July 22nd, 2011
Over on Freelance Folder, there is a piece up that’s almost two weeks old, “Open Thread: Do You Ever Work for Free?” I started to comment, then realized I had enough to say that it might make for a piece here on the blog.
Since almost my first days freelancing as a book designer/page layout artist—hell, back to when I did my very first bit of freelance work, as a proofreader—I rejected the idea that working for free was a generous opportunity from someone to help me get experience and move my career forward. And I’ve been enough postings for that kind of work and been solicited for it more times than I care to remember.
What’s wrong with it, you might ask, for people just starting out and looking to gain some experience? Well, for one thing, almost all such “clients” are themselves looking to make money with the fruits of your free work. The other thing I have noticed—and this is perhaps a function of my experience, closing in on twenty years now—is that the entities seeking to allow me the opportunity to gain experience and exposure themselves tend to have a lot less time in existence as businesses.
So I’ve taken to countering that they should pay for the learning experience of working with me, if not the actual product of my work.
If you still feel unworthy of accepting money for your creative efforts, work for a legitimate non-profit. I did just that a few months back—it was my first pro bono work in some time—when I allowed my services to be auctioned off by Writers for the Red Cross to benefit, of course, the Red Cross. That’s the kind of “work for exposure” that feels good. And I knew it was not some greedy scam to profit on work not fairly paid for.
July 6th, 2011
As things slow down just a bit from the hectic pace I maintained for just over a year straight, I begin to get that sinking feeling of being less busy than I want. Back over three years ago, I wrote the piece below. It’s worth recalling from the archive of the older, hacked blog, if only to remember that everything old gets new again.
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It amazes me how quickly things change. Just ten days or two weeks ago I told anyone who would listen that I was in the busiest year-and-a-half of my freelance life. Moreover, it appeared that this busy time would stretch to a full two years.
Man plans, God laughs.
And that was how I started this entry, unhappy because … well, let me continue.
A couple of projects that should have kept my streak alive have yet to launch. Another expected book disappeared because the author-publisher decided to try working with someone local. And no matter how many times, across fifteen years, that similar ups and downs have occurred, I once again felt as if I might never work again. I actually felt depressed. So I began to concentrate on the first of my twice-yearly emailings to prospective clients, soliciting book design and page composition work. Already delayed because I worked straight through the holidays, it was on opportunity to catch up.
A week into the email project, I have been contacted by a handful of publishers about possible projects. Only about halfway through this year’s batch of publishers, I already have a better return—in terms of publishers responding—than ever before in the nine or ten years I have been going the email route. I don’t know if it is because I have drastically shortened the email, or because I have eliminated my attachment of samples and a résumé for a link to samples and a line about my willingness to send them my résumé if they will get back to me requesting it. Or perhaps my experience has grown to a point where a number of publishers now feel I have crossed some threshold that causes them to desire my services.
Whatever the reason, losing out on work does not sting as long as it used to.
July 1st, 2011
Social media have taken a turn.
But I get ahead of myself.
First I should say, “Welcome back!” I realize it’s not likely that readers have gone anywhere, as I haven’t put anything up on this blog in a dog’s age. I guess, then, I should address myself in a mirror with that “Welcome back!”
What happened, of course, was that I got very busy with work—finishing up two book projects, actually, while plodding along with a third that’s still not finished (I get textfiles only sporadically on this last book). By the time space opened in my workday, I found myself out of the habit of blogging, with nothing I wanted to say. More accurately, with nothing to say that inspired enough enthusiasm so that I felt like writing.
I am sure that’s one of the main hazards of not being essentially a writer. A real writer, I imagine, regards the act of writing as work, a job, and not some romantic activity to engage in when some airy-fairy energy surfaces and compels one to write. (I went through this in college, years ago, when nearly everyone—in introducing themselves in a creative writing class—spoke about how they loved to write, dreamt of being a published writer, did it because they needed to express themselves. I said I just had things to say that festered and annoyed me if I didn’t write about them. Must have been true, because once I ran out of things I “needed” to say, the urge to write subsided.)
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So, as I started to say, social media have taken a turn. And this matters to me, because as a freelance book designer, most of my promotion, after having a website and this blog, rests on my presence on various social media platforms.
I think I have said here before that LinkedIn was initially a disappointment to me. Although billed as the go-to site for professionals seeking to network and find work, I found it to be mostly a collection of H.R. types looking to fill out their rolodexes. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it was not what I wanted when I joined. (I should add that over the last year or so I have found a lot more publishing professionals and “book types” on LinkedIn … and a lot more discussions on making books.)
After resisting Twitter—I bought into the rumor that Twitter was just mostly people announcing what they had just eaten for lunch—I joined and was immediately rewarded with worthwhile conversations and professional contacts. Paying projects resulted.
I came to Facebook later still, intending to use it just for connecting with childhood friends, when I noticed a whole crew of them on Facebook. But professional concerns have bled through there, too. What it comes down to, I realize, is that anyone is potentially a self-publishing author nowadays. While I’ve heard all kinds of accounts of how traditional publishers are suffering, over the last two years my roster of self-publishers has grown to the point where I’ve been busier than ever before.
Google has just announced something called Google+, which sounds as if it is meant to be a Facebook-killer. I don’t like how all-everything Google has become; and I certainly don’t want anything valuable to me out on “the cloud.”
So the latest piece in the social media mosaic that I haven gotten involved in is something called “EmpireAvenue.” It combines the game quality of a stock market simulation—you, the player, are the stock—with social media underpinnings. I, for instance, initially gravitated toward “shares” with publishing and writer backgrounds. But as I always wind up thinking, everyone is potentially a self-publishing author. EmpireAvenue seems to be growing quickly. It’s worth a look-see for anyone interested in reaching new audiences who also has an interest in game environments.