Book Review: My So-Called Freelance Life

Michelle Goodman’s My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire was the first book I purchased after making the decision to pursue a freelance career. It came highly recommended by two editor friends, and I was excited to read it based on what they had shared with me. Almost five years later, I still reference this book from time to time, and I always recommend it to other freelancers.

This 221-page how-to book is entertaining and packed full of useful information on starting (and growing) your freelance business, from writing a simple business plan and calculating your rates, to choosing clients and marketing yourself, to figuring out tax stuff and what to do when a client doesn’t pay you.

If you are considering a freelance career or are an established creative professional who would like to pick up a few pointers, I highly recommend snagging this book. In the meantime, read on for a few of my favorite takeaways.

Writing your business plan.

Goodman suggests simply getting a few freelance goals on paper, along with ideas for how you will achieve those goals, what she calls a “business plan to go.” Many new freelancers start off without a plan, and then end up lacking direction and jump on every opportunity that lands in their lap. If you have your goals in black and white, it’ll be easier to efficiently decide whether a new project will align with your goals or if you should pass on it to pursue something that will. It’s easy to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, especially as a new freelancer, but it pays to have a plan. I make a list of business goals each year (usually in December) for the following year and try to check in at least quarterly to see how I’m doing.

Setting up your freelance space.

Goodman talks about the importance of marking your territory, should you decide to work from home. This includes setting up a space where you can be productive, a space with enough room for your projects and preferably one that is not located in your relaxing/sleeping quarters. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries with your roommates/significant other; it’s easy to get off task when you work and live in the same space. If you can set up in a separate room with a door that closes, great, but as a new freelancer you might need to find a corner of your living room to set up shop—and that's okay. Check out your local cafés for a change in scenery when needed, but try not to make it an everyday event—the money spent on those extra coffees and snacks adds up!

Naming your price.

In an early chapter, Goodman instructs readers to make a personal budget, and later, in chapter 6, she gets into the nitty-gritty of determining freelance rates. Goodman suggests having two separate budgets (business and personal, which has worked really well for me) to avoid confusion when it comes time for tax time. Then, she provides a few simple equations for naming your price (after accounting for taxes, expenses, and desired vacation time). Later in the book, she discusses negotiating your project terms and rate, as well as the pros and cons to billing per hour or as a flat rate.

These items just scratch the surface of all the great advice Goodman has to offer. Have you read this book? What did you think? Let me know in the comments section below!