Review: The Freelance Handbook

Well the site Creative Blog is offering a free download of the Computer Arts published PDF called “The Freelance Handbook” the site totes it as being an eBook which to me sounded like an ePub option, but when the file link came in the mail turned out that its just your standard PDF the the eBook style of deal that I was thinking it would be. The deliver of the email wasn’t fast either, i signed up to get the email for the book and about 8 hours later I got the email with the link to download the file – not great turn around time, but if its not an automated system then it would make sense that it would take a bit for a human to get around to things (so if you do sign up to get it, remember it might not be as instant to get to read – though you could get lucky). Side Note all info in the PDF is UK based so might or might not apply in part or full outside of the UK.

The Freelance Handbook - Cover-webOpening the PDF I was meet with a blaring neon green front page which was rather off putting as the first thing that is seen with the chunky text before my eyes – was not an appealing thing to see right off the bat, but then again the image that was shown of the cover on the site did indicate that it was garish (just wasn’t expecting it to be as it turned out to be). Now with a backing such as the Computer Arts I was expecting a great deal from the file, sadly I’m disappointed in what was within the offering and if this is a paid deal (that is apparently is) to me it is a waste of funds to buy out right and the free pdf is the better option.

Chapter 1 seemed almost redundant if you have ever looked at other books that talk about starting your own business or doing freelancing within the graphic/web field. Though page 18 does have some handy things listed on it that I liked to see (ya the idea of an iMac makes me shutter but it is a good basic comp to start with) mostly to do with the resources, since the other stuff like the computer and the wacom tablet to me are a given (yes I know to those starting up it might not be a given, but I personally can’t imaging not having my wacom tablet as part of my working environment since its been attached to one of my comps since the day I got my first one some 20 odd years ago – shortly after they released their first tablet to the public market). The selection of resources are decent for getting info from to various degrees I know since I’ve got many of them in my bookmarks and also follow them on twitter to keep up to date.

Chapter 2 which deals with getting clients which is a decent chapter, I like that it does say “don’t get complacent with your current base of clients because that can dry up” which is oh so true been though this on more then one occasion over the past many years that I’ve been freelancing. I like the breakdown of how to get yourself out there, some of its old news others not so much (as in I know of them just not gone out and dun part of it myself). I also like the comment about “treating each project like it will be your best pice of work” because to me that is how you should be treating everything that you do with each client you work with, regardless of who they are or how long you are doing work for them, to treat them less means they likely will end up going else where because they don’t feel like you are giving them your best effort.

I agree with the part of the chapter about dealing with difficult clients, because we’ve all been there in one form or another in what ever business we’ve been in – customer service is always somewhere part of work regardless of what you are doing. The idea of having 50% of the cost upfront is a good one, though even 25% up front and another 25% when the work starts isn’t a bad option (depending on who you are working with – I’ve use both in my work) with the remainder to be paid upon completion. This way it covers things should things fall though after they have paid the first part (a holding fee so to speak). Also the idea of having a contract that they sign for your services isn’t a bad idea you can get any number of boiler plait contracts online – though watch those they can be anything but straight forwards (but make a good starting base until you can get something better written up by a lawyer or the like).

Chapter 3 covers Time Management something I am sure many of us at times have issues with (though depending on how organized you are maybe not). I like the middle section of page 41 when it says “Turn off Online Chat” or any other social media that you might have running for that matter, as they can be a great distraction when you are working (yes I am very much guilty of having them up and running when working on various projects and on the odd occasion getting side tracked with them – or in my own case having a client who uses one of them messaging me about something while I’m trying to work on their project instead of calling or going though email). So limiting distractions when working on projects can go a long way to getting things dun in a timely manner. I also like the end of the chapter where its saying to sharpen your skills and the various ways that you can do this, that is very true and is also another way of picking up clients in some of them I’ve found.

Chapter 4 covers Managing Your Money something we all need to do regardless of if you freelance or not, but when you freelance ya it takes on a whole new area since its not a steady income and means you need to work in down time into your deal as well (vacations, clients leaving, etc). The chapter talked about trying to figure out what you need to charge and that as much as money might be a bad word it is something that you need to do and do well. The chapter goes into how to figure out an hourly rate vs a flexible rate (I use both, though I prefer hourly) in the first part of the chapter it goes though figuring out that hourly rate such as Annual Business Costs (accounting fees, legal fees, banking fees, studio rent/morgage, travel costs, hardwired, software, furniture, utilities, insurance, self promotion costs, and non accountable costs) that make up your basic annual costs for running the business per year on average. Then it goes into Annual Personal Cost (how much would you like to earn, how much are you paying on your mortgage/reant each year and the life bills, and of course how much in savings/pention contributions would you like to make each year) again figuring those out and working them into the cost factor for the business year. Then it goes into how to combine it all for figuring out your fee called Billable Time (how many days a week do you work on average, how many hours do you work a day on average – then they say to remove/subtract how many days of holiday to you need and how many sick/personal days do you wish to have/allow) all combine into figuring our your possible fee that you should be charging.

I know for myself, I’m guilty of undercharging yet I’ve had people over the years say that I charge to much – the happy medium is something that can be hard to find depending on where you are located because living costs vary from area to area which means what you charge vs what I need to charge for the “same space” can be vastly different. The later part of the chapter goes into working out a Flat Fee option (something I’ve dun, but still not perfected for my own business needs), though doesn’t go very deep into it mostly an overview of the matter. Though I am pleased that further on into the chapter it does go into if you are designing a logo and what it can mean for your bottom line if that logo is used over time (less you sell the logo after its created to the company that is). The section on Ad Hock is outside of my experience so I can’t comment much on what it says about it. One of the important parts of chapter 4 is their blurb on Taxes, something as much as we might not like paying we need to and working for yourself is no different and depending on where you are located can be not as easy as it sounds or just as easy as it sounds. I agree with part of the chapter that talks about taxes that getting an accountant isn’t a bad idea (I have one) since they are the ones that are use to dealing in areas that you are not, so less of an issue for you to deal with (and can be worth the cost if you factor it into your fee).

Chapter 5 is about Being More Business Savvy something that I know many of us could be or need to be depending on your level of comfort in this area. The fist part of the chapter deals with Copyright and Royalties (though mostly UK based it does apply outside of the UK in various fashions), this is an area that many who freelance don’t know much about unless they have taken the time to learn about it (I took a digital copyright course in collage and even I don’t understand all of it even after I took the course, but I understand it better then I did before the course) and you do need to know at least the basics if nothing else to cover your backside down the road. The chapter also covers a over view of keeping a record of invoices something that you need for you own records but also for tax reasons.

Chapter 6 is about Promoting Yourself something that all who freelance need to do sooner or later and continue to do so over time just to keep fresh business coming in so you have that income that you need to survive. I like from this chapter that it gives you a few sites that to them at least are the best to be part of to showcase yourself on outside of using twitter and Facebook to do so. I know I’m only on a couple of them myself, but over time I’ll likely expand to other’s. The chapter also goes into your portfolio and how it is used to connect you to clients and showcase your work in general, both in a digital platform and physical. Plus it touches on the importance of Networking something that we need to always be doing and well as following up with people that we do connect to just by touching base with them can be enough to keep you in their mind for possible future work.

Chapter 7 is dedicated to You and your well being because if you are not at the top of your game your work is going to be suffering. The chapter touches on outsourcing work to other’s , actually taking a break to re charge those batteries, and even looking at how much you are charging and reviewing it account for how busy you now are (which means yes increasing your prices or at least revising some things so that your work load is more manageable). The chapter gives an overview of what to look for when it comes to burnout and how to try and avoid it (I am sure many of us have been there and likely will again if you don’t learn to avoid it). One section in chapter 7 that caught my attention is their over view of Sleep, an area that I know many of us have issues with.

The final chapter is Chapter 8 and its the Resources section of the PDF that has to me is almost the best part of the entire booklet that is on offer, yes not off of it is relevant but I found this chapter to be the most useful over all (and yes that means parts of it I have printed out for actual physical reference when working) for me the reference section on paper sizes for business cards around the world and paper sizes though I know in the abstract having a list that I can just look at is a helpful thing for myself I find.

Summary – So when all is said and dun, what do I think about this PDF? as I said early on I didn’t think it was worth it as a little book that you paid for (I still don’t think it is) but depending on if you are more into print or digital plays into this also, I like physical books so that would be one reason I’d pay for it but i prefer digital so I can have it without it taking up a lot of physical space and if I can print off a page or something for reference to me that is more handy then having a book that I have to dog ear pages or louse completely somewhere in the house/apartment. I do admit that a small fee (a pound or two) for the digital version would be worth it since you know they have to cover the cost of making it, if it wasn’t already in printed formate.

I believe that the guide is a decent one when it comes to over views of various areas that are important for a freelancer within the graphic and web design fields so a handy companion to have on hand just for that reason. I could do without some of the text and neon colouring going on and images that to me where not great (but other might not think that so each is to their own). As far as a publication goes its worth reading though and even taking notes of sections that you find interesting and even looking up more info on those sections that catch you attention to expand upon, big time if you knew nothing about it before hand.

I would recommend this to everyone who is coming out of Collage or even university and is thinking about freelancing while trying to find employment or even if they have employment and are looking to freelance on the side to help with their bills it is worth going though and referring to. So for this PDF I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

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Review: The Freelance Handbook
Publisher: Computer Arts (Future Publishing)
Date: March 27th 2015
Reviewer: Nyx Cole

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