The Freelancer’s Bible came out late last year, so I’m a bit late to the party with this book review. That said, the advice given by author Sara Horowitz, founder of Freelancers Union, is timeless enough that the time lapse doesn’t affect my opinion: It’s a very solid book, and its nearly 500 pages offer plenty of well-researched information to consider incorporating into your freelance business. Without further ado, some thoughts on its applicability to various stages of the freelance life cycle.
Beginning freelancer. When I started out freelancing, I pretty much imitated the strategies I’d gleaned from successful freelancers I knew as an editor. Here’s where I think The Freelancer’s Bible could have been useful for me. From the first seven logical start-up steps through the more detailed aspects of managing your business, Horowitz does a nice job of mapping out the freelance landscape and how to navigate it. Honestly, it reminded me of a freelancer’s version of What to Expect When Your Expecting, the no-holds-barred book about pregnancy: You may not experience everything in the book, but it’s a great way to get your attentional filter tuned in on the possibilities.
Mid-career freelancer. At this point, you have some steady clients and a portfolio, but you’re probably looking to build your business with more profitable freelance jobs or gaining access into new industries. The book’s Part 2: Getting Clients and Part 3: Growing Your Business could be a good place to start–lots of good strategic tips on prospecting as well as upping your customer service. I also appreciate the fact that Horowitz writes at some length about the importance of planning for your own financial security, which a person at this career stage can’t ignore.
Experienced freelancer. If you’ve been freelancing for a while, most of the topics will seem familiar. That said, it’s easy to fall into bad habits or old habits–and when business is good, it pretty much doesn’t matter. If you find yourself in a rough patch, you need to reexamine your assumptions and probably try something new–even if it’s uncomfortable–and a review of this book’s strategies could help you accomplish that.
My criticisms of the book are relatively minor: There were a couple of items, such as discussions of ergonomics and “green” office practices, that seemed a little out of place, and some of the work-life balance advice seemed rudimentary to me. It’s a long book, and can be a bit of a challenge to navigate; you’re not likely to read it front to back. In places, it’s a bit heavy on the pitch for Freelancers Union, which is the author’s/organization’s right, but I found it intrusive rather than persuasive. Finally, you need to recognize that it’s been written for any type of freelancer, not just a creative freelancer. Depending on your experience level and business type, the focus on breadth rather than depth may leave you seeking out additional resources on certain topics, such as pricing and estimating, while paging past other sections entirely.
As with any book of this genre, what you get out of it will depend on what you put into it–and whether you achieve the cover-promised “career of your dreams” is up to you. The cover price is a modest $17.95, but you can currently buy it cheaper than that (around $14, at the moment) through the Barnes & Noble or Amazon links at the website, FreelancersBible.com. Disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Freelancer’s Bible from Freelancers Union.
In the comments: Have you read The Freelancer’s Bible? What’s your take on its usefulness for the creative freelancer?