The cynic in me distrusts the idea of self-help books thinly disguised as ‘personal development’. At the rate I’ve been known to procrastinate tasks, I might as well list my ability to procrastinate as a part-time job. I don’t need any more excuses to avoid attending to my admin or boring tasks, because the temptation to simply walk into my local bookshop and buy my paperback salvation is very alluring indeed. I’m never going to realise my dreams, maximise my client base or pound my fists on my employer’s desk and demand a ten-fold pay increase, if I don’t get off myself in gear and simply work.
Or so I thought, until several months ago, when I enrolled onto a writing retreat for short story writing in the West Country. I readied myself, nervously avoiding any clear preparation and worriedly twiddling my thumbs until a friend recommended reading Stephen King’s On Writing. I felt immensely guilty for reading the book in spite of focusing on specifically relevant material, let alone high-priority paid work. I finished the book after two days, in a daze of elated transformation.
As a solo worker and a writer, it’s easy to self-sabotage and doubt one’s capacity to persevere. Reading about King’s approaches to his writing craft, his daily practices and his ability to manages personal commitments around writing in the humorous, self-deprecating fabric of the text was enormously humbling, and better yet, disproved my assumption that personal development books are essentially self-entitled, narcissistic or deplorable in their unattainable idealisation of working. Success is not clear-cut. Writing which maps successful approaches to work must prioritise the individual over capital. Earnings do not equate with success or professional worth, and theory which fails to recognise this must be held accountable.
The Agnostic in me was puzzled by the notion of a Freelance Bible. I have little-to-no rituals in my daily life as a freelancing job-juggler and the idea that this quasi-divine text might radically transform the way which I work felt at best silly and at worst, ridiculous. The book’s seductive tagline promises to serve the reader ‘Everything you need to go solo in any industry’ and opens with a slightly confusing quote from Don Quixote; ‘That which costs little is less valued’. It’s author, Alison Grade, is described as a career freelancer, serial entrepreneur, working mother and founder of the consultancy company Mission Accomplished which focuses on mentoring and training for individuals in the creative industries.
Grade’s writing is headstrong from the offset. It is ambitious and unflinchingly confident, offering the freelancing newbie some vast occupational questions to chew on; Freelancing – Career Choice or Necessity ? and What Does Being Freelance Mean?
The answers to these questions are structured and meticulous, presenting the legal technicalities alongside Grade’s valuable experiential encounters. We are lectured on finding our ‘Freelance Identity’, schooled in the importance of research and managing finances and pensions, calculating rates of pay, knowing our self worth, articulating and enacting our visions, maximising networks, delivering work and embracing the freelance career. There are memorable analogies, useful graphs and a strong degree of positive self-reflection with opportunities to rate qualities to generate total scores for attitudes towards marketplaces, mindsets and money and we receive appropriate advice relating to these corresponding numbers.
It might sound radical to adopt such a colour-by-numbers approach when advising prospective freelance workers on a mode of working which is distinctly unpredictable, but The Freelance Bible’s redemption comes through its introspective and semi-spiritual encouragement of budding freelancers.
It is immensely difficult to colour all freelancers with the same brush. Whilst all of Grade’s specific professional experiences might not be universally relatable to the common self-employed worker, the advice offered is thoughtfully considered. Although the structural chronology of the book could be wrongly seen to suggest a linear career progression through an odyssey of unceasing betterment, this is far from the case.
Like the real Bible, this may not be a book which you sit down and read cover-to-cover, but rather, a book which you turn to in times of need. The Freelance Bible is an invaluable resource, whether you’re a fresh-faced or a veteran freelance worker seeking sage direction on a topic of professional concern. It might not have radically reconstructed my working practices, but like a WebMD for freelancing fears, The Freelance Bible will take your temperature, prescribe some gentle exercises and nudge you, encouragingly, into the workplace.
You can purchase The Freelance Bible here.
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