Looking beneath the tip of the iceberg
This week has been really interesting (for me personally). On Monday I was ready to look for permanent work and discard my ten-year-old+ business. Thankfully, some wise words from three different friends struck a chord. I have no idea what came over me but I am a firm believer that these mini existential crises are actually part of our personal and professional development. So hear me out.
After having my best year ever in 2021 (which is my excuse for not producing a single blog last year, the shame), and a lovely long Christmas break (scheduled), things went eerily quiet in late January/early February. I did some small jobs but the heady pace of last year vanished virtually overnight. Client bookings were postponed for various reasons and I was left with time on my hands to think (always dangerous). Faced with the prospect of the looming economic crisis that is so worrying for us all, my head told me that I needed to secure full-time employment and ditch the vagaries of freelance employment.
Back to those friends I mentioned above. A best friend, who is also a very accomplished freelance translator, has always said to me that self-employment is feast or famine and you have to ride it out and try not to panic, in both the crazy times and the lulls. Another friend told me to do some marketing and be patient. And a third told me to sit at my desk as if I were working in an office full-time and just do something, keep moving, nourish my business in some way, any way I liked. This got me thinking that, as a freelancer, paid jobs are just the tip of the iceberg, with the business infrastructure making up the foundations of the venture. By infrastructure, in my case (a sole trader) I mean my website, my Facebook page, my Linkedin account, the tools of my trade (my personal skills set) and, of course, my client list. And that infrastructure needs to be nurtured to keep it on point and relevant as the business evolves. If we think of our business as just the paid work that we do, we miss so much and we don't see the bigger picture. And this is another reason why we have to build a little extra into our pricing because we don't get paid when we are sick, on holiday or during downtimes, and so on.
So, what have I been up to this week? First of all, I decided my website needed a bit of a polish, at the level of details such as fonts but also in terms of some of the content. That led me to working out in my head exactly what my business model and USP are, which took me to proof-editing, a term that is becoming ever more popular and which (I believe) largely encompasses what I do with my clients (a combination of proofreading and copy-editing as part of one comprehensive process). It felt rather good working that out, even though I've been doing it instinctively since day one, and I do love it when new words come into being!
I also finished a course on editing mastery that I started in 2019, before the world turned on its axis. One of my takeouts from the course was a rather small detail in terms of the overall course content (which was more about structural editing than proof-editing): namely, the use of initial capital letters. The course lecturer used the example of 'government', which is one that is always coming up in the work with my clients. I have always favoured minimal use of capitals and in this case I advocate using a lower-case 'g' unless you are using the official title. Example: Her Majesty's Government, but government services. This can be applied further, for example, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but the prime minister's parties (I had to get that in, sorry!). Or Queen Elizabeth II, but the queen's dogs. Or even, the marketing officer, but Marketing Head, Pablo Pete. Basically, too many capital letters distract readers from the content and much of the time you can use descriptions (lower case) rather than official titles as a way to make the text more readable. You get the picture.
The point of all this existential waffle is to say that in the process of throwing myself headfirst into all things infrastructure, I realised that I really love my business, I have the most amazing clients, whom I have got to know over the years (even if only by email), I want to be the best that I can at what I do (continuing training), I want to learn bolt-on skills and, most importantly, even when I'm not being paid, I am working and doing something that is really meaningful to me. In short, there are times to throw yourself into paid work and make money and there are times for nurture, reflection and development. As long as you manage your money carefully and have some contingency funds stashed away, in addition to money to pay your taxes, you will be fine.
I really hope that you got something from this blog, which is an eclectic blend of motivational speak, business analysis and a couple of grammatical handy hints! When I blog I always get something from it personally; most of all, it is just really nice to be able to write copy rather than correcting it for a change! Thank you for listening, if you made it to the end, and Happy 2022! Oh, and the bookings have started to come back, in case you were wondering...