An Author Wednesday Interview with Joseph D’Agnese and Denise Kiernan, authors of “The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, & The Self-Employed”
“The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, & the Self-Employed” published by Random House, is the only comprehensive system for earning, spending, saving, and surviving as an independent worker. It’s the brainchild of Joseph D’Agnese and Denise Kiernan, two longtime freelance writers who marveled at the fact that they continued to stay in business and thrive while so many of their compatriots fell by the wayside only months or a couple of years striking out on their own. Why were others failing while the Joe and Denise thrived? The husband-and-wife writing team soon realized that their money management habits set them apart from most other people who strike out on their own.
Sensing an opportunity, they researched the market and pitched a book to Three Rivers Press, an imprint of Random House. The book has since gone on to help thousands of freelancers with its clear, common sense advice written specifically for people with “not-so-regular” jobs, and D’Agnese and Kiernan speak often to freelance groups around the country.
Read more for the rest of this great author interview and to learn how you can grab a free copy of Joe and Denise’s book!
Q. Thanks for the interview. Can we begin by having you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been working in and writing about this topic?
A. The two of us are long-time freelance writers. Over the years, we’ve struggled with the primary issue all self-employed people — from plumbers to web designers — struggle with: How to support yourself and thrive on an erratic income. In our case, we struggled until we got smart. Since then, we’ve been sharing what we’ve learned with other freelancers.
Q. What’s your new book about? Why did you write it? What main message will readers take away from it?
A. The growth of the freelance workplace is one of the biggest stories of our generation, and it’s going largely unreported by the mainstream media. Think of it: thousands of people have been kicked out of traditional jobs as a result of the current recession. Many are choosing to go it alone. They’ve become solopreneurs, and they’re changing the face of our society. And that’s great. There have never been so many tools available to help the self-employed stay connected with their peers. But they’re all lacking one thing: good, solid information about how you do personal finance when you’re a one-person show. Our book is the only one we know of that deals with the issues of wealth-building for this audience.
Q. What inspired you to write this book?
A. Our own experience obviously drove us to take the leap. But the real clincher was surveying the book market and realizing that there was a void that needed to be filled. We just knew we had to put this information out there, and Random House agreed!
Q. What were some of the greatest discoveries, lessons, or findings you came across while doing research and writing this book?
A. The biggest discovery was that freelancers are terrible at managing their money. That surprised us. Even entrepreneurs with solid business experience have trouble wealth-building because they’re so willing to chuck their own financial security for the good of their dream company. This insight came from interviews with accountants and personal financial planners who advise self-employed people. Routinely, they told us, they come across clients who don’t save money for taxes, don’t pay estimated taxes, and aren’t saving well for retirement. All three of these things are disasters waiting to happen, but freelancers shrug ‘em off with rationalizations, such as, “I’ll save when my big project is a success and the money really stats rolling in!” Basically, they’re thinking like cat burglars, living their lives waiting for the big score.
Q. What do you feel sets your book apart from others in the same genre?
A. So much of the conversation in freelance circles these days is about how you can get more clients, reach a better class of clients, invoice properly, protect yourself with better contracts, and so on. That stuff is all good, but we have purposely focused on personal finance. What steps do you have to take to become wealthy when your income is likely to go up and down all the time? What we tell people is, other freelance guides tell you how to get the money. We tell you what to do with it once it’s in the door.
Q. What are 5 things everyone should know in your area of expertise?
A. Freelancers don’t get into their line of work because of the money. But they leave the freelance life because of the money. The biggest thing they need to do is also the most obvious: Save money. A little or a lot at every opportunity, but save. From there it all gets specific to every guru. We recommend freelancers set up 3 bank accounts: for emergencies, retirement, and taxes. And we recommend they sock away a percentage of each check as it comes in the door to fund each of these accounts. This is a subtle but important difference from those who suggest savers take some arbitrary amount from their checking accounts every month or every two weeks. If most freelancers did that, they’d be hit with a bunch of bank fees. No — the money has to come out of your check as soon as it clears. The freelance income stream is too variable to rely on advice pitched to people with full-time jobs.
Q. What does your typical day look like?
A. We’re one of those lucky freelance writers who support themselves entirely on their writing income. That means we’re pretty much glued to a desk eight hours a day. At any given time, we have at least four or five books in progress in various genres. It’s a little like what we imagine James Patterson’s life is like, minus the car service.
Q. If someone were a complete newbie when it comes to the topic of your book, what are some steps they could take to dive in and get more educated in this area. (Besides reading your book, of course!)
A. Good personal finance advice is easy to find if you’re willing to buy a book and dig in. But you don’t have to spend any money to learn the basics. Delve into the money section of any library and start learning. We happen to think it’s fun to bookmark the money sections of various major newspapers and just dip into the stories as they come through. If you’ve never immersed yourself in this world, you’re probably nervous or afraid you’re going to be bored. But the opposite is likely to be true.
Q. If you could write 1 Golden Rule to take away from your book, what would it be and why?
A. A doctor once told us that the secret to long life was the little things you did everyday. In other words, if smoking, drinking and junk food are a part of your daily life, you’ll pay for it in the long run. Habits matter. Our book is about building solid, healthy money habits like saving a little money here and there, no matter how little. Over a lifetime, little things add up to a lot.
Q. What other resources in addition to your book would you recommend to people to learn more about this area?
A. In the Department of Free Things, we’d recommend every freelancer bookmark GetRichSlowly.org. It’s a great resource for personal finance info, and it’s free. And if you’re not already reading FreelanceSwitch.com, you’re not keeping up with the dialogue in the freelance community.
Q. What are some of your current projects you’ve been working on in this field?
A. We’re hired from time to time to give talks on this subject, so we’re typically on the road spreading the message. The next personal finance project is top secret at the moment.
Q. Thank you for the interview, Joe and Denise! Would you like to share where we can find you on the web and how we can buy your book?
A. We prefer that readers follow us authors individually. Our Twitter handles are @JosephDAgnese and @DeniseKiernan. Our websites are josephdagnese.com and denisekiernan.com. The book’s available in print and in eBook format. You can grab it anywhere on the planet.
About the Authors: Denise Kiernan and Joseph D’Agnese are journalists, authors and producers. They have written books for both adults and children, and have been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Village Voice, Wired, Discover and other national publications. Kiernan is the former head writer for “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” and has produced for ESPN, MSNBC and others. D’Agnese’s work has twice been included in the anthology “Best American Science Writing.” Both are winners of Educational Press Association awards for their children’s writing. They live in North Carolina. Check out their hilarious video for the book here.
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