Ten lessons I’ve learned in ten years as a freelancer

freelancer editorial

Charlie Wilson is a freelance ghostwriter, book editor and proofreader, trading as Landmark Editorial. Her book How to Succeed as a Freelancer in Publishing, co-authored with Emma Murray, featured in The Bookseller’s ‘Best Books on Publishing’. Here are ten things she’s learned over her ten years in the job.

1) There is no ‘just right’ workload

You either have too much work on or not enough. Whinging about either situation is pointless – just relax and ride the waves.

2) You charge peanuts, you’re being a monkey

Industry bodies publish minimum recommended rates; quote lower than these and you’re doing a disservice to yourself and every other freelancer who deserves decent pay for their skill and experience.

3) The client is not always right

But be diplomatic in pointing out errors. Then, having stated your case, know when to let go and when to stand your ground.

4) Life’s too short to do work you don’t want to do

If you’re going to be miserable at your desk, you may as well do so within the security of employment. Build work offers to a point where you can be selective.

5) Freelancing is a business

Treat it seriously: business plans, projections, targets, terms and conditions, bookkeeping, tax planning.

6) If you want more work, go out and get it

Passive marketing only gets you so far. Research marketing channels, choose one and dive in.

 7) The times, they’re always a-changin’

Keep pace with progress in your industry. Better still, enthusiastically embrace progress.

8) Professional boundaries are essential with clients

Be friendly, by all means, but not over-familiar. Send clients Christmas cards depicting snowy scenes, not your toddler dressed as a reindeer.

9) Think colleague, not competitor

All kinds of business opportunities arise from networking with fellow freelancers. Some of them may even become close friends, which is ideal because…

10) No freelancer is an island

Working independently, especially from home, can be lonely. Keep connected to people – friends, colleagues, mentors – online, and at least once a day step out into the big wide world. (But before you go, remember to change out of your joggers.)



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  1. Great advice Charlie. I think the last point about getting away from your desk is really underrated. I find I that even a 15 minute walk is enough to boost my motivation and creativity.

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