Stop The Race To The Bottom, Value Your Writing Services

Business people Running Towards Finish Line --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

I need an editor … you’ll be rewarded

I need an editor … you’ll get great exposure

I need an editor … fast

I need an editor … I don’t mind paying

I need an editor … willing to pay

I need an editor … for free

 

If you need an editor … I’ll do it cheap

If you need an editor … I need the money

If you need an editor … I need a job

If you need an editor … I need the experience

If you need an editor … I’m not a great fit but …

 

All of these comments were taken from Twitter within the last six months. And they all appeared more than once, by different people, at different times and from different countries.

The potential ‘clients’ actually needed video editors, developmental editors, copy editors, proofreaders, copywriters and writing coaches. But hey, an editor is an editor on social media.

writing and editorial professsional despairing

Social media is great, don’t get me wrong, I love it, but it does seem to facilitate a race to the bottom. Everywhere you turn there are ‘experts’ who will tell you what you want to hear, potential clients who are in desperate need of help and professionals who are trying to keep their businesses afloat.

It may be controversial (or perhaps it isn’t) but sometimes, as professionals, we don’t really help ourselves. You can see it clearly from the comments above. Creative shaming is something I wrote about last year, but there has to come a time when creative professionals decide what is important in their working lives and start to help themselves.

 

Stop the race to the bottom, value your services.

To stop this awful race to the bottom, and to make it less acceptable to pay creatives a pittance (or even nothing, because, hell, exposure is great), we all need to value our services.

Writing and editing are valuable skills:

If everyone could do it there would be no typos, bad grammar or just plain awful prose in the world.

If our skills weren’t valuable there would be no need for editorial professionals or professional writers.

writing services

 

Writing and editing – the hidden talent.

Businesses rely on conveying a message, and that message should be concise, clear and articulate. The creatives behind business communication are often well hidden, but professional writers, editors and proofreaders can make the business more attractive to clients. And that skill has value.

Authors rely on crafting a great story, and that story should be a pleasure to read. The creatives that help behind the scenes are often well hidden, but editorial professionals can make a good story into a great story. And that skill has value.

 

Embrace your skills.

We must get out of the mindset that ours skills are of little value, and embrace our knowledge for what it is – hard graft that comes through years of experience and training. We may enjoy what we do, but our skills have value to others.

Creatives help to make the world a brighter place, and help businesses grow and flourish, so they should be treated as professionals and paid well for their expertise. And that needs to start with the creative professionals themselves. We need to value our skills and help others to value them too.

I’m lucky, I have great clients who value my services. But that may be because I know my value, understand the value of great training and help potential clients to understand what they really need. I refuse to do something just because a client thinks they need it: if they don’t need a service I won’t do it. I also refuse to join in a race to the bottom, even if it means missing out on work.

 

Learn to say no.

If you are a professional creative you are skilful, confident and competent. You are also engaged in an activity as a paid occupation. It is your job.

It can be really difficult to say no when someone needs help, but you have to take on work that pays you enough to settle your bills and buy the odd bottle of Prosecco. If your business has you taking on low-paid work (and let’s admit it, we have all done it), you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it. If you can’t pay your bills it isn’t. If you’re taking on low-paid work because you need a filler you are going to kick yourself when you have to say no to a decent commission, because your time is being monopolised by the job that has you working for below minimum wage.

Freelancer learning to say no

 

Fight back.

So, it’s time to fight back. Just because you can help doesn’t mean you have to help.

Your professional expertise has cost you:

              Time – you didn’t become a competent professional creative overnight.

              and

              Money  – for training and equipment.

 

Even if you are starting out, you have the skills and training. If this is your job, it is your livelihood.

 

Have the answers ready.

It can be daunting to take that leap and decide that from now on you will only work for a decent wage. It’s scary – you may never work again, you have bills to pay, you need to eat. Yes, but it’s a vicious cycle; once you start accepting low-paid work, or you work for ‘exposure’, your mindset follows and you start to believe that you are only worth that minimum wage or that you need the ‘exposure’.

So take a stand. Know your worth. Here are the answers:

 

I need an editor … you’ll be rewarded  (Great, thanks, my rates are …)

I need an editor … you’ll get great exposure (Great, thanks, my rates are …)

I need an editor … fast   (Great, thanks, my rush rates are …)

I need an editor … I don’t mind paying  (Great, thanks, my rates are …)

I need an editor … willing to pay (Great, thanks, my rates are …)

I need an editor … for free  (Great, thanks, but I don’t work for free. My rates are …)

 

And here is what you should say:

If you need an editor … I’ll do it cheap    my rates are …

If you need an editor … I need the money    my rates are …

If you need an editor … I need a job     I have some flexibility in my schedule, my rates are …

If you need an editor … I need the experience    my rates are …

If you need an editor … I’m not a great fit but    I would love to expand into this area, my rates are …

 

 

Bullet Journals Arent Too Shabby

Pink journal, notebook

How do you organise your working notes?

Do you use Word docs, notepads or lots of pieces of paper? Or perhaps you use desk planners, whiteboards, wall calendars, big diaries, little diaries or the calendar on your phone or computer. There’s also the floor, the wall, the dog and anything you can stick Post-it notes to, or attack with a sharpie.

Keeping track can be a bloody nightmare.

Personally I’ve always wanted one of those clear stand-up walls that you see in those CSI type programmes – what the hell do you even call them? I Googled ‘clear stand-up perspex board for writing on like CSI’ and it came up with nothing. Nada. So I extended my search to include anywhere in the world and Google came up with instructions on how to actually make one! Yaas! It also had a link to the ACTUAL company that makes the real deal, the ones you see in the crime series … but it’s in America … and I seriously can’t afford one of those beauties.

markerboard Numbers

I will never understand the numbers, but would love a markerboard.

I just don’t have the room (or the cash), or believe me, I’d have one!

Anyway, I digress. Keeping track can be a pain.

I know some of my colleagues use online trackers, or excel spreadsheets.

Some use Toggl for tracking time, but I have a spreadsheet I’ve set up that works just as well. I just open the timesheet for the job I’m working on and with one click I start tracking my billable hours and I can see how long I’ve worked on a certain part of the project at a glance.

But what I’m talking about is the time-tracking that shows you what jobs you have lined up, where you are with each job and what you need to do each day, week or month.

Some people use Trello or Evernote and they look pretty good, if you like everything on the computer. But I spend ALL DAY on the computer. Honestly, some days I can be staring at a screen from 9 am–10 pm, not always working (no-one can work for that length of time) but always plugged in.

I need something physical, that I can carry with me, that I can touch.

And that’s where my newest fad comes in.

Everyone has heard of them by now, so it will come as no surprise to you that I have made myself a bullet journal.

image

My journal, at the beginning, when I had a week off.

If you haven’t heard of them, basically a bullet journal is a notebook that you customise with months, weeks and days, a bit like a traditional diary. But you put in the details that are most useful to you. I’ve got a section to see at a glance what work I have lined up, there’s a page or two for useful websites (you know, the ones you write down on the nearest envelope, which is promptly lost when you need it), and for writing ideas.

I know, I know … you’re probably thinking what I thought – duh, it’s just a diary with room for notes. But actually, the way you customise that blank notebook makes it useful to YOU. It’s yours to do with what you will, and you can customise it to get the most out of it.

It’s a stupidly simple idea. Someone just had to put a name to it to give us the newest productivity fad. That person was Ryder Carroll, and you can check out the system on his website.

Strangely enough though, it works and although I’ve only had mine since mid-January, it’s something I’m finding incredible useful. There are pros and cons though:

Pros of a bullet journal

  • Forget reaching for your laptop, your journal is right there beside you so you can quickly pick it up and see where you are, add notes, or just admire the colour (I picked a cheerful cerise for mine).
  • It unplugs you, even for a little while. It grounds you in the real world.
  • No more searching for bits of paper/envelopes/bills that you’ve written on. Everything can be put in your journal.
  • It’s more personal than a computer app. Pick a nice journal that appeals to you and set it out in a way that works for you. Use colour, or just a ballpoint. Use tape, stickers, ribbon bookmarks, doodle in it, write randomly in it, just make it yours.
  • Everything is all in one place. This, for me, is the most important. Instead of hunting for notes, to-do lists, my calendar, important things that I need to remember and work incoming and due dates, it’s all there in one little book. It organises my tired little mind.

Cons of a bullet journal

  • If you are hooked up to your phone you may have everything you need right there (it’s just not as pretty or tactile).
  • Forget about all the pretty bullet journal images you see on Pinterest. Seriously. Unless you are supremely arty, have a few days to play with it, or like to use lots of stickers and washi tape, you are never going to get it looking as nice as those YouTubers do.
  • You need to take time at the beginning to set out your journal and write bits in there. In our times of instant gratification this could get you annoyed (I dashed mine out and you can tell. It’s not pretty).
  • You start getting journal envy when you see all the lovely variations out there. If you’re a perfectionist you might want to throw it away and start again, to make it pretty, or more useful.
  • Unlike a computerised to-do list, once it’s written down it’s there. If you aren’t careful it can become a messy blob of coloured pen.

Whether you have a bullet journal or not, the most important thing is to be able to keep track of your work and your time. I just like the fact that it’s a notebook. I like notebooks.

I’m forever grateful to my colleagues for showing me this new shiny way of keeping up with my world, and for this Buzzfeed article for breaking it down for me.

Now that you’ve heard how useful they can be, why not watch the video by the master, and let Ryder show you how to make one:

Have you jumped on the bullet journal fad? Do you find it better than all the computerised bits and bobs or do you find it hard to pull away from the technology?

No Bullshit Please

cow, bull, bullshit

Last week I wrote about having a bad year.

It wasn’t a massively thought out post, it was just a ‘no bullshit’ scribbling when, being perfectly honest, I could think of nothing else to write about. But it turned into one of the most popular posts I’ve written in a while. Just like a lot of my other, similar, posts it resulted in feedback both on my website and through personal communication. It led me to the conclusion that people prefer a no bullshit approach to business and writing these days.

Colleagues and clients like honesty and authenticity.

But why be honest and open in my blog posts (attached to my business website) when it would be so much easier just to keep quiet? Isn’t it career suicide? I’d say no to that.

Reasons to be open and honest professionally:

bull head

It shows people you are real.

We are all human (mostly) so we like to do business with other humans. How many of you honestly like those auto DMs on Twitter? I’ll bet even if you use them (please don’t) you don’t like getting them. No one likes speaking to a robot unless they are in the cybernetics business (or sci-fi nerd like me). By keeping my blog real and by ‘talking’ to you I’m letting you into my world a little and we can hopefully build up a rapport.

bull head

It shows that life isn’t always rosy.

Unless we are supremely blessed in life things don’t always go the way we want. By writing an honest, no bullshit blog, I am happy to spread the love but also show things the way they are. Are people too frightened to say it like it is? Is it from fear of being seen as weak, as unprofessional or being afraid to show failure? Or is it the great British reserve? After 16 years as a freelance I know there are ups and downs and I’m not afraid to document it. Last year was bad, this year will be better.

bull head

It builds trust.

I much prefer to do business with people I know and trust, as I expect you do too. By writing honestly on my blog I can share tips and tricks with clients, help and inform fellow freelances (and learn from them too!) and show that I care about my work, my colleagues and my clients. I offer a bespoke service, and with this comes a level of professionalism that includes trust between myself and the client. So what if the client can see if I’m having a bad week (or a good one)?, they can also see that I never disclose confidential information and that I value my client list. As a genealogist I am privy to a LOT of potentially personal information, and as an editor I am allowed into my clients’ heads. If I thought for one second that my clients, or my colleagues, felt they couldn’t trust me I’d close my laptop on my work and walk away from it for good.

bull head

It helps others to feel they can share.

There is nothing worse than being a freelance, locked away from the world, with no one to talk to. Freelancing is isolating, it’s lonely as hell and it can lead to all sorts of problems – less of the ‘hey, I’ll ditch my job and live the high life’ please (yes, I’m looking at you, online journalists). I’m lucky that I found the SfEP, but before I was an editor my life as a genealogist, isolated at the top of Scotland, was a lonely one. I had no-one to talk to (this was before such things as online forums, although there were snarky email lists) and I may have been going slightly mad. Especially when armchair genealogists, spurred on by Who Do You Think You Are and the rise of internet resources, decided to stop paying for research and did it themselves because it was all ‘so easy’ (to get it wrong). If, by being honest and open, I can make just one person feel less alone then that is worth it in itself. And if I can let some fledgling editor realise that there is the SfEP, EFA (for those in the US) and others (here’s a handy links for those of you outside of the UK) who are there to offer friendship and advice, then that’s good too.

bull head

It’s just a no bullshit policy.

I’ve got a bullshit detector. I can smell it a mile off, just like I can usually tell if someone is on the level. And I know I’m not the only one. Why pretend? I really can’t stand websites that write about someone in the third person (when you just KNOW they’ve written it about themselves), or ones that say ‘aren’t I fabulous, hire me, I’m perfect’. Get over yourselves, no one is perfect. No one. Not even that gorgeous guy you idolised as a teenager who was perfect in your eyes. Perfection is a myth. I don’t ever want to offend anyone, I’m too nice for that, but I just say it as I see it. Hell, I’m in my late 40s, life’s too short kids!

blank face

Show them your face, not a professional mask

So there you go. Those are my reasons to be authentic, open and honest in business. If people judge you for being honest, that’s their problem not yours.

If you think you will lose business by being honest, ask yourself why. Ask yourself if you could work with that client anyway.

You don’t need to be brutal, and you don’t need a ‘tell all’ policy. We need to remain at least a little mysterious, and over-sharing is not cool (I really don’t need to tell everyone that I love all things paranormal and that I binge watch RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix).

If you are honest with yourself and with your clients, whether that’s on a blog or in your business communication, everyone can concentrate on just being themselves and you can concentrate on offering great service.