Learn more about my journey as a freelance editor and visit my blog for freelancing tips and tricks!
Last time on Freelancing: An Editor's Journey
Our intrepid Editor had begun to freelance, starting out on sites like Upwork and Fiverr. After several successful gigs, she bravely joined Twitter and focused most of the little energy she had to spare on Networking. Things were going well, when suddenly–Burnout! Fatigue! Wailing and gnashing of teeth! Her full-time job in retail management had her wound as tight as a Baptist girl’s knickers on prom night!
She devised a plan with the help of her faithful fiancé and all-around awesome dude, Mark: At the start of the next year, she would step down from the lofty position of Assistant Manager to become a lowly member of the production team, giving her much needed time and a Monday-Friday daytime schedule.
Suddenly, her boss’s boss threw a wrench in her brave plan, insisting that she immediately choose to either become salaried, making more money but with a more demanding schedule, or be demoted to shift leader (with an accompanying pay cut and probably the same amount of work), dependent on whether she still planned to go part-time at the beginning of the year.
Fear! Shock! The clock was ticking and her generous attempts to give her employers time to train a replacement had backfired. She called her loyal sidekick and they agreed she would take the raise. They were saving up for their wedding and could really use the money.
She stopped applying for editing jobs and focused on the clients she had already accumulated. Working 45-50 hours a week, she struggled to find time to edit, sacrificing time with her loved ones in the process…
Freelancing: An Editor's Journey (Part II)
February 2022: Now that y’all are up to speed, I finally have an update.
I’ve had several conversations with my various bosses, and have been able to negotiate a return to a part-time position as a “clothing processor” (read: tagger) at another store, which is about the same distance from home. Several factors came into play with this transition:
My Wonky Shoulder
Seven years ago, I had surgery on my right shoulder. Years of tonic-clonic seizures had left it a ruin; a couple years after I started having the “big” seizures (I’ve had smaller ones since I was a kid), my shoulder started dislocating every time and the “ball” in the ball-and-socket joint had worn away, leaving about a third of it gone. (When the surgeon was explaining it to me, she described it as a “3-D PacMan.”) I could hardly even move my arm, which sucked really hard, especially since I’m right-handed. I couldn’t wash my hair by myself or even put it up. I needed help to get dressed. After the surgery, I was told I’d probably need a new shoulder in about a decade. (You can read more about this in My Life’s Story.)
Lately my shoulder has been giving me problems. The pain, while nowhere near as bad as before, has returned, and my range of motion has decreased significantly. I’ve been trying to do some of the exercises I did in physical therapy after the surgery, but I don’t remember many of them and don’t have all the necessary tools. (I have since seen an orthopedic doctor and he is optimistic that we can put off a replacement for a long time; I am going to do a short course of PT and look into a few other options to extend the life of my shoulder.)
My job is not easy on my shoulder. There’s a lot of heavy lifting and reaching. My regional manager (RM), who I’d been bothering about trying to get back down to 40 hours a week (the aforementioned demotion would be necessary, but something about working nine hours a day instead of eight makes it seem like I can’t do anything else on the days that I work), asked if going part-time would help, and I admitted that it probably would.
Negotiating the Position
When my RM first came to me, she offered me a part-time shift leader position at another store. There were a couple problems with this offer, given that the store is severely understaffed: first, the less help you have, the more stressful the job (I was looking for less stress, not more); second, I would probably be closing every night… meaning that, although I’d have more free time, I wouldn’t be able to use it to spend with family and friends. This position also involves working every Saturday, and as assistant manager I get every other Saturday off. Basically, even though I’d be working less, the hours would be even suckier than my current schedule.
This is not what I wanted. At all. I told her that one of the reasons I wanted to go part-time was so that I could spend more time with the people most important to me, and with that schedule I would have less time with them, not more. I wanted the production schedule: no nights, no weekends. She told me that was impossible, so I told her I’d think about it.
I wasn’t going to think about it. I already knew it wasn’t what I wanted. I felt insulted, like she hadn’t even listened to what I told her. I was, as the kids say, “in my feelings.” After some reflection, I realized that she was just doing her job; they needed help at the other store and she knew I was capable. I could fill a void that was causing the manager over there a whole lot of problems. However, in doing so, she had made me feel like she didn’t care about me, like I was just a “resource” rather than a person who had devoted four years to this company and always given my best.
I began to seriously consider turning in my notice. After all, I didn’t really need the job, and it was obvious that my wants and needs were, at best, a distant consideration. I had enough saved up to get me through about four months of no work. If I wasn’t making enough freelancing, I could always look for a job as an administrative assistant or something. Mark makes enough that we certainly wouldn’t drown, even if I wasn’t making any money; it would be rough and uncomfortable, but doable. We could scale down the wedding if we needed to.
A few days later she came to me with another offer, the one I ended up taking. At first she told me I’d be making the entry-level salary for the position, which was definitely insulting. I mean, I was a tagger for a year before I was promoted to management, and often tagged even after the promotion when we needed more clothes or were short-staffed. I was already trained, and had often gotten the bonus for exceeding the quota when I was a tagger before. I asked her, a bit snarkily, if taggers never got raises, and she hastily added a dollar to the hourly rate. I told her I would discuss it with Mark and get back to her.
Crunching the Numbers
This is when Mark and I went back to one of the spreadsheets he had created (which you can download on my previous post) and started to look at my finances. Thanks to the spreadsheet, it was easy to decipher how much I needed to pay the “essential” bills, and we figured out that if I accepted the new position I’d be making just enough to cover my base expenses (although Mark would have to buy all the groceries). Anything else would need to come out of my freelance earnings, which would hopefully be enough to maintain my current lifestyle. If not, it wouldn’t be the end of the world; I could always tighten my belt, and I had enough money to float me for a while as I looked for editing gigs.
After finding that the income would be sufficient to pay my basic bills, I accepted the offer and we worked out the rest of the details.
Mark and I had already learned that I could get on his insurance; we aren’t married yet, but are in a “domestic partnership” as defined by his company (a policy probably created to help same-sex couples, who have only recently been “allowed” to marry in Alabama). So that was taken care of.
Then, there was the issue of all the vacation I’d accumulated; part-time employees only get three days of vacation, no matter how long they’ve been working there. I had accrued over 80 hours of paid time off, and I didn’t know what would happen to it when I took a new position. When my RM finally came to me with the offer, she could not answer many of the questions I had; apparently no one has ever done this before!
After some back-and-forth with HR, I decided to take a week off (which I’m currently enjoying) and cash out the rest of my PTO. My RM wanted me to switch right away when she came to me with the offer, but there was no way I was going to take this vacation at the new rate of pay (about $4.00 less than my current rate). I’m not sure if she was trying to trick me or if she really hadn’t thought about it, but we worked it out so that I don’t officially start the new job until next week.
How will this affect my freelancing career?
Well, first of all, I’ll have about 20 more hours a week to work with, which is awesome. However, I’m going to try to use the evenings to spend time with Mark and my family, and I’d like to start singing with the choir at church again (rehearsals are on Wednesday nights). That leaves me the morning (or possibly afternoon; I’m not sure what my schedule will be yet) to edit. It’s plenty of time, but I have to actually have enough clients to use it, which brings me to…
I’ve been hitting Twitter pretty hard, advertising my services through a couple of tweets per day. I need to do some more research on how often to tweet these; I don’t want my followers to get turned off by constant advertising, but I need to get the word out. I have a little over 2,000 followers right now, most of them involved in the publishing business (#WritingCommunity is the tag to look for), and I do my best to interact with several posts a day to get to know them. I also follow the #writerslift posts and will often retweet and buy books that look interesting.
I plan to use a good bit of the extra time I will have developing my presence on other social media sites as well, such as LinkedIn and Facebook. I’ve been neglecting them lately; between work and Twitter I’ve had my hands full! I want to get as many clients as I can through these mediums rather than using Upwork and Fiverr; the 20% “service fee” on those sites takes a big chunk out of your earnings.
I have, however, also been looking for jobs on Upwork. It’s been a bit discouraging lately, though; despite having recently been awarded the “top rated” badge, I haven’t gotten any responses to my proposals, and I’m starting to worry that I won’t be able to find work. I’m trying not to dwell on it too much, though; as I said, I do have money saved up, and the new job will be covering my basic expenses. I’ve only been looking in the niche I am trying to carve for myself (fantasy, sci-fi, romance) but I may need to suck it up and just apply to edit some emails or cookbooks or whatever.
All of my clients have been wonderful, but there’s only so much anyone can write, and everyone is on a budget (totally relatable!) I edited a contemporary romance novel, Holding the Stars, by Heather Stephens at the end of last year, and Heather is going to come back when she finishes the next one. I’m doing some chapter-by-chapter developmental/line editing for a fantasy novel that I am absolutely in love with (at a discounted rate). There are also two projects that are on the back burner until the authors have the funds available.
Playing the Rating Game
That brings me to another issue: figuring out what rates to charge. I don’t want to undercharge, because the editing profession is a noble one (if I do say so myself) and I don’t want to contribute to bringing the market value down. At the same time, many writers simply do not have the funds available to pay thousands of dollars for editing, especially if they are wanting to publish traditionally (publishing companies provide editors to clean up your manuscript).
However, if your work is not at least somewhat polished, you may not get answers to your queries anyway, and if you’re self-publishing you definitely need to hire an editor. I’ve seen where some writers have said things like, “Well, if you can’t self edit, maybe you aren’t ready to publish!” I think that’s gatekeeping, pure and simple. I had Mark look over this post, and even though he has limited understanding of the written word (by his own admission), he found a couple things I had overlooked! No author can be expected to catch all the mistakes in their manuscript; they’re much too close to the material and their brains just fill in the gaps automatically.
Anyway, that’s a whole nother issue, and this post is already pretty long.
The Hard Truth
Despite having received rave reviews from all my clients, the jobs don’t seem to be coming in like they were before. Mark pointed out that many people are still recovering financially from the holidays (as I write this, it’s February), so that might have something to do with it. Ultimately, though, it all comes down to visibility. If enough people see my website, whether from links on social media or through recommendations from colleagues/friends/family, if enough people find my profiles on Upwork and Fiverr, surely a few of them will contact me! I have to have faith and persevere.
All I can do is keep plugging away, always searching for the next perfect project.
Be sure to read the next installment of my journey to find out what happened after I went part time and for a brand new spreadsheet, and visit my blog home page for more freelancing tips and articles about writing style and editing!
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.