Why Aren’t Freelancers Free?

Freelancers and freelance employers met and mingled at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Wednesday, October 1, discussing the pros and cons of freelancing.

Moderated by Chris Kelaher, the discussion featured three panelists: Theresa Walker, of Catholic University Press, who shared her experiences as an editor managing freelancers; Jayne Sutton, of EEI Communications, who mediates between customers and freelancers; and Pete Lindeman, of Oakland Street Publishing, who has freelanced for several years in design.

Theresa stressed the importance of having book experience, not just expertise in the field of editing.  Books are longer and contain more “scholarly apparatus” such as footnotes and bibliographies, she commented, and those with editing experience in other media such as magazines or websites may not be as well prepared for the job.

Jayne observed that for those with a role in managing editors and customers, it is important to be familiar with the editor’s skill level and ability to produce quality work while simultaneously elucidating the customer’s needs.  She also noted that copyediting is moving dominantly toward work on a fixed price basis.  However, she stressed the great importance of defining the work up front.

Pete confirmed flexibility of schedule and setting as positive benefits of freelancing, but also cautioned that discipline and drive are crucial to a freelancer’s success.  He commented, “You do your best job, turn it in on time, and never hear from them again – kind of like dating!”

The session offered equal parts information and discussion.  In addition to strengthening the freelancing network in the D.C. area, attendees also received valuable tips and strategies for success on both sides of the freelancing relationship.

The session offered equal parts information and discussion.  In addition to strengthening the freelancing network in the D.C. area, attendees also received valuable tips and strategies for success on both sides of the freelancing relationship.

Appeared in BookNotes, the Washington Book Publishers’ monthly newsletter.

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