We’re told all the time that our society is moving more and more to what is called the gig economy. It’s estimated that 40 percent of America’s workforce could be freelance by 2020. So whether we have always dreamed of making a living off of our creativity, or we find that our finances are dictating that we develop a new side (or main!) hustle, contemplating how to thrive in a non-9-to-5 world is now more than a philosophical exercise. For an increasingly large segment of professionals, it’s becoming an absolute necessity.
Jumping into freelance life without any training or a safety net can be hazardous. (I know - I tried it in my 20s, and eventually had to scale back my efforts to make way for a W-2 job.) However, Jason Oberholtzer, the editor of “The Hustle Economy,” has assembled a very informative and inspirational primer on how to make this form of work, work for you. He has gathered advice from 25 creative entrepreneurs in one brief volume, and shaped it into a fun and info-packed ride.
Subtitled “transforming your creativity into a career,” the primary audience for this book is folks who aspire to make money through work such as writing, illustrating, blogging, painting, acting, film production, and the like. One of the best essays in the book (and one that should be up front, in my opinion, not hidden in the middle) is “Do the Math,” by director, author and painter Thomas Leveritt. He argues that freelancers need to understand how taxes work, take care of your body and manage your anxiety well enough to be productive, and consider working on the other side of the desk first (for an employer) to build up a reputation and a rolodex full of contacts. It’s a splash of cold water if you are expecting the phone to ring with no effort on your part once you go freelance, but for everyone else, this essay will be a welcome bit of advice.
Other great passages include television writer Emma Koenig discussing boredom as a positive spur for creative action; columnist Monica Guzman on the importance of being able to “play” in your work; and Internet comedian Ben Grelle on how to work within your limitations (he contracted chronic fatigue syndrome at age 18 and has had to figure out how to build his humor empire while dealing with a very limited amount of physical stamina).
The only criticism I have about the book is the number of illustrations by the very talented Jessica Hagy, who is best known for her blog Indexed. Her Venn-diagrams and silly charts are always fun, but in this book they are literally thrown in every three paragraphs (i.e. each short chapter gets at least two or three). It’s not that most of them aren’t funny; they are. It’s just that after reading the first couple of chapters, I started feeling as if I was getting distracted by her illustrations, instead of welcoming their presence. Your milage may vary on that one … I do appreciate that she and Oberholtzer planned ahead in order to provide some visual interest to this volume.
The Takeaway: “The Hustle Economy” is a great book for creative people of all ages who want to make money doing what they love. It’s got no-nonsense advice about some of the non-sexy essentials (like taxes), as well as plenty of inspiration and tips for consistently making good work that draws an audience and leads to better paying work.
~ Liz Massey, Managing Editor, ASU Alumni Association
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