Category Archives: freelance money

Making Money as a Book Reviewer

by Helen Gallagher


By its nature, the life of a freelancer requires adaptation to changes circumstances, markets, and the

all-important bank balance. Like most freelancers, my list of services is often expanding. It grows to meet the needs of clients who request services I’ve never offered before.

One field that is apparently lucrative for freelancers is writing book reviews. Some of us write reviews without pay to stay current with the literary marketplace, grow our library with all the free books sent by publicists, and of course, to expand our visibility and popularity. Reviews can be posted on blogs, review sites, even national newspaper and magazines.

A recent Sunday New York Times article might enlighten you further — writing book reviews can be lucrative. The article, The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy, covers the growing landscape of reviews for the explosive amount of new books published.

“For decades a largely stagnant industry controlled from New York, book publishing is fragmenting and changing at high speed. Twenty percent of Amazon’s top-selling e-books are self-published. They do not get to the top without adulation, lots and lots of it.”

With self-publishing increasing, it creates more opportunities for good reviews to spread the word about a new title.

“It used to take the same time to produce a book that it does to produce a baby. Now it takes about as long as boiling an egg.”

Consider all the facts, ethical as well as financial, before saying yes to becoming a paid reviewer. But done well, it might be a wonderful late-night sideline that can bring you and the author greater notoriety, in a good way.

BIO: Helen Gallagher’s no-fee book reviews appear at, New York Journal of Books and Open Salon. She  blogs at to share her thoughts on small business and technology. She writes about, coaches and speaks on publishing. Her blogs and books are accessible through

Freelance Social Media Management: Mutate and Survive

Joe-Wallace-Vinyl-Collector-and-authorby Joe Wallace

Any regular reader of this blog knows that some of us (myself and Catherine L. Tully) are freelance social media managers as well as writers and editors. I myself have been working with several websites where my duties could simply be listed as “all of the above”.

Since I started working in social media, the landscape has changed so much, so often, and in so many ways, that my advice for newcomers is now essentially boiled down to one sentence, cribbed from a creaky old Rush song: “Constant change is here to stay”.

A great example of that concept is found in the Ad Week post, Agencies Start to Get Really Anti-Social, by Christopher Heine. Here’s a sample:

“Just a few years ago, legions of businesses practically tattooed themselves with the label “social media agency” so they could ink deals with brand clients looking to get on Facebook. But as the marketing landscape shifts toward cross-digital solutions and demands for big data, the term is beginning to be seen as too limiting by some.”


“Agencies have always adapted to a changing media world. Just as brands some eight decades ago began seeking ad services that facilitated both print and broadcast, companies may soon routinely expect that digital services (display, retargeting, search, etc.) and social get packaged together.”

It’s funny—when I first started working in social media, I knew people who were “giving up writing and editing” to work more exclusively on campaigns for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. I simply added social media services to the people I blog for in addition to my other work–with an expanded billing rate to match the time investment, naturally. But I never felt entirely comfortable giving up one thing for another.

And now, it seems, current trends–and my cash flow–justify my position. But I do wonder what people who are social media-only these days are thinking about the Ad Week article, the implications, and how they are planning for the future. What’s a social media marketer to do in an age where traditional PR and digital strategy are locking arms? It’s an overdue trend, in my opinion–at least from the point of view of a company that needs the services.

Will digital-only services become an endangered species? Is this a trend, a fad, or has it always been this way in certain sectors but not in others?

Joe Wallace is a freelance writer, editor, social media manager and part-time film maker. His current projects include editing a book for voice actors, social media campaigns for the retail banking industry, and he is currently developing a video series about rare vinyl records. Wallace accepts new assignments on a limited basis. Contact him for more information at

Why you still need a good website

We blog, tweet and keep in touch with friends on Facebook, but is it enough? Not if you want to appear professional and gain more freelance work.

Before you can snag a great assignment, you need a clean, organized way to impress an editor, who most likely is in a big hurry.

webscreensEditors work with dozens of people on a daily basis. When they are ready to hand out an assignment, they often view writers websites to see work samples.  They do not want to view your Facebook page, check your status, look at baby pictures, or read a stream of tweets about what your friends are doing.

A good portfolio means business

Editors look for a freelancer with a professional portfolio, giving them the confidence to hire you to write for them. They want to know you’re serious about work, not about spending time the beach. They want to see samples of recent work, so they know they can count on you.

At a minimum a writer’s or artist’s portfolio should include:

  1. Credentials
  2. Expertise
  3. Recent work
  4. References
  5. How to get in touch

What about a blog?

A blog is a great tool for a free website equivalent. Most people blog at or, both of which are free. You can choose a style that replicates a website with pages and tabs. However most blogs intentionally list new content in chronological order with the newest posts at the top. That can be disorienting to a visitor expecting to easily find your credentials, work samples, etc. A blog, separate from the one you use socially, can be styled to remain static, rather that showing posts and updates. Search a few templates at blogger or wordpress and you’ll find some are suitable to replace a website.

Here is a brief masthead sample, using the ‘mimbo pro’ design at Looks just like a website, doesn’t it?

If a blog template won’t do, then expect to pay $200-300 if you can’t do a site on your own. Most web designers will take on a small client for a five-page site in that price range.

Some freelance organizations offer free or low-cost member sites as part of their benefits. If you belong to a national author/writer group, such as, check their member benefit list.

Free web  templates from sites like 1&,, and

Social media is fine for keeping in touch with colleagues and friends, but your website is the best chance you have to make a good impression.

Give yourself a cohesive predictable place to display your credentials, show clips of recent work, state your preference for types of media you work in, and make it easy for an editor to hire you for your next assignment.

I maintain one site for my tech business, one for assistance with self-publishing, and one specifically for my freelance work. It shows editors exactly why they might want to hire me for a specific assignment, and includes a brief tagline that assures them I’m reliable. Curious, visit and then comment here to share your own writer’s website.

A clean, informative website makes it easy for editors to turn to you again and again. It showcases your work to get your more business, and invites referrals when an editor wants to pass your information on to a colleague.

Seth Godin: on reality

I don’t know what it takes to become a ‘guru’ anymore, in this age of overnight sensations. But Seth Godin is indeed a freelancer’s guru. Author of many powerful books, some of which he gives away, Godin gets to the point of making money as a writer. He reminds us that it requires patience to succeed, to build a career, to make good money. He should know: He’s written a dozen best-selling books, now translated into 33 languages!


We read all about ways to work smarter, save money, do faster research,  get more assignments, but we don’t all have the sense of commitment required to stick to our genius plans. We might rev up for a few days and then get distracted, waste time reading, cafe hopping, and fall back into the idle time waiting for the next assignment to fall from the sky. If you want someone you can turn to in a flash, visit Seth Godin’s blogs, download his ebooks, learn from him, and find a simple path to staying focused and getting ahead without falling backwards again, time after time.

He believe that if you’re patient, success comes, but it is drip, drip, drip, and then the last drip proves once and for all that you were doing the right thing all along.

It still takes ten years to become a success, web or no web. The frustrating part is that you see your tactics fail right away. The good news is that over time, you get the satisfaction of watching those tactics succeed right away.

Get a free copy of some of Seth Godin’s books here. Some of his minimalist wisdom is meant for speed reading, other notions will stay with you forever, such as this piece on getting things done,

The key to the reinvention of who you are, then, is to become someone who ships (as in ‘get the work out’). The goal is to have the rare skill of actually getting things done, making them happen and creating outcomes that people seek out.

If you are in need of immediate motivation, download the PDF of his Bootstrapper’s Bible here.  It includes a manifesto you can tape to your bathroom mirror. Feel better now?

BIO: Helen Gallagher blogs at to share her thoughts on small business and technology. She writes and speaks on publishing. Her blogs and books are accessible through Helen is a member of ASJA, Small Publishers Artists & Writers Network, and several great Chicago-area writing groups.

Using Kickstarter To Supplement Your Freelance Income

Joe Wallace Turntabling Rare Recordsby Joe Wallace describes itself as, “…a funding platform for creative projects”. It’s a way to launch and crowd-fund book projects, graphic novels, DIY crafts, indie films and so much more, and several freelancers I know have started Kickstarter projects.

The rules of the road for Kickstarter are unique and well thought through: users must be approved to launch a Kickstarter campaign, the program is for creative projects only, and it’s an all-or-nothing proposition: if you don’t raise the entire amount of your Kickstarter pledge goal on deadline, the program does not launch and the money is not distributed.

That may sound a bit unforgiving, but in the words of, “On Kickstarter, a project must reach its funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands. Why? It protects everyone involved. This way, no one is expected to develop a project with an insufficient budget, which sucks. Remember you set your own funding goal, so aim to raise the minimum amount you’ll need to create your vision. Projects can always raise more than their goal, and often do.”

I interviewed freelancer Patrick Ogle, founder and editor of the arts and culture site Mapanare about his experiences with Kickstarter. Ogle recently set up a project, Primitive Painted Impressions Of Everglades, and with just over 20 days left on the campaign at the time of this writing, he’s well over halfway to his $2000 goal. But he’s not ready to relax just yet–with Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing rules, the remaining chunk of the funding can’t be taken for granted.

Ogle says is looking for more people to make $1 donations–the smallest amount possible.  That might seem counter-intuitive to some, but the idea of cultivating a pool of smaller investors makes very good sense from a PR standpoint, especially for an artist. Ogle hints that it might also be a way for him to learn about others doing their own Kickstarter projects…and respond in kind. The idea of Kickstarter as a social media platform, “with benefits”, is an intriguing one.

Freelance-Zone: What made you look into Kickstarter? Is this a way to supplement your freelance income, or did you have different motives in mind?

Patrick Ogle: It was a bit of an income thing–although my first Kickstarter was not really aimed at income, being somewhat modest in scope. I primarily do freelance writing and that slowed down so I was painting, which I hadn’t done for awhile. I started liking some of what I was doing and wanted to stay motivated. So I cooked up a Kickstarter. I also was looking at this with an eye to using it for writing projects down the road. This one is sort of an experiment and something I gleaned info on how to do from other projects.

Describe the nature of this project–what are you offering, what’s the response been to it, and what do you hope to accomplish with the project?

This project is about the Everglades and specifically a series of “primitive” impressions of the area I paint. I base them on photos or memory. Sometimes they are actually of nearby areas like the Big Cypress and Fakahatchee Strand–anyone who saw the film “Adaptation” will know the Fakahatchee.  I wanted to paint a series  of water colors and oils and needed money for materials. I also wanted the paintings to be FOR people. I wanted to send them out into the world.

If people are getting the paintings it will make me get it totally right. I will simply NOT send people things I do not feel are good.

You’ve had a surprise or two with the funding–describe that and how it felt to get the response you’ve had so far.

Strangers who want a BIG oil painting done specifically for them? That was a surprise and a welcome one. I also found people seemed less willing to pledge a dollar. I mean we can ALL afford a dollar! But people should realize that every cent helps. I plan, since I am poor, to find projects and donate a few bucks and spread the word about them.  Another cool think about Kickstarter is that it sort of functions like social media. You can follow people and see what THEY pledge to…gives ideas. It is neat.

Based on what you’ve learned from the experience so far, any advice for other freelancers who are considering trying a kickstarter project for their e-book, art project, or other work?

Make sure you read all the Kickstarter materials. That helps. I would also think hard about your “rewards” and try to have a range of prices. I wrote down what EVERY material cost to produce everything and then figured in the time and then the shipping. Be sure to make a video and maybe post the video elsewhere with a link to the project.

I am doing this with an eye to writing pieces or graphic novels–which seem to do well. One thing I would point out- do not look at Neil Gaiman or someone like that and think YOU will do as well. Do NOT be a megalomaniac. Find out what things will cost you, figure out a mark up you can live with and be as creative as you can. MY rewards on this Kickstarter are NOT particularly creative! Do better!

Kickstarter seems to be a combination of social media for fundraising, PR-based fundraising, and, seemingly, a PR vehicle all in itself. What’s your take on this? And what do people have to do to make Kickstarter work for them?

I am just starting this–but I think before you START a project you should join, back projects, make connections, get your friends to join. THEN start a project. You will be the one doing the PR–it doesnt happen in its own. It is also a crowded area, especially with bands. Lots of bands!

Another good thing? I am a terrible self-promoter. And whether you are doing art or trying to get a freelance job writing about widgets you have to really sell yourself. Kickstarter can really help you develop those skills and realize where you are deficient. And I am deficient in a lot of ways!

Where can people go to learn more and/or support your project?

Writing about ourselves

Most writers generally love to write, but the introverts among us may need to get a little more outgoing when writing about ourselves.words-laptopWhether sending a query letter, pitching an idea to an editor, or writing our bio for a newsletter, we often use the same old words: “Samantha is a full-time freelance writer.” Or, “Jason writes about music, sports and media.”

Let me suggest you take a little time this week to jazz up your bio, beef up your credentials, and spread a little enthusiasm for your work.

I stress the importance of platform when speaking with writers, especially those trying to attract the attention of an agent and publisher. A strong, polished presence on Facebook, a good blog, and lots of friends on Twitter and the laggard, Google+, seems to be the minimum requirement for the foundation of a solid visible platform.

Editors who want to hire a writer don’t want to take a chance on assigning an article without seeing your work.

In addition to sending clips, usually via web links or PDF, make sure your online presence conveys the right impression of you as a writer for hire.

Recently,  I saw an ad for freelance writer/bloggers for a health/fitness site, and their platform request even required links to two of your social profiles, as well as a three-sentence description of yourself and your work.

Now that’s an exercise worth doing. First, by requiring you to prove your have some sophistication with social media, and that you’re not embarrassed to have them see your profile, and challenging you to write three really great sentences that sum up your value to them as a freelance writer.

Making money online starts with the showing how good you are. If you can bring readers, you’re ahead of other writers who apply. If you’re up for it, write a blurb, no more than 100 words about your work as a freelancer by clicking the “Comments” above, near the title of this post. Okay, I’ll go first…

BIO: Helen Gallagher blogs at to share her thoughts on small business and technology. She writes and speaks on publishing. Her blogs and books are accessible through Helen is a member of ASJA, Small Publishers Artists & Writers Network, and several great Chicago-area writing groups.