When I first started my job hunt, I never once considered freelancing. When I think “freelancer” I think someone with experience, who’s been in Industry X for years and years and eventually broke off to do their own thing. Naive 22-year-olds do not freelance. We are interns and assistants and work for scraps.
But what I’m finding is that due to the economy, a lot of the big publishers are outsourcing. Just because there have been layoffs doesn’t mean the need for labor has decreased any. According to Publishing Trends, book publicists (outside of the big houses) are getting a ton more work. PR funding has been cut so lesser-known authors go elsewhere for their publicity needs. And it’s my impression that this is the case for all aspects of publishing – sales, editorial, marketing (especially digital)…
The first experience I had with the idea of freelancing was from a website called The Snooze Blog. An old boss runs the site and asked me to edit the posts before publication. I was paid per post, and it was a pretty sweet gig. My boss trusted my ideas and my writing, paid me per post (and always on time) and I did out of the comfort of my old home. Then, after my Facebook ads ran, Debbie Stier from HarperStudio contacted me about doing hyper-targeted ads for the imprint’s upcoming books.
Which is when I really started thinking about it. I mean, why not? More than one person was emailing me after those ads came out, saying I should consider striking out on my own. In the words of one such advice-giver:
“Typesetting, cover design, editing, PR, marketing–all of that an author can procure for herself, increasingly cheaply. It was the physical distribution the author couldn’t do, and the more that becomes irrelevant in the digital age, the more the companies in which you’re seeking employment become irrelevant. But, as your Harper friend said, authors will still write books (perhaps you’ll be one of them one day!), and they’ll still need editors, layout people, PR people, book marketers, etc. And those are all functions that lend themselves to freelance very well…”
According to Publishing Trends, their list of book publicists has increased 50% since 2004, and smaller firms have only seen an increase in business after the recession, not the other way around.
But is freelance is smart move for the average 22-year-old? Not sure… I don’t know anyone my age who’s done it. I’ve met a few young people here and there who have branched out on their own, but they’re still young, so it’s hard to gauge how successful they’ve been. Also, to be perfectly honest, if I were writing a book, I’d prefer someone who did (or had) worked at a big company, with years of experience under their belt. Some young whippersnapper just wouldn’t cut it.
My suggestion is to pick up freelance gigs if/when you can. The money will help tide you over until you find something more permanent, plus add to your resume. I can’t tell you how much having HarperStudio on my resume helped. Even though I wasn’t a permanent or long-term employee, I think it showed I had serious potential if a house that big wanted my services.
I also highly suggest you pick up social media skills when you can. Publishing houses are picking up on the craze and are using it to their advantage. Problem is, many of them have no clue how to use it effectively. Freelance writing and editing jobs are abundant too, if you know where to look. Some suggestions:
The book Free Agent Nation by Dan Pink
And just Google “freelance publishing” and search around.