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Allena Tapia

Here's Some Radical Freelance Honesty for You

By November 9, 2012

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So, my job here is to teach and support potential, new and intermediate freelance writers in this career, right? Part of that responsibility is sharing with you the "downs" of the job. So here goes a little "vent."

This week was rough. And, it's not even over. On the personal level, it was the week of the election, my children had two half days of school and one day off, and it was parent-teacher conference week. All those things make my schedule screwy. And having two kids in the house with nothing to do is rough- despite having a dedicated home office with a door.

But on a professional level, here's what's happening for me.

The elections put my political organization client into high gear. All of their to-dos are immediate needs (media needs). I've been writing, rewriting, editing, and making pitch calls for them all week. Hour here, hour there. (Love this work though).

In addition, I had a deadline Monday night for some editorial work. Now, I technically finished the chapter, but I was not happy with it. It needed more, so I have been querying the author all week, trying to get the chapter perfect for him so I can send it on. Hello, it's Friday, Allena! This does not make me happy. This is a new client, and that makes me feel. . .sick. This is not the level of service I am accustomed to giving. I should have been querying him LAST week, and he should have had his chapter in his email when he woke up Tuesday morning. I will say that he is a very flexible client, and his work sets my brain ON FIRE. It is so interesting. I'm doing my best to finish his sample today.

I have to keep up here at About.com. This means answering your emails and comments, and, honestly, I should have blogged long before now.

I had a deadline yesterday for a book review for Kirkus. I know their deadline is cushy by one day. Yes, that would be today. I've read the book, at least, but have not yet started on the copy. Sigh.

This morning, I had an 11am appointment to check in with the publisher of the quarterly that I manage. We were supposed to meet last Friday, but I pushed him back. I just got off the phone with him, asking to postpone AGAIN. Not professional, but luckily this is also a close family friend who I've known for years. Whew. And, we're ahead of schedule anyway.

I'm starting up a new project with a curriculum client. I have three lessons due to her on Sunday night. I don't want to work the weekend, but guess what? I will. I am. Luckily, though, this is a returning client, so I know the work inside and out, and it won't be difficult at all. Other than the part where my family is raking leaves and going to  movies while I'm here at the desk.

A logical question here would be why I over-booked and am juggling so many clients? Well, the political organization, the magazine, Kirkus and this website are all ongoing, established contracts. I've been with them one year, seven years, two  years and five years, respectively. The uptick in work from the political organization caught me off guard- and that's a mistake on my part. I should have known this would be a busy week for them. It would have been wise to turn down the Kirkus review, but they only assign me 2-3 books per year. I just couldn't.

I had to say yes to the other two projects (editorial and curriculum), mostly because I know that work and clients begin to dry up in November (come the holidays) and we all know how expensive the holidays are! Both of these clients are very interesting to me, in my niche area, and well-paying.

Here's where my mistake was. I should have known that the political organization would need extra support the week before and of the elections. They scheduled their events for this week about a month ago; I knew what was going on this week. I should have blocked off this week in my calendar. I should have anticipated their needs better.

If I had done that, I could have given my editorial client a different due date- next Monday, perhaps. Or two Mondays ago (although I'm not sure that would have given me enough time). Then, I would have been able to tell the magazine publisher that I could not meet until next Friday, and I would not have had to cancel on him today and last week. Last, I would have known that I needed to do the Kirkus review immediately, as soon as I got the book a week and a half ago.

Live and learn, right!? I've been doing this for seven years, and  I still make these kinds of scheduling mistakes. All of my clients' needs WILL be met before this weekend is over, though.

I hope that my week has taught you something. Here's an idea: take a look at your client load. Do any of them have specific times of the year when their needs are high? Note that in your calendar right now!

November 9, 2012 at 12:09 pm
(1) Liz Broomfield says:

Thank you for your honesty! I have had two occasions in 3.5 years where I’ve had to work until midnight and get up at 5am to hit deadlines. And you do feel horrible when it happens, don’t you.

But other freelancers will appreciate your honesty and your reasoning and it might help them avoid similar issues!

I’ve been honest about what I wear to work at home this week, including posting a real pic of me without makeup etc. People seem to have had fun with it and appreciated my honesty, so I can report that it’s all good.

Wish my regulars had identifiable busy times, though … !

November 9, 2012 at 7:51 pm
(2) freelancewrite says:

Liz, I sure hope the stories help! I also work without makeup or fully dressed until about noon most days :) Heck, I drop off my son at school while still in my jammies (I don’t get out, so why dress?) One of these days I’m sure I’ll have a flat tire or so on to make me sorry.

November 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm
(3) Andrew Pass says:


It’s interesting to hear how busy you are. There seems to be a lot of writing that needs to be done these days.

I actually run an educational development company that works with educational publishers and other organizations to develop content. We work with dozens of freelance writers and editors. If any of your readers are not as busy as you are, I would love to speak with them about possibly working with us. Writers can reach us at sourcing@apasseducation.com.

November 12, 2012 at 10:26 am
(4) freelancewrite says:

Andrew- Thanks kindly for the invitation to my readers. I’m sure they appreciate the tip! I do think that the educational niche is booming these days! I never lack work in the niche!

November 12, 2012 at 6:45 pm
(5) Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing says:

I’m so feeling all of this! We totally forgot today would be a school holiday…giving up and leaving the office now, actually.

I’m proud that I just said ‘no’ to one ongoing client because they asked me to do an article for a 12/17 deadline, and I don’t want any more articles this year — have like 3-4 left to finish and then that is IT! Want to end up really taking last 2 weeks of the year OFF…or as off as I can. It’s a client I love working for, but I knew it would turn my winter break time into not a break.

And I’m really bad now about deadlines, I’m constantly begging off a day or two. Fortunately so far it hasn’t cost me anybody…but it’s a warning sign that we need to cut back.

November 15, 2012 at 11:42 am
(6) freelancewrite says:

Thank YOU for your honesty, too, Carol. The fact that someone experienced and veteran like you (and Angela, too) still has issues with deadlines makes everyone feel better, I think. And those school holidays- OY. This is part of why I freelance, but wow, three in a row? Really? And THEN having to go to conferences ON TOP OF the three in a row. I can’t complain, though, right? They are not my babysitter!

November 12, 2012 at 9:09 pm
(7) Angela says:

I think many of us (even editors and publishers) get backed up around the holiday season. I can’t even imagine those trying to do NaNoWriMo right now AND working…and I know some writers who are!

As long as you keep the lines of communication open with your clients they will probably understand. I’ve been freelancing for over ten years with graphic design, and I still underestimate the gravity of projects sometimes. You think you plan things really tight, but one thing goes wrong with the project or in your personal life and you totally get behind. I still always think I can do it all. It’s just so hard to say no!

I remember you said something to me one time, Allena, when I was burning the midnight oil trying to finish a project (I think it was Premium-Green). You told me to think of my health and well being first. And I totally appreciated that because I realized that I was pushing myself harder than what was expected of me. Sometimes we are too hard on ourselves.

November 15, 2012 at 11:40 am
(8) freelancewrite says:

It makes me so so so happy when someone notes some positive advice or encouragement I’ve given them, Angela, like taking care of your health first! Yay! You and I probably have similar personality when it comes to pushing ourselves and saying NO, but I’ve been trying lately. I think I’m doing well. I did have to dial back a couple of the clients in the post, but I don’t regret it. I need to put my children first, I need to contribute to my family, and I need to make the deadlines I set with OTHER clients!

November 20, 2012 at 1:34 am
(9) Val Russo says:

Many times writers say “yes” to assignments when they know they will be too busy because they think they need the $. However, when you are over-tired, you are likely to make more mistakes and get short-tempered, both of which can tarnish your reputation. I have found it is often wiser to lower your expenses (no expensive gifts, no dining out, etc), so you can get more sleep and spend more time with your family.

November 21, 2012 at 11:36 pm
(10) freelancewrite says:

Valerie, You got this RIGHT ON. You are right.

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