Monday, October 28, 2013


Is it possible to come across as too competent?

Here's what I mean: I am quite guilty of giving people the impression, generally, that I am a total expert on whatever I'm talking about. I don't just mean important things. I mean practically any subject. If I have even a shred of knowledge about a subject, I come across as an epic expert.

Why do I do this? I have no idea. Probably I have an astronomical confidence in myself, far more than is healthy. (Thanks for all those "you're a smart girl, you can do hard things" talks, Mom, but they seem to have backfired slightly.) But honestly, once I've learned anything new, absolutely anything, it lodges in my brain as a Kernel of Truth and, if I share it, I do so from the viewpoint of some sort of oracle.

There are some problems with this. Possibly the least of these is that I sometimes tell people their own stories. Like, I'll hear an entertaining story related to me, and, much later, forget a bunch of the details but remember the overall theme, and, like a total moron, retell it to the person it actually happened to. "Oh, you'll never believe what happened to this friend of mine!" "Yeah, that was me, actually." This is, to put it mildly, embarrassing. Luckily, my friends are quite good-natured and apparently love me for my many good qualities, enough to overlook the stupid things I do.

I'm beginning to suspect that I may also be suffering professionally for this trait. Sure, I can expound at length about the benefits of having a well-developed LinkedIn profile, and discuss trusted methods of dealing with finicky clients, and pontificate on the value of offering discounts for upfront collection of payment. But the ridiculous truth is that I haven't actually done any of these things.

I sure sound as though I have. From the way I speak, you would swear I was an amazingly successful freelance editor, dishing brilliant words of wisdom from my keyboard to the lowly masses who are unlucky enough not to have been born me. Hell, if we're being honest, speaking like an expert is what this blog is all about. I'm always going on and on about how to work, what to do, what not to do.

Like I know. I am a total amateur. I have all of one client right now, and they're a really reasonable, likable client and not at all difficult to deal with.

But nobody sees that. Do others fail to send work my way because they are certain I have enough? Do they share less advice with me, because obviously I'm far more advanced than they are? Do they recommend, to potential clients, other editors they feel may have a greater need for work, because they're certain I can handle my own marketing?

I just don't know. Nor am I at all certain I can find out. This isn't some flighty nuance of character I could change with a week's meditation; this is a major part of my personality, deeply ingrained since about the time I learned to speak. To not speak with authority would mean relearning everything I know about the world and the way I approach it.

Is there a fix I can apply that circumvents this? Do I need to learn to attach caveats and qualifiers to my statements, especially in the context of business?

Or maybe this is an asset? Maybe speaking with authority communicates my confidence well, and others respond positively to that? Maybe simply seeming as though you know what you're doing is enough to convince others that you really are competent?

I'd love to hear opinions about this.

Friday, September 20, 2013

THE Client!

So I'm trying not to count my chickens before they hatch but there are totally chickens happening!

A few months ago I met a guy at a party who mentioned that his organization contracts out their editing work. I ended up calling him some time later and we talked about the possibility of me getting hired on as a freelancer.

Well guess what? It totally worked out.

He's drawing up the contract now but it looks to be a done deal. And the best thing? This is the job I most hoped would work out. I have a few leads on a few good jobs, but this one? Nearly perfect.

I really feel like it's a good fit both ways. I know I can give them valuable work, both because I know I edit well, and because I really care about the work they're doing. And I sincerely hope that they give me plenty of work (I already know the pay is good) such that I can get out of my corporate job by the beginning of next year.

Of course I'm being all vague about who they are and what they do, because 1) I haven't actually signed a contract yet and 2) I don't want to reveal any info they don't want released. But I'm hoping I'll be able to announce everything soon!

Part of me wants to hold back from celebrating because there are still so many things that could go wrong, but the (much, much bigger) rest of me is skipping through the hallways.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Not Having It All Figured Out

I had a revelation at my biotech job today.

I was in my "career development" meeting. I had been given, prior to this meeting, a series of worksheets I could use, if I wanted, to determine my career aspirations and lay out a path to achieve them. The worksheet is currently sitting blank on my desk.

My boss (who, I have to say, is amazing and is the best boss I've had, and I've had lots) knows that I am changing careers and building my own business. In fact, she supports me in this endeavor, and our meeting today was designed around how I can best spend my remaining time with the company developing skills that will help my own business succeed while still being worth what they pay me.

She asked if I'd used the worksheet. I couldn't help but chuckle. "No," I replied. "That's not really how I think about business or my career."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"To me, business isn't about having it all figured out. My business will be about making mistakes and learning from them, or doing things right and figuring out what worked about them. My direction is gained from insights I have while watching Ted talks with friends or chatting during dinner or over late-night coffee. I can't use a form to determine the direction my life will take. My business will connect me with people in ways that benefit us both. My business is not corporate; it's human."

Okay, fine, I didn't say it that eloquently, on the spot in the middle of a meeting, but you get the idea.

Not only can I not map the shape of my future by filling out a form, I'm not sure that anyone can. Corporations make this mistake all the time. Companies are not made of metrics, they're made of people, and people don't fit neatly inside checkboxes add multiple choice questions.

Where do I want my business to end up? I have no idea. Really, I don't. I know where I want it to be in a year, maybe five, but in the end? Who knows?

And would it really matter if I thought I knew? Between now and "the end" I will meet new and amazing people who will change my whole perspective on things. I'll survive heartbreak and tragedy and possibly major trauma. My views will shift, maybe radically. I am so distant now from the person I was at 22, why should I think I will be anything like I am now in ten, twenty, or fifty years? I might be several other people along that road.

And my business will change and grow, and yes, maybe fail. But that's the whole point. It will be an experience, a journey, a network.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go translate this to bullet points and upload it into my Development Tracker.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Waiting for the Right Clients

This week I complete my last copyediting course from the University of California, San Diego, and receive my copyediting certificate. It's a major milestone I've been working toward for a year now, and I'm quite pleased to have reached my goal.

This means it's time to get serious about my business. I've delayed spending significant effort working on editing until I was finished with classes, so as not to overload myself. I no longer have that need. What I need now is work.

And I find myself facing a dilemma. On the one hand, I want to find clients who need me as much as I need them. I want to find good partnerships that benefit both me and the client, in all-encompassing ways. I want to find work that fulfills me on a creative and inspirational level, and that pays well. And I want to be a greatly positive influence on the organization that hires me, helping them achieve goals they couldn't have reached otherwise.

However, like many new entrepreneurs, I want to get started this very moment. The voice inside my head is screaming, "Find work now! Take any job! Get as many clients as you can! Prune your business later!"

It may not seem that difficult to tune this voice out, but it truly is. The fear of never having enough (enough business, enough money, enough work, enough experience) has a fierce grip on me.

I know I'm not the only one to have felt this. And I know the most successful entrepreneurs have ignored their inner panic voice and waited for the right clients. I know that selecting only clients who fit well with my goals and ideals and for whom I am a good fit is the only business decision that makes sense. I don't want to have to prune later. I want to grow continually.

But wow, is it hard to wait. Patience is clearly not one of my strengths.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Silence: Worse than Rejection

If you seek advice about working as a creative professional, you'll hear one thing quite often: "Get used to rejection. Don't take it personally."

You hear it a lot, and it becomes a mantra. It's not you that's being rejected, just your work. It wasn't the right fit. It's not the right time.

Okay. This is fine. I can handle this.

What you don't hear is that rejection happens less often than silence.

Rejection implies someone took the time to review your work, evaluate it against their needs, and decide it wasn't the right fit. Silence provides no such implication. Silence could mean they never received your work in the first place. Or maybe they did and they ignored it. Or maybe they actually went through it but didn't like it.

You'll never know.

I'm trying to get new business right now and the silence is deafening. I contact potential clients every day. I send out resumes and portfolios. I email. I follow up.

Once in a while, I get a response: "Thanks for contacting us. You'll hear back if we're interested." No timeline. No idea of how long I must wait before giving them up as lost.

But that's the rare exception. Mostly I hear nothing.

There's nothing quite as terrible as an empty inbox.

I hope that someday I won't have this problem, but I know too many creative professionals to delude myself into really believing that.

So I'll continue to slog through the continually defeating task of checking for responses that will never arrive, and sending more requests for work out into the great void of silence.

Better luck to you.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Doing the Hard Stuff

Lately, I've been reading a lot about doing what you love and making your business reflect your true self. These are great messages, and worth paying attention to.

But sometimes we need a reality check. Doing what you love doesn't always pay the bills. Selecting only for jobs you think are an expression of your true self may leave you foundering.

Sometimes, you have to do something you don't love.

It can be easy to fall into the trap of believing that doing what feels good, having a great time every moment you are working, and enjoying every second of your job will lead to success. And, to be sure, loving your work will breed success. It's impossible to take your business to great places if you hate everything about it.

But work is work, and some days everything will suck.

Some days you'll be tired. You'll wish you were doing something else. You'll want to put down your work and do something different.

And following those desires just might cause you to fail.

Your livelihood depends on someone paying you for your goods or services. Your customers don't pay you for your happiness, and many of them probably don't care about how you feel. They want their product, and they want it when you said you'd deliver it.

Failure to deliver will drive your customers away.

And that's just what happens when you do something besides the work you thought you were going to love when you took the job.

Ideally, you would only take jobs you truly care about. But, especially if your business is new or struggling, you may find that the only way to keep yourself afloat is to take a job simply because it's available and you're qualified.

This is where I now find myself. I am trying to focus on exactly what I want to do, sure. But the market is competitive and there are more editors than there are contracts, so passing up work that doesn't perfectly suit my personality simply isn't an option.

I'm not saying you should take whatever work comes your way just because someone will pay you to do it. But consider whether you can survive on only the ideal jobs. How many of those exist, and how much can you earn by accepting nothing else?

It's vital, then, to figure out where your lines are. What are your ideal customers like? What are your acceptable customers like? What is completely unacceptable?

Monday, April 1, 2013


When I began editing and studying online, I found I had to juggle my time in order to get everything done. Lunch breaks were an easy solution: I can accomplish two or three tasks in the same time frame (eating, classwork, and editing). It made absolute sense to do a lot of my editing work at my desk at work.

However, at work I use a Windows-based computer, which was provided by my employer in biotech. At home I use a Mac, which I own. Once I am freelancing full-time, all my work will be done on the Mac.

And this brings me to the "oops." As much as I love the Mac platform, I've gotten really comfortable working on the PC. I've set folders up on the PC to segregate in-process work from completed and published work. I have files for images, for different authors, for different projects. Everything is very organized.

I've also been working exclusively in Word for Windows when I edit documents provided to me by my authors. As I learned (to my great disappointment and frustration) during my first copyediting class, Word for Windows is not equivalent to Word for Mac.

So I've set up a situation, quite unintentionally, such that I will be totally a fish out of water when I quit the biotech job, unless I make some changes.

I don't relish the thought of lugging my MacBook back and forth to work every day, but it seems like a superior idea to striking out on my own and having to learn an entirely new software, not to mention lacking any real organization for the projects I've already completed or have in progress.

What a mundane dilemma.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Frustrations and Commitments

I've been struggling a lot lately with frustration about my current situation.

I am employed full-time at a biotech company. I've worked in biotech for more than ten years now, and it hasn't been a bad journey. But last summer I felt the need to do something different, and began to pursue a career in editing.

These jobs are very different. I currently do both, fitting editing (which is freelance) in around my biotech career (which happens during normal business hours). It hasn't always been easy, but so far I've managed okay.

My plan is to continue to work in biotech until I've made a livable wage from editing for at least six months, to ensure I won't immediately fail and have to go right back to what I've been doing. This necessitates a long timeline, since I'm only starting and have yet to reach anything like a livable wage.

However, I love editing, and lately that career is really going well. I have new clients, exciting work, excellent business relationships, and a great deal of hope regarding the future.

Biotech, meanwhile, feels old, dull, and tedious. Complex tasks that used to excite me now befuddle me, and every day feels like drudgery. Little annoyances blossom into major setbacks. My routine work has gotten sloppy. I don't feel like I belong there anymore.

But I know my plan is sound, and I need to stick with it to mitigate the risks I face. Were I to leave my current job now, I'd be unable to pay all of my bills in as little as two months without securing additional income. I'd likely end up right back at the biotech firm, with far less credibility for having left.

So I keep at the day job, as much as I may dislike it. I try not to daydream about what it will be like when I am editing full time, because I know I'm glossing over all the bad stuff. But I have to say, at this point, I welcome the challenges and anxiously await facing them.