This was an unusual year for my freelance writing and editing business. It was the year that business almost wasn’t.
I began the year putting the finishing touches on my new ebook Freelance Fee Setting: Quick Guide for When a Client Demands a Price NOW. In February I made it available for most ereaders, and I watched Kindle sales skyrocket with the initial wave of publicity. It was a heady experience, and I thought of dozens of other ebooks I could produce if I feel so inclined.
I was not disappointed in the lack of work during the first quarter, because I needed the time to market my new ebook and to continue to promote last year’s prize-winner, What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants. Winning more awards offered more excuses for media contact but failed to show meaningful results in terms of book sales.
By April I was tiring of book promotion and wanted to sink my teeth into some meaty editing and writing assignments. When none materialized, I began, somewhat half-heartedly, writing my next book for freelancers. Only when I gave myself deadlines did I make progress. The first draft is almost done, my goal for this year.
The summer solstice passed without any paying work. I began to refer to myself with a term I had been avoiding, although it describes my business approach in the past several years: semi-retired. I wondered if the “semi” part was accurate, given the dearth of clients.
And then the work began. I was busy with several new clients and one old one for most of the fourth quarter. The returning client is a long-time favorite. The new clients are ones I might not have taken on a few years back, when business was strong and I could afford to be choosy. One is a graduate student to whom I am giving a steep discount because she needs the editing help but cannot afford fees my corporate clients readily pay. Another is a magazine for an ethnic audience, a stretch because I am not a member of that ethnic group. The third is a publisher of nonfiction for young adults. I took on each of these assignments because the work was interesting, the projects had some social merit, and, frankly, I wanted to be working. None of these new clients pays a lot, but they pay adequately for today’s world.
When I get philosophical, I realize I am ending my freelance career the way I began: taking on as many new clients as possible because the work is interesting if not lucrative. I know that many freelancers have been working for years for the rates these new clients pay. For more than twenty years I had turned away such assignments because I could make so much more money from clients with deep pockets. In some ways, it’s good to be home again.