Getting serious

I’ve been running my Fine-toothed Comb through your manuscripts for a few years now, building a client base and a reputation to be proud of. Gotta say, it’s been pretty sweet. And if there were a few stretches without a gig? Well, the day-job covered my bills. I could afford to treat this as pocket money. A paying hobby. A Saturday Job. Fffff. That seems like a world away now.

2020 was pretty catastrophic, on that we all agree. My heart cracks to think of all of those families devastated by the pandemic, the communities that continue to be scarred by racial and social injustice, the businesses driven to the brink by our country’s hunt for the Woozle of Sovereignty. In retrospect, none of this should have been a surprise; the red flags were waving well in advance. But being human, being fallible, comfort and security blinds most of us to the Future. We rarely make changes until circumstance demands. Nevertheless, if we are lucky – or if we’re privileged – we can maintain a semblance of control.

Whilst self employment has been the dream destination for me since I started editing as The Fine-toothed Comb, I had no real concept of how far down the tracks I’d have to go to reach it. Five years seemed a reasonable target: close enough to seem tangible, far enough to feel achievable. The day-job wasn’t going anywhere, so my ‘plan’ (in the loosest sense) was to keep chugging along, building up steam and momentum on the way. I figured I’d get there in the end; as long as I kept heading in the right direction, the details didn’t really matter.

Well, the Future arrived like a herd of buffalo, budging for no-one…so the world had to change.

Herd of buffalo
2020 be like…

An offer came down the line, unexpected but welcome. Voluntary redundancy. Hardly a sum to retire on, but it presented an opportunity I hadn’t foreseen: a chance to switch tracks. Maybe even switch up from steam to electric. [Ed. Stretching the metaphor a bit here, fella.] The offer wasn’t guaranteed – I’d have to apply for it – but time was ticking. A decision would have to be made. I’d been wanting to leave anyway, but this way I’d actually get paid to do so. The editing business wasn’t ready, not by a long shot, but if I could make editing my sole focus, work one job instead of two…?

My wife – a wise and cautious soul – had some hard questions to ask. She supported me in principle but she couldn’t support me financially. She shouldn’t have to. So how much could I confidently, reliably earn from editing to cover my half of the bills each month? What was my actual plan? Wouldn’t it be more sensible to get another job? (Part-time perhaps, just to be safe, as the business chugged along.)

And all of a sudden, the details mattered a great deal to me. I’d have to figure them out, because I needed this change. Editing isn’t just another job that I’ve *fallen into; every aspect of it fits my personality, my skill-set, my work ethic.

**Ego recensere, ergo sum.

We made a pact, she and I: the redundancy pay-out would act as my guarantee, enough to cover the bills for a time if everything went tits up, but otherwise I would keep it to one side. (Luck and privilege, I know. Plenty of people out there without such a buffer.) Basically, it was time to get serious. Get to grips with the details. That meant planning and implementing, measuring and charting – growth, income, client-base, engagement, profit, loss, the whole kit and kaboodle.

I would spend a year doing everything I could to get The Fine-toothed Comb self-sufficient, up to speed, humming along the rails to dream city—and if I couldn’t do it by then? Well, then it would depend on how far along I’d managed to get and how much of the redundancy pay-out remained. Pride may have to be swallowed, drudgery may need to be resumed.

You know the rest, of course. I applied for redundancy and ended my employment at the end of November. And it felt amazing. There’s something so exhilarating about this: travelling under your own steam; being self-reliant; having to be agile, responsive, forward-thinking, and brave. It reminds me of the thrill I had when I first learned to ride a bike or drive a car. The vistas have opened up before me, inviting, full of promise, dangerous.

And where do I go next? How fast do I travel?

Yeah. That’s up to me.

[Scroll down for an update]

 

*Okay, yes, I did kind of fall into it. But it means something to me in a way no other job has. It’s a career I can easily see myself following for the rest of my life. I curse myself that I came to it so late.

**I edit therefore I am.

 

Update:

The above article was written a while back, before I changed strategy. Instead of writing blogs as-and-when, I decided to stockpile a few for back-up and then go weekly. Makes for better engagement, I reckon. So anyway, here we are, three months down the track. How’s it going?

I planned to kick off January with a flurry of activity, but 2021 didn’t quite begin with the bang I’d expected. I’ve taken a few knocks, truth be told, but they taught me valuable lessons about spreading out the risk and the workload. Plans are in motion and continue to evolve. They include an upcoming change in look, regular content in various modes for engagement, re-strategising my price, and I’ve also started to look to the business world for additional custom.

What else? I’ve purchased some audio equipment with a view to expanding my services in that direction. I tested it out recently, recording ‘From Tappet Woods’, the creepy story I wrote for the Burdizzo Books charity anthology, Beneath The Leaves, and I’m chuffed with the results. I’ll be releasing that here next week to raise a bit more money for NAPAC, so keep your eyes peeled and share the hell out it if you can. The whole process was a lot of fun, so I’ll be repeating it for Lex Jones soon, recording one of his short stories. I also plan to produce audio versions of each blog post and web-page here at The Fine-toothed Comb in order to make the site more accessible to people with visual impairments.

Oh hey, and yeah I’ve taken on long-term client for a whole series of books.

The funds have held out so far, but those household bills are getting a little harder to swallow each month. (Time and tithes wait for no man… Ahem.)

That said, I continue to receive job enquiries pretty regularly, and a couple of customers have been using my Affordable Payment Plan in order to spread their own costs. Great news for them and great news for the business, because I can look ahead with a little more security. Whatever works for you guys works for me – so long as the editor gets paid.

I can’t say I’ve reached dream city yet, but the horizon’s looking closer every day. CHOO! CHOOOO!

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