In January 1998 I made the leap from full-time employment with a major publisher to full-time freelancing as a book indexer, editor, and proofreader. My reasons for jumping ship were common to many other freelancers--I didn't see much of a future with that company in terms of quality or security of work, and at the time I had a nightmare of a boss. I quit and my former employer became my first--and for a while my only--client. Twenty years later, that company is still one of my major clients. But along the way, I've learned a few lessons about freelancing, some painfully obvious, others a bit more obscure.
Lesson #1: Never jump ship with just one client! Lots of people do this and, to be honest, the one-client life worked out OK for me for a while and I did add clients slowly. But it's really dumb to be a single-client freelancer. It's like having all the limitations of being an employee with none of the benefits. I'll never make that mistake again and I'm actively on the hunt to add new clients, particularly for the indexing side of my business.
Lesson #2: Don't let yourself become isolated. As a new freelancer, I was a member of a few professional organizations, but at that time they didn't have the online resources that those organizations have now, so unless you went to their conferences, which could be expensive, it was hard to benefit from them. Eventually I let the memberships lapse, and with them the connections with my peers. But gaining and maintaining connections with other people who do the same work as you is invaluable. In recent years I've found or re-discovered two professional organizations (the American Society for Indexing and the Garden Writers Association) that have been a big boost to my business. I've found new clients through them and established real friendships with people who understand the triumphs and travails of the freelancer life I'm living.
Lesson #3: If you're spending more on upgrading equipment than you are on upgrading your skills, you're doing it wrong. Fast, dependable equipment is definitely important, but it only gets you so far. After all, anybody can get a fast computer and smart software. Investing in your own skills--adding skills, polishing skills, and occasionally reaching out into new areas--makes you unique, and uniquely appealing to clients. When I studied horticulture a few years back and started garden writing, it not only led to my publishing two gardening books; it also opened up a whole new subject area for my editorial services.
So now it's January 2018 and I'm celebrating my 20th anniversary as a freelancer. I have big plans for the year ahead. I indexed 25 books in 2017. I want to double that number in 2018. I've revised some procedures, learned some valuable new tips for greater efficiency, upgraded some of my technology, and I'm ready to hit the ground running. And here's how what I've learned can benefit you:
If you hire me in January 2018 to index a book for you (even if that book isn't quite ready for indexing just yet), I'll give you a 10% discount (up to $50 maximum) off the total cost. As long as the book will be in final pages and ready to index by March 31, 2018, you can book me in January and I'll give you the discount when the book is ready. Want to talk about it? Shoot me an email at CASplan@sbcglobal.net to let me know about your project. We'll set up a time to talk by phone and work out the details. I can't wait to work with you!
So happy new year to one and all! And happy anniversary to me!