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Review: My So-Called Freelance Life

By Jessica Albon

My So-Called Freelance Life review
I’d heard good things about Michelle Goodman’s The Anti 9-to-5 Guide so when I received a copy of My So-Called Freelance Life, I was looking forward to diving in.

[This is where I’m supposed to insert that required paragraph of how the “crappy economy” absolutely positively means that people should be turning to freelancing to supplement their incomes right now that you’re seeing appended to *everything* at the moment. But I refuse. So there.]

I’m not exactly shy about this particular fact of my employment history–I freelanced my way through college and only ever worked part time (I’ve never held a 9-5, ever, thankyouverymuch). So, to me, this is sort of a no-brainer approach to work and life. You find fabulous clients, do great work for them, turn it in, get paid, and find a new fabulous client (or start a new project for the first one).

Though I’ve definitely made my share of mistakes, after about ten years at this game, I’m getting pretty good at it (though I wouldn’t really consider myself a freelancer these days, that “find a client, serve a client, get paid” dance is just as much a part of the small business owner turf). So, for me the part of this book that I found most useful was the reminders that the way I do things are perfectly wonderful ways to do them–systems like always using a contract or charging a 50% deposit–are wholly acceptable if that’s how I want to do business. I think everyone needs reminders of this from time to time, and you’ll find reminders aplenty in My So-Called Freelance Life.

For a long-term freelancer, you’re sure to find things you hadn’t considered–new resources on things like co-working or continuing to grow your skills by keeping a dream client list. And, at $10, it’s well worth the investment for just a handful of ideas like that.

But, where this book really shines, I think is in its encouraging, “you can do this” tone
that’ll give new freelancers that dose of confidence to set out on their own and really, truly blaze a trail.

Dedicated to “anyone who’s ever hit the snooze button five times in a row on Monday morning,” this book was surely written for current cubical dwellers looking for a new path, and there it delivers proactive, proven advice for finding your footing.

It covers the big issues like health insurance (I’ve always gotten mine through Blue Cross and find the premiums super reasonable everywhere I’ve lived), business plans, and the bare necessities you’ll want to have in place before striking out on your own. Sure, this advice can be found in lots of places, but what I liked about Michelle’s approach is that she laces it all with plenty of humor and aims it solidly at freelancers as opposed to people who have dreams of running a big business.

The money, though, is in the Sell, Baby, Sell section of the book if only because so many new freelancers seem to expect business to just find them. (Hint: it won’t.)

Covering everything from how to land your first clients to how to build a portfolio to how to move onto bigger fish as you’re ready, Part II has what you need to know (and, if you’ve been in the game for awhile, what you probably need to review) to get the clients that will sustain your business.

She also covers when to work for free which is an issue many freelancers struggle with (I may sound mercenary here, but this has never been an issue for me–I can’t pay the phone bill with “exposure,” after all).

Once you’ve learned to get clients, you’re going to need to learn to deal with the bad ones–sadly, they do exist–and Michelle’s got you covered, here, too, in “The Client from Hell” where she offers sensible advice you won’t feel creepy following. (So often when freelancers get together to talk clients there’s a lot of bravado about what *you* should say–none of it is ever what a person would actually say out loud so it winds up being rather useless.)

In part three she also covers time management and retirement and other financial issues, but in both cases, I think you’ll be better served with books on these specific topics.

That said, what My So-Called Freelance Life does well is providing a well-rounded overview of what to expect when you work on your own, and how to handle the major challenges you’re likely to meet up with. Perhaps more importantly, Michelle’s tone is imminently encouraging and sensible–keeping her advice actionable and fun rather than a chore.

If you’ve read this one, I’d love to hear your thoughts!