Category: Copyediting

Freelance Timekeeping

vintage parking meter

So you’re a freelancer. Maybe you write for businesses. Maybe you’re a graphic designer. Whatever kind of freelance work you do, it’s essential that you keep track of your time. You need to know how long it takes you to finish a 3-panel brochure. Otherwise, the next time you quote your project, you may estimate incorrectly. You might also need to work on an hourly basis from time-to-time, so of course you’ll need to know exactly how much you should charge the client.

The wonderful thing about freelancing, from your client’s perspective, is that they pay you only for time on task. You’re not paid for phone breaks, laundry time, or the 20 minutes it took you to wash your dishes. If you work from home, these little interruptions can add up. Unless you’re able to work for uninterrupted blocks of time, you need a system to keep track of your time.

Now, how fancy do you want to get? There are lots of cool tools you can use on your computer. Check out this list from Freelance Switch. Or you can use a stopwatch that allows you to stop it for breaks and restart it from the last time when you’re ready. You can download a stopwatch application for your smartphone also. Or you can just take note of the time on a piece of paper, and write down when you stop, and write down when you start again. Later, you just add up all the time.

After you’ve done timekeeping for several projects, you probably will need to have some system in place to keep a log of total time spent. This is great for future projects of a similar nature that you want to price, and it’s also a good idea for your tax records (in case anyone ever asks).

What methods for timekeeping do you use? Have you tried one method, only to realize it didn’t work? Share with us!

Writing as a WAHM

Duck with flower

I’m back to writing and blogging with a vengeance.

My day job as a call center representative didn’t last very long. Who knew that talking too much could be bad for your health? My throat is still recovering, even after having taken a two-month leave.

So that’s over, and I’m relieved. I’m back to being a work-at-home-mom. Kind of scary (I was enjoying a paycheck every couple of weeks), but great too (I missed being with my daughter).

I obviously think staying at home with my daughter is the best thing for her.

So I was pleased to accidentally find an inspiring, heartwarming post about WAHMs at Making Sales Making Money, a site about home based business opportunities. I found it on MyBlogLog (join my community)!

The author is also sponsoring a cool sweepstakes. So he recognizes the importance of WAHMs, and he’s trying to put money in folks’ pockets. What a find!

Part of marketing is letting people know you’re in business. So, listen up. I’m back in business! If you need a writer, I’m your gal. I have samples here on my blog, and also on my main website.

Spread the word!

4 Reasons to Hire a Freelance Writer

Writing

Freelance writers are the answer to the question, How am I going to find the time to do this, too?
Maybe you can write the copy, you can proofread, and you can do layout without any outside help.

But do you have the time? Can you do everything quickly and well?
A freelance writer can step in and take at least one thing off of your To Do list.

The advantages:
1. Don’t worry about benefits, vacation time, taxes, etc.

Freelance writers take care of their own taxes, vacations, and insurance needs. You only pay for the service you need.

2. Hire a writer as-needed, rather than pay for down time.

When you have employees, you have to pay them even when they talk to their co-workers, surf the internet, take bathroom breaks, or just dawdle. Freelancers are paid only for the time-on-task.

3. Freelance writers are customer oriented.

Employees are not necessarily loyal to the employer, but you can bet business owners are loyal to their own businesses. As business owners, freelancers have a strong desire to do their best work for their clients. Happy customers are essential to a prosperous business.

4. Freelancers are committed to your project.

Freelancers are able to accept assignments they want to do. There’s no boss telling them they must do a particular project. That means your job is important to the  freelance writer, hand-picked, rather than just another assignment from an employer.

A freelance writer’s job is caring about your business as much as her own.

The question is, why wouldn’t you hire a freelancer?

If you need a freelance writer to help with web content, articles, blog writing, proofeading, or more, hire me!

Humans at work. Tread softly.

As a business owner, you have to allow yourself to be human also. When you make a mistake, as humans inevitably do, there’s nothing wrong with admitting it.

Here are some real-life examples.

Quoting too high on a project. This happened to me recently. I was offered a job I don’t often do, and quoted a rate way above what’s acceptable. After doing my homework, which I should have done in the first place, I realized my mistake. Even though I felt silly, I contacted the potential client and gave him a realistic, fair quote. Will I get the client? Maybe. Maybe not. But I definitely showed my human side.

Missing a deadline. While not a wise thing to do, it may happen despite your best efforts. Sometimes life gets in the way. Or perhaps you miscalculated the time necessary to complete the project. What’s important is that you communicate with your client. Let the client know what’s going on, and do your best work. Ultimately, the client may be lost. But you might have redeemed yourself to some extent by being honest.

Forgetting to return a call or email. I received an email from a potential client I wrote almost a year ago. Her kind note apologized for her late reply, which happened because she put the wrong email address in her reply. We never wound up working together, but her message reminded me that admitting a mistake isn’t the end of the world. What do you have to lose?

Basically, we’re all human first and business owners second (or third). Remember this, and don’t beat yourself up (and don’t let anyone else beat you up) when something goes wrong. Be yourself, handle the situation head on, and move on.

What are some other human moments you’ve encountered in your business? How did you handle the situation?

Lesson 2: When you write, commas are your friends

Let’s begin Lesson 2 of our series on commas. If you missed Lesson 1, you can find it here.

Lesson 2 

When you want to introduce a sentence, commas are there to help you do it right!

A Few Definitions 

I know I said we weren’t going to focus on labels. But it will make this easier to follow.

You remember from grade school that

an adverb is a word that modifies a verb, adjective, or other adverbs (and other things, but we’ll worry about that if we have to). Basically, adverbs tell when, where, and how something happened.

Commas and Adverb Clauses 

Isn’t it cool that

a whole clause (subject and verb) can serve as an adverb?

That’s what we’re dealing with here. Clauses that are adverbs. They’re called, ironically, adverb clauses.

Introducing the Comma 

When an adverb clause begins (introduces) a sentence, and the second part of the sentence is a clause that can stand alone (independent clause), a comma comes after the adverb clause.

Just like the title of this article.

When you write, commas are your friends.”

Notice how the second part of the sentence is complete without the introductory adverb clause. That’s why we call it an independent clause. And notice how the introductory part tells us when commas are our friends.

The Exceptions 

There are exceptions, of course. That’s why commas are so tricky. It seems like every rule can be broken!

You don’t have to use a comma if the clause is short.

Put yourself in your readers’ shoes, though. If they might stumble or have to think too hard, you might want to go ahead and use the comma.

When deciding whether or not to monetize his brand new blog, he spent countless hours poring over dozens of other sites.”

Notice how unsightly it would be to omit the comma. Reading should be easy. Careful use of punctuation helps things move smoothly.

If you look inward you may find the answer is simple.”

Omitting the comma here is no problem, but you can add it after “If you look inward” if you feel like it.

Adverb Clauses at the End of the Sentence

Sometimes an adverb clause may conclude a sentence when you’re writing it.”

You don’t usually need a comma after the independent clause, though.

Just like in the first sentence of this paragraph.

Notice how “when” affects the meaning of “Sometimes an adverb clause may conclude a sentence.”

But:

My daughter is growing up in uncertain times, when violence and global warming seem to increasingly worrisome.”

Here, the adverb clause doesn’t change the meaning of the first part. So a comma works (if you want it).

That’s the end of Lesson 2. Please let me know what you think so far! Many more to come.

Lesson 1: Commas are essential, but how do you use them?

Commas are probably the most misunderstood punctuation mark. But, next to the period, they’re the most important.

So what’s all the confusion about?

Remember when you were an elementary school student? (Just a few years ago for some of you, but decades for others).

You probably were taught that you put a comma whenever you pause. Well, this can make for some horrifying sentences, filled with unnecessary commas. Or long sentences with no commas at all for those who don’t breathe when they’re talking.

On top of that, it depends on the type of sentence.

Even more confusing, the rules aren’t definite. There’s art involved. And everyone has their own style. There are some basic rules that will keep you on track, though. And make your writing appealing to almost everyone. 

Are commas really all that important? In a word: Yes! Reading is very uncomfortable when you have to think about what a sentence means. Commas make sentences flow, and help convey an author’s true meaning.

So let me reveal some of the secrets of the comma in a series of articles.

Lesson 1

Okay. Let’s get started. Here’s the situation.

Your sentence is long, and it can actually be broken down into two separate sentences.

Additionally, just like the sentence above, a special word connects the two pieces. (That special word happens to be called a conjunction, but we won’t worry about labels.)

What qualifies as that special word?

Think of the words “Foreigner” “and” “Soviet“. Then think “Forornor and Sobutyet.” Huh? Forornor = For, Or, Nor. And = And. Sobutyet = So, But, Yet. (Weird, I know. I’m just trying to make commas fun!) 

Those are the 7 conjunctions. For, Or, Nor, And, So, But, Yet. 

So, anytime one of those words connects two complete sentences, throw a comma right before the connecting word. Why before, you ask? Well, you need to take a breath before you join anything…whether it’s a club, your life partner, or two sentences.

Some examples:

“I’m going to start applying for retail jobs, but I don’t know if I want to stand up all day.”

“Blogging is one of the most fun things I’ve ever done, yet it can be a lot of hard work.”

With me so far? Here’s where commas can throw you a curve (no pun intended).

The more common joining words are and, but, and or. Right? If one of the two separate sentences is short, and a common joining word connects them, you can choose to throw out the comma.

“She ate the pie and it made her feel surprisingly happy.”

“Blogging is different but I like it more than I thought I would.”

On the other hand, if your two sentence parts are extremes, or if one part has its own commas, you can use a semicolon instead.

“Trees, both old and young, offer life-giving oxygen to our earth; yet we continue to destroy them.”

Did you already know these rules? Do you have any examples of poor comma usage to share? Stay tuned for Lesson 2 in the days ahead.

If you can write, you can copyedit.

That title caught your attention! If you’re a copyeditor, you’re probably laughing hysterically. If you’re a writer, you were probably hoping it was right.

So no, writing and copyediting are two different animals. Of course, there are those who can do both well, but that doesn’t hold true for everyone.

I started writing at an early age, but I didn’t start really copyediting until middle school. I played Academic Games, and Linguistics was my favorite game. I became quite good at noticing subjects, objects, prepositional phrases, adverbial clauses, gerunds, etc. The rules of grammar were fun!

So, what exactly is copyediting?

First, let me point out some important characteristics that can make or break your copyediting venture.

If you don’t know the difference between an adverb and an adjective, or you don’t know how to identify the object of a preposition, you might not want to call yourself a copyeditor.

If you use commas arbitrarily (maybe you write a sentence, close your eyes, and randomly put in commas), you’re not a copyeditor.

If you don’t notice commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and periods when you’re reading things, you might not be ready for copyediting.

Okay. Here’s a definition. According to the Chicago Manual of Style, copyediting involves both mechanical editing and substantive editing.

Mechanical editing requires a “close reading of the manuscript with an eye to such matters as consistency of capitalization, spelling, and hyphenation; agreement of verbs and subjects; punctuation; beginning and ending quotation marks and parentheses; numbers given a numerals or spelled out; and many similar details of style.”

It’s a very time-consuming, detailed task. Not for the faint of heart, and not for those who are easily bored.

In college, I copyedited my university’s daily newspaper. After a while, I couldn’t even read for fun. I found myself checking every letter and punctuation mark. It became a tedious chore. I’ve recovered now, but I don’t copyedit all the time anymore.

Substantive copyediting is slightly different, but is still an essential part of the process. “It involves rewriting, reorganizing, or suggesting other ways to present material.” 

I think substantive copyediting is more of an art, whereas mechanical copyediting is an (almost) exact science (most rules of grammar are explicit).

If you’re up to the task of copyediting, you have to arm yourself with two essential tools: The Chicago Manual of Style, and the Harbrace College Handbook (I’ve added them to the side panel as well). If you’re copyediting for newspapers, use their style manuals…usually AP style.

Being a good copyeditor does not also mean that you’re a good writer. You may be good at fixing things for others, but writing from scratch may elude you. I’m lucky to be pretty good at both.

My preference? First, I like writing my own material. Second, I like mechanical copyediting. Substantive copyediting is only fun when I don’t have to deal with bad writing and arrogant authors.

What about you? I know a lot of my readers are writers (well, all of you, if you write a blog). And many of you write and edit for a living as well. What do you prefer? Writing for yourself, mechanical copyediting, or substantive copyediting?

Copyediting tips

Are you a writer? If so, you probably find yourself getting copyediting jobs from time to time, right?

Copyediting can be a great service to provide along with your writing. How do you set a price for copyediting?

I charge the same hourly rate as I do for copywriting. I figure that my time is worth a dollar amount, no matter what task I’m performing. Why? Because I could be doing project X instead of project Y during that time, so it makes sense to me to place a value on my time, rather than the project.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few tips for making copyediting jobs go smoothly.

Before agreeing to the project, spend some time correcting a portion of the document. You’ll get an idea of how bad the writing is, how much time it will take you to edit it, and whether to take the job at all.

When estimating your time, allow for a reading of the material before making any corrections. Copyediting is easier when you’ve had a chance to read the whole piece first.

During the initial reading, jot down trends you notice in the writing: Common punctuation problems, spaces after periods, capitalization patterns, spelling of proper names, serial commas (or lack of), and things like that. In other words, you’re creating a style sheet as you go.

When you begin to make corrections, keep adding to the style sheet. This helps you stay consistent throughout the document. It also helps you justify your changes to the author, and makes it easier for another editor to proofread the document.

As you build your copyediting portfolio, pay attention to your likes and dislikes. I’m finding that I don’t prefer editing long pieces like books. I tend to get bored halfway through, but I have to keep chugging along.

Can you think of anymore hints? Let me know.

Happy copyediting!