Review: How to be a Rockstar Freelancer (Cyan & Collis Ta’eed)


How to be a Rockstar Freelancer was the first book published by the Rockable Press, a publishing company founded by Cyan and Collis Ta’eed. It’s a complete guide for beginner freelancers, setting out how freelancing works and how to set up your own freelancing business.

The price

How to be a Rockstar Freelancer is available as an ebook for $29 or a paperback book for $35. That makes it comparatively cheap compared with other freelance-targeted ebooks.

(If you’re not sure which to go for, I’d suggest the ebook; it’s a bit cheaper, you can follow links more easily, and there’s a guaranteed 7-day refund. I got the paper version which is lovely to curl up with, but I didn’t check out most of the additional online resources suggested, because I’m lazy…)

What’s included

The chapters cover the following, and more – I’ve just given a few examples of the type of content in each chapter.

  1. Getting Started (explaining freelancing, part-time freelancing, knowing when to go full-time…)
  2. Your Brand (something newbie freelancers often don’t think about – to their cost…)
  3. The Working Day (setting up your workplace, staying productive…)
  4. Getting Your First Projects (your portfolio, leads, referrals…)
  5. Project Scope and Timing (briefs, timeframes, large projects…)
  6. Pricing Yourself (knowing what to charge, charging per hour or per project…)
  7. Doing the Project (tracking hours, communication, handling problems…)
  8. Clients (finding clients, your relationship with clients…)
  9. Getting Paid (invoicing, book-keeping, cash flow…)
  10. Marketing Yourself (positioning yourself, marketing cycles…)
  11. Expansion (subcontracting, partnerships, forming a business…)

In essence, if you picked up this book today knowing nothing about freelancing, but with a skill like writing, graphic design or programming, you’d learn everything you need to know about setting up as a freelancer.

Good stuff

Cyan and Collis are pretty much the perfect couple to write a book on freelancing. Experienced freelancers in the graphic design world themselves, they’re also the founders of Freelance Switch (one of the most popular freelancing blogs in the world). They founded the company Envato and run a number of websites/blogs, including PSDTuts+, NetTuts and others under the same brand.

I bought How to be a Rockstar Freelancer before I quit my day job, and it was encouraging and extremely helpful. It made me realise that freelancing wasn’t some crazy dream but a perfectly practical goal. It taught me about branding (something which I’d not really considered before), about putting together a portfolio and all sorts of other business aspects.

Cyan and Collis write in a very readable way, too. I’ve been put off business guides in the past, finding them either dry as dust or full of over-the-top hype: but this was a practical, engaging book.

I particularly liked the inclusion of case studies and quotes from other freelancers – this added an extra level to the book (though, really, Cyan and Collis have enough expertise between them to write a dozen books!)

How to be a Rockstar Freelancer was very appropriate for the stage I was at (starting out) and the funds I had (none), but would also suit those who’ve already been freelancing for a while: for example, when Cyan and Collis highlight the importance of having a professionally-designed logo, they also concede that:

For some freelancers, hiring a professional designer just isn’t an option yet. For the new freelancer money can be tight, and you may need to come up with an interim branding solution. (p40)

They go on to give a step-by-step guide to how to do this.

Bad stuff

It might have been good to have a little more in the final section on Expanding, but in fairness, this really isn’t the main focus of the book – it’s aimed at beginning freelancers, not those who are already established. If you want to start a small business, there are a host of other resources on that.

If you try to read How to be a Rockstar Freelancer from cover to cover straight away, it could seem quite overwhelming! This isn’t really the fault of the book (in fact, it’s a result of it being so comprehensive) – but you probably do want to take it a chapter at a time, and not worry about getting everything 100% perfect when you first start out.


I’m not sure if I’d even have got up the courage to quit my day job without this book, so I owe Collis and Cyan a big “thanks!” It’s not just a great beginners’ guide, either; I still dip into the book from time to time.

If you’re thinking about freelancing, or if you’re in your first year or two of freelancing, you’ll learn a huge amount from How to be a Rockstar Freelancer. It’s a complete guide, a fun read, and it could well help you to avoid costly or time-consuming mistakes.

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