Tomorrow is my son’s first day of 2nd grade. While I will be happy for the more regular schedule of the school year, I’m also sad that I really didn’t get to do very many fun things with him this summer. And that was largely because at the beginning of 2018, I opened myself up to freelance editing.
Offering services to other authors can be a good way to make some extra money before your books are selling. It’s a way to fund your own book production, by providing cash for covers, editing and such. I have always taken occasional editing jobs to do just that – cover my expenses for book covers and editing and writing courses and conferences…
But at the beginning of 2018, I had hoped to replace my full-time job with freelance editing so that I could work from home 100% and have a more flexible schedule overall, in order to spend more time with my son. Great idea, right?
Well, within a few months, it had backfired spectacularly!
I gained a surprising number of clients right off the bat, which was lovely. I was very excited. Many of these clients were writing series, ensuring repeat business (as long as they didn’t hate me afterward, anyway, lol). I began this new endeavor on January 1st, 2018.
And… ended it on June 30th 2018. Let me tell you, during those six months, I was miserable.
It wasn’t the work itself. I LOVE editing. It was the fact that the client edits took up every single second of my free time for 6 months. Plus, I was still working my other full-time job, since I wanted a gradual transition, not jump in without a backup plan. All this meant, I had ZERO time for my own books. I thought I had a way to manage that, but I didn’t. Nothing I tried worked sufficiently in that regard. I had ZERO time to play with my kid. I had ZERO time to do anything fun at all, really. Why? My clients came first.
But what if I had quit my full time job back in January? Then I would have had tons more time and everything would have been fine, right?
I thought about this long and hard. The answer is: no.
The thing is, our brains and bodies are really only capable of a few hours of “deep work” a day (if you haven’t heard of it already, go read Cal Newport’s Deep Work!). As writer moms, we’re already juggling kids, jobs, housework… AND we’re trying to write books on top of that, which is no easy feat. And then we’re trying to self-publish, which is running a whole separate business in and of itself. It doesn’t matter if you also work full-time in something else or not, the bottom line is that there is always a limit to your focus, so what you do with that time of focus is crucial.
Before I made the decision to abandon the idea of full-time freelance editing, I had a sit down with myself and considered what I really wanted to be spending most of my energy on:
A) My own books and spending time with my son
B) Editing other people’s books
For me, the answer was A. Even if I were to quit my other job, my top priorities, in order to make me happy, would be writing my own books and doing fun things with my son. I do enjoy editing for other people… but on a limited basis. I don’t like the pressure of having to edit a certain number of pages a day to get the books back to people. It makes me rush, and rushing helps no one. (And I still had a MUCH longer turnaround timeline than most freelance editors, too. But that’s a post for another day.)
In the end my WHY is about telling stories, not about building a business around freelance editing. Anything I do that takes significant time away from telling my stories isn’t sustainable. And ironically, my current full time job offers much more flexibility and “free time” than freelance editing would, which is another WHY for me: spending more time with my kid before he’s grown and gone. But, I kept an experimental mindset, and I tried it out for 6 months, to see how it might work.
Though the experiment was a failure, it DID help me in the long run. I don’t have to worry about thinking that might be a viable full time alternative anymore. I know it’s not!
As soon as the flood of client edits was over and I practiced saying NO to a few more opportunities that popped up (that’s another thing: learn to say no!!), I was able to spend some time with my kid at last, right before school started. AND I finally got back to my own novel, after a 6 month hiatus. I was a mess at the end of that 6 months. I’ve never been so depressed and angry in my life. I was growing legitimately worried that I had a real problem.
Now that I’m back to regularly working on the novel, BAM! Back to my usual self. I can’t believe the difference it made. It’s shocking to me that such a little thing could make such an incredible difference in my daily mood. And I’m really looking forward to next summer!
So this very, very long post is just to say… don’t be afraid to try things out for awhile and see how they work for you!
But if they don’t seem to be working, also don’t be afraid to stop doing them. Take the time to boil down your WHY, and then stick to that like glue. Ignore the shiny objects that try to distract you, or the anxiety that tells you to do ALL THE THINGS!!! Remember your WHY. Try various ways of getting there… but if one path gets dark and dangerous, there’s no shame in running back the other way!
Good luck to all of you!