In praise of... freelancers
The publishing landscape has changed radically on many fronts in the last decade, but the vital role of freelancers has been constant. At many IPG members' companies they contribute substantially to publishing workflows, and to the huge value that publishers still add to authors’ experiences.
As my recent straw poll of some members showed, there are several benefits to using freelancers. One is keeping overheads down. “There are more freelancers available now than ever, and for a small independent like us it’s great to have all that talent available on a ‘pay as you go’ basis,” says Susie Dunlop at Allison & Busby. “We have access to a wide range of skills that we just wouldn’t get if we employed one or two people to do the same work. If we’re not happy with the work a freelancer is doing, we can simply move on to someone else.”
Andrew Johnston at Quiller Publishing agrees. “We have the luxury of choosing the finest designers and editors. Each book is an individual production, and we can allocate the right people for that particular project. The key is to find the best—and to pay on time.”
Publishers have long relied in particular on freelance copy-editors and proof-readers, many of whom are ex-full-time publishing employees. “The work has shifted out of the publishing house and off its balance sheet, and onto the shoulders of freelancers,” says Edinburgh University Press’ James Dale. “The pros of this are that publishers reduce costs and gain a flexible workforce. The downside is that good freelancers are often booked up and aren’t available on demand—so not so flexible after all. Quite often they work for a variety of publishers, leading them to get the various style sheets muddled up.”
The advantages for publishers may be clear, but what is it like to be a freelancer? “The advantages are the flexible working hours. And you can potentially work from anywhere nowadays, IT allowing—and choose with whom you’d like to work” says freelancer Darren Stanton of Royalty Business Solutions, a new IPG member. How do you juggle the work? “You just do. Sometimes you have to work 12-plus hours a day. If it ever gets hard I just remember the times when I didn't have enough clients and how hard that was. Working hard is not a problem.”
Just as publishers do, we at the IPG rely on a few key freelance members of the team. The IPG Independent Publishing Awards have been project managed from the beginning by Christine Martin, and she and Tom Holman have been central to their success. Indeed, 2015 marks ten years of Tom working freelance for the IPG. That’s ten years of working to my deadlines. Our conversations invariably run along these lines:
Tom: “When would you like that by?”
Me: “Tomorrow would be just perfect.”
And the work always comes in on time, to the highest standard. Thank you Tom. We couldn’t do it without you.