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My Review of “The Unconventional Guide to Freelancing” Ebook

Published on Jul. 13th 2010

This week I had the opportunity to read a new ebook on freelancing published by Chris Guillebeau from the Art of Non-Conformity, and I must say, I’m always impressed with the quality of products he creates for us creative non-conformist types. :)

As you may recall, I reviewed another one of Chris’s ebooks in the past (his popular Unconventional Guide to Art & Money) and it’s still the only artist ebook that I feel comfortable actively promote on EmptyEasel. Most ebooks are just not worth the price, but that one is, and I think this new guide has a lot to offer as well.

In the Unconventional Guide to Freelancing, Chris partnered with Charlie Gilkey, a productivity coach for freelancers and entrepreneurs, to cover some of the pitfalls and problems that new business owners face.

I felt that this was the perfect ebook to share with all of you, since artists ARE business owners. We create products, and we sell a very unique service—as Chris puts it, “You know how to do the craft. Now learn how to run the business.”

So what exactly is in this ebook?

The Unconventional Guide to Freelancing has four main sections, or chapters, that cover the most important parts of running a freelance business. Here they are:

Section 1: Getting the job done

This section tackles various problems that freelancers face when it comes to the work itself. Time and task management are featured heavily, as well as some insight into taking care of yourself (avoiding stress, etc).

Charlie also shares some advice on how to incorporate freelance work alongside your “day job” and other familial or social obligations.

I liked the information shared in this section, especially the “Nuts and Bolts Q&A” part, but be warned that Charlie does like to use an acronym or two on occasion. :) To give him credit, he does explain each acronym ahead of time—but every once in a while I had to jump back to decipher what he meant.

Section 2: Landing clients and getting paid

Marketing (self-promotion) is probably one of the biggest pitfalls that an artist can experience, and Charlie hits the nail on the head in this chapter by almost immediately stating, “self-promotion is mandatory!”

The topics for this section include getting past the aversion to marketing yourself, how to find a powerful tagline (or unique selling point) for what you do, and where to find new customers for the skills you already have.

Charlie also mentions blogging as one way to promote yourself, which is great, and even explained how networking with people we perceive as our “competition” can benefit them AND us. All in all, there are many great little nuggets of wisdom scattered throughout this section.

Section 3: Managing your money

It’s a rare breed of artist that jumps at the chance to balance a checkbook or type out their profit-loss sheet for the last quarter. In fact, learning about the financial side of things is probably the least interesting part of being a freelance artist.

And yet, as Charlie explains, it’s just as important as everything else.

I think my biggest takeaway from this chapter was the information he presented about when (or if) your should hire a bookkeeper for your finances, and the 5 steps he presented for making sure you get paid by your clients on time.

Section 4: Working smarter, not harder

For those of you looking to maximize the income you make from the time you spend working, I would recommend this last section most of all.

Charlie starts out by giving 4 ways to bring in extra revenue from the skills you already have, then discusses the pros and cons of hiring extra help.

At the end of the chapter in the “Nuts and Bolts Q&A” section he even throws in some excellent information about how and when to raise your rates, and what you can do to encourage your clients and customers to come back for more.

Is there anything extra included?

Yes—depending on what version of the guide you buy.

Besides the guide itself which is 54 pages long, there are 5 audio interviews available with expert freelancers who have done it all and come out the other side.

I found these interesting, although not quite as action-oriented as the guide itself. Transcripts are included, so if you read faster than you listen, you can get the interviews that way too.

There’s also a checklist—well, really a list of questions—for you to answer about your business before you create your first contract or write up your business policies. (I would have found this very helpful back when I was first starting out.)

Finally, Charlie and Chris have thrown in a recommended reading list of blogs and books, which may keep you busy for quite a while.

OK, so what’s this Guide to Freelancing cost?

The cheapest version is $58. You get the guide, 3 of 5 audio interviews, and the recommended reading list. (Unfortunately the business checklist isn’t included.)

This may be all you want or need—if you’re just starting out, I always hesitate to suggest buying the biggest package. Dip your toe in first. :)

For $79 you get all the interviews and the checklist in addition to the guide. Basically, this is the full package.

And, for $129, you can get everything plus an additional 3 hours of recorded group questions (from actual buyers of the Unconventional Guide to Freelancing) with the author, Charlie Gilkey.

Should I buy it or not?

I’ll be honest, if you’ve been freelancing for a while, you’ve already experience the pitfalls presented in the guide, and figured out your own methods for overcoming them.

I found myself nodding at a lot of the advice presented, but I’ve been either freelancing or running my own businesses for a while now, and so I’ve had the benefit (if you want to call it that) of learning directly from experience.

So don’t buy this ebook if you’re already doing well at freelancing.

If you’re just starting out however, or you don’t know where to look for answers to your freelancing questions, then I think you’ll find this book very helpful.

And as Chris and Charlie make very clear, this isn’t a book about the craft or skill you already possess. This isn’t about making art or taking photographs or things like that. It is advice—from freelancers—about what it really takes to BE a freelancer.

If you’d like to learn more about The Unconventional Guide to Freelancing, or buy a copy, head on over to the Freelancing homepage and check it out.

Normally I don't publish press releases on EmptyEasel, but when I heard about Artists Helping Artists, I felt like it was the right thing to do to pass this information along. Here it is:

Leslie Saeta and Dreama Tolle Perry (both artists) met online in June of 2009 via their art blogs. . . so it's only fitting that the internet radio show they now co-host airs through. . . read more

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