Why you need a freelance support network

social media networks

The image of a freelancer

There’s an image of a freelancer. You’ll have seen the one. A happy-go-lucky, tousle-haired professional, steaming drink by their side as they type into a laptop in the window of a coffee shop. They’re smiling.

Oh, and there’s the one sitting in their kitchen, cup by their side, sleeping dog at their feet as they look at their phone. There may be a pile of papers nearby, or a pad and pen for when inspiration strikes.

Or the one as they cross a street in an exotic location, messenger bag slung jauntily across their shoulder as they dodge traffic, laughing because they’re on their way to the next six-figure job meeting.

Or, perhaps, the one where they’re sitting on a sofa, one dog sleeping at their feet, another on the sofa next to them as they type into their laptop while drinking builder’s tea and eating homemade bread for breakfast.

Oh, hang on, strike that last one. It’s me right now.

The realities of freelance life

You see the popular image of a freelancer is usually one of those.

What you don’t often see is the image of the freelancer tearing their hair out when a client fails to deliver material on time, or gets snarky, or adds new items to the brief or changes the deadline without warning (or talking money), or lies to them, or simply disappears (sometimes without paying). You don’t see the frustration and anger, the being treated as an employee rather than a businessperson, and the huge pile of shit that can often descend just when you thought the job was a good one.

You also don’t see the dishevelled house when deadline looms, the family and friends talking about your ‘job’ as if it’s a hobby and the stress caused by constantly searching for work.

Don’t get me wrong – being an independent businessperson can be the best thing and the worst thing in the world, but most of us wouldn’t change it for anything.


If you’re a freelancer you need a freelance support network.

Professional societies are great

Being a member of a professional society or two, which usually have wonderful, valuable forums for support and encouragement, is a no-brainer. You will meet people in your profession who will understand what you are going through in your niche.

But freelancer networks are great too

A support network made up of people outside your expertise can be extremely valuable.

A non-exclusive network can help you understand what other freelancers are going through, talk to experts in fields you might not come across in your normal working life, and can be a sanity lifeline.

It’s the freelance equivalent of getting out more!

There are networks that meet virtually as well as in-person, and they appear for all kinds of freelancers. Sure, there are groups that meet in LinkedIn or on Facebook, but the best ones are those that dive across social networks and become a true tribe.

I’m a member of three, and they all provide help, support and encouragement in equal measure. You might find your own, but to show how a support network can stop you being isolated, I’ll mention them here.

social media networks

The Being Freelance Community

Being Freelance started in 2015 with Steve Folland’s podcast. He started his vlog in 2016 and opened up the Being Freelance Community on Facebook in 2019. Steve is an audio and video creator and his infectious personality, in just over a year, has helped create a group of 1,700 like-minded members. I’m one of the very first members, and have to say I love it.

We’re called BFFs, love biscuits (mine’s a fig roll, thanks), and help each other out. We chat about anything and everything, from picking the collective community brain to having a giggle over silly things that only freelancers would understand. We also celebrate our wins.

Early on Steve started the Non-Employee of the Week Awards, where he celebrates members of the community (I’m proud owner of number 9) and announces the winner from the ‘car park of dreams’. It really is a special moment.

We now have a virtual book club too, where we collectively pick a book, read it then meet up on Zoom to talk about it. Hey, we did this before Zoom became a ‘thing’ during the pandemic.

The Being Freelance Podcast is one of the best around for freelancers, with guests talking through all aspects of freelance life. They’re not boring, or salesy, or corporate – you just get good, honest chats with fellow freelancers to make you feel a little less alone.

Sara Donaldson being freelance

Freelance Heroes

Founded in 2016 by Ed Goodman (a freelance social media trainer) and Annie Browne (a virtual assistant), the Freelance Heroes Facebook group has grown to a whopping 9,500 members. The group exists to allow freelancers to chat and share tips in a safe, comfortable environment, and has a real-life meetup in the autumn in Wolverhampton (but like everything else in this plague time, it’s had to be postponed this year until November).

There’s a Freelance Heroes Day every year, which is today, May 16th, so get on over to your social media of choice, look for the #FreelanceHeroesDay hashtag and get sharing with other freelancers. The aim is to pay tribute to the 2 million UK freelancers, build their network and expand knowledge of the freelance industry. It’s huge.

You can also join the community via the Freelance Heroes website and become a paid up member if you fancy (with some extras that the Facebook group doesn’t have access to).

freelance heroes assemble

Team Atomic

Atomic is run by Andrew and Pete, and is a paid platform to help small business owners and entrepreneurs grow their business in a smarter, more sustainable way. They, too, have a Facebook group for members and is a small, exclusive group that packs a punch.

Atomic is for freelancers seriously wanting to up their game, and has the largest amount of training I’ve seen in one place, covering all aspects of business. From tips and tricks for getting new business, to how to set up a mailing list and becoming more confident, if there’s something you want to know, it will be here. And if you do find something that isn’t there, tell the team and they’ll be on it.

There are tailored all-day training pathways, masterclasses and quick bits of training to fit in while you have a coffee. The training is great for everyone.

Every year they have a real-life meet up in Atomicon in Newcastle, which had to quickly move online this year (wonder if you can figure out why?). But next year is set to be epic.

The community is supportive and knowledgeable and even impressed me, a Yorkshire lass who isn’t easily impressed. There are regular Zoom meetups for some virtual contact, to pick Peter and Andrew’s brains, meet members and generally talk through the ups and downs of freelance life.

You can join Atomic at the moment (16 May 2020) for only £1 , get all the details here, and tell them I sent you if you join up, we’d love to see you over there!

Freelance Networks Rock!

There are other networks out there, but I’ve highlighted the three that I love (and I wouldn’t recommend something I didn’t love). In these really weird times, freelancers now more than ever need to help each other out.

So, why do you need a support network?

As a freelancer, joining a network:

  1. Gives you friendship
  2. Stops you feeling isolated
  3. Gives you a feeling of perspective
  4. Gives you access to people who can help you
  5. Gives you quick access to information
  6. Points you in the right direction when you need help
  7. Lifts you up when you’re feeling down
  8. Shares in your wins and losses
  9. Lets you talk to people who understand you
  10. Makes you realise that freelance life can be fun!

The Publishing Process explained for new authors

reading about the publishing process for authors

How do books get published?

It’s not really that complicated, but getting your book published can seem quite daunting to new authors. While this isn’t an in-depth look at book publishing, it should help you to break down the process and understand what happens at each stage. Bear in mind though, that publishers work their own way, and self-publishing can take you down some different paths. Also, if you’ve written a book, you must be realistic … not every book should, or can, be published.

So whether you are a fiction writer, writing an academic text or non-fiction book, or creating a book for your business, here’s what to expect from the publishing process.

just write

In the beginning – write your book

Writing your book can take years, so you want to make sure that you do it right. Take your time, create a style sheet to help you keep consistent, and track your plot to make sure it holds up to scrutiny (or make sure your non-fiction book is factually correct and engaging to read). Ask yourself if it could be published for a wider audience, or just for family and friends, or within your organisation if it’s a business book. Research your target audience and the market … is the book idea a viable one? There’s no point in spending months or years writing a book if realistically no-one will want to read it, or it will be out of date by the time it’s published (harsh, but true). If you’re sure you have the commitment, crack on.

Then …

  • Finish your book. Make sure you’ve edited as much as you can yourself, used the spellcheck and basically hone your book to perfection (but remember, it will never be perfect).

  • Send it to some beta readers to get their opinion (try not to rely on family and friends as they can feel the need to only tell you how brilliant it is, rather than help iron out the faults). Readers’ forums on Facebook and Goodreads can help you find beta readers.

  • Make some changes depending on what your beta readers say. Again, finish your book.
  • Decide whether you want to get an agent or self-publish
My book pile is growing!

Using an agent?

The agent will have access to publishing houses – this is the ‘easiest’ way to be published by mainstream publishers (unsolicited manuscripts sent to publishers have huge competition, if the publisher actually accepts them in the first place).

How to find an agenthttps://www.writersandartists.co.uk/ is a great resource, both online and in print. Look for agents online and on social media (you’ll often see them letting writers know that they’re looking for submissions). They’ll hang out where the writers are, so Goodreads and Facebook, again, are good places to be. Choose agents who work in your genre, because if you send your manuscript to someone who works on romance and you write horror, your book is going to get rejected immediately. Look at their submission guidelines and stick to them. Send to an agent belonging to a reputable agency, or if they’re independent check to see that they’ve actually had books signed up by publishers. If they’re new agents don’t discount them, but find out what qualifies them to have set up as an agent.

book stack cartoon
  • Write a synopsis of your book. You’ll send this off to agents, so you need to write a quick breakdown of the plot (and yes, include the ending and any spoilers), which genre it fits into and a little about yourself. One page should be enough, this is your chance to hook the agent as they won’t read a full manuscript unless they’re interested. Include a nicely thought-out quote to pull the reader in, and make your book sound as enticing as you can.
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  • Write a query letter to send to agents. This is just a formal letter to send to build interest in your book. Don’t write a generic one ‘Dear Sir/Madam…’, find out who you need to send the letter to. If they require a snail mail letter, write it as a formal introduction – tell them why you’re writing to them, what your book is about and who you are. It doesn’t need to go into as much detail as the synopsis, as you’re going to send that to them anyway, but it needs to be enough to pique their interest in what you have to offer. If they ask for email correspondence include the same information.
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  • Send your synopsis, query letter and first three chapters to agents you’re interested in working with. Most will ask for the first three chapters, but again be very clear about what they ask for and send them exactly what they want. Be as professional as you can be.

When you find an agent who’s interested in your book think very carefully about their offer – the agent will be with you for a long time so make sure their terms and conditions are acceptable. If in doubt, consider taking advice.

Once the agent has submitted the book to publishers, commissioning editors will read the manuscript and decide whether they want to go forward with the book. If they do, the publishing house will take care of the rest of the process, with input from you as they go along.

Victorian photo albums


Many people these days decide to self-publish. This means you have to deal with the publishing process yourself, from finding the right editor to finding the right publishing platform and formatting for ebook and print. The marketing is up to you too – there’s no point in having a brilliant book if no one knows it exists.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to hire an editor to look over your book. Even if you’re confident that you don’t need a structural edit, a copy edit is important to catch all the things you will miss yourself.


The publishing process

If you’re using an agent, this process will usually be taken care of by the publisher. If you’re self-publishing these are the steps you need to take yourself, finding professionals to help along the way.

Once your book has been accepted it will go through a series of edits, these cover everything from the overall structure to the spelling, grammar and flow of the sentences and paragraphs. It will also be designed, which is something that should be done with care – everything from the font used to the cover design must be in keeping with the book’s contents and the expected look for your genre. You’re looking to produce a book that is as attractive as it is readable.

book stack cartoon

The process goes like this:

  • Structural / developmental edit – where the ‘big picture’ is looked at. Things such as narrative pace, structure of the book, characterisation and plot are examined. All the contents of a non-fiction book are examined, such as pace and structure, and whether pictures, tables, maps and illustrations, as well as indexes, references and bibliographies are needed. A structural edit doesn’t go into detail with the writing, it looks at the overall look, feel and structure of the book.
book stack cartoon

Next comes the …

  • Copyedit – which looks for errors and inconsistencies in grammar, spelling, style, sentence structure, flow and sense. This is sometimes broken down into line edits and copy edits, although the term ‘line edit’ is mainly an American term and is only just starting to be used in the UK.
book stack cartoon

When the copyedit is done …

  • Design / typesetting – The cover design will often be started before the editing is completed (it’s an important part of marketing your book, so it has to be appealing to your target audience). Make sure your designer knows what your book is about and, if they have time, they might want to read the book to get a feel for what the cover should look like.

    Once the edit is finished the final document will be sent to the typesetter to create the page proofs. If you are self-publishing search for book designers and typesetters online. Page proofs are generally paper mock-ups of the book interior, however, they can also be digital files, sent as PDFs.

If you’re self-publishing you’ll have to decide if you want to publish as an ebook, as a paperback, or both. Rather than a hire a professional typesetter who tends to work with publishing houses, it’s more common to hire a book designer/typesetter who will set out your book for you. Many will set out your book as both ebook and print, but there are differences in the setup for both, so be prepared to see a different layout for both of your formats. And be patient – images and tables can still be tricky for ebook design.

Here is where some self-publishers decide to format the book themselves for uploading to online publishers such as IngramSpark and Amazon. There are help files and documents available to help you, but you might find you get a better result (and less frustration) if you hire a professional. No matter which direction you take, you will have to proofread for the last stage of the process.

book stack cartoon
  • Proofreading – When the proofs come back they’re usually sent to the proofreader and the author to check for any final alterations. The proofreader will mark up the proofs with any final errors they find, and the author will also flag up any errors they see.  The file will get sent back to the typesetter, and once the alterations are made, the proofreader gets to look at the file again to make sure the changes have been made correctly (and to make sure that all of the changes have been made). The index is then created (the indexer will have been scheduled in at the beginning of the publishing process) and when the final proof comes back, complete with the index, if all the changes look OK, the book is ready to go to press.

Sometimes the indexer gets to work before the final proofread, but the index will have to be checked again if the proofreader’s check moves any text between pages.

book stack cartoon
  • Off to press – Once the book looks just right the file is sent to the printer. The publisher will have already negotiated a slot with the printing company, which is why the schedule can be tight if changes need to be made.

If you’re self-publishing you will now give the OK to your designer, or upload the file yourself to your preferred publishing platform.

book stack cartoon
  • Sales and marketing – If you’re being traditionally published the sales and marketing department will now take over and work their magic. If you are self-publishing you should hopefully have already told the world your book is coming, and now you must start marketing your book in any way you can, for example, social media, local book and online groups, press releases, bookshop talks and your Goodreads and Facebook page.

You’re now ready to finally see your book in print, send it out into the world and wait for the reviews to pour in. And remember, not everyone will like your book – enjoy the positive reviews and ignore the rest; most of all never, ever get into a verbal war with bad reviewers, it will only make you look bad. Accept all reviews with good grace and be proud of your achievement.


Hopefully this has demystified the process and you’re now set to start on the path towards getting your book published.

To find an editor or proofreader head to the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading in the UK  https://www.ciep.uk/

or the Editorial Freelancers Association in the US  http://www.the-efa.org/

or have a chat with me if you feel I’d be the right for your project.


A Relentlessly Helpful Professional

When I heard that John Espirian was writing a book, I’ll be honest, I was a bit torn.

I first met John on my very first day at my very first SfEP conference (now CIEP). I’d been editing for a while, but didn’t *feel* like an editor yet. I felt like a total imposter. I felt out of my depth and a bit like any minute someone was going to throw me out of the door for being a fake.

Then John came over to say hello and put me at ease.  He’s got an infectious smile and an attitude that’s relentlessly helpful no matter who you are.

See, it was there long before he made it part of his Content DNA.

My book pile is growing!

Just another content marketing book?

So, why was I a bit torn? Well, whenever I review a book (or anything for that matter) I’m totally honest. I don’t believe in bullshit (that’s part of my DNA), and I have a habit of telling it like it is. No matter who it is. Everyone gets treated the same with me, whether you’re the CEO of a multi-million-pound company or a lone-wolf first-time author. ‘Celebrities’ are just people, and, to me, everyone is just a person with feelings, successes and insecurities. Basically, and I hope he’ll forgive me for this, I was worried that it might be a bit … rubbish.

Not because I thought he’d write rubbish, but because lately I’ve been reading a lot of stuff that deals with business and written content. And it’s all the bloody same. It all tends to be by self-styled ‘experts’ who have found the secret to success and want to share it with you. Quick fixes that will bring in the bucks and make you irresistible to clients. Meh.

You buy the books, read the websites, try to implement the ‘tips’, then end up feeling overwhelmed as you try to sift through the filler and find the nuggets that will deliver on the promises.

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No, but it’s not a quick fix

For me, at least, Content DNA doesn’t pretend to give a quick fix. The contents are easy to implement and, importantly, they don’t have to be done all in one go for you to move forward. This book is full of common sense. There’s a 30-month mindset to get your head around. There is absolutely no overwhelm.

So as I head into the review let me make this point again … if you’re not prepared to listen to common sense, and if you want a quick fix NOW, this book probably isn’t for you. However, if you want to read a business book about content marketing that gives relentlessly helpful common sense, with a sense of humour, that will help you build your brand identity with confidence, then I reckon you can’t go wrong with a copy of Content DNA.

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A Quick Summary of Content DNA

  • There are 236 pages of content and an index at the back.
  • The book is nicely laid out, easy on the eye and easy to navigate. You can dip in and out when you need to.
  • Written with a nice tone of voice, this book isn’t preachy.
  • John guides you through what he’s done to create a recognisable brand through consistency and congruence, and shows you how you can do it too, whether it’s for your own personal brand or your company.
  • The book is packed full of no-nonsense, practical advice that covers everything from knowing how you want to be seen to knowing your clients and how to repurpose and republish your content.

‘Your brand must reflect the truth about who you are, what you stand for and what shape you want to portray to the world’

fiery heart

What I Liked About Content DNA

After reading some business books lately, this is a breath of fresh air. The last book that I read, with the Being Freelance online book club (which I won’t mention here), felt like I was reading a novel, written by a very preachy ‘expert’. It didn’t even finish it – it was too heavy and not at all inviting.

John’s book is written very much as he talks. It’s chatty, but not waffly, clear and easy to read. It’s a bit like having a mini John sitting on your shoulder talking to you.

But he also knows that not everyone has time to sit and read a book straight through, so every chapter begins with ‘the main takeaway’ that explains what the chapter is about. It’s a paragraph set apart from the body of the text, so if you need to dip in you know if you’ve hit the right chapter.

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A fresh, clean layout

I’m a sucker for a nice looking book. There has to be a good ratio of white space to text – this makes it easier on the eye and attractive to look at. John has obviously worked closely with Catherine Williams, his book designer, to create something that’s as attractive as it is informative. This book won’t give you eyestrain, the font is very easy to read, and the page has a nice, fresh, clean layout that I found appealing.

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With an index …

Having an index also gives John brownie points – if your book is good enough to be taken seriously, then it’s good enough to have a proper, workable index. As a trained indexer I can’t help but look at the back of the book, and the index, on the whole, works well. There are a couple of long strings in there that could probably have benefitted from a few more subheadings (for example LinkedIn and social media), but that’s major nit-picking on my part. No one other than an indexer would probably notice. I’m going to give a virtual ‘high five’ to the indexer – recognition where it’s due (indexing is not easy to do).

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It’s written by an expert – who doesn’t say he’s an expert

When you read the book, you’re being led through what can be a complex subject with ease and humility. John explains how he started, and how he arrived as a respected LinkedIn expert and technical writer. He dips into content marketing with quotes and examples by the likes of Mark Schaefer (author of KNOWN, The Content Code and Marketing Rebellion) and never talks down to the reader. In fact, John shies away from calling himself an expert, but by reading this book you know that’s exactly what he is

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Bite-sized chunks make for easy digestion

One of the joys of this book is that each chapter is just as long as it has to be, and moves logically on to the next. The chapters aren’t long, so they’re easy to read on the go if you don’t have much time, but they’re packed with helpful, actionable information. You can easily read a chapter in your lunch break.

‘A fancy catchphrase is useless if it has no relevance to what you do’

Useable, focussed exercises

This book doesn’t just tell you how to go about finding your Content DNA, it shows you. It’s packed with examples and little exercises to get you thinking about your business. I love the ‘Define your brand values’ chapter, because it’s short but powerful and the ‘Your tagline’ still has me thinking –it’s one part of my business I’ve never managed to sort out (‘Drinking all the coffee, so you don’t have to’ wouldn’t say much about what I do for my clients). The chapter on personas (or pen portraits) is also spot-on. I love getting back to my storytelling and creating my customer characters.

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This book gets you thinking

Unlike some business self-help books, this one doesn’t spoon-feed content. John guides you through what to do and what not to do, and shows what’s helpful and what isn’t. Probably because John’s a technical writer, he manages to make everything sound simple. He gets you thinking in ways that make it easy for you to implement your own DNA (the building blocks of your brand) into your business. He takes into account how to deal with social media, how to stay the same shape no matter where you are, so your clients and potential clients can spot you no matter where you pop up, and how to write good content.

‘Don’t assume that a couple of glossy marketing brochures mean you’ve created a brand’

You’ll read this book because you enjoy it, not because you have to

This is actually a book I wanted to read, and enjoyed reading. At no time did I think ‘Urgh, better get this book read then’. I wanted to see what John had to say next. It was like sitting down and having John talk you through it. It’s basically all killer and no filler.

sad face

What I Didn’t Like About Content DNA

The one thing I didn’t like about this book was that I couldn’t find anything wrong with it.

I know John in real life. He knows I wouldn’t give him an easy ride. If I found a flaw I would point it out (you’ll remember at the beginning I said I was worried that it might be a bit rubbish). Hell, even the interviews at the back of the book are worth reading. I suppose if you weren’t interested in the research he did for the book you might gloss over these interviews, but they give great insight into other experts – I especially liked the interview with Col Gray; I’ve been following his work for a while so I’m not surprised he helped with John’s rebrand.

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So, Should You Hand Over Your Hard-Earned Cash for this Book?

This is not a get-rich-quick book. If that’s what you want, this book is not for you.

If you want to use the information written down here, you’re going to have to put in some serious work. It will take time. You are going to have to really look at your business and the way you do business.

But …

If you’re looking to help your business stand out, learn about what makes you and your clients tick and want to learn to be consistent and congruent, then hell, yes, buy this book. I highly recommend it.

Content DNA gives you everything you need to set off on the right path. The book is based on the advice that John gives his clients, and I’ll tell you now, it would cost you a hell of a lot more than the price of this book to get a private consultation.

I can honestly say I loved this book. And I think it will become a go-to reference guide for people serious about building a great business that stays true to the core building blocks they’re going to create as a result of reading it.

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You can pick up your copy here, or ask your local bookshop.

Content DNA: Using consistency and congruence to be the same shape everywhere
by John Espirian


For transparency, I was kindly given a review copy for the purpose of this article.

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