It was my first week as a freelancer. By Wednesday, the thrill of quitting my job had worn off, and reality set in.
I didn’t have a team anymore.
No daily flood of emails. No fires to put out. No way to instantly feel smart and useful.
I tried filling the void with cookies. And coffee. And long lunches in the middle of the day, during which I boasted about my newfound freedom.
But none of it worked. I felt inefficient. Lost. And a little lonely.
So I wandered into my local library on the pretense of checking out some business books. You know, to do my taxes and stuff.
And I was craving some of that “old book smell.” You know, that smell that washes over you the moment you step into a library?
The smell that makes you feel smarter just for being there. And a little more cultured. As though, by aspirating microscopic particles of decaying paper, you’re absorbing the thoughts of millions of thinkers who came before you.
And, hey, maybe you are.
But beyond that intoxicating aroma, what I found at the library was a hidden wealth of resources for freelancers – all of them completely free.
6 Ways Your Local Library Can Help Your Writing Business – for Free!
1. Books with due dates.
All the books you keep buying and never read? Check them out instead. Due dates are great motivators. And it’ll save you loads of money.
What to look for:
Business books – Find books that cover taxes and bookkeeping, so you can keep track of your expenses like a pro. Books on budgeting, marketing, and putting together a business plan can be a big help, too.
Writing books – Check out books on grammar and style, copywriting, communication, and fiction writing. They can all help you sharpen your skills.
Motivation books – Whether it’s a book on habit building, getting rid of self-sabotaging mindsets, or maintaining focus, these books can have a far bigger impact on your success than you might expect.
Beyond the stack of library books you keep within easy reach on your nightstand, many libraries also let you check out audiobooks – often through an app like Overdrive or hoopla.
With my library, I downloaded the app, connected with my library card number, and now I can search for and check out audiobooks instantly. It’s faster than buying an audiobook on Amazon and a lot cheaper than a subscription to Audible.com.
As someone who commutes two hours a day to and from daycare… audiobooks have been a life- and career-saver.
If you need to do research on a topic for a copy project, and you’re tired of Google rabbit holes, many libraries allow you to book one-on-one time with a librarian who can help you find what you need.
In the case of my library, you can also book time with a librarian to help train you on any library services – including those that can help with growing your business.
4. Access to free learning programs.
A library card number could be your pass to countless courses in business, marketing, writing, and more. My library partners with LinkedIn Learning. That means any class I want to take through that platform is free. I can even tell the platform which skills I’d like to develop, and it’ll suggest classes.
Learn to write a marketing plan… promote a podcast… or market on Facebook, as a few examples. All of which you could use to build your own business, or to help your clients with theirs.
5. Free, in-person consulting and programs.
Check the calendar on your library’s website to see if they have free, in-person mentoring, business classes, or “labs.”
For example, my library offers a “Resume and Job Open Lab,” where you can bring your laptop and get resume advice from an expert.
They also offer live, one-on-one, small-business counseling multiple times a month, and a dedicated “writers writing” time, where you can show up and just write among other writers.
6. A quiet place to write.
Working from home is a luxury. But sometimes you need a change of scene… proof that other humans do exist… or simply to escape the sounds of your children fighting just outside the office door.
Coworking spaces are hardly worth it these days. You’ll pay at least $150 a month for a chance to sit at a desk in an open, common space. And closer to $500 a month for a dedicated desk.
Sure, some of them are beautifully designed and come with free coffee.
But you can park your computer at a “flex space” type desk at the library for free.
Bonus: The old book smell! You just can’t get that anywhere else.
Check out your local library’s website, or drop by and chat with a librarian, to see if they offer anything else that could help you with your business.
For example, 13 libraries across the U.S. recently participated in a program called, “Libraries Build Business.”
A program supported by Google, it focuses on building small businesses in underserved populations and offers free classes and workshops on entrepreneurship, mentoring, tech support, and more.
Of course, every library is different.
Yours might not have the option to book a librarian or access free learning programs and audiobooks. But it might give you access to business directories or other handy business resources. You don’t know until you ask!
And one thing is always the same. There are always loads of free books, and with them, that captivating aroma.
As for me, I’m a lot happier these days. In fact, I’m twice as happy as a freelancer than I ever was as a full-time employee.
It just took some time to settle into a rhythm.
I love the freedom to come and go as I please, on my own time, without anyone “checking in” on me.
And the downtown library is my favorite place to sit and focus for a few hours at a time.