Freelancing For Dummies


by Susan M. Drake




About the Author

Susan M. Drake, who lives and works in Memphis, TN, is the founder and president of Spellbinders, Inc., a marketing and corporate-communications company. She and her associates are dedicated to the proposition that you can have fun while making clients’ lives easier and their businesses more profitable. Susan has been a communications professional for 20 years, and she enjoys the freedom and diverse assignments that self-employment allow. Her clients hire her to provide communications counsel, plan corporate meetings, write speeches, design marketing plans, and generally assist them to do anything from difficult to all-but-impossible jobs. Spellbinders’ hallmark is nonconformist solutions that absolutely work. Susan has received multiple awards from both the International Association of Business Communicators and the Public Relations Society of America.

She also enjoys writing books, going to the theater, ballroom dancing, and most of all, attending Rolling Stones’ concerts.

For more information about Spellbinders, Inc. services, call 901-762-8012 or e-mail



When I was a young, unemployed person with nothing but a journalism degree, a woman named Mike Ballard gave me a job. I was a divorced mother with no experience (except for six months I spent cutting fabric part-time at Cloth World), and I applied for a public relations job at Holiday Inns, Incorporated. I had no concept of what I would be expected to do, nor how I would do it, but I was sure I could do the job. I asked Mike to trust me, and she did. Because of her, I have a career. I don’t know where Mike is today, but I send my fondest wishes to her for what she gave me.

I also dedicate this book to Paula Kovarik, the consummate freelancer. I aspire to her level of integrity and talent.

And finally, to my friends Denise Temofeew, Laura Derrington, and Don Morgan, who have taught me a lot about the most important things in life.



Thank you to Tere Drenth, a smart, helpful, understanding, and fun editor.

Thanks to Karen Doran, who hired me for this project and who was always so gracious and kind.

Thank you to Renee Dingler, technical editor and outstanding friend.

Thanks to the Hungry Minds production staff, who make books look grand.

Thank you to Sheree Bykofsky, my wonderful agent.

Thank you to Susan Gross. I don’t believe I can ever write a book without her.

And thank you to all the business people and freelancers who exist in this book either in name or in spirit: Colleen Wells, Scott Drake, Lauralee Dobbins, Laura Koss-Feder, Elise Mitchell, Helen Halladay, Jackie Nerren, Mr. Anonymous, Willy Taylor, Robin Thomas, David Rawlinson, Chris Crouch, Linda Delaney, John Snyder, Jody Pendergrast, J. D. Estes, Dusky Norsworthy, Bob Palmer, Ann Davis, Ed Iannarella, Norman Adcox, Sherry Henson, and Phil Schaefgen. We are family.


Publisher’s Acknowledgments

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Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Tere Drenth

Acquisitions Editor: Karen Doran

General Reviewer: Renee Dingler

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Editorial Administrator: Michelle Hacher

Editorial Assistant: Carol Strickland


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Proofreaders: Laura Albert, Laura L. Bowman, Nancy Price, Charles Spencer, TECHBOOKS Production Services

Indexer: TECHBOOKS Production Services

Special Help

Mark Butler, Senior Acquisitions Editor

General and Administrative

Hungry Minds, Inc.: John Kilcullen, CEO; Bill Barry, President and COO; John Ball, Executive VP, Operations & Administration; John Harris, CFO

Hungry Minds Consumer Reference Group

Business: Kathleen Nebenhaus, Vice President and Publisher; Kevin Thornton, Acquisitions Manager

Cooking/Gardening: Jennifer Feldman, Associate Vice President and Publisher; Anne Ficklen, Executive Editor

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Hungry Minds Consumer Production: Debbie Stailey, Production Director




About This Book

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I : Getting Ready to Go It Alone

Chapter 1: Are You a Born Freelancer?

Describing the Footloose and Fancy Freelancer

Reviewing the Various Types of Freelance Work Arrangements

Living without a Boss

Freelance Position Available: Deciding Whether You’re a Good Match

Predicting Your Success

Uncovering the Skills That Freelancers Require

Understanding the Joy of Freelancing

Chapter 2: Understanding the Realities of Working for Yourself

Going It Alone

Losing Your Identity

Uncovering the Illusion of Insecurity

Balancing Your Work and Your Personal Life

Enjoying Solitude and Avoiding Loneliness

Remembering That Money Matters

Chapter 3: Making the Decision to Freelance

Considering a Variety of Jobs

Assessing Your Skills

Doing Your Homework

Asking Yourself Some Tough Questions

Taking Steps if Freelancing Doesn’t Work

Chapter 4: Laying the Groundwork for Your New Life

Scouring the Planet for Information

Making a Plan

Timing Your Move

Creating a Strong Network of Contacts

Making the Break from Your Old Work Life

Part II : Opening Your Doors for Business

Chapter 5: Forming Your Company

Naming Your Game

Organizing Your Company

Chapter 6: Organizing Your Office

Finding Office Space Away from (Or at) Home

Furnishing Your Space

Getting Equipped

Protecting Your Equipment

Practicing Good Work Habits

Cleaning Up Your Act

Making Clients Comfortable

Chapter 7: Budgeting Your Time

Understanding a Freelancer’s Weekly Activities

Starting Your Day Productively

Budgeting Your Time According to Three Simple Rules

Tracking Your Time

Coping with Success

Continuing to Sell

Managing the Delicate Balancing Act

Finding Time to Stay Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise

Mixing Kids and Clients

Chapter 8: Building an Extended Staff

Getting Expert Advice

Looking for Junior Partners: Administrative and Clerical Help

Making Work a Family Affair

Part III : Bringing Your Work to Life

Chapter 9: Creating a Professional Image

Creating a Total Package

Understanding the Factors That Contribute to Your Image

Maintaining Proper Etiquette

Chapter 10: Finding Clients

Remembering That Selling Is a Full-Time Job

Mining for Diamonds with Your Existing Clients

Expanding Your Base of New Clients

Landing Jobs on the Web with e-Lancing

Chapter 11: Landing Business with Advertising and PR

Selling Benefits, Not Products

Using Advertising and Public Relations Tools

Chapter 12: Evaluating Jobs and Projects

Weighing Factors That Affect Your Decision

Rating a Project’s Potential

Living within Realistic Time Frames

Turning Clients Down

Avoiding Projects That Spell H-e-a-d-a-c-h-e

Chapter 13: Managing Client Relationships

Cultivating Clients You Love

Keeping Clients Happy

Putting Every Project In Writing

Managing Projects That Go Wrong

Chapter 14: Staying Current

Staying in the Know

Continuing Your Education

Part IV : Managing Your Money

Chapter 15: Budgeting and Accounting

Managing Your Finances

Preparing a Budget

Keeping Books and Accounting for Your Money

Chapter 16: Setting Rates and Collecting Fees

Setting Your Rates

Knowing When to Raise Rates

Sending Invoices

Collecting Your Money

Chapter 17: Paying Taxes

Getting the Lowdown on Taxes

Selecting an Advisor

Getting an ID Number and Finding the Proper Forms

Paying Income Taxes

Owing Self-Employment Taxes

Hiring (And Being) an Independent Contractor

Paying Payroll Taxes

Dealing with Withholding Taxes

Paying Franchise Taxes

Paying Sales and Use Taxes

Chapter 18: Securing Insurance

Taking an Insurance Inventory

Simplifying Insurance Jargon

Understanding Insurance Coverage Options

Controlling Costs of Protection

Finding an Insurance Professional

Chapter 19: Investing for the Future

Choosing an Investment Plan That Fits

Becoming Informed of Your Investment Possibilities

Benefiting from Investments

Understanding Investment Jargon

Sampling Investment Offerings

Planning for Retirement

Part V : The Part of Tens

Chapter 20: Ten Ways to Handle Stress and Prevent Burnout

Tell Yourself You’re Only Human

When the Pace Picks Up, Slow Down

Take a Moment

Manage by Walking Around

Stretch Yourself

Do Something Fun

Be Your Own Cheerleader

Chapter 21: Ten Tips for Balancing Your Work and Personal Life

Trust the Process

Recognize Your Limits

Post Your Goals

Close the Door

Make a Date with Yourself

Get a Hobby

Chapter 22: Ten Things Clients Want Most from You

What They Say They Want

What They Really Want


I f you’re thinking of going out on your own, chances are you’re the type of person who likes to forge a new path. You have a lot of energy, and I suspect you put your all into the work you feel passionate about. You have places to go people to see, and things to do, which means you have to find the most efficient and effective way to do everything — and that includes your freelance practice.

This book is a good place to start. It combines the knowledge of a host of freelancers: an accountant, computer trainer, graphic designer, writer, desktop publisher, market researcher and personal services planner, medical transcriber, event planner, and more. Some of the freelancers who contributed to this book have been around a long time; others are more recent additions to the club. But all have tips to share.

About This Book

When I embarked on the freelance trail, every day I felt as if I were making it up as I went along. Fortunately for you, you don’t have to do that. You have this book! Read it, and you’ll get a head start, avoid some drastic mistakes, and have a lot of fun.

This book helps you understand how to get your business started, jumpstart a business you’ve had for years, find new clients, establish your rates, set up your office, keep your books, pay taxes, buy insurance, advertise your business, and more! Use it as a ready reference or as moral support.

Foolish Assumptions

Because you’ve picked this book off the shelf, I assume you’re a freelancer or thinking of becoming one. You may already have an area of specialty or you may have great skills and want to figure out how to market them. This book can help you focus your search for a freelance niche. In any case, I think you’ll enjoy Freelancing For Dummies. By using this book, you can unearth new opportunities, set up your business, or just get support when times are lean. And if you’re wavering in your resolve to jump into the freelance fray, this book reminds you why you thought this path was a good idea in the first place.

How This Book Is Organized

When you’re going into business for yourself, you need to become an expert at a lot of things in a very short time. This book tells you what you need to know about any and every facet of freelancing quickly and easily in six easy parts that cover every major area of starting and running your own freelancing business. The following is a summary of each part.

Part I: Getting Ready to Go It Alone

Will you thrive in the freelance world? No crystal ball can predict your future, but you can look for signs to help you avoid unpleasant surprises. Before you redefine your life, start with the chapters in this part to see if you and freelancing are a good fit. This part helps you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, identify viable freelance opportunities, and get ready to make your break from the corporate world.

Part II: Opening Your Doors for Business

This part shares information on whether to incorporate, how to get business licenses, and how to find supportive experts who can help you with aspects of your business. It also describes what you’ll need in the way of office equipment and suggests smart ways of organizing your time.

Part III: Bringing Your Work to Life

This part helps you prepare to serve your clients’ needs in the most efficient and effective way. It describes and offers tips on creating a professional image, creating demand for your services, finding and managing clients, evaluating jobs and projects, and staying current in your field.

Part IV: Managing Your Money

Sure, the work is fulfilling, but you also want some financial rewards from your hard day’s work. This part gives you tips for planning, budgeting, and accounting; tells you how to get paid; gives you guidelines for filing tax forms and buying insurance; and shares how to invest for the future.

Part V: The Part of Tens

Like Mr. Blackwell’s list of best and worst dressed, this part advises you how to look like the star that you are. The lists of ten in this part include ways to enjoy your new life, avoid stress, and satisfy clients.

Icons Used in This Book

Throughout this book, you can find little pictures in the margins. These pictures, called icons, alert you to quick snippets of information or stories that are particularly important or enlightening. The four following icons appear in this book:


This icon helps you find shortcuts that save you time, money, energy, and gray hair.


Tie a string around your finger to remind you of these very important points. If you don’t take away anything else from this book, at least take these tips and tricks.


This icon introduces true-life adventures of people who have lived the freelance life. Read all about how successful freelancers handle touchy situations, build their businesses, and even decide that this life isn’t for them.


The freeway of freelancing can be a perilous road. Heed these icons to avoid collisions.

Where to Go from Here

Whether you’re embarking on your freelance journey or you’re an old hand looking for straighter paths to follow, you can get there from here. Whether you start at the beginning and let Freelancing For Dummies give you a methodical process that guides you every step of the way, or pick and choose a few subjects from the Index or the Table of Contents, every chapter stands on its own and can answer your questions or soothe your fears.

Part I

Getting Ready to Go It Alone

In this part . . .

B efore you ride off into the sunset on your gallant steed, consider whether you’re cut out for the freelance life and then take some steps to ensure your success.

This part describes the characteristics of a freelancer and gives pointers on how to ease your transition to the freelance life.