Take a few minutes and read this interview with my friend Jim Thomsen, a West Coast wiseacre who made the jump from daily journalism to freelance book editing a few years ago. He spent a lot of time last year (in my estimation, at least) trying to persuade me to step off into the freelance free fall, myself.
I balked. I’m no entrepreneur, and I like my creature comforts: a steady paycheck, benefits, taxes deducted without any effort on my part, even a desk in a room with other people. Having to concern myself with those matters day to day would be an unwelcome distraction from real work. I stand by that argument.
He was quick to argue — as he suggests in the interview — that he’s just an ordinary guy who kinda got pushed into the freelance life by circumstance. Friends and networking — and a few contract gigs — saved him from the poorhouse after he was laid off, another victim of widespread newspaper cuts.
My protestations continued for months, and then I made a career change. I’ve only been a book editor for five-ish months, but this experience has me looking at the issue with fresh perspective.
The act of editing a long manuscript is deeply satisfying. So is the act of cultivating a good relationship with a talented author. I can now see how freelancing could provide a better foundation for those skills than nearly any other venue. Publishing houses pay very little, or so I’m told, and working for The Man places a variety of other demands on an editor that can dilute the pursuit of excellence in those acts.
Still, I’m not convinced the freelance life is the life for me. I don’t have a substantial personal and professional network, as Jim does. He insists he’s a bit of a troglodyte, but in fact he’s incredibly outgoing and skilled. He’s got a bazillion friends on Facebook and a social calendar that bleeds ink. He knows how to work it.
I do not. As much as I enjoy the company of others, I’m still a clumsy introvert. The skills I’d need to cultivate to build a business are ones I believe I can only refine by working on relationships in an office setting. I’ve come a long way in nearly 15 years of editing — and my portfolio reflects this — but work is more than a portfolio. It’s about building trust and credibility, and instilling a firm belief in all your prospects that your skill is one they need to invest in, and you, personally, are the one who can best deliver on it.
- The Importance of Freelance Editors (thedancingwriterblog.wordpress.com)
- 10 Reasons Why You Need an Editor for Indie Publishing (shareyourarticles.wordpress.com)