Ten Years and Ten Thoughts on Freelancing

Silver Scribe Editorial Services is ten!

In May 2013, I embarked on a new freelancing adventure, leaving behind a stable, full-time job as managing editor at an independent book publisher to find better work/life balance. I had two young kids at home and a spouse with a demanding job, so I decided to take the skills I acquired from eight years at my publishing company and jump into this new enterprise so I could manage my own schedule while continuing to work in my field.

Ten years later, I am still an active freelancer. I am very grateful to the host of clients who have come my way in the last decade. I plan to continue this chapter of my career for many more years, so keep the work coming!

Here are ten thoughts on my ten years of freelance work. They may be especially useful to you if you are your own boss or plan to become one.

1. Establish a routine.

Obviously, a lot has changed since 2013 in my home life (the baby and toddler are now tweens), but keeping a regular work schedule in this decade has been essential. My routine used to be a little more patchwork as I juggled a lot of demanding parenting duties, but in the last six or so years (give or take a global pandemic), my routine has been more predictable and a sanity saver.

2. Create boundaries.

It’s easy as a freelancer to work ALL OF THE TIME. I used to work a lot of nights and weekends when I was operating around a preschool schedule, but those days are long behind me. I now have real office hours on most weekdays to edit, write, and manage projects. I try to be prompt in answering emails, but I also deprogram on the weekend and in the evenings so I can recharge to provide my clients with great work when it’s scheduled.

3. Have enough work—but not too much.

The freelance life is truly feast or famine, so it’s important to figure out how to balance the workflow as much as possible (sometimes this is easier said than done). I am thankful for some bread-and-butter clients who hire me for regular work as well as clients who pop into my life at different times and challenge me with new projects.

4. Aim for a variety of work.

I get to edit, copyedit, proofread, write, and complete administrative work for publishers. The range of my work coupled with the many different subjects it encompasses keeps me interested and engaged. The variety helps sustain me.

5. Cultivate and nurture networks.

Early in this decade, a friend connected me to an emerging network of women entrepreneurs, and joining this group was a game changer. Though I moved on from the group as my business needs changed, I remain friendly with many of the members and try to add new contacts to my world when I can. Also, I still keep in touch with publishing professionals from my managing editor days, and this is helpful when I need to ask a weird editing question, grow my client list, or refer a client out because I am too overloaded.

6. Set short- and long-term goals.

I now set monthly and yearly goals. I even try to project out three or five years every so often to keep my eyes open to new possibilities. Goals help keep my workload in perspective.

7. Invest in yourself.

I spend a bit of money and time every year on my professional development, including attending conferences, purchasing new style books, and reading articles and books about publishing, editing, or freelancing. I am the only person who is going to allow myself the chance to grow as a professional, being that I am a company of one.

Here are some of the best resources for my own professional development:

  • The Chicago Manual of Style’a monthly Style Q&A
  • The Pennsylvania Conference for Women
  • Cal Newport’s books (Deep Work, especially) and podcast
  • Women-run blogs and podcasts (there are a lot of us multitasking, entrepreneurial moms out there even if our work doesn’t all look the same)

8. Keep technology up to date.

In ten years, I have had to purchase a few new computers and hardware (looking at you handy-dandy document scanner). I cannot stress enough the importance of doing a technology audit every so often. A few years ago, I was absolutely miserable with a failing computer. I spent a few thousand dollars upgrading my home office, and all of a sudden work was enjoyable again.

9. Write it all out.

I keep several calendars and now even a work journal. When you work by yourself, it is easy to let all of the things block your thought process. I now map out work a month or two in advance, noting days off and any other events that might prevent me from my normal schedule. This has helped tremendously in avoiding mental strain when it comes to how much time I have to work.

10. Remember your mission, vision, and values.

I only came to develop these items in the last few years, but I think they are invaluable.

  • My mission is to provide clients with editorial services including writing, editing, and project management.
  • My vision is to be a responsive, engaged, and productive freelancer in publishing.
  • My values include not taking on more work than I can handle, always being courteous in my communication, and keeping my clients informed about my ability to meet their deadlines.

These statements may seem obvious, but I have referred back to them on occasion, especially when setting my goals or evaluating a potential new client or project.

Again, I am so grateful to be celebrating an entire decade of freelance work and hope to continue in this field for many more years. Thanks to this flexible and enriching job, I have found more work/life balance than I could have ever imagined and have been able to keep myself active in the publishing world, a place I have loved since childhood.

Here’s to many more years in this field. Please let me know if you might be interested in becoming one of my revered clients.

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