DIY for freelancers

By Katharine Swan On Thursday, January 31, 2013 At 2:46 PM

I recently had a conversation with a self-publisher author about the publishing process -- I've probably mentioned before that I'm fairly certain that's the route I'm going to go with the novels I am currently working on, and I wanted to chat with someone who has been fairly successful at it themselves.  I got a lot of valuable information -- everything from tips on hiring editors and cover designers, to information on marketing tactics and what times of year you tend to get more sales.

A recurring theme in all of this, though, is what -- if anything -- I can do myself. 

I've always tended toward doing things myself, from the time I bought my first car and insisted that my dad teach me how to work on it.  As a freelancer, I've learned enough HTML to do most of my own websites (though I have to confess, I did have someone make a couple of templates for me once), and I've taught myself how to work with Photoshop well enough to do some photo manipulation and minor design (such as the covers I put together for my novels).

Of course, there are some things that I shouldn't try to do myself, such as editing my novels.  I do intend to have the final edit done by a professional (I have plenty of revisions that I can and will do on my own first).  And if I plan on publishing in a print format, too, I may have to hire a cover designer to turn my ebook cover (which is just the front image) into a full cover with a spine, back, and an ISBN.

Although it's good business practice to know when you cannot or should not try to do something on your own, I think a lot of freelancers have a strong DIY instinct -- after all, why would we be going into business on our own if we didn't?  For example, when my husband and I got married, I designed our wedding invitations on the computer and printed them out.  Since our wedding was to be small (family and close friends) and somewhat casual, and since I wanted to really have fun with the 1920s theme, I chose this route not just to cut costs, but also to give me a little more flexibility over the end result.

If you are creative and have a good eye for design, there's no reason you can't do a lot of things yourself as a freelancer.  You can not only write your own resume, but also present it in an attractive layout.  You can design and print business stationery like letterheads and thank-you cards.  You can even put together your own website, with a little help from a template or even a service like Blogger if you aren't savvy with coding.

Of course, doing it yourself doesn't always make it free.  Software, printer ink, web hosting...  All of these things cost money.  But you can shop around for the best deals in hosting, and you if you are a student or know someone who is, you could pick up the software you need at a reduced rate.  As for printer ink, some cartridges can be refilled for less than what it costs to buy them new, or you can buy online from retailers that don't have the same overhead as chain office stores.

Having a fairly strong DIY instinct (and being kind of cheap), I think I probably do more things myself than many of my fellow freelancers.  I know a lot of books on building a freelance business tell you to outsource whenever possible.  But what about you?  How much do you do on your own, and what things are you willing to pay to have done for you?

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Katharine Swan is a full-time freelance writer with more than 5 years of professional writing experience. In addition to maintaining several personal blogs, she writes a variety of online marketing materials for clients, including company blogs, articles, and press releases. In her free time, she spends time with her horse, reads, and writes fiction.

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