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More of What to Do When You’re Waiting for Work

"Hands of Time" by Carol Harrison

“Hands of Time” by Carol Harrison

Two years ago I posted about what to do when you’re waiting for work. Little has changed, but I have come up with a few more tasks that don’t require brushing the bog.

  • Join a professional association: One of my resolutions/goals was to do more professional development in 2017. To that end, I volunteer as the editor-in-chief of BoldFace, the blog for the Toronto chapter of Editors Canada. It keeps me busy, helps me network, and boosts my resume, which is tricky to do when you’re self-employed.
  • Read work-related books: Taking a cue from a colleague, I decided to start reading my newly acquired Garner’s Modern English Usage, which is 1,056 pages. My goal is to read 10 pages a day. I haven’t kept that pace, but I am making meagre progress. Better than none at all.
  • Walk outside every day: Another resolution that I’ve been pretty good at keeping. Even it’s just to the grocery store, which is about 15 minutes away, I kit up for the weather and pull on my reflective vest. It helps my knees, my brain, and my mood. Strava is a useful app for tracking time and distance. Plus, if you share it on Facebook, you get your friends’ encouragement. Everything helps.
  • Take a class: This doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money, if any at all. In fact, the Toronto Public Library offers webinars free for cardholders. You do have a library card, don’t you?
  • Get a library card: The TPL is a fantastic resource! Spend some time on their website. With my card I can sign out books, download ebooks and periodicals, stream movies from Criterion and Hoopla, access webinars, read archived material at the reference library, learn about and use digital printers. What are you waiting for?


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Carol Harrison, photo by Jerome Daly Carol Harrison, photo by Jerome Daly

All it takes is one email. That’s it. Just one ping, one click and your schedule is changed. Changed, of course, only if you say yes.

Which is what I did. And so, I am Editors Toronto’s new publications chair and, more importantly for this blog, the Editor-in-Chief of BoldFace. I, for one, am pretty excited!

So who the heck am I, you ask? To quote (and punctuate) my Twitter bio, I’m a Toronto-based freelance editor, feminist nerd, hobbyist photographer, music geek, former bookseller, wannabe writer, and work in progress. I’m also a traveller who recently rediscovered the joy of camping, and blogged about it.

My plan for BoldFace is simply to grow a good thing, to bring you articles about editing in its myriad forms, and to review books and other media that are relevant to what we do for…

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Self-Employed Freelancing Entrepreneur

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Freelancing is entrepreneurship.

Some don’t see it that way. Indeed, I don’t describe myself as such. When asked what I do, I say that I’m a freelance editor. The term entrepreneur conjures images of people selling widgets as seen on Dragons’ Den. But going into business for yourself is by definition entrenurial: you invest in yourself, both time and money, and risk losing both. By no means is it license to print money. Sure you can write certain things off (at least partially), but you also write off parts of your life. You run the business but the business also runs you.

In his article for Briarpatch, Ryerson professor Alan Sears critiques what he calls “The Canadian Cult of the Entrepreneur”; the idea that entrepreneurship is the cure for all that ails us. I agree that it isn’t. Running a small business can be extremely risky. Some people succeed and grow, but many more don’t and lose everything: their money, their house, their marriage. Others tread water, which can be just as stressful. One spouse often has a “real” job with a steady paycheque while the other runs the shop. Then if the entrepreneur needs to hire staff, well, now the responsibility has trebled. Employees rely on the business for a living. And if a small business goes under, the bank gets first dibs, not the employees who worked to help grow the business.

As for a safety net . . . .crickets Most freelancers I know rely on their spouses for things like health insurance and so on. And if you’re not married. . . . more crickets There’s no unemployment or pension and no short- or long-term disability, unless you buy insurance.

Employees who work for a small business most likely don’t have health insurance, let alone a compensation package rivalling those offered by large corporations.

And yet entreprenures are touted not only as the saviours of the economy but the answer for youth unemployment and First Nations poverty, among other things. That’s a lot of pressure for a business that could go bankrupt due to a critical illness. More important, it lets government and big business off the hook.

Frankly, many people are not cut out to run a business. It takes discipline and a strong stomach.

A few months ago I was chatting with a recently laid-off marketing person who was enamoured with the idea of self-employment. “My colleagues love it! They’ve never looked back!”

“Yeah, it’s great!” I said. “But feast and famine, you know. It’s all about cash flow.”

She looked at me. “Huh?”

I explained that I wasn’t working at the moment; that it was a slow period; that the invoices I’d earned by working seven-day weeks for about two months straight had all been paid up so I had to drum up work or use my savings, which I prefered not to do.*

“Seven days a week for two months?”

“Oh, yeah. Deadlines. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid.”

Suddenly I wasn’t that much fun to “network” with anymore.

*Note: One of the advantages of self-employment is that you can take a vacation more or less when you want for as long as you want. The disadvantage: you don’t work, so you don’t get paid. However, if you plan for it, it’s doable. That said, it can eat into your savings. Also, you have to check your email to book projects so you have work when you return home. Depending on what you do, you can work abroad. Check out The Nomadic Editor to learn more.

Getting Yer Backup

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Kickin' it Old Skool

Kickin’ it Old Skool

Preppers may be on to something.

I don’t mean stockpiling canned beets in case of the zombie apocalypse or making bows and arrows out of your neighbour’s sapling.

No, I mean being prepared, ready for the worst–or at least the very bad. I once worked for a guy who didn’t believe in B plans. Then the company went under and we were all laid off. Me, I usually have B plans, C plans even. What will happen if something goes well, what will happen if it goes okay, what will happen if it all goes to shit? I’m ready. When I was laid off, I had plan and it worked out like clockwork mostly. There were things I missed that I will plan for next time, but largely I was ready.

I was prepared and had my backups.

One editor I knew scoffed at the idea of backups. Nothing was worth keeping, she said. I was shocked. The idea still makes my stomach drop. What if you lose something? What if you need that document, phone number, photo, email? I’m a little old school: paper, scans, CDs. Check, check, check. I’m a fan of clouds for some documents. Multiple clouds. Friggen weather systems full of ’em.

Oh, I hear some of you sneer, “The Internet keeps everything. You can’t escape it. Everything is on the web.” Is it? I edited a friend’s CV and found a dead link for an essay she wanted to include. Not even the Wayback Machine could find it. Don’t believe me? Ask Carter Maness. He’ll tell you. When asked what he’d done lately, he couldn’ t find it and documented his experince for The Awl, “All My Blogs Are Dead.”

That said, we all know what will stay online for all posterity: photos of cats, food, and twenty-somethings being drunk and stupid.

If that doesn’t get yer backup, I don’t know what will.

What to Do When You’re Waiting for Work

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Ring, dammit!

Ring, dammit!

Slow periods are the bane of the freelancer’s existence. You’ve met your deadlines, you’ve invoiced the jobs. Now what? As an inveterate list maker, I present a list of what to do during a slow period:

    1. Brush the bog. Sooner you do it, the sooner it’s done. And it’s looking pretty disgusting.

    2. Catch up on your bookkeeping. Tax time looms.

    3. Vacuum your work area.

    4. File crap. Keep, recycle, shred. Maybe you should vacuum after you shred, in case, you . . . uh . . . drop a shit ton of shredded paper on the carpet.

    5. Laundry.

    6. Organize your passwords. LastPass is great for this. Wait, you do have more than one password, right?

    7. In the name of all that’s holy, change your passwords!

    8. Read three months’ worth of blogs and Facebook articles you’ve been saving for later.

    9. Tweet them. You gotta stay top of mind and, hey, it’s better than tweeting about lunch or your friggen cat.

    10. Right a blog post about what to do during a slow period.



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