Elevate Difference

My So-Called Freelance Life

Goodman has been freelancing for sixteen years at the time of publication. From the jump, her writing is accessible and fun. The follow-up to the somewhat well known The Anti-9-5 Guide: Practical Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube, Goodman is once again onto something. What other how-to guides (repeatedly) use phrases like “get this freelance party started”? When you read a book like My So-Called Freelance Life, it isn’t hard to wonder how anyone can break from a traditional mindset about how to make money and allow themselves the freedom to quit nasty situations. My guess is that radical personal politics and at least a small cushion of safety are two important components. They were for me.

Goodman is particularly skilled at debunking the myth that freelancers are kept women who have quaint hobbies and fleeting interests. She also doesn’t assume anything is off limits because of gender. Want to be a freelance welder? According to Goodman, you just need a solid business plan – and not the ugly 200-page kind. Other practical tips include choosing your client instead of being so desperate; they choose you (and you’re forced to accept every nasty job that falls in your lap). Always be moving toward goals: better clients, bigger paychecks, more freedom. Isn’t that why you went solo in the first place? In other words, don’t be afraid to give yourself a promotion just because you’re self-employed.

You also should be clear: freelancing will not always mean working for others. Goodman loosely defines freelancers as women who have gone on to start their own businesses with multiple additional employees. Freelancers are also women (much like myself) who do creative work for pay and supplement their income with assorted odd jobs, often in the service industry or as social servants.

My So-Called Freelance Life is also a somewhat refreshing anti-establishment approach to making your own way, particularly during the recession that Americans currently face. Sometimes, freelancing can shrink some costs (less commute equals lower car insurance and repairs, for example). Fewer dry cleaning bills aren’t the only reason to work at home. And were you thinking about leaving your nine-to-five while still in massive debt? Goodman doesn’t politely say, “Think it over.” She tells you to stick it out or your life, even if being lived in daily cube hell, will only get exponentially worse.

The only real criticism I’d have is that despite inclusive, pro-woman language that fills this pseudo self-help book, I cringe whenever I see a female write the phrase, “I’m their bitch.” Reclamation of the word aside, maybe this is a liberal feminism I don’t personally employ, but I do think a better word could easily be used in this type of context.

Freelancers abroad be warned—a lot of this information is for stateside folk. Certainly you should write what you know, so Goodman did just that, but if you’re a struggling freelancer in say, London or Cairo, this will give you great generalized advice, but the money sections (and some of the tech specs) won’t do you a bit of good. The author acknowledges her own limited scope, but she doesn’t spend time going into it further than that.

You don’t have to reach the final chapters before this book makes you believe you can make it as a freelancer. That, in our culture of fear and negativity, might be the most valuable aspect of all.

Written by: Brittany Shoot, September 13th 2008