5 ideas to keep a freelance career interesting

In the run up to the next BookMachine event on Wednesday (15th), ‘Outsourcing Uncovered:Managing, inspiring and evaluating your out-of-house workforce‘, Liz Jones shares her top tips for staying interested as a freelancer. 

Many publishing professionals make the leap from employment to freelancing. However, it can be a shock to move from a senior in-house position to being managed yourself and more remote from the whole process. Fortunately there are practical ways to keep your freelance career challenging and stimulating.

1) Be a great boss

The best bosses lead by example, know the job inside out, and offer support and encouragement. In the same way, being your own boss is about much more than just managing your time: it’s about taking control of your career and staying motivated. You’ll need to seek out opportunities that will make best use of your skills and enable you to develop new ones. And you’ll need to be honest with yourself about your strengths and areas you need to improve.

2) Build meaningful networks

Everybody knows that freelancing takes you away from work colleagues. However, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to build new networks that work for you. One way to feel involved is to sometimes work in-house for clients, if possible. If not, treat occasional meetings with clients as chances to maintain existing contacts and make fresh ones. Find out where your peers (in-house and freelance) congregate online or in person to share ideas and best practice – try social media and professional associations. Don’t be passive – contribute and make yourself known. Finally, collaboration with other professionals can help you win more interesting commissions.

3) Exploit your expertise

Just like landing an in-house job, freelancing is competitive. One thing that can set you apart is to offer skills that other freelancers don’t. Let potential clients know what you can do, whether it’s planning strategy, commissioning, project management, editing in layout, copyright clearance, or whatever. With your insider knowledge you’ll understand how to make your clients’ lives easier … which is always appreciated.

4) Give back

To take your freelance career to the next level, pass on your skills. Share knowledge through forums and other online groups, or by blogging or podcasting. Offer training or mentoring, via an established provider or independently. If you are involved with a professional association, volunteer. All these things will raise your profile, while also helping others and contributing to your CPD.

5) Find your own path

If you’re employed, you’ll have regular progress reviews – so continue this practice once you’re freelance. Evaluating your business will enable you to see how to change it for the better. Even a few minutes of business planning per day can make a huge difference over a longer period of time. Don’t just rely on existing contacts, even if you have loads: seek out new ones. Think laterally and expand into related areas – from editing you might move into writing or research, for example. Take new opportunities and push yourself … one of the most exciting things about freelancing is never knowing exactly what will happen next!

Liz Jones has worked as an editor since 1998, and has been freelance since 2008. She specialises in trade and educational publishing, and has worked for a huge range of clients. Alongside her editorial business she works as a proofreading and copy-editing mentor for the SfEP, and was a director of the SfEP from 2012 to 2015. She also writes fiction, and blogs on editing and freelancing at Eat Sleep Edit Repeat.