Freelance diary, week 5

Posted on 2 August 2020 in:

The future

I wrapped this post up on August 2nd. In less than 30 days, I’ll be moving across the country to Krefeld. I got a job as a teacher in the design program there, which I still can’t believe. I guess it will all settle in eventually! The school is called the Hochschule Niederrhein. My parents always want to know what my job titles are, so this one will be Lehrkraft für besondere Aufgaben (quite a mouthful). I’ll be teaching Typography and DTP classes, and I’m sure I’ll write more about that in the future.

The past

It will be no surprise to read that freelance work all too easily creeps out of boundaries you try and set for it. Indeed, the same may be said for all sorts of work. Over the past month, I have tackled work-related tasks over the weekends, too. So this week’s post is a little more honest and runs from Sunday through Saturday instead of Monday through Friday.

As I suggested last week, this will be the second-to-last post in my weekly recap series. A month ago, I thought that these posts might come to include summaries of how I tried (and surely sometimes failed) to generate new client work. I also thought that I might devote more space discussing the back-and-forth of work in general, writing about what happens when a client isn’t satisfied with an initial delivery, etc. Since I’ll soon be transitioning back into full-time work, I stopped trying to drum up more freelance work than I already have. Capacity-wise, I’m full. I am grateful that this is the case, as I was rather afraid that the situation would be otherwise.

Project updates

  1. Few-weeks-long research project: Delivered on Thursday, invoiced on Friday. This is now complete.
  2. Long-term research project: Since I had a lot to juggle this week, I was only able to work on-site for this project one day this week, although I did undertake other tasks at home.
  3. Potential second long-term research project: I had one meeting to talk with potential collaborators about the project this week.
  4. Letter&Co. “field trip”: A video lecture of me talking about old type specimens was recorded inside my very own library! This was so much fun. I hope you all get to see it later.
  5. Overdue marketing text for a website: No progress.
  6. Typeface description for a client: Delivered my first draft of this description on Saturday.
  7. Work I provide to others at no cost: One could take issue with my methods, but I’m counting exactly zero hours of my having done this kind of work over the past week.
  8. Change health insurance payment details: Still waiting to hear back about how much I’ll have to pay for July and August.

What did I do this week?


  1. For most of today, I was at home with my daughter and our dog. The rest of my family had left for the Rhineland. They had some apartment-viewing appointments in Krefeld on Monday and Tuesday.
  2. I spent several hours compiling a list of post-WWI foundry-type specimens that the H. Berthold typefoundry and brass-rule manufacturing company printed to advertise their products. I compared the online catalogues of several libraries with each other, and with my notes about specimens in various Berlin collections. I’m trying to reconstruct as complete a list of these specimens (which are almost all numbered!) as possible. If you collect any Berthold foundry-type specimens, please have a look at my in-progress list and let me know if you have the names of titles to match any of the numbers that have blanks next to them.


  1. Today, I was at home with Klara and Laika all day.
  2. I finally got cracking on the “typeface description for a client” that I had had on deck for awhile.
  3. I gave myself exactly three hours to scan in more specimens to submit later in the week as part of my “few-weeks-long research project.”
  4. I also mailed my signed work contract back to the Hochschule Niederrhein.
  5. This week, the crew from Letter&Co. came over to my apartment to film an online lecture that I gave inside my office/library room. Although the filming happened on Wednesday, I selected type specimens and other historical items from my shelves to show during the filming today.


  1. I was still at home with Klara today, but Laika was picked-up by one of her old dog walkers, who we lined up to take care of her for a few days.
  2. Meanwhile, in Krefeld, Bonnie and Otto found an apartment for all of us 👍
  3. Today, I started building the InDesign files that were part of the report I would submit later in the week for my “few-weeks-long research project.”
  4. More work on the “typeface description for a client.” I find describing new typefaces much more difficult than ones that have existed for a long time.
  5. Since a film crew was going to come to my apartment the next morning, I spent a few hours cleaning, dusting, and thoroughly vacuuming my office. I have a dog, and the floors in my office room are mostly carpeted.


  1. Today my children’s day-care center in Berlin reopened for the late-summer/fall! Bonnie and Otto were still in Krefeld, but I took Klara in early this morning.
  2. Here and there throughout the day, I worked on the “typeface description for a client.” I moved from typing words on-screen to writing words on paper with a pen.
  3. After coming back home, the Letter&Co. film crew came over to record my online lecture.
  4. Once the filming session ended, I went into the Kunstbibliothek to view ten more nineteenth-century type specimens from Belgium, France, Germany and the United States. I was having a last-minute look for the “few-weeks-long research project” that I had to deliver on Thursday.


  1. After dropping both of my children off at their day-care center in the morning, I took a train to Leipzig.
  2. For my first stop in Leipzig, I spent an hour and a half in the Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum at the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek making some last checks for information in nineteenth-century specimens from Britain, France and the United States. This was for my “few-weeks-long research project.”
  3. Then I had a meeting with two designers to talk about my “potential second long-term research project.”
  4. On my way home in the train (which had a 65-minute delay), I wrapped up my “few-weeks-long research project” and submitted the files to the client by e-mail.
  5. Meanwhile, a bookseller who was going to participate in an auction selling some items made by Jean Midolle contacted me and we had a back-and-forth over WhatsApp. I prefer Apple Messages to WhatsApp, folks.


  1. I devoted today to my “long-term research project,” working on it on-site.
  2. In the evening, I sent the invoice for my “few-weeks-long research project.”


  1. Finalized the first draft of my “typeface description for a client” and e-mailed it off!
  2. Wrote and sent my invoice for the online lecture filmed on Wednesday.
  3. Shared my in-progress list of numbered Berthold specimens with Ferdinand, who recommended adding columns in with notes about source attribution.
  4. In the evening, I got to spend about an hour and a half looking through some early-twentieth-century German type specimens at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. I am going to miss this collection so, so much. I also found the address that the Otto Kaestner GmbH had in Krefeld. Or at least, I found the address they did business between about 1909 and 1931: Oelschlägerstraße 67.

What’s planned for next week?

  1. I have to edit the text of a scholarly article that I submitted at the end of May before the journal’s editor will send it off for peer review. This has to be finished by Tuesday.
  2. I’ll spend four days (Tuesday through Friday) on-site working on my “long-term research project.”
  3. There’s also going to be a meeting with a client that I wrote a text for back in June. That will be part of a book on a particular designer. We’re going to discuss other aspects of the book, although I’m not sure yet if this will lead to me having more direct involvement with the book or not.

Any thoughts or insights to share?

Gauging the right amount of results to submit to someone who hires you to research a specific historical topic is difficult. How much stuff should be expected from the time quoted? I had a reasonable idea when I thought the proposal up, so this is more of a broader-based question. Sometimes, when you set out to research something, you might find very little, in terms of tangible results. Sometimes you might find indications that there are relevant source materials in a faraway place that you could not feasibly travel to within the scope of a given assignment. I bet proper historians think and talk about these questions all the time! Especially if they work outside of academia.

Footer of Shame

That overdue marketing text that I should have delivered back in May is still overdue, and I did not touch it this week at all.