Recap and Illustrations: Is Publishing Today a Business of Freelancers?

Recap and Illustrations: Is Publishing Today a Business of Freelancers?

Wednesday night I was fortunate enough to host and livetweet Bookbuilders of Boston’s first spring education event at Pearson; more than 50 were in attendance, despite the less-than-par weather Boston was experiencing that afternoon.

We had an engaging conversation with a phenomenal collection of panelists about the world of freelancing. It covered a lot of ground, and a few of our attendees were very vocal about the uncertainty and fear that loom over the jump into the freelancing business. Luckily, our panelists addressed these concerns earnestly, through anecdotes and one-on-one responses.

The benefits of freelancing seemed to rest on two factors: comfort and independence.

“Working for myself is the only life I know,” said Michael Russem, of Kat Ran Press. He cited his lifestyle as a large reason why he enjoys freelancing. The struggle, however, is setting boundaries between work and the rest of your life. Jillian Santos Almedia, director of rights and permissions at QBS Learning, agreed with the sentiment—she works from home and makes sure her day is structured with phone calls and other assignments.

Michael Russem

Michael Russem

While the freedom freelancing provides is nice, it’s certainly not for everyone. Independent publicist Gail Leondar-Wright recommends you consider your nature and personality. If you like structure, having an authority to report to, and so forth, then a more formal job is a better fit for you. (Author’s note: As someone who has flirted with the idea of freelancing for years, it was nice to hear another voice explicitly address this concern!) However, there is a support system out there, and all the panelists encouraged networking and making yourself available to help those who need your services.

Gail Leondar-Wright

Gail Leondar-Wright

Here were our speakers’ parting thoughts, asked by Bill Trippe, director of technology at the MIT Press and the panel’s moderator:

Jillian Santos Almeida: Be good at what you do. Have a specialty, sell yourself, and build a good network of people. In other words: Earn trust from potential and future clients.

Michael Russem: When work is slow, make the work you want to obtain from other clients. Build up your portfolio.

Gail Leondar-Wright: Get your living expenses down as much as you can, and start working for people that you know cheaply. Speaking based on her experience, 95% of her clients come from word of mouth.


Are you looking to take the leap into freelancing? Let us know in the comments!

Our next education event will be held on Wednesday, March 23, on children’s publishing. Speakers and location TBA. If you are interested in sponsoring an education event, please contact us at office@bbboston.org.

Illustrations by Louis Roe

Iris Amelia Febres

About Iris Amelia Febres

Iris Amelia Febres serves as president of Bookbuilders of Boston. While her professional background is in ebook development, she currently works for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Treasury). In her semi-spare time, she teaches ebook production at Emerson College, her alma mater. Alongside John Rodzvilla, she is co-author of a forthcoming book about digital publishing with University of Chicago Press. She is obsessed with corgis and can be found at @epubpupil.