Posts Tagged ‘freelance’

A Day in the Life of a Freelance Editor

I sometimes get questions in my email from other people wanting to get into freelance editing, and so I thought it might be beneficial to share my general day with the Internet at large so people can get an idea how this works.

I do want to emphasize that this is me, personally, and that there are plenty of other good freelance editors out there who probably structure their day completely differently. Also probably plenty of bad freelance editors, which is why you should ask for an editing sample before you hire someone.

I also want to preface this with the disclaimer that I work part-time because I am first and foremost a stay-at-home parent with two pre-school children. On a good day, I can get up to six hours of working time in; on a bad, I may only get an hour, or even nothing.

I have three jobs I do (not counting working on novels/short stories):

  1. Freelance Editor (website here) — I specialize in novels and short stories, but also get a lot of college papers and technical documents because of my background in engineering.
  2. Contract Editor — I’ve worked for a company for almost five years now, where I currently edit college-level lessons before they go live on the website.
  3. Grant Writer — In February I was hired by a local performing arts school to write grants for them. We’ve won two of the grants we submitted for already, so not bad for taking over a job I had absolutely no previous experience with.

General Daily Schedule:

6-6:30: Get up. This varies based on when I went to bed. If I’m going to go to the gym first, I get up at 5:45. It’s completely random as to whether or not I will get dressed or just shuffle downstairs to work.

6:45-8:00: Working time. This is my most reliable section because my charges are still asleep. Usually. Hopefully. Unfortunately, it also tends to be my most unfocused. I normally get started fine, but then get distracted with administrative stuff, such as checking on blog tours, marketing stats, and reading emails.

8:00-10:30: Very little, if any work, gets done in this time frame, so I tend to spend this time with the kids and on things like laundry, dishes, yardwork, etc. Sometimes they’re distracted and then I can sneak some stuff in.

10:30-12:30: The smaller one usually naps at this point, and the bigger one is in school on some days, so this is another, and probably my most productive, working time. If I’m working two jobs at once (which is fairly common; at the moment I’m doing my contract editing and editing the second book in a series for a client) I tend to do one job in the first thing in the morning slot and then switch to the other for this slot so forward progress is being made on both. If one has a tighter time frame, however, I will work that one in both slots.

12:30-3:30: House stuff again. The kids and I normally play a game or do a craft. We also run errands at this point. Often to the library. We apparently have 26 books checked out of the moment.

3:30-5: This is a potential working period. It depends on when the littler one took her nap and if she needs another one (she might go down earlier or later, depending, but sometimes not at all), and if I can distract the older one without just plopping him in front of the TV. Sometimes I can enforce quiet time with him (he should nap, but won’t) which is lovely. But rare.

5-8: Dinner and family time, usually.

8-10: Wildly variable. Sometimes I can swing this for working, but a lot of times I’m just too tired. If I do get working time in this period, I tend to prefer to work on my fiction projects instead of paying ones. It tends to depend on deadlines, but I try to work far ahead so I’m not stressed.

I also get a lot of questions about pay rates, and to that I say: make sure you’re asking enough to justify your time. A lot of starting freelance editors ask for or will take basically nothing in an attempt to garner business, and you’re not really doing yourself any favors. I’ve found that clients who insist on cheaper rates are ones you really don’t want–they’re abrasive and rude, and don’t respect you as a person or a professional. Counter-intuitively, potential clients may also pass you up if you’re too cheap because they think you’re not good or not experienced, and that’s why you’re not charging more.

I have a flat rate for developmental/concept editing, and I charge a sliding scale for proofreading/line editing, depending on the state of the manuscript. Some people have a pretty clean document with only a few stray punctuation marks or typos throughout. Other people still put a carriage return at the end of every single line like a typewriter and write purely in run-on sentences.

So, there you go! Let me know if you have any other questions.

Siri’s and my longer blog tour for City of Hope and Ruin starts today! Our first stop is an interview with me, which can be found here. We’re giving away another $50 Amazon giftcard during this one.

The Pros of a Day Job

When I tell people what I do, they say, “Oh, that must be nice, doing what you love for a living!” Well, Squiders, now that I’ve worked both sides of the line, I’m here to tell you why you shouldn’t be quitting your day jobs anytime soon.

(I will preface that if you can make enough money from selling your fiction to do that full-time, more power to you. This post is not for you, you lucky bastards.)

“But, Kit,” you say, “you get to write and edit all the time. That must be awesome!”

Here was my day, Squiders. I wrote a 1000+ word article which required about three hours of research. I proofed and content edited about 30 pages of a novel. I proofed and formatted about 20 pages of a formal report. And then I got a headache from staring at the computer too much.

The problem with doing writing and editing as a job is, well, it becomes a job. I spend all my time chasing down rogue commas, and, when I finally–if I finally–get time to work on my own projects, I’m already worn out from editing and writing and I’d rather do almost anything else.

Your day job may not be your passion, but here’s some things you get out of having one:

  • You can focus on something else for awhile. Your subconscious mind will work through plot issues and craft prose for you while you work, and when you get to writing, you’ll be ready to go.
  • You may not get to write as often as you like, but it’s almost always a pleasure when you do.
  • Steady income! Important for supplying yourself with chocolate and plot ninjas.
  • Your co-workers secretly think you’re cool.
  • On that note, you have co-workers (probably) and don’t have to have “water cooler” conversations with the dog.

Your brain likes to compartmentalize things. I’ve found that now, since I do all my freelance work on my desktop, it’s almost impossible to write fiction here. Believe me, your brain thanks you for letting it do other things every now and again.

Disagree, Squiders? Anyone else work in writing/editing and have any thoughts on the matter?

Tips for New Freelance Editors

I’ve been working as a freelance editor for almost two years now, and I found myself wandering to the coffee shop a few days ago, mulling over things I’ve learned and what I wish I’d known when I started. So I thought, hey, maybe other people’d like to know–I know how unhelpful a lot of the websites out there can be–and so this post now exists.

1) Ask for a sample before you give an estimate.
This I learned the hard way. I had someone come to me and offer less than I would normally take for a 150K word novel with the promise of more work in the future, and I mistakenly said yes because at the time I wasn’t getting a lot of novels and would have liked the repeat business. Because this was someone who’d written several books, I also gave them a short turnaround time because I assumed they understood basic grammar and punctuation. Oh my god, mistake. By taking a look at a few pages–and I recommend this for any project longer than about 25 pages–you will be able to see how much work needs to be done, thus being able to set an acceptable rate and time estimate for the project.

2) It’s okay to stay local.
95% of the freelance work I do is local. There’s tons of freelance job websites out there that either list jobs they found on places like craigslist or allow people to list jobs that they want people to bid on, such as at Elance. At the beginning, I tried all of them. But I’ve found it’s been much more beneficial to advertise locally. First of all, people prefer to work with someone close to them. They know that, if needed, we can meet in person or, if they need to reach me by phone, we’re probably on similar schedules. Plus it’s allowed me to significantly limit the amount of time I need to spend looking for new business on a weekly basis.

3) You can raise your prices as necessary.
When I first started, my rates were pretty cheap. Part of that was that I didn’t know what I should be charging (a lot of websites told me $30/hour, but I didn’t think anybody was going to go for that), and part of it was that after lurking about on websites, like the above-mentioned Elance, I didn’t think people were willing to pay for this sort of thing. (Now I know that the people on Elance are delusional.) You can see what you competitors are charging and adjust your rates from there. And, as you become busier and get more experience under your belt, you can raise your rates to reflect that.

4) Don’t take on more than you can handle.
Freelance work is very hit or miss. Some months it’s like the middle of the night, when even the crickets are silent. Some days you have five people email you for quotes, and then not a single one of them hires you. Sometimes, you suddenly have three big projects on your hands and you’ve got to juggle all of them. The temptation is there to take on any projects that come your way, just because you don’t know where the next one is coming from. But know your limits. Know how many hours you can put in in a day before your brain turns to mush. Know how many different storylines you can keep straight before you start confuse one story for another. Each project requires your full attention, and if you start getting sloppy because you’re trying to do too much, it’s going to be hard to get any jobs at all.

Well, I hope that helps someone out there. Now, back to work.

“A working writer can never have too many megabytes.”

So, I am taking a spin as a freelance writer/editor.  The editor part seems to be going fairly well – there appears to be no shortage of people who would like someone to check their commas, and I am an excellent comma checker.

(Plus I have acquired the latest AP Stylebook and the 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style, and it turns out I have a bizarre fetish for rules of grammar and punctuation.  Maybe my high school English teacher was right when she said I was throwing my life away by not getting an English degree.)

The freelance writing does not really go at all, though, and part of that is because I have no idea what I’m doing.  There’s article writing and blogging and SEO and copy writing and etc, etc, et al.  So I checked a few freelance writing books out of the library and am reading them.  The last one focused on writing magazine articles and I have determined that that is not what I want to do, so that was at least somewhat useful.

I’m currently reading Secrets of a Freelance Writer: How to Make $85,000 a Year by Robert W. Bly.  The latest version came out in 2006, but the library didn’t have that version so I am stuck with the 1997 version.

There is some very good information in it, but I keep getting distracted by the things that are out of date.  Which is a lot.  He recommends leasing a computer, getting a tape back-up, and using CompuServe and America On-Line (and has notes on where to write to get a free CD-ROM of either).

Despite living through the internet in the late nineties, I sometimes forget how much things have changed since then.  He notes you can get up to 28.8 kbps for your modem, and hey, his new computer has a whole gig of memory.  Website is always Web site and online is on-line and there’s nary a mention of blogging or anything like it to be seen.

I’m kind of in love with this.  It’s such a blast from the past.  Probably not the best for research, but I imagine many things have stayed the same since the internet revolution and I will get something out of it.

Any Squiders out there do any freelance work?  Any tips for someone starting out, unsure what they want their focus to be?