A Freelance Editor’s Promise

Editors Highlighted Section of Book

No matter where you look people are doing business. From the entrepreneurs talking themselves up on Twitter to your local friendly shopkeeper, everyone needs to earn a living. Freelancers are no different; some are better at business than others, and the Internet has been a godsend to many, including myself.  However, the Internet has also heralded an explosion in home-workers (although I expect it’s not as big an explosion as you would think, perhaps a mild pop), and there is a perception that most women working for home, are working for pin-money – making a ‘living’ from a hobby. This isn’t helped by women’s magazines telling you to turn to your kitchen table for extra income inspiration.

When you are freelance, and when you work from home, you seem to be in a constant state of apology. You apologise when family don’t understand why you are locked in your study for hours on end and you apologise for not being able to just drop everything to do the supermarket shop or go for a coffee mid-morning. You apologise for so many things because people just don’t understand that despite not being in an office full of colleagues, you are actually holding down a ‘real’ job. This is especially true if you are a woman, as we seem be the champions of an apologetic lifestyle.

It can also lead to apologising (in your head at least) for charging proper rates for a proper job.

What people need to understand is that folk who work from home are working. Editors who work from home are working. Professionals working from home are often working a lot harder than when they worked in a traditional work setting – no paid for lunch breaks, holidays, chatting with colleagues around the coffee machine.

Richard Adin has written a straight to the point article on the mistakes editors make when not taking care of business. It’s a very common problem.

Business can be tough. But when you get down to the nitty-gritty of it all, if you are running a business you have to make some tough decisions. For some it means giving it all up and returning to the 9–5, for others it means charging proper rates and deciding not to apologise for it. Freelance editors should never forget that they are (usually) experienced, educated to a high degree and have an expertise that other people do not.  Clients should expect to pay a fee that reflects the time, experience and training of their editor.

This week Joanne Harris let her Writer’s Manifesto loose on the world, and I agree with everything she says. If you haven’t read it I urge you to, it doesn’t just ring true for writers. Too often we shy away from money, but it is linked to survival and self-worth. Without it we cannot survive and our businesses will die. It’s great to give but it is also good to receive – there should be a balance, a harmony within our craft.


success failure

I have a business plan, but I also have a promise to myself as to how I run my business. It reminds me that, should I hit lean times or find myself being apologetic, I have a business to run and I will run it responsibly while also remaining true to myself and my training.

So here are the ten ways I run a responsible editorial business:

  1. I never stop learning and honing my craft, because yes, editing is a craft.
  2. I continue to charge honestly and fairly for my services.
  3. I turn down commissions whose monetary rewards do not reflect the experience and expertise I bring to the project (it may sound harsh, but editing is my career, not my hobby). However I may choose to take them on if they interest me personally or if the experience will have positive results.
  4. I turn down commissions when the timescales involved are too short to comfortably work at my best.
  5. I may challenge my authors, but I will always respect their opinions.
  6. I may go the extra mile for my clients, but if I do so it is at my own discretion.
  7. I respect my free time and expect my clients to respect theirs.
  8. I pay my bills on time and expect my clients to do the same.
  9. I embrace new challenges, but know my limitations.
  10. I understand that I am running a business, and to be successful I have to be true to myself, my family and my clients.

While this promise may not help to make people understand the trials and tribulations of freelance work, it helps me focus and allows me to stop apologising.

7 Comments on “A Freelance Editor’s Promise

  1. Thank you SO MUCH for posting your list! It’s reassuring to see that others have the same struggles — and a wonderful reminder to not give in. (Because, next to apologizing, my second-biggest flaw is giving in. 🙂

  2. Yes! Everything you said rang true, Sara. One of the problems of working from home is that you are constantly ‘accessible’ – by family, pets (I don’t mind the pets), those annoying sales/charity calls (I’ve learnt NOT to answer the landline or mobile calls from an unrecognised number) – in short, interruptions are par for the course, especially during school holidays! Another problem is distraction. It’s easy to leave your desk for a ‘coffee break’, and end up playing with the dog, baking a cake, putting on a load of washing, and then you realise you’ve just wasted an hour. The solution? Discipline! And that takes a LOT of work (well, it does for someone like me). That said, I love running my own business. I love what I do, I love that I learn something new every day, but I’ve never worked harder in my life. And yes, we need to educate our clients, our family (and our pets) to respect that we are WORKING from home and even more importantly, we need to train ourselves to take our business seriously, but also to respect our self-worth and personal wellbeing. I’m certainly guilty of not doing either of these in the past, but after engaging a business mentor, I’m certainly doing much better with the former – and I’m working on the latter (work in progress!).

Leave a Reply to sjdonaldson Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: