Treading water

If you’ve been following my business journey, you’ll know that I’ve gone from hobbyist to full time freelance editor through some tricky times. I kept my chin up and paddled – quietly confident and determined. Neither my skill nor my will has diminished, but savage waves have left my financial lifejacket somewhat deflated since I took redundancy in 2020. The UK cost of living crisis is bleeding the ‘air’ out quicker than I can pump it back in, so I’ve been forced to re-strategise, putting business continuity above growth for now, treading water until the seas calm.

As you (may) know, I began to diversify my offerings a while back, adding audio performances on the side. My first paid gig came out recently, and I’m pretty pleased with it. However, I’ve not been inundated with requests. People love to hear their stories performed, but many struggle to justify the expense, so I’m thinking of shifting gears – starting a YouTube feed for regular readings. Ideally these would have a zero-to-low cost for authors or publishers. How do I earn money for my time and trouble? Advertisers, possibly? A premium charge for those who want to specify the release date and/or control availability? Hm. I’ll need to *think on that.

I also joined the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, progressing quickly to ‘Intermediate’ level. The plan was to drive as directly as possible to ‘Professional’ but that requires some pretty intense work with much larger publishers. I’d need to give that proper time and focus, and with one thing and another I simply haven’t had the breathing room to seriously pursue them. I wonder if there’s a slight fear factor too, of getting chewed up and spat out by big businesses who don’t share my values for quality work. I’ve seen friends crushed in that system.

That aside, the bills still needed paying month by month and a more straightforward opportunity presented itself: a zero-hours contract at the University of Wales to be an exam attendant. Easy money. I passed my first interview in 17 years with flying colours and was then almost immediately offered a second role in Student Services. Just a short-term contract, but the reliability of income was blessing, and it only sucked away 2 days per week from my editing time. **I could cope with that.

With one foot in the door, I’ve discovered a whole bunch of short-term opportunities opening up and so, reluctant to let go of this dangling rope, I’ve pulled in a new 3-month contract supporting International Students (3 days per week), plus a separate zero-hours contract conducting interviews via Teams. And there’s more! Now I’m looking into mentoring students on the autistic spectrum too. Zero hours guaranteed, but always available. It’d feel damned good to put my caring side to some practical use. The bottom line is that work is there for the taking right now and, whilst none of these roles particularly help my editing career, they’re helping to keep me afloat.


What does all this mean for The Fine-toothed Comb?

  • Well, my doors are still very much open for business. I’m not going anywhere. Currently I’ve got a short story and a novella in hand, with two or three novels coming down the pipeline in the near future.


  • I’m still blogging on a weekly basis—and I’m determined to keep that going come hell or high water. It’s the pulse my business beats to. It keeps me out there and alive, thinking and talking to you all.


  • However, the amount of hours I pour into actual editing will have to be reduced in order to make space for these short-term and ongoing zero-hour contracts for the university. More stability.


What does this mean for you?

  • My stream of business will be narrower, squeezed in through fewer days once more. That means longer queues, particularly when novels are involved.


  • If you want to hire my services, you will need to book me in advance – the further ahead, the better. N.B. Exceptions can be made for short stories, which squeeze in and around bigger projects pretty easily.


  • On the plus side, by putting in that planning and forethought, you’ll be in a much better position to take advantage of my Affordable Payment Plan, spreading the cost of my services to make them manageable even during these difficult economic times.


I hope that’s brought you all up to date nice and clearly. I’m not fearful for the business, just making some sensible adjustments to fit the circumstances. I’m sure there are many of you out there making similar adjustments to your lives and priorities right now. I still have visions and hopes for the future, which include taking the plunge with some larger publishers, branching out into the comics and the games industries, narrating audiobooks and the like, but for now I just need something simple: a regular wage, achievable targets, space and time to breathe.

Oh, and customers too, of course. Form a nice orderly queue, please. Now… who needs me in October? Uh huh. And what do you need? A critique? A full edit? Sure thing, I’ve got you. And November? Let’s do this.


* And of course, if you have any useful thoughts on the subject, I’m all ears.

** My original intention had always been a more gradual shift to full-time self-employment, but my previous employer could only flex so much. Your work, elevated.



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