After ten years of freelancing, I finally sat down to share my experience with the world. The idea of writing a book had been simmering in the back of my mind for at least a year, but it needed time to mature.
The Unstoppable Freelancer is now available on Gumroad and Amazon. It’s not only a book of practical advice about building a freelance career but also a personal one, recounting some of my own experiences and growth over the last decade.
The challenges of long-form writing
The first thing I learned: a book may be the total length of 50 blog posts, but it’s a lot more difficult to write than 50 blog posts. Preserving the same writing style and rhythm over 100+ pages is a challenge in and of itself.
To remedy this, I took a one-month break after writing all the chapters. I used the break to prepare some graphics and explore publishing options. But, perhaps more importantly, I used it to forget what I had written. Then I went back and read the whole thing from start to finish.
The purpose of this exercise was to make edits along the way with the goal of unifying the style of writing and establishing the right dynamic between information and storytelling. I found that some sections were too dry and others were too subjective. My new perspective helped restore the balance.
What makes sense to you won’t necessarily make sense to readers. Even if you have an acute knowledge of the subject matter, you can fail miserably at putting everything together in a way that’s logical (let alone enjoyable) to someone else.
I like to think I’ve avoided that particular pitfall by testing what works and what doesn’t on my blog.
Why write a book?
Writing articles is great. However, it is not until you attempt to write a book that you are required to simultaneously have a very broad outlook and zoom in on all the right details. This juggling of perspectives inevitably forges you into a better, more resilient writer.
Then there’s brand recognition. The brand, of course, is you. About half a billion people in the world can call themselves bloggers. A very small percentage can call themselves book authors.
It is a token of authority, perseverance, and excellence. Even though self-publishing appears easy in this day and age, readers will be brutal to bad writers, reviews will be left on your work, and the cream will rise to the top.
Writing a well-received book can open doors for you — writing opportunities, business opportunities, speaking opportunities, and more. All of these promise to fortify your finances and diversify your income.
How do I know I have something worth reading?
The internet is not lacking in guides on how to freelance. Neither is it lacking in ebooks, courses, or tutorials. It is, however, sorely lacking in long, structured, content written by a competent author. Most creators put quantity first. Many speak poor English. Many are too egoistic or too cheap to hire a professional editor. Many just don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.
Consider this very complex and beautiful illustration that I created for one of my Twitter followers.
Astonished as you must be by my amazing artistic skills, please do your best to focus on the substance: there really aren’t that many people who can write a good book on this topic. If you have an interesting overlap of skills, you should consider using your position to create something unique too.
From idea to publishing
The road is a long one, but not at all unpleasant.
The first step is to know what you want the main points of the book to be. The second is to create a roadmap guiding the user from point A (in this case, freelancing beginner) to point B (in this case, freelancing expert). The third is to convert that roadmap into a table of contents. The fourth is to flesh out each chapter. The fifth is to put it all together.
If you take one thing away from this story, make it this: work on your book every day, even if it’s for 5 minutes, and even if you just end up re-reading a paragraph that doesn’t quite sit right a dozen times. Consistency will get you over the finish line.
When I started, I didn’t know whether it would take one month or two years, but I had no doubt in my mind that I would finish. It’s inevitable, really, when you keep moving in the same direction every day.
It ended up taking four months.
Just as time-consuming as the writing (and significantly less fulfilling) are the side quests: graphic materials, design, editing, proofreading, and various technicalities related to publishing. And this is just the digital version! A paperback is in the works, and there will be a follow-up article on that topic.
If you’re going to allot a certain part of your day to a lonesome activity such as writing, you better have your family members on board. They will normally be understanding, as they have your best interests in mind. If they don’t understand how important the project is to you, explain it to them rather than growing distant and aloof.
I am lucky enough to have a wife who is not only very supportive but also a brilliant designer. She created the book cover and helped with other graphical elements.Expenses
I wrote the book using Scrivener. I hired an editor/proofreader on Reedsy and sent a Microsoft Word version of the document to him because tracking changes is easier in Word.
Scrivener and the editor are the only investments I made.
I plan to spend exactly $0 on promotion. I plan on promoting the book by creating content about it and networking. I’ve already laid the groundwork: an active Twitter community, testimonials from tech blogging/streaming heavyweights, retweets from friends in high places, a landing page on my personal website, and the story you’re reading right now.
The next phase will involve more activity on my part: talking to potential readers and relevant communities, as well as relentlessly creating quality content on the same subject.
All of this will merit another story in a couple of months.
Having published something that will help people achieve success and independence as freelancers makes me both proud and excited. Perhaps a little fearful, even. What I have published today will bear my name for as long as I live. There is no un-publishing a book.
Still, where would humanity be if we let a little fear get in the way of progress?