Last time on Freelancing: An Editor's Journey
Our Fantasy Editor at Large had unceremoniously left management at her retail job, dropping down to a much less demanding, part-time job as a lowly tagger. With a much better schedule, weekdays with no nights, she was enjoying spending time with her partner in crime, Mark, and had re-joined the choir at church.
However, editing jobs weren’t coming in as quickly as she’d hoped, and her proposals on Upwork seemed to fall on deaf ears (or eyes, as the case may be). She began to worry that her switch to part time at her day job had doomed her to a lifetime of pitiful income, with no spare money to spend on the finer things in life (such as kickstarters for fancy dice and roleplaying accoutrements)…
Freelancing: An Editor’s Journey (Part III)
Hello, my friends! So much has happened in the past couple months, it’s unreal. You know how I was worried about not getting enough editing work? Yeah, well, that doesn’t seem to be a huge problem anymore, and it may be even less of a problem soon. I also have a new spreadsheet to share!
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Switch to Part Time
At my full-time job in retail management, I was stressed beyond belief. I was working nine hours a day, five days a week–at least three of which were 10:00-7:30, which meant I got home around 8:00pm. Mark would have a bath and a glass of wine waiting for me because he’s awesome, so I would soak for a while, then we’d eat, maybe watch an episode of something if I wasn’t too exhausted, then go to bed. I did have Sundays off, and every other Saturday, but we really didn’t have much time to spend together and it was almost impossible to find time to spend with family. Even though I had PTO saved up, any time I requested time off I was made to feel guilty or straight-up denied.
Basically, it sucked.
Since I was making some decent money editing, Mark and I decided–with the help of the awesome spreadsheets he made, which you can find in Part I–that we could afford for me to work less. After some negotiation with my boss’s boss (which you can read about in Part II) I accepted a part-time position at a different store, roughly equidistant from home, tagging clothes.
It has worked out beautifully. I am no longer in charge of anyone but myself, and rarely have to interact with customers. Now, don’t get me wrong; the customers weren’t even close to the most stressful thing about management, but it’s nice not to feel pressured to get pretty for work (I’m dealing with some pretty bad acne issues that I want cleared up before the wedding), or even have to pretend I’m in a good mood if I’m not.
I am good at my job and regularly get the weekly bonus for exceeding my quota. The week after I got there, I was given a raise–which I thought was funny, since I had to pull out the snark to get the hourly rate I started with. The work has also been much easier on my shoulder; I started taking a CBD tonic at my orthopedist’s recommendation, as well as a turmeric supplement, and the pain has all but disappeared and my range of motion is back to normal (at least my normal).
The best part about it, though, has been the extra time. I work Monday through Friday, 8:30-2:30. My new boss has been very accommodating as well; Mark and I went to visit his family in Mississippi a couple weekends ago and she let me work an hour extra for four days so I could leave early Friday. Every day, I come home, do a couple hours of editing business (whether actual editing, networking, or other logistical aspects), and then have the whole evening with Mark! Well, except for Wednesdays–that’s for choir practice.
I’ve started singing with the choir at church again; my mother is the director, and her parents (my Nana and Papa) are in the choir as well, so that gives me the chance to spend time with them Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. Mark has even gone to church with me a few times, and says he plans to attend more often. 🙂
The Freelancing Side of Things
When I first went part time, I didn’t really have enough work. I mean, I couldn’t really have taken on work not knowing if I would have time to do it, and the switch happened pretty quickly so I didn’t have much time to plan. However, I did (and do) have a safety net with my emergency fund, so this was not an issue–at least not yet.
I have two anchor clients, one of which is Jesse Vail ( **EDIT**: Jesse is now on Twitter – @vailjt83 – and is working on a website!), that I’ve been working with for quite some time now, and they are both wonderful. Jesse is writing his debut fantasy novel; I’m working alongside him to develop The Rightbringer, which will be the first book in a trilogy. I read his first draft last year and fell in love with it, and he is now really diving in and I’m excited to be a part of the process.
While these clients provide me with relatively steady work, their projects alone are not enough to keep me busy and fill in the monetary gap my switch to part time has created; I had known this when I stepped down, and knew I’d need to find more work. I’d gotten a few nibbles, both on my website and social media, but nothing new had come of those yet. Speaking of social media…
Tweeting Tweety Tweets
Twitter has become an integral part of my life. After a while, I stopped tweeting “ads” as such; I do share a blurb here and there, and my pinned tweet is often a plug with a link to my site, but mostly I just tweet about my life, and sometimes tips or questions I have about writing–or rants about certain words I don’t like (don’t get me started on disorientate!) I take the time to browse and comment on other people’s tweets, often scrolling through the replies on interesting posts and initiating conversations with other users.
As I type this, I have 3,345 followers–not a HUGE number, but when you stop to think that I haven’t even been at it a year, it’s not too shabby–and this is all from engagement. You can’t just log on, tweet an ad and expect to gain followers. You have to spend time actually getting to know people and having meaningful exchanges.
Now, I know we don’t all have a whole lot of time to waste online, but you have to stop thinking of it as wasting time and start looking at it as an investment. Networking is work, y’all! As with anything, it takes time to build a network, but this network is what is going to get you jobs.
I do share my blog, especially on #writerslift posts, which I guess is kind of advertising, but a lot of the lifts have the #ShamelessSelfPromo tag, so that’s basically what they’re there for. I honestly truly do want to help people, too, though; that’s what this whole series is about!
FYI, I wrote a blog post about an aspect of writing that may be of interest to some, entitled Racial Identities In Literature: To Capitalize Or Not?
I do have a Facebook page and LinkedIn Profile, but I don’t take advantage of these like I should. Of course, as Melanie Padgett Powers (@MelEdits) says in her podcast The Deliberate Freelancer, which I started listening to recently, it’s best to find where your client base is and concentrate your attention there. Facebook, Melanie says, has become kind of “pay to play,” so you can’t really reach a lot of people there unless you spend money. Twitter and LinkedIn are the two places that freelancers like me, who deal with the written word, are most likely to find clients, so I’ll keep tweeting away and resolve to strengthen my presence on LinkedIn.
Social media had gotten me jobs before, so I turned to my network in search of projects…
Doing the Hustle
Shortly after I published the last installment, I contacted the folks at Book Puma on Twitter (@BookPuma). Book Puma is an editing service working in conjunction with Blue Handle Publishing. I had spoken with them before, but couldn’t really take on more work at that time. I let them know that I now had more availability and was interested in doing some work for them. They told me that they were doing a live stream and suggested I hop on so that we could talk more and get to know each other.
As an introvert, and since I didn’t have any makeup on, I was a bit hesitant, but thought, “what the heck” and joined the Zoom chat.
I ended up having an awesome conversation with the founder, Charles D’Amico (@Charles3Hats) and Ricky Treon (@RickyTreonBHP) and I came away from the meeting with great enthusiasm and a promise that I’d be getting an email soon. I did a sample edit for them (for which I was paid well) and was hired on part time (which means taxes are already taken out of my earnings, which is cool) as a staff editor. We’ve also talked about me teaching a class, but I have never done anything like that before and can’t seem to settle on a topic. Maybe soon.
Book Puma is relatively new, and I am not their only editor (of course), so the work isn’t exactly steady, but it has helped bridge the void a bit, for which I am grateful.
Filling in the Gaps
I had been submitting proposals on Upwork pretty regularly, and had not gotten any replies, not even to the jobs I had been invited to apply for. You have to expect this to happen sometimes–well, most of the time–but it was still demoralizing. I put a lot of thought into each proposal, tailoring them to each specific job–people can tell if you’re sending a generic cover letter and they won’t take a second glance.
Suddenly, I got a message! Even better, it was for a job that had the potential to turn into an ongoing gig! After a bit of back and forth (They wanted a bit more thorough look at my work, so I asked Jesse if I could share my edits on one of his chapters), I did a short sample edit for them and then eagerly waited to hear back.
It took about a week after they’d accepted my proposal until the first actual milestone was put in, but since then I’ve done several jobs for them. I don’t know exactly who they are, since it’s Upwork, but the work is on historical and Christian romance novels. I get the manuscript in four installments, send it back for revisions, then get the whole thing back and proofread it. All said, I make $415 per book ($332 after Upwork’s 20%), which isn’t great, but I need the work. It’s got a pretty quick turnaround; a 20k word section is due back in two days. It’s a little hard to plan for, but I think once I do a few more jobs for them and get a better idea of how often the work will be coming in I’ll be able to predict more accurately when to plan for work from them.
Tracking the Deets
At this point, Mark made me another spreadsheet. It lets me keep track of who’s paying me what, takes out estimated taxes from my freelance earnings, and adds everything together so I can see how much I’m making each week. It’s not perfect and I’ve been tweaking it as I go, but it’s been extremely helpful. It’s also kind of satisfying to type everything out and see it all in one place! Here’s what mine looks like:
I have a section in which I list each payment I receive, the date I received it, and the client I received it from. I then add these up weekly and put the total in the “Weekly Gross Editing” column, which then automatically calculates what I’ve earned after taxes, which Mark has defined as 35% of my income. (This is probably a little high, but it’s better to overestimate so you don’t end up owing money at tax time!)
I used this to pay my estimated quarterly taxes, which are due every three months, at the end of March. I think I did this right… @SpookyScaryCPA of Nat20 Tax Services helped me with the direct link and some helpful advice. The due dates for these payments for 2022 are as follows:
- First-quarter payments: April 18, 2022. (This date has already passed, of course.)
- Second-quarter payments: June 15, 2022.
- Third-quarter payments: Sept. 15, 2022.
- Fourth-quarter payments: Jan. 17, 2023.
As you can see, this can all seem a bit daunting, but does not have to be as complicated as it may feel at first. These kinds of things have often overwhelmed me in the past, causing me to freeze up and shut down, but this spreadsheet has made it so much easier! At this point, it has pretty much replaced the “Freelance Goals” spreadsheet for me, since I have reached at least the first of my goals. I still refer back to it periodically, but I don’t use it nearly as much as the new one.
Download it in Excel format. If you don’t have Excel, you can open it with Google Sheets, (which you can download here.) You won’t be able to edit it until after you download it. Mark has left detailed instructions for its use, but if you have any questions you can contact me or tweet @EditsByKnight.
Last weekend, Huntsville, Alabama hosted their Comic and Pop Culture Expo (@hsvexpo), which Mark and I have attended the past couple years. This year was no exception! We stopped by Friday to stake the place out, and I realized HOLY CRAP, THERE WERE TONS OF AUTHORS HERE LAST YEAR AND THEY’RE BACK. And then I realized that I didn’t have business cards. When we got home, Mark helped me furiously design and print out some makeshift cards, which I promptly forgot to put my name on.
They worked, though! I handed out cards, striking up conversations and tweeting selfies with those authors that were on Twitter. I really need to write this up as a separate post, so I’ll keep this brief and link that when I get it posted (though Lord knows how long that will take…) It was at once exhilarating and exhausting. Mark was grinning at me ear to ear; when I asked him what he was so tickled about, he told me he was proud of me, that he never got to see me do stuff like that and I was very professional and made it look easy.
Mark and me all nerded out for the expo
It was not, in fact, easy, but it was extremely rewarding. I finally got all my follow-up networking done Tuesday–well, not all of it. I still haven’t joined Instagram yet. Baby steps. I’d really like to find more in-person events to go to; building a network is important, and I met several people whom I’d love to have as colleagues–and friends.
The long and short of it is that things are going really well. I have several fairly steady gigs, and am being paid decently. I could definitely stand to have a bit more work, but I am enjoying the extra time afforded by my new schedule. My network is expanding and my attitude is optimistic!
I did just find out that my mother has leukemia, so if you’re the praying kind, please keep her in your prayers. It appears to be stable, which is a good sign, but anytime the big C comes up, it’s scary. Thanks to everyone on Twitter who has given me their support and prayers <3
Until next time, good luck in your personal freelancing endeavors! You can always find me on Twitter @EditsByKnight or contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Michaeli lives in Harvest, Alabama with her fiance, Mark. They have two cats, Henry and Louise, and live the quiet and satisfying lives of two nerdy introverts. In her spare time, Michaeli enjoys playing the piano, singing, playing JRPGs, Tabletop gaming, and (of course) reading.