I’ve been writing, editing, and formatting documents for well over 30 years, although none of that has been as an employee of a publishing company. I got my start in the marketing department of an architectural and engineering firm. I wrote and formatted A/E proposals. I edited the content written by the architects, engineers, and interior designers that was included in those proposals. It wasn’t what I hoped to do or what I wanted to do, but it was the job I got.
Over the years, I worked on advertisements, brochures, newsletters, event programs, catalogs, and manuals for various employers. Being a Jack of all trades, my employers considered me the go-to person for that kind of work that I’d learned on the job, seat-of-the-pants training as it were. Again, it wasn’t the kind of work that I once envisioned myself doing, but it was the work that helped put food on the table and clothes on our backs.
At the end of November 2015, I lost my job. One client I’d served for over a decade took their business elsewhere. Another client I served wanted someone else. My employer told me not to let the door hit me on the ass as I left. I dreaded having to find another job and putting myself at the mercy of another employer. In a few months, I began to dabble in freelancing. An initial project soon turned into a trickle of work. I continued to learn and to refine my skills, discovering what I do best and slowly, slowly narrowing my niche from “I’ll do anything” to “I’ll do a lot of things” to “I’ll do these specific things, but not those things.”
I liked it. I liked being my own boss.
I never forget what one businessman told me: If you’re employed, you have one boss. If you’re in business for yourself, everyone’s your boss. Basically that means every client is my boss. I prefer to think of them as my partners.
As I developed the business, I learned more about the work of freelancing. I’ve made many mistakes along the way, some of which relate to the wisdom of evaluating clients. That’s a tough one to learn, and I’m afraid I still haven’t gotten it right.
One recent example: a client, who had been traditionally published previously and made the decision to self-publish, hired me to edit and format his book. The first round of editing went well, despite the manuscript being in execrable shape when I received it. I’ve seldom come across a manuscript in such terrible shape, but I buckled down and did my best. He was dismayed to see the “red ink” dripping from the pages.
When it came to begin a second round of editing which would be followed after a second round of revision by proofreading, the client objected. I pointed out what was in our contract; he renegotiated. Because I didn’t want to lose what I thought was a good client, I allowed him to take advantage of me. Bad decision. My gut churned and my stress increased. I should have terminated the project at that point.
But I didn’t.
The project deteriorated from there. I admit: a lot of that bad experience rests on my shoulders. The client and I are both to blame.
Lesson learned. Bad vibes will now result in project termination. Or I won’t take on the project at all. I will no longer allow a client to haggle down my rates after a project has begun. I have tightened my contract to spell out both parties’ obligations, so there’s no ambiguity. I make sure the contract specifies limits and expectations.
I strive to provide excellent services at fair and competitive professional rates. I will write what you want written and do my best to write it how you want it written. I will edit to improve your content and refine your voice, but I do not guarantee perfection. I will format documents to your specifications, regardless of any outside standards imposed or upheld by anyone else.
This is bespoke service: you get what you request. I am thankful most of my clients are reasonable and professional and don’t try to take advantage of me. I’ll go above and beyond the contract for them.