indicator that a degree of cluelessness is very likely present. This is not nice, it is not fair, and likely not even true in some cases. But I don’t care, since pet peeves are not tied to logic, common sense, or human decency.

I’ve even seen the dreadful use of this mangling of the word “freelance” on book covers–books I refuse to review.

There IS a point to all this, somewhere. I suppose the point is that packaging is everything, first impressions are critical, and you should stop hyphenating the word “freelance” if you want to appear like you know the business at all. That’s just my opinion and doesn’t reflect those of other seasoned creative types who are in business for themselves.

But it’s a good object lesson anyway, methinks. Because THAT is how subjective the freelance business can get, savvy?

Joe Wallace writes, edits, produces, and promotes creative multimedia projects. He is very busy and isn’t accepting new assignments except on a very limited basis. He’s currently editing and doing sound design for the indie film project 45 RPM, writing about veteran’s finance issues, and doing social media promotion for said projects.

A Mini-Freelance Epidemic?

Joe Wallace Turntabling Rare RecordsA lot of freelancers I know are having a bit of an identity crisis at the moment. Some of them wouldn’t describe it quite like that, but I find it very interesting that some of the best ones I know are branching out into new territory, taking chances on new types of work, and generally mutating themselves into something rather different than what they started off to become.

One freelancer made the jump into racy fiction–a big switch from the comparatively dry, totally fact-based work she had been doing prior to adding a bit of steaminess to her repertoire. Another freelancer I know has taken up painting. And then there’s my own turn as a vinyl seller, DJ, and multi-media junkie. Is this an identity crisis, or simply diversifying?

For me, it was a bit of both in the beginning. Success in one area doesn’t necessarily come at the expense of success in another. But when I started, I wasn’t sure about that. How much time could I dedicate to my new income selling highly collectible vinyl records and DJing and still maintain my freelance writing and editing work? Turns out both work together just fine–it’s just a question of time management.

Others I know have put in enough time in one type of freelance trench and are ready to explore different options–they want to keep their hand on the till, so to speak, but move out of the heavy lifting part of freelancing into a more managerial role. And who can blame any of them for that? Writing isn’t easy work in spite of what our office-bound friends might think. Neither is editing. Or PR, photography, musicianship, etc. It’s WORK. Even when it’s fun.

But if you’re thinking about diversifying, chances are good that you’ve done one or two things in your head that have brought you to this point. Or maybe it’s safer to say that I have done this. Either way, have you caught yourself saying to yourself:

1. You don’t know how you can keep up the pace/lack of pace that your current work offers;

2. Your income is wonderful–when it’s actually there;

3. Your income is wonderfully consistent and plentiful, but you’re spending far too much time on projects for other people and not enough on your own;

4. Your work is great, yet not quite as satisfying as you’d like it to be;

5. Your freelance career has taken off, but headed into a direction you’d rather not be moving toward.

In my own case, I’ve had all five of those at various times in the last seven years. The real question I felt all these statements leading up to? What’s next? What choices do I have to make to answer these concerns? It’s not easy, and no blog post can answer that for you–but I find being aware that the “identity crisis” is happening is a good start toward resolving it. Recognizing the internal tug-of-war over these issues helps. You’re NOT going crazy, you’re not a flake for wanting to try new things. Most importantly of all, doubt is GOOD.

The supremely self-confident person can easily become the self-delusional dork with a misstep or two. Doubt keeps you honest, and sometimes leads you to take a few chances you might not have otherwise attempted. The key is–at least for me–to take a few calculated risks at first and see how things play out before making a full-blown commitment. One of the most important rules in marketing is to do market research before you try to launch a new venture. That sort of thinking can also apply to your freelance identity crisis if you’re having one. Give it a shot–whatever IT is–on a part-time basis and see how it feels.

Joe Wallace has been many things in his long and winding career. His first unsupervised job was as a janitor. He later ditched that for a job in radio, and eventually wrote his way into all sorts of fun, money, and trouble from Texas to Iceland. Today he’s head mischief maker at Turntabling.net, and blogs/writes/edits/DJs for fun and profit in Chicago.

The Truth About Thriving Freelance Careers

Joe Wallace Turntabling Rare RecordsI read something on a known freelance blog today that should be filed under the “you know better” department. “It’s always nice to hear a good success story…(name deleted is) a UK-based freelance journalist (who) successfully made a career out of freelance writing with no previous experience or training. (Name deleted) is proof that as long as you can write well, you can start a thriving writing career at any time.”

Not really.

Experienced folks know better than this, and it always irritates me a bit to see such platitudes handed out disguised as encouragement. If the writer had said, “(Name deleted) is proof that as long as you can write well, know where to pitch your ideas, and how to market yourself in an overcrowded field, you can start a thriving writing career at any time.”

Writing well isn’t really what the freelance game is all about.

To be sure, knowing your trade as a freelancer–ANY freelancer–is important. But the marketing, the networking, the cultivation of sympatico pros is crucial to that thriving career. How many books did Stephen King write before he landed his first major success with a publisher?

I believe the magic number was FIVE. And the one that made it was fished out of the trash can by his wife, who basically saved the novel Carrie from oblivion.

Maybe not the best, or even relevant example. But it goes to show you that writing well isn’t really the key to success. It is an important part of the equation, but it’s not what lands you the paychecks. Take inspiration from the success stories, but ask yourself how those people got where they are today. In the blog post I read, the writer took a leave of absence from her unrelated career, started building her networks and portfolio, and landed some paying gigs before returning to work two months later.

The writer lived a spartan existence, saved a nest-egg and worked at her old gig until she felt safe enough in her new freelance career to ditch the day job. She also performed that time-honored freelancer magic of taking on so much freelance work she no longer had time for her day job.

How do you apply these things in your own situation? The trick is to learn how to use your current resources and network in the same way, even if you don’t think your current contacts are freelancer-friendly.

You never know. It takes a bit of creative thinking and some determination, but your existing network might be the key to getting that thriving freelance career up and running. Your writing will come along over time–even if you fancy yourself a good writer (or whatever skill you’re honing) already. Finding one gig isn’t too difficult. Finding enough work to sustain you over the transition from employee to self-employed is another thing. You have to cultivate relationships, build your portfolio, and create a living wage from scratch.

How to begin all this? Look at your current network. There’s the key to your freelance success.

To be fair, the bulk of the blog post I criticized in my intro here isn’t about blowing sunshine up your kilt with false hopes. The beginning, which sent me into this rant in the first place, is misleading and poorly chosen, because the bulk of the writing truly does touch on the principles I mention here. But some will read that opening statement and run with it–and that I’d like to avoid. Aspiring freelancers should know what they’re getting into. Being realistic doesn’t equal discouragement from trying…but it IS important to keep it real.

Joe Wallace is easily annoyed by advice blogs, always amused by defensive replies to his snark, and fancies himself a better writer than he really is. He also collects and blogs about vinyl at www.Turntabling.net.

Part Time Freelancing

Joe Wallace Turntabling Rare RecordsFreelance Folder recently featured a blog post called Part Time Freelancing–Is It Worth It? The post addresses a variety of concerns for the part-time freelancer, but leaves out a question on the minds of many newcomers to the freelance game.

“Do I mention that I’m only a part-time freelancer?”

That’s not a big deal to some, and a much bigger issue for others depending on the client. Larger companies seem to be interested in people they can form long-term relationships with, while it seems smaller clients are just happy to get the work done. How much scrutiny is placed on the full-or-part-time question is really down to you.

Even when I have been a part-time freelancer in the past, I’ve never mentioned it, and it’s never actually come up in any conversation. But some freelancers are compelled to say something about it for whatever reason–usually to address any potential scheduling conflicts that might arise between the client work and the non-freelance gig.

I w0n’t offer any advice on which path is best as it’s really a personal choice based on your needs, but I can say this from my own personal experience–I’m mostly concerned with maintaining a professional image. Actually, “concerned” is the wrong word. I’m anal-retentive about it. And I have a personal policy that I DO NOT bring up side issues like whether I’m full or part time.

Instead, if I anticipate schedule issues, I simply make it known to the client that he or she is not my only client and that my workflow is manageable, but does require some allowances in order to make deadline.

This is tricky–you want the client to feel they are getting your full attention, but you have to communicate that you are not at their 24-7 beck and call. I simply begin and maintain the conversation by mentioning my other ongoing work in a general way without revealing much.

Oh, and I also don’t over-extend myself to the point where the clients don’t get their money’s worth.

It’s your call on how much to reveal, but my personal preference is to leave unnecessary details out of the picture. Keep it simple, that’s my motto.

Joe Wallace writes about vinyl records and the music industry, personal finance, and makes snarky jokes at the expense of celebrities. He enjoys writing about himself in the third person, impersonating Ronald Reagan, and makes field recordings of strange noises with expensive microphones. Visit his vinyl blog and bad album cover emporium Turntabling.net.

Saying No to Freelance Work

Freelance clients and salary negotiationIt seems counter-intuitive to turn down any kind of freelance money, especially in this economy, but there are definitely times when freelancers need to use the n-word.  As in, “NO”.

Or perhaps, “Not only no, but HELL NO”.

Freelance Folder has a very good post about this idea called 21 Times for a Freelancer to Say No. I won’t reinvent the wheel–their post is excellent and covers 99% of the bases. But there’s one thing that should be added to your mental checklist when sizing up a potential client.

Are they showing early warning signs that the relationship is something less than professional?

By this I don’t mean people who flirt with you, or act overly familiar, or display some of the warning signs listed in the “21 Times” piece. Instead, I’m talking about something I personally call “clingy client syndrome”, where you suddenly find yourself dealing with someone calling and messaging you excessively about the project, asking for things outside normal business hours when it’s not appropriate, or simply demanding too much of your time when it isn’t warranted.

I once found myself in negotiations with a potential client who seemed, based on a combination of behaviors I observed in the short time I spent at the company’s offices, more interested in creating an entourage than getting any real work done.

The symptoms included a large up-front payment, combined with randomly shifting priorities and goals. The work letter I drafted was ignored in favor of “idea of the moment” planning, actual deliverables seemed unimportant to the client, and there were lots of detailed emails at very odd hours.

In the end, I had to walk away. I’m a professional writer and editor, not an on-call monkey boy.

If you work in the freelance business long enough, regardless of your specialty, you’ll encounter the same type of person–a socially awkward, semi-isolated person who decides that what they really need is some kind of paid companionship in the guise of a legit business agreement. It’s sad, it’s strange, but it’s common enough. There are plenty of famous people who have done just that–I won’t mention any names, but I will say this–freelancers should pay attention to the sorts of warning signs they think they’re seeing in these cases.

When should you say no to freelance work? Sometimes those alarm bells going off in your head for no specific reason are enough. You can definitely read and heed the 21 scenarios listed in the Freelance Folder blog post, but don’t forget to trust your instincts about the intangible things making you uncomfortable. They might not solidify into solid hunches until later, but they’re worth your attention.

Joe Wallace Vinyl Collector and authorJoe Wallace is a writer, editor, social media manager and collector of bizarre record albums. He loves weird vinyl records so much he wrote a book called WTF Records: The Turntabling.net Guide To Weird and Wonderful Vinyl. Now he’s shopping for an agent. Contact him at jwallace(at) joe-wallace.com

Wallace is available for freelance work and consulting on a selective basis. His social media clients include FHA.com, Bank Administration Institute, and MilitaryHub.com. He writes web content for VALoans.com, FHANewsBlog.com and more; previous clients for his web content and editing work include Motorola.com, Artisan Talent, Verizon Wireless, and the official site for Jason Donnelly, AKA DJ Puzzle.