The Evolution of the Employee

employee graphicOne of my contacts on LinkedIn had this great looking graphic on their page today, and I felt like sharing it because it is a great reflection of Twin Miracles Editorial and the path I’ve been able to forge the last few years as a full-time freelancer.

  • Work anytime? Check, I’ve edited books from 9-to-5, and yes from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m, too!
  • Work anywhere? Check, my house, the doctor’s office, Starbucks (yum!), waiting in lines, waiting at the DMV, sitting in my truck outside a McDonald’s that one time when our wireless was out at home …
  • Use any device? So far just my laptop and my wife’s desktop, but it’s good to know I could if I had to.
  • Focused on outputs? Yep, every project I do results in something being created – whether it’s a new version of something old, or completely original work. It’s very fulfilling.
  • Create my own ladder? Maybe the best part. Who’s the president of your company? Me. The CEO? Me again. The janitor? Well, also me, but hey at least I get paid the same salary as the owner!
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Freelance Disputes: Keeping the Digital Paper Trail

The informality of working online sometimes sees us drop our guard when it comes to things like official contracts and formal agreements. We talk to clients in casual, informal settings like email and Instant Messenger, and it tends to lower our guard and our parameters for how we typically do business.

But whether you’re dealing with a client for the first time or the 100th time, the best practice is always to get everything in writing, always be professional, and always handle any disputes in as professional a manner as you can.

In February, I took a job through oDesk to shape up a woman’s resume and cover letter to allow her to apply for a pair of jobs. She was very active in communication as I was doing the project, and I turned it in about 12 hours before our agreed-upon deadline.

As soon as it was turned in, however, she went 100% radio silence, even as I sent a pair of messages to her via email and via oDesk’s messenger service. A good four days after the deadline (and 24 hours after her payment deadline, which went unmet) – I received a short message telling me her grandparent had died, and she would look at the work I had done when she was “more focused.”

Already, warning bells were going off in my head, because I think we’ve all used a dead grandmother excuse in our day, but this is my professional livelihood, so I responded with a short message, offering prayer and asking for an update when possible.

The next day, I opened my email to discover the client had put in a request to oDesk to have her funds refunded, and that she had closed the contract altogether, with no reason listed. Clearly at this point, I was in full battle mode, but was fortunate that my professionalism won through again. No angry emails were sent; I went to oDesk, filed a dispute, and because I had been meticulous in my record-keeping, was able to very efficiently and swiftly put together the chain of events to the mediator, meaning I’ll have my money before too long.

Moral of the story? It can be tough, but when disputes happen, be professional and be prepared. That’s the best way to be paid.

Stop Asking Me If I’m an Editing Ninja

I was invited to apply for an editing job a few days ago, and the first question asked was “Are you an editing ninja?”

Hmmmm.

I haven’t known a lot of ninjas in my days on earth, in fact, I can’t say I’ve ever met one. My best friend growing up once bought Chinese ninja throwing stars out of a catalog for $45, but the most they were ever used for was making holes in the wooden fence of his backyard.

I get the slang, despite being 40 years old, it means they’re looking for someone highly skilled and very effective. So why not just say that?

What I am is a professional editor, an objective editor, an editor who won’t sugarcoat his comments to stroke your coat, and an editor who will do everything in his power to make your work, no matter what it is, the very best it can be so that when it leaves my hands, I’m just as proud of it as you are.

Nunchucks not included.

 

 

The “Death” of Newspapers: 15 Years Later

About 15 years ago, every man and woman who worked for a newspaper started being told by management that the Internet was the Devil; that we would all lose our jobs because of its freedom of information distribution, and that a degree in Journalism would be worth less than the paper it was printed on within a generation.

I was working for a newspaper 15 years ago, and I heard the same fear-mongering from the leadership of our chain. Only in hindsight do I realize that they weren’t really worried about the journalists they employed, but rather their own pocketbooks.

A lot of us did in fact lose our jobs in the newspaper industry as the Internet evolved. Newspaper advertising sales dropped, classified sections became obsolete, and cash cows like car dealerships and grocery stores went online to hock their wares. But what we do – journalists, writers, editors, photographers, and designers – didn’t vanish into thin air, we just evolved right along with the Internet.

If running my own freelancing business has taught me one thing, it’s that the world needs great writers and communicators now more than ever. And that realization means that my degree in Journalism and pedigree for being able to pluck a subject out of thin air and write compelling copy about it; or take someone else’s creative work and sharpen prior to publication, is liberating, exciting, and quite frankly, one of the best revelations of my professional life.

As a newspaper guy, every year had its arc for me – back-to-school, sports, festivals, city council, school board meetings, the occasional crime wave, scandal, or election, feature photos, and try to stay awake during the summer time. It was an easy gig, but ultimately a boring gig, and one that seldom did anything to spark my passion or challenge me as a professional.

Compare that to the last 12 months, in which I have:

  • Worked with a Grammy winner
  • Reviewed a cyber-securities proposal sent to the Department of Defense and the US Air Force
  • Co-written a whitepaper on the evolution of corporate intranets
  • Served as news editor for a major education news website
  • Edited a ghost story that made quite literally jump in the build-up to the reveal
  • Dived head first into the twin worlds of SAP and BI, and ended up writing stories for a magazine whose headquarters is on the other side of the world from my office.

The Internet might have sent a whole bunch of newspapers to the morgue, but it had the opposite effect on those of us who worked for them. Death? No, the Internet gave us life.

 

The Adventures of Freelancing Dad: A Real Kick in the Budget

superheroOne of the greatest upsides of freelancing is that you can spot a job listing, inquire about it, get interviewed be hired, and start working on really cool, high-level projects within a matter of hours.

One of the worst downsides of freelancing is that it can all be over in that same short period of time.

Last week, I took a real double whammy of economic reality when one of my most lucrative, long-term contracts kicked me, and another writer, to the virtual curb because of “a change in the company budget.”  I got a six-hour severance bonus, which was nice, but I couldn’t help briefly thinking, “Hey, what about all that hard work I did for you?” before remembering the nature of the beast.

A few days later, a new position I took that allowed me to do some really fun, really creative sports copy editing went up in smoke for exactly the same reason. I’d become good email buddies with the writer at this job, and his boss dumped the responsibility of letting me know my services were no longer required on him.

While it’s easy to get attached to jobs and projects, the fact remains that we’re hired guns, and no matter how qualified, talented, and essential we might be to a project for a given amount of time, the honeymoon is going to end at some point.

I moped for about an hour about my loss of cool jobs (and income), until the next business day rolled around, and with it new opportunities, possibilities and business relationships. By noon I was writing a resume’ for a US Naval officer, punching up copy for drug rehabilitation facilities and proofing Powerpoints for a major software solutions conference in San Francisco.

Freelancing forever!

 

The Joys of Freelancing – Today I’m Editing a Book About Barbecue

Having lived all 40 of my years in Texas, I’d reckon I’ve eaten somewhere between 500-1,000 pounds of barbecue in my lifetime.  Ribs, links, sliced, chopped, barbecued baked potatoes, chicken, you name it. I’ve got my favorite restaurant (Otto’s in Houston), and my favorite sides (potato salad, corn on the cob).

Today, my passion is earning me some $ as I edit a quick e-Book on barbecue recipes from around the world. Thank you, freelancing!

 

 

 

 

The Unexpected Benefit of Raising Your Freelancing Rate

OpportunitiesQuite recently, I decided to raise my hourly rate on the major  marketplace where I cultivate a majority of my freelance work. Unless you’re independently wealthy, the early times when you decide to start freelancing often involve beginning with low-paying jobs and then slowly building up to a more favorable rate of pay as your name and your reputation grow online.

With a particularly strong surge thus far in 2014, I felt justified in testing the waters at a new price, reasoning that if the work dried up or everyone was turning down my offers, I could always drop it back down.

What happened next took me completely off guard, although after a couple of days’ worth of critical thinking (usually in 20-30 second bursts between working and taking care of the Twin Miracles), I was able to come to a surprising, but extremely exciting conclusion.

What happened? The number of people wanting to interview and/or hire me for work has gone up considerably since I raised my rate. I’m not getting every job, but I’m getting considered for a lot more than previously, and often without having to lift a finger to promote myself.

Why is this happening? Because just like one subset of potential clients has a price maximum, another has a price minimum, a number they look for as a baseline for the quality of freelancer they can hire – either because of personal conviction or  because of what their company says the budget is for said project.

By moving my rate up, I now fall squarely into their search parameters, whereas before, no matter how good a job I could potentially do at a lower rate, I wasn’t even on their radar. It has been a serendipitous revelation, not only because I’m hitting and exceeding my weekly goals on a more consistent basis, but also because I’m making contact with more and more high-end clients, with the potential for repeat, long-term work.

Are you undervaluing your work? If so, stick your toe in the pool at a higher rate. You might be surprised how nice the water feels.