One reason I wanted to interview freelancer Bob Baker was because he specialized in a certain niche. I think this is a great way for freelancers to distinguish their work from other writers. Bob talks about, his passion of Siberian Husky rescue, and more.
Enjoy this interview.
You’ve been freelancing for fifteen years. How did you decide it’s what you wanted to do?
It was a combination of circumstances. For one thing, I came to a realization that I have a unique niche. There are a lot of very good writers who are terrified of any form of technology. There are also a lot of good technical people who cannot explain to you in English what it is they do. I am one of the few writers I know of who can read something very technical or interview a scientist or engineer and write about it in language that a person without technical training can understand.
For another thing, I was working as a copywriter for an advertising agency and was in my 50’s. When you work for an agency, especially in a creative position, if you have not yet achieved management ranks by your 50’s, your job is in jeopardy because agencies want younger people. I knew that if I was terminated because of my age that I would probably not be able to find another creative job, so I decided to take matters in my own hands while still young enough to do so and strike out on my own.
Because I left on favorable terms, I was able to not only get freelance assignments from my former employer, but also to get referrals and acquire new clients. Today, I still get an occasional assignment from my former employer but most of my work is for new clients that I have acquired through referrals.
Your background allows you to write about technical subjects in way that the average person can understand. Do you feel you have an advantage when you specialize in your writing career?
Absolutely. As I noted earlier, there are a lot of good freelance writers out there and If I did not specialize, I would be competing with all of them with no special advantage. There are, however, very few writers with the ability to do what I do. I belong to a networking group called Network Of Writers & Artists (www.nowa.org) and when one of our members gets an assignment that turns out to be too technical for them to handle, they often refer it to me. I have gotten several new clients as a result.
Have you noticed the “feast or famine” world that people think about when they picture freelancing?
Yes, when I first launched my freelance business. Over the years, however, through networking and referrals, I have been able to grow and diversify my client roster to the point where inactivity in one sector is usually balanced by increased activity in another. As a result, my work level is usually fairly steady.
Many freelancers today work for clients and also supplement that with their own blogs and books. What’s your approach to maintaining a successful freelance career?
Except for answering inquiries such as yours, I don’t do much writing except for client assignments and pro bono press releases for organizations to which I belong, such as a couple of Siberian Husky rescue organizations, Tails Of The Tundra Siberian Husky Rescue (www.siberescue.com) and Save Our Siberians – Siberspace Rescue Fund (www.sos-srf.org). I do, however, do a lot of networking. In addition to the Network Of Writers & Artists, I belong to our local Chamber of Commerce and regularly attend monthly Business Card Exchanges.
In your opinion, what’s the best way to get new clients as a freelancer?
Networking, networking and more networking. It’s not so much the people you meet at these events as the people they know and the people that those people know. I often get calls from prospective clients that begin with, “So-and-so suggested that I call you.”
Tell us what your day is like. How many hours do you work and do you have the flexibility that many freelancers crave?
Between actual writing and networking, my days are usually pretty full. I do have time, however, for my passion in life, Siberian Husky rescue, which is very important to me. (Over the past 13 years, my wife and I have fostered 27 of them, who have all found their forever homes.)
What’s the biggest misconception people have about freelance writers?
The biggest misconception is that I write novels and magazine articles on my own rather than doing work for paying clients
What’s your best advice for someone who wants to start freelancing today?
Don’t burn any bridges behind you. A former employer, for example, can be an excellent source of assignments. When you get an assignment, don’t be tempted to overcharge for it. If the client thinks he or she is getting a good value for their money, they will be more likely to refer other potential clients.
Find a peer support networking group like the Network Of Writers & Artists. These are usually people who have been through the trials and tribulations of launching a freelance writing career and can not only possibly refer business to you but also offer helpful advice (such as how much to charge for an assignment) based on their own experience.
Anything you’d like to add?
Make sure you have accumulated enough savings to get you through the first year or so because it takes a while to build a client base and you don’t want to have to make bad decisions because of lack of funds.
Where can we find you online?