In previous posts in this series, I talked about what kind of background and training are necessary to be a full-time editor. Then I talked about building a resume and defined how a qualified editor can find work to do from home by citing my own editing journey. In this part I describe what day-to-day life is like for a work-at-home editor (my experience may not match everyone’s).
Curious to know what my typical workday looks like? Here goes:
A Day in a Life
5:30 a.m.—Alarm goes off. Shower and get dressed.
6-6:30 a.m.—Eat breakfast (favorite: organic oatmeal), make coffee in French press, and enjoy my “God and I time” (lately I’ve been studying the book of James).
6:30-7:30 a.m.—Head to basement home office and do some housekeeping (check/reply to e-mail, invoice clients, put clients in income spreadsheet [next article will deal with this], check for free Kindle books, check Facebook, and so forth). I always “star” items in my Gmail I need to follow up on.
7:30-10 a.m.—Edit and drink coffee. (When my work schedule permits, I work on my next novel for a minimum of two hours.)
10:00-10:15 a.m.—Take a break (favorite snack: humus I make myself).
Noon-12:30—Enjoy lunch with family (favorite part of day).
12:30-3:00—Check e-mail again, check headlines, and get back to editing. I try to get out of my chair at least once every half hour or so.
3:00-3:15—Take a break (Earl Grey tea); eat a snack.
4:30-5:15—Walk the dog. (During the winter, I alternate lifting weights with walking/jogging on a basement treadmill; daily exercise is important after a long day of sitting.)
5:30-6:00—Enjoy supper with my family.
6:00-6:30—Work with Julia (youngest daughter) on songs she is learning for her next piano lesson; she still needs personal coaching (yes, I play the piano).
6:30-8:00—Yes, do more editing/work on novel/do office housekeeping.
8:00-10:00—Enjoy family time (games, Netflix, etc.).
10:00-10:30—Read in bed (a favorite pastime), sleep like a baby, and try not to snore too much and wake up my wife.
Oh yeah. Sometimes I need to put in a few extra hours over the weekend if I’m up against a tight deadline, but editing on Sunday is an extremely rare event. I typically reserve that day for God, church, family, and rest.
Yes, there are many benefits to working from home. I can work in my pj’s if I want. I can set my own hours (I don’t have to follow the schedule listed above). I don’t have to drive anywhere, so I save loads of money on gas. But there are a few important challenges I want to be transparent about. Here are probably the biggies:
Having a Realistic Financial Picture
One of the biggest—if not the biggest—challenges a work-from-home editor faces is the reality of finances. Forget a regular paycheck in this business. Income ebbs and flows check by check. If you’re a worrier, this may not be the job for you.
To keep my sanity, I determine how much money I need to make each month to meet my family’s needs (these appear to be mushrooming as my girls get older). Then I budget projects into my available time based on that need. That’s my monthly target income goal; the dollar amount will vary based on each family’s situation. Some months I make more than my target goal (so nice); other months I make less (yikes). I trust God to fill in the blanks, and He has never left us hungry.
Lately, I’ve found no problem finding enough work to meet my goal (to God be the glory), but if you noticed, evening work isn’t unusual to fit everything in (and don’t forget occasional hours on Saturdays). And lately that schedule hasn’t included any time for novel writing or marketing, which I’m somehow supposed to be doing all the time.
Why no writing time? We’ve had several unexpected bills over the last few months (big car repair, broken dryer). Life happens. I’ve had to sacrifice writing time for more editing time to compensate for the extra bills. As a husband and father of two girls, I have to take care of my family first. I’m being very honest about this.
Sometimes this reality discourages me, but here’s an important and comforting truth to remember: God gives us just enough time to do what really needs to be done.
Scheduling the Work
A client recently asked if I could take on a project for him. “Surely you know what you’re doing over the next few weeks to determine if you can fit my project in,” he said. I felt like laughing (but I didn’t), because quite frankly . . . um . . . no. I don’t always know what I’m doing over the next two weeks, never mind a month. The workload constantly changes. Let me show you what I mean.
For example, I recently copyedited a 121,000-word novel for a certain publisher from Oct. 1-15. A client recently asked me to rewrite his 20,000-word novella, and it’s due by the end of November, so I’ve been working on that project over the last couple of days. Now the formerly mentioned publisher has invited me to edit a 95,000-word novel (339 pages), and it’s due Nov. 8.
So now I need to evaluate whether I can get that edit for the publisher done by Nov. 8 and still hit that novella deadline by the end of November (and still carve out enough time to enjoy Thanksgiving with my family). And no, I don’t get paid holidays. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Period.
Somehow God always works everything out, and I’m very grateful to Him for how He works through me to complete what needs to be done. Nope, I don’t have an ulcer, but I do work very hard and pile on the hours sometimes. We’re easily talking fifty- to sixty-hour weeks.
Here’s where the pressure can mount. Often the more work I do and the more quickly I can get it done, the more money I can earn for my family each month. So I always face pressure to take on more than I should and forget a few key questions.
How much do I prize my quality of life? Will I have to edit on Saturday (this is sometimes required) to hit all my deadlines? Will I allow enough time to do my best work and have time for my family?
If I don’t budget my time correctly, I could face serious repercussions. If I find myself rushing and cutting corners, my work won’t be its best. In fact, it could be less than great. Clients may not be thrilled. And if I miss a deadline, clients will be even less thrilled.
Remember, I want to keep those clients coming back, and I want the publisher and other publishers to keep sending me work. So careful planning and time management are so critical in this business.
If you don’t know how to plan and schedule, you may want to consider another line of work. Those are key to meeting your financial goals and finding a work-at-home situation that works for you.
The more I write about my editing life, the more ideas are jumping out at me—more details I should mention to be comprehensive in this presention. Stay tuned for more frank posts about the work-at-home editing life. It has wonderful rewards, but it isn’t without its challenges.
Read Part 5.
- How Can I Be an Editor Too? Part 3
- How Can I Be an Editor Too? Part 5