An American Editor

December 31, 2018

On the Basics — Managing “Creepy” Challenging Clients and Projects

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

Into each editor’s life a little rain, in the form of difficult or challenging clients or projects, must fall. Here are a few examples, with some tips for how to respond to them that could make the new year a little easier for all of us!

Classic headaches

A recent social media post included these comments:

“… when someone books a 4k word edit then sends you 100k.”

“Client sent over and paid for 136-page edit, but kept writing and writing and sent over a total of 600 pages! Expected me to edit for price she already paid because I ‘owed’ her …”

Ah, yes — the infamous scope creep. These situations arise on a regular basis among colleagues, and not just editors. I’ve had writing assignments where the editor asks for additional interviews after we’ve agreed on a story length, sometimes even after I’ve finished the piece and turned it in. I’ve had proofreading work that turned into editing — sometimes even close to substantive work, although I prefer not to work that hard and only rarely accept such projects.

The impossible request

“Impossible” requests are another instance of projects that can become headaches if we accept them. Clients who are clueless about what it takes to get their projects done can ask us to meet deadlines that are downright ridiculous, but — again — sometimes it seems as if it’s more important to have work in hand than to maintain sanity about our work lives.

In a related social media conversation, a colleague posted about a client asking to have a 230-page thesis edited in not even two days. And that was before the poster had seen the document to verify whether her definition of “a page” was anywhere close to the client’s version. My guess is that checking the word count would reveal that the client’s 230 pages equaled 400 to 500 of the editor’s.

My response was: “In circumstances like this, I don’t give explanations. Just ‘I’m not available.’ I learned that lesson years ago from having people say things like, ‘Surely you can fit this into your vacation time’ or ‘When do you get back?’ Some will still say ‘When would you be available?’ and I use something like, ‘I don’t do this kind of work and never would commit to such a schedule/deadline.’”

Even if you work in-house rather than freelance, unreasonable deadlines can be an issue, but it’s harder to set boundaries with colleagues and bosses/supervisors than with prospective (or even ongoing) clients.

Offensive content

How to turn down a project that contains content we find offensive is another challenge for freelancers, especially those who really need income right that moment. “Offensive” can mean anything from political to sexual (erotica or porn) to violent to racist to any other type of content that goes against your personal comfort zone.

Rude and unpleasant people

Luckily, I haven’t had to deal with this often, but some clients turn out to be rude and difficult to deal with. Managing such personalities is a challenge at any time, but especially when the behavior doesn’t show up until you’re well into the project and have invested some, much less substantial, time and effort in it.

The big “why”

Some of that rude, unpleasant behavior shows up early in a client/freelancer relationship when a prospect brusquely questions your rates, no matter how you charge (by the word, hour, project, etc.). Challenging our rate structure indicates a probable PITA (pain in the … posterior) client; someone who starts the relationship by essentially insulting the editor’s stated value is likely to be difficult throughout the project.

Protective techniques

How can we defend ourselves against such situations? It’s always hard to say no to new work, especially for those who are desperate for every penny (trust me, I’ve been there). It’s even harder once there’s a serious prospect in place, and yet again when you’ve invested time and effort into at least the beginnings of a project that starts to morph into far more than you expected.

Protecting ourselves against such challenges often can make the difference between an editorial business that makes a profit and feels fulfilling versus one that makes its owner crazy as well as broke. We all may need to develop tough outer skins when it comes to situations like these, and learn when to “just say no.”

  • The first thing that colleagues in the scope creep conversation offered was “CONTRACT!” It can feel awkward to expect new clients to sign a contract, but whether you call it that or a letter of agreement, it’s something that can make a huge difference in how a project turns out. And not just from the financial perspective. Agreeing to do more than you originally expected a project to involve creates all kinds of problems. You’re likely to resent the client for creating extra (even excess) work for no additional payment, which can affect the quality of what you produce. The additional length means spending more time than you may have budgeted, which can interfere with meeting other deadlines or accepting new (and better) projects that come in while you’re wading through all those extra words.

I include language in responses to prospective clients along the lines of “I’ll provide an estimate of the deadline and fee once I see the manuscript and confirm the word count.” The estimate message and contract language include “Deadline and fee based on word count of X. Any changes or additions will result in a revised deadline and fee. If the work appears to require more time than expected, I will alert you before going beyond the agreed-upon time or amount.”

I should have mentioned in that online conversation that I also tell prospective clients that I define a page as 250 words (I went back to add that detail!). That can save a lot of hassle in explaining why the client’s 25 pages are actually my 50 pages or more, and why my fee and deadline are higher than the client might have expected.

  • When someone is rude or otherwise unpleasant in a phone or e-mail conversation, I respond with, “This isn’t an appropriate way to communicate with me. If you can’t be civil, we won’t be able to work together.” Sometimes that kind of response has to be repeated; if that’s the case, I go with the classic “Three strikes and you’re out” approach. I’d rather lose the job and the client than deal with someone who doesn’t respect my time and skills.
  • My response to questions about my rates is that they are based on X years of training and experience, and that the prospective client is welcome to look into working with other writers, editors or proofreaders if cost is their main concern. (I’m often tempted to say something like, “By the way, when you come back to me because the cheaper person you hire doesn’t work out, my rate will double,” but haven’t done so … yet.)
  • When I receive a manuscript that I find offensive or upsetting, I find a polite way to turn it down rather than subject myself to unpleasantness in my work life. I’ve used language like “I don’t handle this kind of material.“ Short, sweet, to the point. If I know someone who is comfortable with working on erotica, I might contact that colleague to ask if I can give their name to the potential client. For other areas, I simply send that “I don’t …“ message and hope never to hear from that author again.

As I was writing this column, I got a notice from the Freelancers Union about a blog post entitled “Five self-care fundamentals for freelancers.” The teaser text was: “By showing yourself how to treat yourself, you are by default providing a blueprint for how others should treat you.” That made me realize that setting out our guidelines for the kinds of work we accept as editors (or any other editorial freelancers), especially in terms of deadlines and fees, is a form of self-care. It isn’t healthy to let clients run our lives and impose crazy-making deadlines, rude behavior, insufficient payment levels, unpleasant material or other problems on us.

For any and all of these situations, the best technique might be to anticipate them and  prepare responses before such clients or projects show up. Having a script in place makes it much easier to respond to or head off problem clients, whether the “creep” is a matter of project scope, icky content or nasty behavior. The Girl Scouts have a point when they say “Be prepared.“

Let us know how you’ve handled situations like these.

Here’s to a healthy, productive new year, free of scope creep and other “creepy” aspects of our professional lives!

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is the editor-in-chief of An American Editor and an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, and companies worldwide. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues. She can be contacted at Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

December 26, 2018

On the Basics: Rudolph and Business Savvy

Filed under: Business of Editing,Editorial Matters,Financial Matters,On the Basics — americaneditor @ 3:13 pm

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

The incessant, inescapable strains of “Rudoph the Red-nosed Reindeer” this past few weeks made me think of contemporary concerns such as bullying and related concerns, but also … business.

Bullying, exclusion and diversity because of the actual language and context, of course: The other reindeer “never let poor Rudolph play in any reindeer games” because he’s different. And our editorial businesses because of how Rudolph is suddenly the star — in demand — when his different-ness is needed.

The Rudolph of song and story is a good sport and happily, even eagerly, saddles up to guide Santa’s sleigh without a murmur. We don’t know how his fellow reindeer treat him after his big night — whether he remains part of the crowd or finds himself back in the corner when he’s no longer needed. Or even whether he gets some extra reindeer chow from Santa for coming through in a pinch. We can hope there’s a happily-ever-after, although my observation of much of human nature and behavior tends to make me skeptical.

What about that business aspect? I see Santa’s request for, and the other reindeers’ acceptance of, Rudolph’s special characteristic when they face a crisis as a version of the clients who only want us when they’re desperate — and even then, don’t actually value us. Many of us accept the equivalent of “Santa came to say, ‘Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight’” — last-minute requests, rush requests, requests over a weekend or holiday, requests for added content; crazy deadlines, offers of low rates, projects that “creep” beyond their original scope — for a variety of reasons: ingrained instinct to be accommodating, pride in our work, need for getting-started projects/clips, desperation for income …

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being Rudolph in any of these situations, and agreeing to whatever insanity they impose, but we also have to remember that we’re in business. Even though it can feel good to save the day and rescue the project or client, situations like these create stress, often unnecessarily, and can hold us back from financial success by wasting our time and energy on projects that don’t generate enough income for the hassle they involve. They also keep us from going after or doing projects that might pay better, or at least involve less aggravation.

We have skills that deserve respect. We have experience that deserves respect. We have training that deserves respect. To quote the immortal Aretha, R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

I’m not advocating alienating clients by Grinch-ishly or Scrooge-ishly turning down such requests for editorial work. (Wow, this holiday season offers more metaphors than I realized!) I’m just saying we might want to be more discerning, more discriminating, about how we respond to them.

For one thing, when the client needs you more than you need the client, that’s the time to charge more for your editorial services. Politely, pleasantly — but firmly.

For another, these are also the times to reexamine these client relationships (I hope you don’t have more than one client who treats you like Rudolph, if any). Have you been working for the same rate for more than a year? Have you ever charged a rush fee? Have you charged a late fee when you went beyond expectations but the client didn’t bother to meet yours for timely payment? Have you said no to an unreasonable deadline or a low-paying project? Now is the time to craft some policies along these lines.

The new year is also the ideal moment to think about these situations ahead of time and prepare responses that can become your default answers to such demands (and demands they usually are, as opposed to polite requests), so you aren’t blindsided if they crop up (and they will). For those who don’t appreciate and respect you, and only ask for your help on the editorial equivalent of “one foggy Christmas Eve,” it’s time to set a firm policy of rush fees, sticking to original deadlines or even (gasp) saying no. They might merit a holiday greeting card if they pay well enough to make the hassle they inflict worthwhile, but otherwise, I’d drop them from the list.

For the clients who value your contributions, services and skills year-round, this is the time to send a thank-you gift of some sort to show your appreciation for their business, if you haven’t already done so; it needn’t be big, extravagant or expensive, but it should happen. Even an e-card can have an impact, especially on clients who might be on the fence about continuing to work with you for some reason or whom you haven’t heard from in awhile. Many colleagues have said in various forums that sending a holiday greeting (or a vacation announcement) has led to at least one new assignment each time from a client who hadn’t thought of them until the greeting/announcement arrived.

Let us know how you handle unreasonable requests from clients, old and new, and keep from being treated like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. And here’s to being treated with respect in the new year — we are professionals; hear us roar!

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is the editor-in-chief of An American Editor and an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, and companies worldwide. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues. Ruth can be contacted at Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

December 5, 2018

On the Basics — Giving back?

Filed under: Editorial Matters,On the Basics — americaneditor @ 12:30 pm

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

With Thanksgiving behind us and the commercial end-of-the-year holiday season well under way, it’s a good time to think about how, or if, we as editors might give something back in return for … something.

What might we have received that deserves a response of some sort? And what might be an appropriate response?

What we receive

When you stop to think about it, many of us receive a lot from various sources. As editors, and some of us as freelancers, we often receive answers to questions about our work, whether we have a confusing sentence to untangle, an unfamiliar phrase or usage to assess, a software or hardware headache to cure, or a business matter — sometimes even a crisis — to resolve. We might post those questions in online communities such as the Copyediting List, the e-mail discussion list or forums of the professional organizations we belong to, Facebook or LinkedIn groups, even Twitter conversations. We learn from blogs like this one and newsletters from various sources. Those of us who work in-house might ask for input from someone at the next desk or in another department. Many of us have vendors such as computer gurus to call on for help with technical or mechanical issues. We go to conferences, where we learn from colleagues in person. Some of us have gotten jobs or clients through recommendations and referrals from colleagues.

We can’t always give direct, concrete thanks to everyone who helps us do our work better. That’s one good reason to find ways to give back to the universe, if you’ll forgive a little psycho-babble, as is another: We don’t always even know who provides the answer to a knotty question or information we’ve absorbed without realizing it, and then used to solve problems — or perhaps just to feel better about life in general and our work, and selves, in particular. Finally, not everyone we interact with needs our information or insights, so we can’t always respond to someone who has been helpful with something of equal value.

How and why I give

There are so many ways to give, or give back.

In the professional realm, like many of us, I find myself giving back to colleagues through some of the outlets noted above: contributing to and answering questions through organizational memberships and their discussion venues, participating in online communities, speaking at conferences, editing the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) newsletter and presenting webinars for the organization, teaching classes at the Rochester, NY, Writers and Books literary center, hosting the annual Communication Central conference, etc. These activities have become as natural as breathing, and a regular part of every day. (And we might even benefit financially — the EFA, for instance, shares income with members who write booklets and teach classes or present webinars, and some organizations pay honoraria or expenses for conference speakers, or at least provide speakers with free access to the events.)

I might not be in a position to help someone who answered one of my questions, but I can provide perspectives to someone else that might be as valuable as what one of you gave me. And yes, I profit financially from some of these, but that isn’t my primary motive for doing them. It just feels good — and somehow right — to be of help to others when others have been helpful to me, whether they know it or not.

There are practical ways to give back — a commission, gift certificate, or box of chocolates to colleagues who provide referrals to new clients, for instance.

Another way I give back is by supporting organizations that have helped me in the past and/or promise to make life better for the larger world, especially women and young people. That means financial support, but also personal involvement whenever possible.

Two that stand out are the Encampment for Citizenship and the Minority Journalism Workshop of the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists (GSLABJ).

  • The Encampment has nothing to do with editing or freelancing, but was a major influence on my life. (Now that I think of it, though, that experience did have a connection to what became my profession, since I put together a yearbook for my program — my first effort at self-publishing!) I was 17 when I spent a summer at an Encampment outside New York City, and I’m still friends with fellow Encampers now. The program gave me exposure to kids from a variety of backgrounds, which was a valuable learning experience in and of itself, and opportunities to do community service in several areas; my group was involved in a youth conference at the United Nations, but we all participated in the whole Encampment’s projects. It also gave me confidence about my voice and my principles; confidence that I’ve carried with me ever since.

I helped revive, and now give back to, the Encampment because I believe it’s a program that we all need in today’s confusing, divisive, difficult world. The connection to my professional life is that I use my professional skills to edit material for the organization, which contributes to making the organization look better in its presentations to potential Encampers, parents, donors and others.

  • The GSLABJ workshop was an eye-opener. It wasn’t something I benefited from as a participant; it was a program I helped with (primarily as a provider of food!) in its first year, back in 1976. The high school students in the program wanted to be journalists and were considered the best and brightest of their schools. When we asked them to take notes and write up a presentation by a community leader in the first session (the program meets for seven Saturdays at a local college), the results were incoherent and incomprehensible. I was appalled.

(For those who are wondering, I got involved in the GSLABJ because I was a reporter for the St. Louis Argus, a black weekly.)

After those seven Saturdays, thanks to the dedication of the professional journalists who gave up their weekends (and a lot of time between sessions as well), those kids were writing stories and producing TV and radio programs that were on a par with the work of people working in the profession. It was amazing. There’s something indescribably exciting about seeing a kid go from almost illiterate to highly functional and productive.

The workshop has continued in St. Louis ever since, and colleagues and former student participants have launched similar programs in DC, Memphis, Pittsburgh and elsewhere. I’ve given financial support to the GSLABJ workshop over the years, but now that I’m back in St. Louis (see …), I can — and will — provide hands-on involvement in the workshop again as well.

The tie-in to our profession as editors is, of course, that a program like this is giving young people communication skills they will need to work with or for us in the future.

Why give back?

One business-related aspect of holiday-season giving involves whether we with businesses of our own should give gifts to our clients. I do that every year; something small but personal (and purple!) to show appreciation for the fact that they sent/send me work and pay well and promptly. Client gifts don’t have to be extravagant — a promotional mug, pen, jump drive, etc., works just fine. The point is to let clients know that we appreciate their choosing us over other freelancers. Some of my clients even send me something at the holiday season!

Whether you call it giving back, paying forward or just plain giving, the rewards of helping colleagues and others are common knowledge. For those here who haven’t experienced the fulfillment of helping others on some level, whether in person or through your checkbook; whether in professional circles or personal ones; whether visibly or anonymously … I recommend ramping up your participation in the human race and finding ways to thank your colleagues and communities for what they do. You’ll feel better, and the world will be a better place.

Do you have a way to “give back”? Let us know how and to whom you give back, and why.

November 21, 2018

On the Basics — Lessons from a Major Life Change

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

As some of you know, I recently decided to make a major life change and relocate from my hometown of Rochester, NY, to St. Louis, MO, where I lived many years ago. The process has been exciting, unpredictable and even a little scary, but well worth all the hassle involved with any move, especially one halfway across country rather than across town. Some aspects have offered insights connected to the idea of editing and being in business as an editor that I thought our subscribers might enjoy.

Own your life

This move was inspired by a combination of factors. I found that I couldn’t handle staying where my husband and I had been together — I kept expecting him to be there in our apartment, or around an aisle at the grocery store, and it was painful. The experience and impact of loss is different for everyone; some people prefer to stay where they were happy with a spouse or partner, but it wasn’t working for me.

Within a few months of losing Wayne-the-Wonderful, I fell and tore up my arm, and couldn’t drive for almost three months. Because I lived in a residential neighborhood with no amenities in walking distance, that meant having to ask friends or pay for transport for everything — groceries, doctors’ appointments, entertainment, meetings. It was beyond frustrating. A walkable neighborhood became a priority.

A change of ownership and management for our apartment building, of which the less said, the better, was the third strike. It was time.

A “field trip” back to St. Louis proved that old friendships and professional connections were still in good shape. Before I even started to look at rental places, I fell over an amazing opportunity to do something I’ve never done before — buy a place to live. All kinds of things seemed to line up as signs that this was meant to be, and here I am, back in the Gateway City, where things are both familiar and new.

Edit your life

The biggest lesson of this process has been that it’s time for any and all of us to edit our lives! That is, most — if not all — of us have too much stuff, whether it’s personal possessions or work-related items; probably both. In trying to pack for this big move, I found myself assessing what to keep, what to donate and what to pitch on a scale unlike any other time I’ve moved.

I probably kept a lot of personal belongings that I could dispense with (and I expect to do further clearing out once I’m more settled in), but those were harder to deal with than the work stuff. In that realm, it was surprisingly easy to decide that I really don’t need two or more paper copies of my published work, and that resulted in emptying out two entire four-drawer file cabinets! I have a portfolio for every year that I’ve been working in publishing or communications, so I have a copy of everything I’ve written, edited or proofread, and one should suffice for both my own desire to have a record of my professional life and any client’s need for back copies of projects.

It also occurred to me that I don’t have to keep 5¼” floppy disks, 3.5” diskettes, Zip disks or Syquest disk versions of work from 10, 20 or more years ago. Clients do occasionally ask for old projects, but rarely anything that old — and if someone asks now, I can recreate a version through photocopying or scanning. I pitched what seemed like a ton of old disks — not without some trepidation, but also with a feeling of relief, of being unchained from so much stuff.

I also cleared a two-drawer file cabinet of handwritten notes from probably a couple hundred interviews for articles that have been published without any requests to clarify or verify information. From now on, I’ll keep notes for no more than a year after a piece is published. Anyone with complaints or questions going back farther than that will have to trust my reputation for accuracy.

I went through several drawers-worth of old files and records, clearing out anything I thought was pointless to keep now. I did keep business records going farther back than required, but as minimally as felt comfortable. Several boxes of paper, off to the shredder (and the boxes made available for packing!).

As I continue unpacking and organizing in my new home, I strongly urge colleagues to pretend you have to move next week or at most next month, and use that scenario to start sorting and editing your belongings to see what you can do without. Clothes you haven’t worn in a year or longer; dry and canned goods, medications, hygiene products, etc., that are past their expiration dates or not being used — trash the expired ones and donate the ones that someone else could benefit from; anything in a storage closet, basement, attic or junk room; and old work files that no one is ever going to ask you about again or equipment that you aren’t ever going to use. (I’m not even sure why I keep all those old portfolios, much less albums of personal photos going back even farther; it’s not as if I’m famous enough for anyone to need them to write my definitive biography!)

Be prepared

Any move can mean disruption of some, if not all, business systems. A new location, even in town, can mean new phone numbers (not an issue if you rely solely on a cell- or smartphone, of course), Internet access, bank accounts, mailing information and related aspects of both daily and business life. If you can take a break from work to focus on the move, so much the better, but most of us don’t have that luxury.

As I’ve said in other contexts, having an e-mail address based on a domain name makes it easy to relocate without losing touch with clients and colleagues, because any change in your service provider is invisible to your contacts. It doesn’t matter what company I use for Ruth@writerruth.com; I never have to tell anyone a new e-ddress because it doesn’t change, even if my actual provider does. (The same is probably true for national servers like Gmail, Yahoo, etc., but those don’t relay your brand and business identity in the same way as a domain-based e-ddress.)

Then again, actual Internet access can still be problematic. As I write this, my ATT service is having serious personality issues, and the technician is finding it challenging to resolve them. That’s a function of being in an older building, and a unit whose previous owner apparently did not use the Internet. I’ve had to warn a couple of regular clients that my access to e-mail might be spotty for a few days, and to call me (yikes — actually talking clients on the phone!) for anything urgent.

Before the move, I made a point of looking for, and luckily found, alternatives to my home system. There’s a public library about three blocks from my new place, as well as a wealth of nearby coffee shops and other neighborhood joints with WiFi service. My goal of being in a walkable neighborhood is proving to be a definite plus.

Most of the other aspects of the move have been easy to manage — opening a new bank account and redirecting direct deposits or debits, updating website contact information, forwarding mail, etc. It helped to have a financial cushion for the myriad unexpected aspects of both the move and the change from renting to owning; it seems as if something new, and potentially costly, pops up every other day. (Ah, yes — the joys of homeownership! Everything you’ve heard is true.)

It also helped to be reasonably up to date, and even ahead of deadline, on current projects so changes in scheduling everything from the movers’ arrival date to delivery of remaining furnishings (my big pieces will have to come into the apartment by crane through a window, because the elevator and stairwell are too small to accommodate them!) to wonky Internet access don’t turn into major problems. I highly recommend working ahead of deadlines at any time, but especially before and the first few weeks after a move.

The benefits of editing your life

An “edited” life is likely to be a better-organized, more-manageable, less-stressful life. I’m not advocating dispensing with any and all elements that make your surroundings fun and personalized (yes, all the purple bears came with me to St. Louis); just assessing what you don’t need, don’t use and don’t want to deal with if you have to move — or someone has to manage a move for you.

Moving to a new place can be exciting, and doing so with as little excess baggage as possible is liberating. Like editing a thorny document, editing my belongings is a cathartic and freeing experience. Every emptied drawer, every donated item, every bag of trash — it was as if I was getting lighter and lighter. It felt great!

The process continues — I continue to find more things that I can do without and I’m not sure why I kept. We do reach a point, at least in editing a life for a move, where it’s easier to just bring or keep everything and worry about it later. The problem becomes, of course, that it’s also easier to keep all that stuff (assuming you have space for it) than to continue sorting and culling; editing out what we don’t use or need.

There may not be an exact parallel to editing a document, but there certainly is one to editing your business life. And every unsorted box, pile or file drawer is something to do in-between projects, during a snowstorm or at any other point of life when time hangs idle.

I’m sure that other lessons or advice will occur to me in the coming weeks, but for now, I’m going to take advantage of being offline for a while (I hope a short while) to unpack another box or two. Wish me luck!

What lessons have colleagues learned from needing or wanting to make a big life change like a move?

August 13, 2018

On the Basics — All the Backups

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter 

A recent Facebook group post from someone whose computer conked out when she was on deadline for a project reminded me of the importance of different kinds of backup. We’ve talked about backing up files, but that’s different from backing up equipment — perhaps because equipment can be so expensive, while backup systems can be free, or at least less expensive than buying an additional computer.

Because our ability to meet deadlines and keep our commitments to clients is essential to a freelancer’s business survival, it’s worth assessing what kinds of backups we need to make that happen. These suggestions might seem obvious, but should be useful reminders of practical basics for a freelance business.

The Ephemeral

First, the easy — and inexpensive — stuff. To make sure files and documents don’t disappear mid-project, open an online backup account on Dropbox, Box.com, Google Drive, or something similar so you can stash items as you go along and once you’ve finished them.

If you believe in “belts and braces” (both a belt and suspenders to hold up a pair of pants, even if just one or the other would do the job) as I do, back up to Time Machine as well as an external hard drive, disks, or any other physical backup system that you find easy to use. Backups to your backups are essential, because you never know what will continue to work and which providers will stay in business.

Make sure your essential software programs are live and licensed on every computer you have, and that you have the original disks or downloads so you can reinstall them as needed. That way, if the software goes wonky on one machine, it should still work on another, or you should be able to reinstall it on a new one (or maybe even on a friend’s loaner, temporarily). Keep in mind that many, if not most, programs can be licensed for more than one computer. Know about those options before you need them.

Oh, and save-save-save! Remember to save as you work, the more often, (usually) the better. With lengthy and complex documents, consider doing a Save As with a different filename before Word gets cranky. You’ll have several versions of the document, but that’s better than losing even a few minutes’, much less several hours’, worth of work. The client only has to see the final version, and you can ditch the interim versions once you’ve turned it in.

The Physical

The reality is that computers are not infallible. Even the most-respected brands can develop problems, and my experience — as well as what I’ve observed among colleagues — is that they will break down when we have the fewest resources in terms of money, time, contacts, and material to deal with a crisis. In budgeting to launch or maintain a freelance business, the ideal is to save, set aside, or maintain enough funds and credit so you can have at least two computers with the same software on them, just in case one of them goes south or you can’t use one of them. If you have more than one computer, you can send current files to yourself so they’re accessible on both or all machines, and you can work on them no matter which machine is handy or which one goes rogue and stops working.

I have an iMac desktop computer and a MacBook Air laptop, with the same software programs on each, so I can switch between them as needed. I also have an iPad that my brothers gave me a few years ago that I can use for e-mail and some rudimentary other programs in a pinch. I even have an old MacBook Pro that doesn’t hold a charge on its own but still works when plugged in, just in case all of the other three give up the ghost at the same time. Not that I’m a pessimist, but you never know.

I’ve usually maintained two current computers because of needing to work in different locations, either within my apartment or on the road versus at home, but the old iMac conked out recently, making the laptop even more essential to keeping my work going than usual. I was lucky enough to have funds in hand to replace it right away, but if I couldn’t have done so, I could still get my work done and meet those deadlines.

The Collegial

There’s yet one other option to develop and maintain: offsite ways to work through colleagues. In case your electricity goes out, for instance, or something other event makes it difficult or impossible to work at home for a while, have alternatives already in place.

That can mean knowing where the nearest public library is with computers you can use, a cyber café, co-working spaces, etc. It also can mean having friends who might lend you a computer or let you come over and camp out at their place to get the urgent work done.

It also can be a lifesaver to belong to a local computer users’ group. Once you’re active in one, you can usually count on other members to help with troubleshooting, equipment loans, repairs at less than what retail vendors might charge, and similar hand-holding in a crisis.

If you’ve had a software or equipment crash in mid-project, how did you handle it?

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is the editor-in-chief of An American Editor and an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, and companies worldwide. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues. She can be contacted at Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com or Ruth@writerruth.com.

July 11, 2018

On the Basics — A Fresh Look at Coping with Emergencies

Filed under: Business of Editing,Contributor Article,On the Basics — americaneditor @ 10:51 am

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

When I urge colleagues to get and keep health insurance because even someone young, fit, and healthy can get hit by a bus, I’m usually half-joking. That was before, as some of you know, I recently had a bad fall, dislocating my elbow and tearing ligaments in my arm. This was the first time that an injury or other crisis meant not being physically able to do some activities that are key to my freelance business. I’ve kept working through the death of my dad, several years of caring for my mom and husband, and their deaths — all emotionally devastating, even if not unexpected, but not physically disabling. I even kept my work going when I broke my leg a few years ago.

This was different. I was only at the hospital for about six hours, but hors de combat on some level— unable to use one hand and arm — for more than a month.

It was surprisingly easy to edit and proofread one-handed in Word and Acrobat, and compose short e-mail messages and online posts (although making sure they’re typo-free adds time to each one), but not to write, even though I’m left-handed and the injury was to my right arm and even after graduating from a clunky cast to a splint to an articulated brace. I had a couple of writing deadlines to meet, though, so I had to get creative. Luckily, I already had notes for the most-urgent pieces; even moreso, a couple of local friends who let me dictate the stories.

In the wake of this experience, I have a few new — and renewed — tips for colleagues.

Take care of your overall health. The better you feel and the fitter, healthier, or stronger you are, the better — and probably faster — you can cope with a temporary physical crisis or disability. Even a permanent condition can be easier to manage if your general health is good.

Control your weight. Being overweight adds to the complexity of recovering from getting hurt or sick — needing more time to heal from an injury or recover from an illness, affecting your reaction to anesthetic and the types of support you might need, and adding to not only physical discomfort but emotional reactions to needing help with hygiene, dressing and undressing, and more. A hospital, rehab center, home-care provider, or physical/occupational visit can be awkward or embarrassing if you feel at all self-conscious about how you look.

Have health insurance. This should be obvious, but isn’t always easy to do, given the expense involved, but events like this are testimony to the unpredictability of life and importance of coverage. Having insurance meant I didn’t have to panic about ambulance, hospital, doctor, or physical and occupational therapy expenses — a huge relief.

Look into disability insurance. Not all injuries mean not being able to meet current deadlines or accept new projects, but many do. Being sick or injured enough not to be able to work, whether at all or at your usual speed and effectiveness, can ruin your freelance business and wreak havoc on your personal life. Disability insurance can be pricey and isn’t always available, but do your best to obtain it if possible.

Stay ahead of deadlines. Whenever possible, get work done early. Having less deadline pressure on your shoulders can make a big difference in coping with an accident, illness, or family crisis by letting you focus on healing.

On the other hand, keep up with as much of your work as possible while recovering, because having a deadline to meet can be a motivator for following doctor’s orders and doing physical therapy. Work can also be a good distraction from pain or sorrow.

Have some kind of cloud storage in place already — Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, etc. — in case you have to work on a computer other than your usual one. Having files backed up in the cloud and accessible from my laptop meant I could manage some website projects that I usually do on my desktop computer. I could even have worked from a hospital or rehab center bed if necessary.

Be honest but discreet with clients. What and when to tell clients about a crisis is always tricky. Once you establish what you can and can’t do, let clients know if any limits will affect how much or what kinds of work you can do while recovering — if it will affect meeting deadlines. Not everyone has to know about a personal or physical challenge. For those you must tell, focus on how you will get the work done. In case you’ll need help from a colleague, ask whether subcontracting will be acceptable.

Oh, and make sure someone knows how to reach your clients in case you can’t contact them for a while.

Practice for a crisis. As editorial professionals, we need maximum use of our arms and hands, and we don’t realize how much we use both until one is non-functional. Injuries to other limbs can be unpleasant (at best), but might not affect the ability to write, edit, proofread, index, etc. It can’t hurt to occasionally try using your non-dominant hand to type, take notes, and manage personal hygiene, from dressing to brushing teeth to washing up.

Build and nurture your network. This experience reminded me of a colleague who needed someone to accompany her for a same-day surgical procedure a few years ago, and had no one to help. Her own daughter couldn’t (or wouldn’t) go with her. Don’t be that person!

We all should be networking on a regular basis to build our editorial businesses and profiles, but also as part of being prepared for emergencies. Look for ways to help if a colleague or friend experiences a crisis or just needs advice. Networking is a two-way process. If you give as well as take, you’ll be in a better position to ask for help (from family, friends, and neighbors as well as colleagues) when you need it.

Invest in backup equipment. When I broke my leg, the cast made it easier to work on my laptop than at my desk. The same was true this time. Having the laptop meant I could work.

I’m investing in dictation software in case I ever need help with writing projects again.

Even furnishings can play a role — I slept in a recliner for several weeks and used one throughout the day to work while recuperating. If we hadn’t gotten those several years ago, I’d have had to buy at least one.

Keep that savings cushion healthy. Being injured or ill can mean not just having to pay for related expenses but filling an income gap if you can’t work while recovering. You might need funds for anything not covered by your health insurance, such as home care, errands, supplies and equipment, and other aspects of coping and recovering. The cost for anyone who charged to run errands wasn’t covered by my insurance, for example.

Being able to pay for rides to appointments or deliveries of groceries also can reduce any feelings of guilt about imposing on family and friends.

Don’t be too proud to ask. I find it hard to ask for help, but I had to — I didn’t want to leave my home for a rehab facility. Colleagues with partners, children, and pets probably would feel even more strongly about recovering at home.

I would have been lost without the generosity of family, friends, and colleagues over the weeks of being unable to drive and do various daily activities. This was all especially meaningful now that I live alone.

Now I’m thinking about ways to repay the generosity of everyone who picked up groceries; chauffeured me to meetings and appointments; straightened up my apartment; helped me get dressed; took dictation or subcontracted on a layout or website project; and simply called, e-mailed, or dropped by (with or without food) to see how I was doing. The local candy shop might benefit!

June 15, 2018

A Personal Note

Filed under: Editorial Matters,On the Basics — americaneditor @ 8:22 pm

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Editor in Chief

Dear Colleagues:

I’d like to apologize for being MIA here for the past few weeks. As some of you know, my beloved Wayne-the-Wonderful died in March. (The support from family, friends and colleagues has been amazing, and a huge help.)

An influx of work helped keep me reasonably sane, but took precedence over communicating with you. Posting here may be more fun, no matter how much I enjoy my work, but paying work does come first.

I was just feeling as if I had things under control and was ready to plunge back into posting here (and in social media) on a regular basis when I had a bad fall and dislocated my elbow and tore ligaments in my arm, so I’m functioning with one hand and arm for at least a couple more weeks. It’s been surprisingly easy to edit and proofread with one hand, even if it does take longer to get anything done, but writing that way is very difficult. Luckily, most of my phones have a speaker function, so I should be able to do the interviews necessary for a couple of writing assignments, and local colleagues have offered to take dictation for the actual writing process.

At some point (soon, I hope), I’ll translate these experiences into some new tips for colleagues to add to my past posts about planning for — and coping with — emergencies. In the meantime, please forgive my lapse in communication – and check out the updated post about the deadline for the AAE discount on registration for this year’s Communication Central conference, which has been extended!

April 9, 2018

On the Basics — Freelancing Means Many Bosses

Filed under: On the Basics — americaneditor @ 5:50 pm

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Editor in Chief

Many colleagues go freelance to get away from a difficult in-house boss, and certainly one of the pleasures of being a freelance editor is being your own boss. What many of us don’t realize when we go out on our own is that being a freelancer means having many “bosses” — and learning how to deal with the variety of behaviors or quirks that can involve.

When I’ve mentioned this in presentations or group discussions, by the way, some colleagues have objected to the word “boss.” I’m not an employee, because my client relationships do not fall into the guidelines established by the IRS that define an employee vs. an independent contractor and I don’t work only for one client, but I do think of my various clients as being my bosses in a way. While we don’t work together onsite every day, they set out the nature of an assignment or project, and I am expected to respond to their preferences and requirements. I don’t see the term as negative. However, if it makes our readers more comfortable, please feel free to substitute “client” for “boss.”

The Time Challenger

I still remember someone I wrote for years ago who called me at about 9:15 in the morning of the day a current assignment was due. I thought I had until 5 p.m. — close of business — on deadline day to send her my article, which was how my other clients operated, but she defined the deadline as first thing on that day. I didn’t realize that until I was running late according to her clock because time of day hadn’t come up in our conversation about the assignment.

Luckily, I was almost done with the article and just proofing my work, so I was able to send it to my client within the hour and be done well before the end of the day. I would have liked to give it more time, but we can’t always control these timelines.

Lesson learned: It isn’t just that some “bosses” expect to receive freelance assignments at the start of the deadline day, while others don’t care as long as your work reaches them by close of business on that day. It’s that different bosses/clients have different work and management styles. One aspect of succeeding as a freelancer is figuring out the work styles or preferences of everyone we work for, so we can head off any problems or conflicts that could arise in the process of handling a project. And you thought it was a challenge understand how your last in-house boss wanted things done!

What are some other client personalities, and how can you deal with them?

The Micro-manager

Just like a supervisor in a full-time workplace, a freelancer’s client — boss — can be a micro-manager. That kind of client is constantly in touch about the project, asking how it’s going, second-guessing your style decisions (and sometimes contradicting them), and otherwise halting your momentum.

You can’t change that personality, but you might be able to reduce the stress it creates for you. Try to set limits on interruptions. Use Caller ID so you can let this boss’s calls go to voice mail. Let the client know that you’ll be turning off e-mail at certain times so you can focus on the project and do your best work on it.

The Scope-creeper

Some clients are poster children for scope creep — when the nature of a project keeps changing. They send new pieces to add to a manuscript, change their mind about the direction or voice of the document, ask for more sources or other material, and otherwise mess with the scope of the project. What starts out as a straightforward copy edit turns into a substantive or developmental edit that will take you far more time than expected and could actually cost you money.

You can’t make someone rein in themselves or their projects, but you can take steps to protect yourself. First and foremost, you can include “anti-scope creep” language in your contract or agreement before you even start the project. Try something along the lines of “This rate/fee is for the project as described. Additional requests or requirements may result in additional charges.”

If scope starts to creep, with or without such language in your agreement, speak up immediately. Let the client know that a request (or demand) is beyond what you originally agreed to do or charge, and that you might need more time and/or more money to accommodate it. Say that you prefer not to go beyond the original scope without the client’s confirmation that the change will require more time and additional payment.

The Disorganized

Then there are the “bosses” who are so disorganized that you can’t count on a genuinely final manuscript to focus on and actually edit. They change their mind about style details or even the style manual to follow. They might send you the wrong version of the project and not realize it until you notice that it is not really ready for you to work on it or you send back your edit — or at best, are halfway through it. They revise material while you’re still editing what they sent you. Such a boss makes every project a nightmare.

There is little we can do about a client who is so disorganized that we can’t even assume we have a workable version of a project. It helps to skim all the way through the manuscript before starting to edit it, so you can see major problems as early as possible and confirm that you have the right version to work on. If the client continues to chop and change while you’re trying to focus on getting the work done, you can aim for developing tactful language to nudge the client back on track.

If all else fails, be sure to keep a record of requests and changes so you don’t get caught in a crossfire or held responsible for deadline delays that the client has caused.

Have you encountered challenging “boss” behaviors or personalities? If so, how have you dealt with them? What worked — and what didn’t?

March 21, 2018

On the Basics — Tackling the Other Kind of Writer’s Block

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

There are two kinds of writer’s block. The one most of us are familiar with is when you have trouble starting to write something, whether it’s an assignment or just for yourself. You sit in front of the screen (or at the typewriter, or with your pen and pad; some of us still like the old-style writing implements) and nothing happens. If you write nonfiction, you have interview notes and background material, but you can’t put them together. If you write fiction, your imagination has fled, your ideas have dried up, your characters are flat and stale. Nothing flows. It’s terrifying.

A block can be caused by fear of rejection, feeling intimidated by a prestigious assignment, and any number of other emotional issues. Plenty has been written about overcoming writer’s block. Most suggestions involve stepping away from the project. I don’t avoid writing if I get blocked, though.

I’ve been lucky to rarely experience true writer’s block. I might procrastinate on starting to write something, but that’s a little different from actually being blocked.

The few (thankfully) times I’ve had to cope with traditional writer’s block, the easiest way to break free has been to write a letter, usually to my mother. Even after I moved back to my hometown and there was no need to write letters any longer because she was either across town or right downstairs, and even since she died, I would write letters to her if I couldn’t get started on a writing assignment.

There’s something about writing to someone who will be completely accepting and uncritical that frees up my mind and my muse. After a couple of paragraphs, I’m ready to plunge back into my current assignment and get it done.

Another Type of Block

The writer’s block that is less well-known and less-discussed is one against revision — the inability to rewrite something you’ve actually managed to write. Not so much for yourself, but for an assigning editor or client. I’m lucky again that I’m not often asked to do any major revisions on what I write, but it does happen on occasion, and I hate it.

Once I’ve done my interviewing and research, crafted a draft, edited myself, proofread the result, and sent off the article, I’m done. It’s out of my head and heart. I’m eager to see it in print or online, but I don’t want to revisit it (unless I have ideas for repurposing it somehow). Being asked to revise is frustrating at best and feels impossible at worst.

I’m not talking about minor details where an editor might question a turn of phrase or ask to confirm a factual detail. I’m talking about substantive revision for some reason. Usually that reason is that the editor or publication has decided to take a different angle than originally planned. It isn’t that I didn’t do a good job or didn’t fulfill the requirements of the assignment; it’s that someone wants additional information or to have the information approached from a new direction. (This is when, by the way, contract language protecting against change of scope is invaluable. If I get paid more to do a substantive revision, that helps oil the wheels of my brain and unblock my ability to respond.)

Several years ago, I pitched an article to a magazine for writers that I would love, love, love to be published in. I did something I rarely do: wrote the story and sent it on spec (that is, on speculation — without a contract or agreement, in the hopes it would be accepted; more about that in a future essay). They liked it, but asked for extensive revisions. It’s been sitting in a folder ever since. I was and still am totally stuck; I just can’t wrap my brain around what they want. The problem probably is that the revision request isn’t specific enough for me to respond to it. I can answer actual questions, but taking a whole new approach to the subject seems to have jammed my gears completely.

Every once in awhile, I take out that typewritten manuscript (that should tell you how long ago this happened) and think about re-crafting it for re-submission. I’m not sure if I could even reach the person who was the subject of the article; he might not be alive any longer. The editor who responded to the original submission is no longer at the magazine, which might actually work in my favor; the current editor might like the unrevised version! But the thought of that unfinished, and thus unpublished, piece is like the irritant in the oyster, and I want it to evolve into that bright, beautiful pearl.

It’s quite possible that just writing about how difficult it can be to revise what I thought was a finished work might do the trick and help me find a way into a new version of this article. One approach might be to go back to my original notes and start as if I hadn’t written the first version at all. One can hope.

The Blocked Editor

Writer’s block, obviously, applies to writers — but editors get blocked, too. A very dry or complex manuscript, a first project for a prestigious client, a huge manuscript that takes longer than expected, the need to learn a client’s wacky house style … an editor can get stuck and feel unable to keep going with a demanding project. Even an enjoyable project can push an editor into a work blockage if it collides with something less-interesting to work on, requires using a different style from your usual one, or arrives when you’re struggling with health or personal issues.

Traditional approaches to writer’s block can work for blocked editors.

  • Step away from the computer and your desk or home office, and go out for a walk.
  • Play a game.
  • Treat yourself to a meal or movie with a friend or family member.
  • Switch to another project.
  • Post to a friend’s or colleague’s blog.
  • Spend an hour or two on a craft project.
  • Envision how good it will feel to get it done — or how you will spend the fee.
  • Write a letter to someone.
  • Switch to another project for a while.
  • If the deadline isn’t imminent, give yourself a couple of days or the weekend off.

Just as I was writing the first draft of this post, I got a message from Writer’s Digest magazine with a mention of what might be a useful resource for anyone else stuck in this situation: Write and Revise for Publication by Jack Smith. I just might get a copy and see if it can help. In the meantime, I might take another look at that folder. The subject’s organization doesn’t seem to exist any longer, but maybe I can revise that story and get it out to the world — an updated version might look good to another market entirely.

Have you been blocked on a project? If so, how did you get yourself jump-started so you could finish it up?

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is the editor-in-chief of An American Editor and an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, not-for-profits, and companies worldwide. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues. Ruth can be contacted at Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

March 7, 2018

On the Basics: Managing Your Freelance Business to Head off Financial Crises

Filed under: Contributor Article,Editorial Matters,On the Basics — americaneditor @ 9:51 am

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

In a similar vein to my recent post about networking etiquette (On the Basics: Making the Best Use of Interaction with Colleagues), someone in a Facebook group recently asked for help in finding projects that would generate $250 “by Saturday.” That kind of plea might not violate the rules of good manners or effective networking, but it can damage an editorial freelancer’s image and reputation just as much as bogarting into a community of colleagues with a demand for their contacts and referrals before establishing credibility and connection with that group.

Money Matters

Most of us have had financial issues at some point in our freelance editorial lives — I certainly have. It can be quite frightening to need funds urgently, and asking for work leads is better than asking people you don’t know for money, but finding a new client and project that will generate a substantial fee in less than a week is unlikely. Some do pay almost as soon as they receive an invoice (usually via PayPal), but that seems to be a rarity. The standard in the business world is payment within 30 days of invoice date, and some clients are now using 45 and even 60 days as their payment schedules. We have to be prepared to wait for payment sometimes.

The impracticality of such a “need a fast-paying project now” request aside, it isn’t good for the asker’s image. It implies that the poster can’t manage their business effectively enough to head off financial issues, and doesn’t have personal resources — savings, family, credit cards, things to sell — to offset a crisis. Colleagues may be sympathetic when we experience business or personal financial issues, but might change their perception of someone who puts that out into a wide-open arena like Facebook. And clients don’t want to know. Even clients we’ve gotten to be friendly with prefer to see us as financially sound and responsible.

Here are some thoughts about protecting yourself from an urgent need for a couple hundred bucks in a couple of days, and from other financial issues that can arise.

Early Steps

For those who are starting your editorial businesses, try to have a cushion of savings in place before you launch. You probably won’t make a lot of money right away, and you don’t want to start out feeling desperate for funds. Desperation shows, and pushes us into making bad decisions about accepting projects that don’t pay what we’re worth. Having at least a couple months’ worth of expenses covered by a savings cushion will help you feel more secure and protect you against a crisis.

Once you have a savings account in place, use it! Not by spending what’s in it, but by “paying yourself” regularly. With every incoming payment, put a portion in your savings account for emergencies (and another portion in your business account for paying estimated taxes).

Be sure to set up ways for clients to pay you as quickly as possible, such as a PayPal account, so you don’t always have to wait to receive a check, get it to your bank, and wait some more for it to clear. PayPal might take a small percentage out of every payment you receive, but it means clients can pay you as soon as they receive an invoice. Like taxes and other non-negotiable costs, be sure to factor this fee into your overall billing structure.

Since most clients will only pay within 30 days of invoice date at the earliest, even if your invoice says “Payable on receipt,” consider budgeting to spend income 60 or more days after you expect a payment to arrive. That way, timely payments are a pleasant surprise and late ones are manageable. This doesn’t mean letting clients slide if their payments run later than promised — you would still chase down any slow payers — but it will help you manage expenses and income more effectively. You won’t be as dependent on the timely arrival of any one given payment, and you would head off panic caused by a late payment.

Think about alternative income sources in case you unexpectedly need fast cash: things you can sell on eBay or Craigslist, a business-only credit card you could tap for a cash advance, family members you could ask for a loan, good enough credit to qualify for a bank loan. This isn’t something to do on a regular basis, of course, but worth keeping in mind should a crisis arise.

Ongoing Techniques

Of course, one of the best ways to head off a financial crunch is to build up a steady stream of income. That takes focused, organized effort, including ongoing marketing.

Even when you’re in midst of a major project, remember to look for and line up a new one to start as soon as you finish that one. Otherwise, you’ll have a huge gap between getting paid for that project and finding, completing, billing, and getting paid for a new one. You might end up having to juggle overlapping deadlines on occasion, but too much work is better than not enough.

Aim for a balance between large and smaller projects. That should help ensure a constant flow of income, as well as a manageable level of work. Smaller projects might generate faster payments as well.

Depending on the type of client you work with, you might be able to negotiate advance payments for some projects, followed by incremental payments as you make progress on a manuscript. This is more likely to be doable with individual clients, such as academics or independent authors, than with publishers and businesses – but it never hurts to try to set up such arrangements. If you never ask, you never receive.

Develop visibility among and relationships with colleagues so they will think of you when they need subcontractors or someone to refer clients to for projects they can’t take on. We recommend and hire people we know, especially those who have shown skills and knowledge that we can respect and might need. (Establishing that kind of network takes time and effort, so be patient and proactive.)

Join professional organizations that provide visibility through membership directories or listings, along with job services, to expand your chances of finding new clients and projects. Use those memberships to enhance your reputation among colleagues by offering advice and resources, answering questions, and otherwise being useful and helpful. That’s the kind of activity that also can lead to colleagues remembering and referring you for new work before you even have to ask.

Establishing good relationships with regular or repeat clients can also come in handy if a crisis arises. Those are the clients you can contact about expediting a current invoice or even asking for an advance on an upcoming project payment. I’d only make that kind of request once, though.

It can’t hurt to sign up with some of the online job services, but be aware that most of them don’t offer leads to work that pays very well. Some colleagues say these resources can offer ongoing and fast-turnaround projects, though, so they are worth considering as a backup to your regular business activities.

The bottom line is to build up a regular flow of both projects and income so you never have to be the person who asks colleagues for help with finding $250 worth of work that will pay in a couple of days. Or has to ask family and friends for a loan. Or has to sell some blood to pay the phone bill.

How have you coped with a financial crisis? Even better, how have you organized your business (and your life) to head off such events?

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is the editor-in-chief of An American Editor and an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, and companies worldwide. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues. Ruth can be contacted at Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

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