KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Monday, June 02, 2014

Dear Newly Self-Employed Editors . . .

A few newly self-employed editors and soon-to-be self-employed editors kept me awake the other night.

No, they weren't partying noisily in my living room. They were in my head, asking for reassurance that self-employment won’t leave them broke and regretting that they left the safety of a weekly paycheck and workdays laid out for them by a supervisor. Those editors in my head told me that all the good things I’m always saying online about being self-employed helped convince them that they too can succeed at self-employment. To get them to leave my head, I had to write this post. I had to make sure that they’re developing a realistic view of freelancing.

Even after nearly 20 years of running my own editing business, I haven't burned out. In fact, some might say that I sound like a cheerleader for self-employment:

I started my own business in 1995. Coincidentally, I haven't hated work since December 1994.
~ * ~
My international authors rock! One of my longtime authors from Japan was having trouble finding the right words in English to explain to me the concept he was trying to express in his manuscript. I don't speak or read Japanese, so we couldn't use that route. So I guessed, he guessed, and we still weren't where he wanted to be. Teacher that he is—in addition to being a surgeon and an author—he drew me a picture and sent it to me. Ta-da! I saw exactly what he meant, I emailed him to confirm, and we're done with another manuscript!
~ * ~
Starting the day with two happy authors and a new author by way of referral. Who needs caffeine?

And self-employment usually is joyful for me. The happiness I express here and on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and email lists isn't faked or inflated.

But I want newbies to know that I have hard days too—and that I love freelancing despite those days. At different points since I started my business in 1995, I have

  • Wondered whether insanity was what led me to believe that I could run a business while parenting children
  • Tried multiple times to put a baby down in a crib for a nap so that I could edit with both hands, only to hear indignant shrieks when the baby realized I wasn't still holding him
  • Edited while wearing pajamas, sipping chicken soup, and dabbing at my nose because an upper respiratory infection had me feeling miserable and a looming deadline left no time for me to crawl back into bed
  • Taken multiple breaks from editing to make sure that a distracted child was still on task at homework time
  • Asked my spouse, who is also self-employed, to stop talking about his own workday long enough for me to finish editing a problematic sentence that I have just reread five times and still don't comprehend
  • Had a day from hell when the manuscript I was working on was in horrid shape but the client's budget didn't allow for extensive editing, and the client had the interpersonal skills of a rhino . . . and my preschooler started and stopped 12 different craft projects and then had a screaming fit because most of them weren't turning out how he had planned
  • Panicked when I realized that as soon as I finished the project I was working on, I wouldn't have a new project to start on right away
  • Wondered how I was going to be able to make the month's mortgage payment anywhere near on time, because three clients hadn't paid me when they were supposed to
  • Lost a major client because the client and I were no longer a good fit
  • Fired a major client because the project manager treated me—and all other freelancers—shabbily
  • Made a mistake in the way I scheduled multiple projects that angered several clients, so I panicked about how I was going to get everything done and appease everyone
  • Worked a 15-hour day to meet a deadline and had no time to relax with family members
I have improved my self-care, time-management, budget-management, client-management, and marketing skills tremendously over the years—and my children are a lot older and more self-sufficient now—so bad days happen a lot less often than they once did. But there are still tough times, and I have to cope with them. How?

  • When I have to concentrate no matter what difficulties are going on at home or in the work sphere, I mentally compartmentalize. Get busy working, and your brain’s worry subroutines will run slower or even shut off for a while. But curl up in a ball on the couch and watch cartoons all day, or mope around and worry all day, and your problems will just keep piling up. Plus, you might miss a project deadline and thus lose a client.
  • I give myself little bits of time for fun and relaxation throughout the day, whether that is talking with a friend or family member, going outdoors and enjoying birdsong and flowers, looking at online photos of cute animals, reading a novel, or taking a short nap.
  • Every time I put together a project schedule, I add extra time to it because I know my initial schedule will be too optimistic, which will make life tough for me and tick off clients.
  • Every single weekday, and sometimes even on weekends, I spend time marketing. That means keeping my name in the minds of people who can supply me with work: clients, potential clients, and colleagues. For me, what works is spending some time on profession-related email lists and blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook, and on LinkedIn, and staying in contact with existing clients by email. Because I do all of that consistently, it has been many years since I've had gaps in my work schedule, which means that income flow is much steadier now than when I first started freelancing. Even when I have more than enough work and am on deadline, I still do some marketing every weekday.
  • Some colleagues might believe that I only chirp happily about self-employment. They would be wrong. I vent privately to a few friends, to mentors, and to family members.
  • I focus on the good parts of self-employment. When I celebrate the happy-making stuff, I feel empowered and even get into the magical editing zone. And potential clients find my enthusiasm catching. But when I go over and over the occasional upsetting stuff, I feel robbed of my power and skills and start making more mistakes in my work. Potential clients are turned off by negativity, and colleagues aren't inclined to give referrals to a freelancer who constantly complains.
So yes, starting self-employment is scary, can induce vertigo, and can make you want to pull your hair out. But if you keep at it, learning new skills and getting reassurance from fellow freelancers, you just might find that it makes you quite happy.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Being a Freelance Editor

Want a chance to ask experienced freelance editors all the questions you can think of? Vegas, baby!

This year's national conference (March 20–22) of the American Copy Editors Society will be in Las Vegas, Nevada. And I'll be a panelist there at the Freelance Editors’ Forum, along with several of my distinguished colleagues:
Please join us. You know you want to!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

What Value Do You Get for Your Membership Dues in Profession-Related Organizations?

This chart is an excellent tool, prepared by the Editors' Association of Canada (EAC)/Association canadienne des réviseurs so that its members can see how what the EAC provides for its membership dues compared with similar professional groups in Canada.

It would be quite helpful if US professional organizations for editorial workers produced US-centric charts for their members. Editorial Freelancers Association, American Medical Writers Association, Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, Council of Science Editors, and American Copy Editors Society, among many others, I'm looking at you.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Copyediting-L: The Editor's Best Friend

I'm excited to say that I have been chosen as one of the co-owners of my favorite email list, Copyediting-L (aka CE-L), and its offshoot, Copyediting-Off-List-L (CEL-O), where editor types can chat about non-editing-related stuff. Bill Blinn and Jane Lyle, the lists' owners for a very long time, set a great example in how to keep a high-traffic email list on topic but also how to nurture the kindness of listmates. If I and my fellow list owner, John Renish, can do at least half as good a job as Bill and Jane did, then CE-L will remain the copyeditor's best work friend.

Here is how CE-L describes itself:

Copyediting-L is a list for copy editors and other defenders of the English language who want to discuss anything related to editing: sticky style issues; philosophy of editing; newspaper, technical, and other specialized editing; reference books; client relations; Internet resources; electronic editing and software; freelance issues; and so on.

CE-L is my favorite work tool, a source of project and client referrals, a place where I know everyone else understands exactly how I feel and exactly what I mean. I've made a lot of friends there and learned a lot of things that have been helpful in my career. Please come check out the list. We'd love to learn from you.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Doing Business the Unhelpful Old-Fashioned Way

Both U.S. banks and U.S. local government agencies are still operating in the previous century, which can cause small businesses like mine time and money.

In 1998 I opened a business checking account for the first time for my business, KOK Edit, after several years of just operating under my own personal name. Before I could do that, I was required to drive to the county clerk's office to file paperwork for a business certificate for my sole proprietorship. That's a 70-mile round trip. This process is also known as filing for a DBA—or a "doing business as"—certificate. I then had to present an official copy (i.e., one that had been impressed with the official county seal) to the bank. All of the DBA applications and completed certificates for the entire county were filed then as pieces of paper in a large bank of filing cabinets in the county clerk's office. In order to get the county to complete the certificate, you had to spend time searching, by hand, through those filing cabinets to ensure that no one else had already claimed the business name that you wanted to use.

All these years later, DBA certificate records are searchable online, but of course it's hard to find mine because (1) the county clerk's office misrepresented my business's name as "K O K Edit" instead of "KOK Edit" and (2) who knows how they handled my punctuated surname (O'Moore-Klopf), which carries both an apostrophe and a hyphen, along with 3 capital letters.

I now need an official copy of that DBA certificate so that I can open a business checking account at a different bank. You'd think that in the 21st century, I could request that the county clerk’s office send an electronic copy of my certificate either to me or to the bank where I am opening a checking account. But you would be wrong. The bank will not accept an electronic copy, and besides, it apparently hasn’t occurred to anyone at the county clerk’s office that having such a capability would be helpful. Someone must make the 70-mile round trip to pick up a new official copy of my DBA certificate so that I can then hand-carry it to the bank.

Why am I having to change banks for my business account after 15 years? Last month The Wall Street Journal reported that HSBC, my longtime bank,

told some of its small-business clients in the U.S. this week the bank will no longer serve them, according to a letter sent to clients that was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. A spokeswoman for the U.K. lender said the decision, scheduled to take effect in November, is the result of a strategic review of all its small and medium-size businesses in the U.S. ... As part of the continuing review, HSBC is looking at its business relationships with corporate customers to determine which clients have international needs, an area that has long been identified as the bank's expertise. “Because international business and trade are at the heart of our strategy, these are the clients who would most benefit from banking with HSBC."

It’s annoying enough that the bank I had used for years is dumping me and sole proprietors like me because we’re not big money-makers for them. But at least there is the convenience that the county clerk’s office will allow my husband to do the pickup for me, as long as he has acceptable identification (e.g., a driver’s license). That’s helpful because he is off work today, so if he makes the trip, I can keep editing. But nothing else about this tale is convenient. Why are we still operating in the previous century?

P.S. My husband, who just now picked up the copy of my DBA certificate, says those old certificates are no longer stored as pieces of paper. The assistant clerk found mine on microfiche. A step toward modernity? Not quite. And yes, I am moving to a credit union. It is my understanding that years ago, New York State law did not allow credit unions to offer checking accounts to small businesses; now this is allowed, though not all credit unions offer business accounts.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

What Do You Use LibraryThing For?

Today on one of the profession-related e-mail lists I subscribe to, I mentioned LibraryThing as a tool that I use in marketing my business. A listmate asked whether LibraryThing is also a social site, and yes, it is. I shared there the ways that it can be used, and I'm offering the information here too for the rest of my colleagues who don't subscribe to that list.

I use LibraryThing as a way to have a detailed online inventory of the books I own (I'm still not caught up with that part!) and the books I've edited. My library is here. And I like that LibraryThing offers me a chance to create widgets showing the books I've edited, for use on my web site, on this blog (see the sidebar at the right), and on my LinkedIn profile.

But LibraryThing is a social site too. It offers discussion groups, including one named Hobnob with Authors, which LinkedIn describes like this:

This is a group for readers and authors to connect. Unlike the rest of the groups, this is a "safe space" for authors to promote and converse about their books without fear of being accused of spamming. Authors are encouraged to chat with members, not just copy and paste blurbs about their books.

There is also a group called Author Chat:

Author Chat has scheduled discussions with authors. Each "chat" will be contained in one topic thread. So come up with your questions, and start asking! Authors who are interested in having their own chats should email ...

And there are many book- and book-topic discussion groups. I don't participate in any of the LibraryThing groups, because my favorite arenas are Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn and there's only so much time in the day. But I can see that some editorial workers might find networking through LibraryThing very helpful.

Check out the main About page for more information.

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