Author: Miles Burke
Publisher: Sitepoint, 2008
Aimed at: Web designers and developers
Pros: Some sound advice
Cons: Omits some serious considerations
Reviewed by: Sue Gee
This book could be summed up with two aphorisms - "look before you leap" and "go for it". Written by a web designer and developer who made a success of freelancing at the third attempt it aims to make the transition easier for others wanting to follow a similar route.
In the first chapter both the advantages and disadvantages of freelancing are listed - pros including flexible work location, choice and variety of projects, being in charge and being able to wear what you want to work and the cons being financial insecurity, potential loneliness and the blurring of home and work. This is a well balanced list and as a freelancer myself I think it has most bases covered. Similarly with the next section which asks, "Are you freelance material" and then enumerates four types of skills required: technical , business,organizational and interpersonal; and a long list of personality traits. It makes you realize that you really ought to put yourself through a job interview before you take the plunge.
Some other career development books are packed with interviews. Refreshingly, this one has four - one in each of its odd-numbered chapters. I'm not saying that interviews aren't valuable in this type of book but rather that if there are too many of them they start to be repetitive.
The book also uses two case studies of, presumably, fictitious characters - Emily and Jason. Some background information on each of them and their reasons for contemplating freelancing are presented in Chapter 1 and we revisit them in each subsequent chapter to see how they tackle the issues each raises.
Chapter 2, Prepare for the Transition looks at the idea of freelancing at the same time as being employed as well as freelancing full time with advantages and disadvantages on both sides. It emphasises the need for planning and introduces some jargon - SWOT (looking at Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and SMART (Specific, Measurable,Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals.
Finance is the topic of Chapter 3 and it is here that I think there are some omissions. While "loss of salaried benefits" has been mentioned in Chapter One the cost of pension provision is not included in the costs checklist and the tax ramifications of being self-employed are not discussed at all. In other respects including the advice about calculating the rates you should charge, something that freelancers often find difficult, there's good and comprehensive advice. In the next chapter planning your office space, separating work and life and organising your time are the main topics.
Then the book gets to the key issue, "Win the Work" with some useful ideas for developing your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and promoting yourself and your services. Chapter 6 follows this up with "Give Great Service" with tips on client service, communication and project management. Achieving Work-Life balance is the topic of the penultimate chapter and the final one asks Where to from here with advice for those who want to go it alone, those who decide to go back into employment and those who want a bigger business either through outsourcing or employing staff.
This is a nicely presented book. The use of icons to point out tips, notes and warnings and a clear consistent layout make the content easy to follow and the contents page and index make it easy to locate specific advice.
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