Most people become freelancers without any idea of how to run a business. They learn in the school of hard knocks. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has taken the school of hard knocks and made it into one of the most useful business books written in years.
Includes these indispensable topics:
•How To Negotiate Anything: Freelancers must negotiate everything from the rent they pay to the contracts they sign. Here's how to negotiate on your own—and when to hire someone to negotiate for you.
•Online Networking: In addition to tricks and strategies for online networking from Rusch herself, this Guide also includes advice from such online networking experts as Neil Gaiman, Michael A. Stackpole, and Mitch Wagner.
•The Importance of—and the Difference between—Goals And Dreams: Freelancers often confuse their goals with their dreams. Rusch offers practical advice on how to meet your goals, and the importance of dreaming big.
•How To Survive Failure—and Success: Success, more than failure, derails many freelancers. Rusch explains how to turn your failures into successes—and how to optimize the success when it finally happens.
As of last week, Rebecca Moesta and I have been married 23 years, and Kristine Kathryn Rush was at our wedding as “best person.” I met Kris in a creative writing class in college, and we’ve stuck together all that time. For years she has dispensed wisdom through her blog, The Business Rusch, giving absolutely vital information for both the aspiring and already-successful writer. This book distills the best of that advice. – Kevin J. Anderson
"I wish The Freelancer’s Survival Guide had existed when I was first starting out, but better late than never. Kristine Kathryn Rusch still knows twice what I do about writing and publishing. Good thing she’s put all her wisdom down in a book so I can start stealing some of it."–Steve Hockensmith, New York Times bestselling author
"Many new freelancers often feel overwhelmed as it dawns on them how much they need to know in order to be successful. Well, here’s a book that covers almost anything and everything and deserves a space on your bookshelf as an invaluable resource that you will refer to in many different situations."–Fractured Atlas Book Club
"Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Freelancer’s Guide is indispensable for anyone currently freelancing or even contemplating a career change. Rusch’s advice, based on 30 years of personal experience, is more than a guide to a freelancing career; it’s a guide to handling any aspect of life through turbulent waters."–Michael A. Burstein, award-winning author of I Remember the Future
"Kris Rusch is an old pro and she knows her subject backwards and forwards. There is a wealth of valuable information here for anyone trying to go it on their own down the freelance road. Worth the cost and then some."–Steve Perry, New York Times Bestselling Author
"Of all the motivational, business, and creative books I’ve read, The Freelancer’s Survival Guide is easily the most useful. Accessible, thorough, well-written, and exceedingly practical, this is a book guaranteed to make you re-examine every facet of your business—and come out better for it."–J. Daniel Sawyer, Audio Producer, Freelancer Writer, and President of ArtisticWhispers Productions
When I initially came up with the idea for The Freelancer's Survival Guide more than ten years ago now, I never imagined what it would become. I thought I would write a short book about the various things a freelancer needs to know to survive in the modern business world. I still have my initial outline and looking at it, I have a hunch that had I written it, the book would have been one-third the length of this one.
It isn't that I have learned so much more in the past ten years; it's just that I hadn't realized how much people wanted to know.
I started my writing career in non-fiction. I saw non-fiction as a way to make money to support my fiction-writing career. At least, that's what I tell people. If you actually look at my writing history, you'll see that I have always written fiction and non-fiction simultaneously—beginning with the newspaper I "published" for my neighborhood at the age of ten and sold for a nickel per copy.
I worked as a journalist, mostly in radio, and published articles on business from college onward. My non-fiction style has always been colloquial—while I like imparting information, I prefer to do so in a personal way. I have published a lot of fiction books, from collections to novels, but The Freelancer's Survival Guide is my first non-fiction book.
Honestly, it would not exist if it weren't for my blog. Although I thought of writing this book for years, I always had other projects that took my time and interest. Articles are relatively easy to write, and they take little time. A non-fiction book, on the other hand, takes as much time as a novel. I started the book twice, believing I could just putter at it, and never finished it. I knew I did not want to make the concentrated effort—losing months, maybe a year, of my writing time—to write the Guide.
Particularly when I knew what would happen to it. If I sold it—a big if, non-fiction editors told me, because the book wasn't geared toward one kind of freelancer (writers, for example) but because I geared it to all different kinds of people who want to work for themselves—the book would go to the back of the bookstore, and disappear along the shelves. It would have a month-long active publication life, and from then on, it would have to accompany me to conferences and book fairs if I wanted to keep the Guide in print.
I did want to keep it in print, but not because I wanted to earn a fortune at it and because I wanted it to be a bestseller. Writing a book like this is not the best way to become a household name.
I honestly had no interest in writing the Guide for me. I wanted to write it for all the freelancers I've met, all the people who are struggling through start-ups, all the people who are struggling to survive. I also wanted it for the people whose businesses were succeeding, but who had no idea what to do with that success. I wanted a book I could hand out to my students, yes, but also a book that someone else could find, someone in a small town who didn't go to conventions or book fairs or conferences, someone who needed a friend who had gone through the hardships of running her own business and could give some advice.
When the Great Recession started, I realized I had missed my publishing window. I should havefinished the Guide in 2005 or 2006, so that I could have found a publisher who would have had the book on the stands by late 2008, when people—having lost their jobs—decided they might as well work for themselves. I even saw the book as being useful to people who weren't planning on starting their own businesses, people who just needed help organizing their time and their finances while they searched for a new job. Looking for a job in a down economy is, in essence, working for yourself.
I moped for a few months, thinking I had missed an opportunity, and then I realized that changes in technology had given me another option. I could write the book a chapter per week, and upload that chapter on my website. If the experiment didn't work—if no one came to read the blog—then I would have some chapters and my outline, and I could approach publishers.
Frankly, that's what I expected would happen.
Instead, I went through a personal revolution. I got readers and donations to keep me writing from my very first post. The readership grew. Over the seventy weeks it took me to finish the Guide, I received enough donations to equal a nice non-fiction advance from a New York publisher. I did not expect that at all. I also got a larger readership than I would have if the Guide had been published as I mentioned above. In fact, the readership is still growing. I got e-mail just this morning from a woman who discovered theGuide a week ago, and is slowly reading her way through the blog posts.
After I finished three chapters, I did send a proposal to my agent, so that he could market the book to major publishers. He wasn't enthusiastic about the project (for the reasons I mentioned above), although he did have a few ideas about marketing it. By the time he got those ideas to me, I was growing more and more reluctant to publish the book conventionally. It was the middle of the summer—not a good time to mail out a book—and we agreed to put it on hold.
I never went back. By the fall, I realized I wanted to publish this book myself. I wanted small distribution and more importantly to me, I wanted to be able to keep the book in print. I decided to do an electronic edition that I would give to anyone who had donated to keep me working, as well as a print edition.
It wasn't that farfetched for me to publish the book. As you'll discover when you read this, I used to co-own a publishing company with my husband Dean Wesley Smith. I know what it takes to publish a book, and how hard you have to work to market it. I also knew that I would need to do some organization work and trimming to make the Guide work in book form. My only concern was editing. Although I had won awards for my editing, editing yourself is a dicey proposition. Eventually I decided to hire an editor to make sure the manuscript was in order.
Fast-forward another year. I finished the blog version Guide a few weeks ago. I have just finished organizing all of the posts. Some combined into a single post; a few got cannibalized into other posts. I had to make some decisions as I did this, decisions that will affect what you read.
I decided to keep the conversational tone. The chapters were originally blog posts. Many times, the posts would not have existed without reader feedback. Indeed, the Guide is as large as it is because of reader comments, e-mails, and suggestions. So rather than try to artificially adopt that "expert" tone, I decided to leave the chapters as close to the blog posts as they can be. Sometimes, I've included a date—especially when an event or a news story inspired my post. Sometimes I haven't.
I did divide this Guide into sections, which makes it very different from the blog. The sections cover large topics, such as Money Management. I did this so that you can skip around as you need to.
As I set up those sections, I realized that they could also stand alone as short books. I have carved the Guide into nine short books, covering everything from Goals and Dreams to How to Negotiate Anything. All of the material in the short books is in the Guide, but not all of the material in the Guide is in the short books. However, if you have a friend who needs advice on only one subject—say, Time Management—then you can buy him that short book without giving him this entire tome.
Like the Guide, the short books are available in print and electronically. This is another benefit of doing the Guide myself. I know that many people buy how-to books for only one section. I have how-to books that I've dog-eared in the middle, but haven't touched the beginning. By doing the Guide myself, I unwittingly gave myself the ability to be flexible.
I am continuing a business blog on my website, called The Business Rusch, and as I learn more about the topics contained herein, I will update the sections. I'll probably update this book once a year or so. Just check on my blog, click the Freelancer's Survival Guide tab, and see if I've added updates at the bottom of the table of contents. You can find all of the original blog posts and the excellent comments from readers at kristinekathrynrusch.com.
I owe a great debt of gratitude to the online readers of The Freelancer's Survival Guide. Without you people, I never would have finished this book. It would have existed as an outline and half-finished chapter in my computer for decades. I also owe a lot to Michael J. Totten, who discussed the practicalities of running a blog on a website (you can find his spectacular blog on foreign affairs at michaeltotten.com). Michael is the one who suggested the donate button, and I did it, although I was skeptical. That—and the willingness of readers to support my endeavor—changed everything.
So did novelist Scott William Carter. He was at the initial meeting on e-publishing with Michael, Dean, and me. Scott's the one who helped me design the website, held my hand when I had a crisis (too often to imagine), and had some truly spectacular ideas of his own.
If you have comments or questions about the Freelancer's Survival Guide, feel free to contact me through my website. As I mentioned, this is an ongoing project—and there will probably be supplements down the road.
I have had a surprising amount of fun putting this book together. What I initially saw as unrewarding work has turned into a life-changing event.
Which—if you think about it—is the essence of freelancing. It's fun and it's life-changing. It's also a lot of work, although if you do it right, that work is not at all unrewarding. It is, in my opinion, the best kind of work possible—doing what you love, on your schedule, and on your own terms.
—Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Lincoln City, Oregon
September 3, 2010