Micro Mentor

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Are you just starting out as an editor? Do you have questions that you'd like to ask someone with a bit more experience and knowledge? Ask away! We'll pass on your query to one of our fabulous and generous editors for some considered and wise advice.


Dear MM,

I'm a freelancer and I'm drowning under my workload, which is barely paying the bills. How do I find work-life balance?

All at Sea


Dear All at Sea,

You are not alone. That raft that you're clinging to is peopled with other editors.

One thing you'll have noticed about being a freelancer is that it is not possible to focus on editing all day long. Most experienced freelancers log about four billable hours a day. Those are the hours you can charge for - not the ones when you're fixing the printer, chasing an unpaid invoice, learning how to a format unwieldy tables or ousting that large spider from under your desk. Some editors manage five, and some three. In heroic periods, you might manage ten, but you won't be doing your best work. And you're certainly not being kind to your body, which is your number one asset as your own boss. After all, who pays for sick leave? You do.

The key is to work out how much income you need to live on and how many hours a day you can edit. Then it's simple to figure out how much you need to charge per hour. Don't forget about half of your income should go on tax, superannuation and a holiday and sick pay buffer. Remember, your business is not a charity. You're doing it to earn a living.

Whether you can actually earn this much per hour is then something to consider. If you're a beginner, you will become faster with experience, so perhaps this is the build-up phase of your business. Alternatively, perhaps you need to find better paying clients or upgrade your skills so that you can earn more hour. Perhaps you could supplement editing with other types of work that aren't so intensive.

Even experienced editors will find themselves under a tidal wave from time to time. Deadlines are deadlines, and you won't be thanked for missing them. Pay attention to which jobs (and which clients) devour more time than they are worth, and think about whether you'll say yes to them next time.

Above all, give yourself regular time off. No one can edit well when working seven days a week. Allow yourself to take a holiday. No need to ask the boss, right? You are the boss. Demand that you take leave. Yes it does take organisation, but what bliss! You won't know yourself.

When you return, set aside time to think about what works and what doesn't in your business. With the perspective you've gained from the break, you'll be able to keep your head above water in future (mostly).