Despite starting from scratch, I hustled and grew my freelance editing, proofreading and copywriting business from infant to at least pre-teen in over a year. I’ve learned more about what I want to do and how I want to spend my time and effort than at any other time in my life.
How has your life changed since deciding to become a freelance editor, or are you still wondering what freelancing is like? This blog post discusses the lessons I’ve learned that changed me in the past year. I hope you will learn some things from my story that will enlighten you and help you grow your business.
Number one, I’m more focused on the end goal.
First, proofreading, copywriting and editing require a significant amount of focus time. To become a freelance editor, get comfortable sitting and concentrating. The job requires concentrating closely on each job for long periods. I compare it to working on a “What’s Hidden” game from a Highlights magazine for hours at a time.
So, this is not the type of focus I’m explaining. When I discuss focus regarding my business, I mean focusing on work and clients that bring value to my life and move my business forward. This focus was necessary for me to not stress about work and remember why I chose to spend long hours doing what I do.
In the beginning, I would take any job that came my way. But after a year, I realized understanding the hours required, type of work and good client partnerships are critical for me to enjoy what I do and stick with my business.
I’m getting closer to realizing my purpose with work. To better understand my purpose, I analyzed my past year and came up with two lesson buckets: 1) The challenges I’ve gotten better at and 2) the ones I’m trying to get better at.
The challenges I’ve gotten better at:
If you want to become a freelance editor, you must learn how to balance work and life. Proofreading and editing is usually the last step for authors and businesses before they publish their work. Unfortunately, most of my clients’ work comes in late Friday and requires some weekend work. This inconvenience grows because over half of my work is international, so projects can come in around the middle of the night.
Additionally, I never gave up my full-time job as a mom. This means I have a good chunk of my day devoted to going back and forth to school and activities, tackling household duties (LOTS of laundry) and many other tasks.
The breaking point was when I saw or spoke on the phone with my husband, he would immediately and apologetically say, “I know you are really busy,” or, “I know you’re working, but can I ask you something?” I got sick of the conditions he had to speak in before I would look up from my computer and stop typing. He’s my best friend, the one I want to spend time with, not the periods and commas I was correcting.
So how did I get over this? One, I realized I am an adult with free choices, and two, I don’t need to work on anything that doesn’t serve me.
Assess the work first
I’ve also learned the power of understanding the time and effort commitment before I take a job. I now ask more qualifying questions before committing and read through most (not the first page) of the work, to understand the actual work required.
Unfortunately, twenty percent of people asking for my help think their work doesn’t need much and will tell you it’s an easy job. First, if they tell you the job won’t require much effort, run away! This deceiving statement signifies that the person thinks your work is easy and doesn’t need your value, education and experience. Second, I usually can find multiple ways to improve writing even if the person writes well.
When I started my business, I was grateful for any paid job. But now, I know the cheapest clients can be just as big of a drain as the ones who pay the most and rightfully expect more. The difference is that the clients who pay less and require more start sowing little resentment seeds. These seeds will eventually grow into a huge, annoying garden full of weeds in your heart.
On the other side, one of my highest-paying clients from the past year also grew resentment. I could justify working with a nightmare client for a little while because of the money. But eventually, I hit a breaking point. Losing that client was the best relief.
I also found ways to get paid decently with great clients that may not be able to afford your work. I don’t mean discounts if you want to become a freelance editor. Offering discounts will grow resentment. Instead, offering payment plans and paying what you can are great ways to get paid and keep great clients.
How to price
So how do you choose the correct pricing? First, I tracked the hours required, the type of job and the word count. Often, the jobs with tight word counts require more work than larger projects. As Woody Guthrie once said, “Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple.”
I also recorded if the client asked for revisions and how much time I spent on those. Finally, I flagged any client that asked for more than the original cost, so I wouldn’t take on those clients again. So, after a year, I was confident I could raise my prices based on my experience, education and value. Then, I could tailor a project cost based on the work required. So, my projects don’t have consistent pricing but are more accurate based on the assignment that needs editing, copywriting or proofreading.
The challenges I am getting better at:
I’m an extrovert, but I wasn’t trained in networking online. Learning to interact with people virtually and gauging pushy versus outgoing is also challenging.
I’m still lurking in Facebook groups and Association online forums and find leaving original and helpful comments difficult.
Justifying spending time on social media versus my paid work commitments also interferes with engaging online. Initially, scrolling through my social groups seemed inappropriate and useless because our culture tells people to stop spending so much time online. But after reading a few books and listening to professional podcasts, I’m now more inclined to accept the invitation and come to the social media table.
Social media hang up
I’ve started questioning the popular belief of “get off social media and see what the real world is about.” Yes, you can miss a lot of fun people-watching when you’re looking at your phone while shopping at Wal-Mart. But I now believe there is a time and place for social media, especially when it is networking to grow your business and your work bubble.
If I work it into my schedule, I can easily see that interacting on social media can build a network of editors and copywriters I can learn from. I might be able to start making “work friends” and trustworthy colleagues.
Social media means getting more jobs. An online presence is especially valuable for non-local potential clients to get to know, like and trust your work. But for me, social media is more beneficial for growing my industry knowledge, keeping up with the latest information and building a solid network with those I relate to.
Trusting your worth
Too much imposter syndrome will paralyze you, but too much ego will lose you business.
Copyeditors and proofreaders are well aware that we can come across as knowing more than others do, so I often find other editors acting overtly helpful and peaceful. Of course, we don’t want to act like we know everything and make you feel bad about your work, but the number of corrections and marks we make on a paper can make someone feel just plain awful.
On the other hand, we don’t know everything, and if we don’t know something, we go above and beyond to research the heck out of details that probably won’t matter to most. Because we’re not all-knowing, editors often fall prey to imposter syndrome, where we feel we were hired to do a job but don’t have the confidence to do it.
Sometimes I take on a job that I know nothing about. In these cases, I think there is no way I can find anything to correct it or ways to improve the writing. But after a year in business, I realized once again that I’m an adult with plenty of experience and education, and I can add value to the work I’m paid to do.
I created a special folder for me called “Job Well Done.” This file includes samples of work I’ve done that I didn’t think I could do and possibly a testimonial from the happy client. This is how I overcome imposter syndrome.
Unfortunately, I’ve also learned the hard way that not every editor is a good fit for every job. There are plenty of jobs I was in the running for but didn’t get because I thought there wasn’t anyone more qualified for that specific job than me, and I didn’t prepare or think about it enough before interviewing. So how do I overcome this? By preparing, researching and asking questions. I also remember that if one door closes, another one opens, and I learn something from every rejection.
My advice to future freelancers
Playing reverse on the past year, I would do it all over again without hesitation. I love what I do, and I’ve learned so much, so why quit now?
If you are considering becoming a freelancer, I suggest answering the following non-economic questions before starting your business:
- Do you feel like there is never enough time in your day to devote to your business ideas?
- Can you devote one hundred percent of your energy on your first day as a freelancer as the first day of the following year you are a freelancer?
- Do you have an insatiable desire to continue to learn?
If you answered yes to the above questions, you are on the right road to becoming a freelancer. Launching and sustaining your freelance business will require you to have as much desire to do the job on day one as the first day of the following year you are in business.
What it takes to be a freelancer
If you have an overwhelming passion for a particular trade, that passion will motivate you to commit to your business. Passion is also inspiring and infectious. Surrounding yourself with people that are passionate about what they do is exciting and motivating.
But passion can be too much of a good thing, even though you will need it to keep your business going. Even though I love what I do, several times, I have questioned the time and energy I spend at work. There were also way more times I justified the time I spent on work instead of my personal life.
So, my advice is to visualize yourself deep-seated in the daily activities of freelancing. Then, imagine yourself again in one year, still marketing your business and doing the work as aggressively as you did when you started.
If you realize freelancing is for you, go ahead and jump in. But I encourage you to assess your personal life (and, of course, your finances) after one year to see what you’ve learned. Even if it means moving away from freelancing, at least you tried the adventure.
If you have freelancer advice, please leave your comments on this blog post. As I mentioned previously, I’m open to learning and networking with other professional freelancers, so you can also reach out to me at: https://rivetservice.com/contact-rivet-service/ to start a conversation.