Book review

Independent Contracting: Succeeding as a Contract Professional in Australia

Kate Robinson, Ruth Green, John Petty and Janet Wood, Independent Contracting: Succeeding as a Contract Professional in Australia, Prentice Hall, 2000.
Paperback, x + 246 pages, Australian
RRP: $36.95
ISBN 1 74009 117 5

Reviewed by Robyn Colman
Catchword, Issue 100, Summer 2004

Here is a book to help people thinking of freelancing and those already in business. It's quite something to have come across two books in recent months (Janet Mackenzie's wonderful The Editor's Companion is the other) that can be recommended to the growing number of people who get in touch because ‘I thought I'd like to get into editing and proofreading, and wondered if you could give me some advice’.

In the past, while half of me wondered whether people wander into the Hill Street Grocer saying, ‘I thought of opening a delicatessen in Hobart and wondered if you could give me some tips’, the other half of me set to work cranking out information. Now I can recommend those two books.

I came across Independent Contracting during Shelley Kenigsberg's session in the Structural Editing course that the Society ran in June, when the book was used as an example for structural assessment. It passed the test with flying colours. It is very well organised and easy to navigate, having helpful signposts, headings, and page mechanics.

The content too is useful and relevant. Case studies and examples are drawn from the experience of people in similar lines of work to ours – they include a graphic designer, a sub-editor, a writer and media consultant, a writer and trainer, a software developer and a researcher.

Early chapters concentrate on things you need to think about before you take the plunge: how to prepare a business plan, whether to form a company or operate as a sole trader, how to present your business identity, financial matters to consider, and – more helpfully than any other book I have come across – suggestions for getting work. Necessarily, the information about finance and tax is general and readers are advised to get help from an accountant before deciding anything. That said, the general introduction to our various and weird tax systems is surprisingly clear.

People who have been freelancing for some time will also find the book useful. In the flurry of completing jobs it's all too easy to forget that we are running a business. Tired and dissatisfied after the end of last financial year, I found valuable tips about reviewing my client base from various angles. (So much so that I acted on them.) Even experienced practitioners worry on occasional days off about marketing to attract new clients. They too will find practical suggestions. And the chapter called ‘What if disaster strikes?’, listing what you could lose in a fire or burglary, will help you prepare a sensible disaster recovery plan.

More cheerfully, there are sound ideas for home-office management, time management and professional development, and an appendix lists all kinds of useful websites.

Independent Contracting is a very practical book about starting and running a small business.

Contact the Society: e-mail:
Post: Society of Editors (Tasmania), c/- Institute of Professional Editors, PO Box 8, Coopers Plains Qld 4108

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