“Gee QE, for a person with editor in your blog handle you don’t talk about editing much.” All right, let’t talk about editing today. Freelance editing specifically.
When I started freelance editing, it was chaotic. This is likely because I started on websites like Upwork and Freelancer. It was the literary equivalent of stepping onto the sands of an ancient arena.
Despite your past glories (editing chops) when you step onto those cyber sands, you are just a nameless slave. So you build a stately resume to stand out. You talk about all those days spent swinging swords in your homeland, and offer examples of battles won.
Unfortunately for you, the arena is already populated by seasoned and deadly gladiators who have proven their valor time and time again. You realize quickly, despite what you’ve done in the real world, once you step into the cyber arena you have very little credibility compared to the people who have come before you.
So what do you do? You go to the Ludus Magnus and begin training. Instead of carrying logs on your shoulders and hacking dummies with swords, you run in full armor while reading The Chicago Manual of Style. For the price of time, the arena keeper offers tests to increase you rank. Tests on grammar, syntax, and punctuation – you take them. You surrender every extra denarii you can scrounge and upgrade to super-premium-ultra-silver editor status, and your ascension continues. But still, unless you can get fights, you are all thunder and no lightning.
Now fights are hard to come by. Maybe when those arenas first opened their cyber doors it was easier. But those sands are packed down like cement. Hardened by years of blood, tears, and broken dreams. Those ancient gladiatorial juggernauts have the advantage, they get priority, and you must settle for smaller bouts.
But even these minor squabbles are a bidding war. Budding gladiators from around the globe have flocked to these cyber sands – they want your glory! So what do you do? You underbid on jobs. “Two denarii a word? Hah! I’ll do it for one.”
Your tears mix with caked blood as you open your mailbox to see a scribbled letter. “We are sorry, but the winning bid was .0028 denarii a word. We have no need for your sword.” How is that even possible? Is it measured in silver dust? Have they even heard of the Editorial Freelance Association?
You continue to train. Growing colder, harder, and more efficient. You go to other arenas and market yourself there as well. Finally, for a meager .0025 denarii a word, you land a fight. It’s not even about the coin now. You relish the opportunity for open literary combat – for glory! The training pays off and you crush you opponent (you kill your deadlines and deliver a solid product to the client). However, the mob is not impressed. They don’t even leave you a review of the fight to bolster your rank. This time, there will be no glory.
Regardless, you will be paid, even if it is just a little. You go to your doctore with an open hand, but he has nothing to offer you. “It was spent to allow you passage into the arena,” he says. More tears harden the sands (many of these websites, in addition to charging you to use their services, also take a percentage of your total pay from a client).
This is your existence gladiator. Steel yourself – there is potential for glory still.
You could impress the mob and they demand your return (you land a solid client who requests you personally when they have work). There is also potential one of those older scar-covered gladiators could earn their freedom and join the ranks of the Rudiarii (they go into business for themselves, leaving the chaos of the sands, creating more clients for you as you increase in status).
What is the moral of this story? The moral is this – if someone tells you freelance editing is as simple as rolling out of bed in your pajamas and plopping down in front of a computer, they’re kind of right, but you should still chop them in half with a gladius. On the other hand, you could ask them the secret to their success in exchange for a few denarii.
In my experience, it’s hard work. The work itself can be easy (and fulfilling), but actually getting work when you just start off, now that’s the hard part. If you’re lucky, you will get some repeat clients and won’t have to spend all of your time mindlessly scrolling through client ads. Regardless, these cyber arenas are a good place to start generating clients to work with if you have no other place to pull from.
Truth is, the clients are also gladiators in this cautionary tale. They bleed and wage battle just like everyone else. Many of them will die and lose themselves on those sands. In this way, we are brothers and sisters in arms, lashed together by chains, doing our best to stay whole. If you can keep each other alive, you chances at glory rise. Perhaps your once unassuming client, and battle buddy, becomes something more. Perhaps they join the ranks of the Rudiarii and remember the sweating blood covered slave who helped them survive the arena. You are forging unshakable ties. You are becoming more.
When you are able, you can start your own business and keep those clients with you. Seize glory with those blistered fingertips! Those global cyber arenas aren’t going to miss you. The money you spend to start your own small business (especially if it’s just you) will be far less than the monthly/yearly fees and garnished paychecks you receive on many of those websites.
All of this, of course, is just one gladiators opinion/experience. Have you had great experiences freelancing? Are you considering taking to the sands? Have you worked with freelancers and been burned? Have you freelanced and been burned by a client? You show me your scars and I will show you mine.
As for me, I’ll just be over here making sure the sand stays nice and moist. Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!