Vision: A Resource for Writers

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Website Review:

Freelance Switch

By Alex Fayle
Copyright 2008 by Alex Fayle, All Rights Reserved


www.FreelanceSwitch.com

Introduction

A favourite topic on many agent/author blogs and online forums is why writers write? Most people will freely admit to it being an obsession of sorts and would write even if they knew they'd never get published. But what about those of us who write to make money? With any number of ways to earn money from writing, few of us freelance writers need to worry about looking for something to write. What many of us lack, especially at the beginning, is knowledge about running a freelance writing business.

In 2003, I started my own (non-writing) business and developed most of my business skills by trial and error. I took the scenic route, spending a lot of time and money learning how to make money in my previous business, skills I applied to my new venture as a freelance writer. It's not, however, a path I would recommend for most people. It's much better to get the right information from others who have already succeeded, using resources like FreelanceSwitch.com.

FreelanceSwitch.com

FreelanceSwitch.com (FSW) offers information, tools, and discussions to new and experienced freelancers to help make their businesses a success. Now that I have turned my business from consulting and hands-on work to freelance writing, FSW helps me hone my freelance business skills. There are many issues that all small business owners have in common, but there are many others that only freelancers share. FSW focuses on the latter.

Currently nearly 24,000 members have registered for the site, and I'm sure many more people visit without registering. I've only found one downside to the site (perhaps because of its popularity?). It often runs slowly, so be prepared to wait while you navigate around. Despite the slowness, however, FSW is on my daily round of site visits because it covers a wide range of topics and learning styles. The main page contains the most recent blog posts, but there are also discussion forums, a job board, podcasts, and even a book for those who prefer to read paper.

The Blog

I love the FSW blog more than most because FSW doesn't offer readers just one author. Because freelance means so many different things, and flows across so many industries and professions, the site offers a group of writers from a wide range of experience and expertise. And of course, adding pithy comments on the blog posts, writers can add to their reputation and increase exposure.

The Forums

The site owners have not developed the forums as much as most other sites have. As a result, you'll likely find the FSW forums a little clunky and hard to navigate. There are only a few categories and so there is not much of a hierarchy of topics. As a former Records Manager, I cringe when I enter the forums and do so only when I can't find the information I'm looking for elsewhere on the site.

If you do have a specific question, however, the Forums are great for that with people responding to questions usually the same day.

Job Board

I don't use the site for the Job Board, and it is the weakest feature to me. Most of the job offers are technology-based, and the few writing jobs that are listed offer little to no remuneration. You can see the postings, but if you want to see the contact details for each, you must get a subscription which will cost you $7 US per month. If finding a good job board interests you, check out the back issues of Vision for a website review of job sites.

Podcasts

Some people learn by reading, others by watching, and still others by listening. FSW currently lacks a video component to the learning styles, but their Podcasts fulfil the needs of those who learn best by listening. A People's Choice Award for Best Blog Podcast in 2007 proves that they know what they are doing when it comes to learning by listening. Often as freelancers we have times that we can't be writing but we want to still be working usually while driving somewhere. Downloading these award-winning podcasts means that you can improve your freelance skills while in the car, out jogging, or even relaxing in the bath.

Resources and the Book

The Resources section at the moment offers four tools to help you with your business: a rates calculator, a client analyser, a freelancer survey, and a guide to passive income. All these tools are top notch and are based on the experiences of many successful freelancers. While you're in this section of the site, don't forget to visit the "101 resources for freelancers" link.

And then there's the book. Although the authors advertise the book by saying that it contains information not found on the site, the main reason to buy the book is to have something physical. Many people find reading on the web tiring. Plus many writers love nothing more than to curl up with a good book. There are sample pages available so that you can be sure the writing style works for you before you go ahead and order it.

Of course, we do live in a digital world, so the book is available in PDF format. The digital version will cost you $29 and the print version $35, and if you sign up to their newsletter you get $10 off. Plus they have an affiliate program to help you earn some passive income from the book.

So what's in it for the writer?

Your time should be spent on writing, not on learning how to do business as a writer. By visiting FSW regularly, and by participating in the forums, your business skills will grow, and you'll avoid many of the pitfalls and setbacks that destroy many young freelance careers.