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Earlier | Later

more about my work situation

Okay, let's try looking at things a different way.

First, as far as my week's gone, I'm clearly being pretty hard on myself. This is fair, for three reasons: one, it's an important aspect of my personal journal to critically analyze myself and make sure I'm aware of what I'm doing; two, as I mentioned, I have been continually neglecting to deal with work and financial issues, with the result that they've continued to slowly become more dire over time; three, it's another important aspect of my journal, as I've noted before, to simply vent about the things bothering me, so that instead of continuing to dwell on them I can set them down and then go do useful things. All that said, the week really wasn't as bad as all that; I was just upset by having just done my taxes and confronted myself with the stark reality, once again, that yes I've got problems I have to deal with. 

Now, about dealing with work problems. Let's look at my skill sets.
  • I'm an excellent editor from proofreading to substantive editing levels. I haven't really done much in the way of developmental editing, which gets into project and author/client management—and I'm not sure whether I really want to do that anyhow—but when it comes to anything from quality control (proofreading) to improving a draft (substantive), I know my work is top notch. Most of what I do falls in the middle range of copyediting.
  • Because of my eye for detail, head for organization, and speedy fingers for typing, I'm also very good at data entry, data verification, and content management.
  • I'm a good writer. I feel that I tend to be slow at writing—maybe I'm not really slower than the average writer, but I wouldn't want to be the person called upon to do a couple pages of business writing in a half-hour, for example. I tend to agonize too much over getting it just right. Still, for at least some kinds of nonfiction writing, I'm very good, and some kinds I can write more quickly than others.
  • I'm… not sure how to describe this skill set: layout technician? I'm not a graphic artist. I know the basics of graphic design, but wouldn't call myself a graphic designer. However, I can design decent basic layouts for documents, and I'm quite competent at placing content into a layout and adjusting things as necessary, whether using a predesigned template or one of my own layouts. I need to talk to John Harper about this, maybe he can help clarify how I should position myself.
All of these are things that I enjoy doing. If I were to choose one area to focus on for full-time work, it would be the editorial skills. I'm strongest at that, enjoy it a lot, and have the most professional experience with it already. But ideally I'd like to have opportunities to do work in all those areas, which suggests continuing as a freelance contractor on a project basis. I both enjoy the variety of work challenges and also believe making use of my diverse skill sets should give me more opportunities to find work.

What I'm not good at or strongly dislike:
  • Searching for work and making contacts. This is why I should be paired with an agency, or even part of some kind of small consulting partnership or group in which someone with the business networking skills would be finding the projects and I'd be one of the people doing the projects. It's not even that I hate talking to people, but I do loathe having to make the initial contact with people I've never talked to before, for business purposes (personal or professional). 
  • Office administration. You'd think that I'd be good at that, and I certainly have a lot of applicable skills, but it turns out I hate doing that kind of work. One reason I now shy away from the idea of seeking full-time editing work again is because I've now twice worked at small businesses which turned out not to have enough work to keep someone of my skills occupied full time, and I ended up having to take on office admin work, which quickly soured my spirits. And the thing is, I liked working at small companies; I'm not keen on working at a large corporation, and in any case it seems to me that editing jobs are increasingly scarce at large corporations because they can outsource them to contractors at less expense. This is another reason why I believe I should continue as a freelance contractor on a project basis.
  • Project management. Technically this doesn't belong on the list; it's not that I'm not good at it or strongly dislike it, rather it's that I've done almost none of it. Whenever I've worked on any kind of a big project, I've almost always been a team member rather than a project leader, and because I've mostly worked at or for small companies, I've almost always been the only person involved in my part of the project, so I've rarely had opportunities to be a project leader. I've had a few projects in which I've had to do some kind of schedule and resource management and I've handled it fine, but it's so limited that I have no good idea whether I even like having that role, let alone how good or bad I may be in it.
So that's more detail on where I'm at, and why I'm still hoping and trying to make it as a freelance contractor rather than land some kind of full-time position. As I see it, my biggest challenge is finding potential opportunities and selling myself as a contractor; my second-biggest challenge, then, is finding some way to get others to do that for me. I haven't stayed in touch with the agencies (or still haven't contacted a couple agencies) as I should have; that's partly because the ones I've talked to before have themselves had few positions due to the economy, and partly because they've seemed to want to pigeonhole me as a Microsoft technical editor. I need to find ways to break out of that, but also I need to find ways to do more networking that can lead to getting projects. Really, that's all it comes down to: I've got a few clients that have been very happy with my work and will continue to send me projects as they have them, but it's still infrequent or inconsistent enough that I need to get several more clients. If I could just get to a steady 80 billable hours a month—that's only half-time work—I'd be able to stabilize my financial situation. I've been doing 20 to 40 hours a month more often than not, and that's not cutting it. Getting 100 to 120 or more hours a month? That would be fantastic. Getting there is the trouble.

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The List: June 2011

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