27 February 2007

I spoke too soon

Just when I thought I couldn't possibly squeeze any more work in, I did.

I've just been commissioned to write 5 tourism features for a client. I did something already for this client and then pitched again. And now, when I have my hands full with the Arab book, I've got to conjure up time to visit 5 tourist attractions and write 300 words on each and they want them yesterday. And I need a driver (regular readers will know I'm not allowed to drive for medical reasons) so I have to call in some favours.

One of my proofreading clients has also asked me to do her web copy. She's probably going to be at the end of a very long queue.

Another catch-up

When I'm President of the World, I shall insist on all days having at least 30 hours. It's the only way I'll ever get everything done.

My back is still not right, but I'm off the meds and it's functioning. I can work - as long as I get on my stepper every so often and keep mobile.

I finally had my haircut last Friday. I was gutted to learn that the beautician who worked there and has given me treatments has died. Pneumonia. She was younger than me and a health freak. Sheesh! You never know when your time's up. My cleaner noticed yesterday that I'd had my hair cut and coloured and complimented me. My beloved P had to to be told because he didn't notice...

The book has finally arrived. Well, some of it anyway. I got three chapters yesterday, the rest will follow. I'll be starting on that this afternoon and I'm dreading it as it's on an Arab country and means I'll be spending ages cross-checking all the Arabic transliterated spellings.

Had a meeting yesterday with my lovely graphic designer. We're preparing the budget to make a flash demo for a mutual client. I've never had to write a script before, so this will be a learning curve. And there needs to be several language versions - English, Japanese, German and Spanish - so I need to find translators too. My LGD also wants me to write the web copy for his new-look site. I've booked him in for the end of this month, once the book is out of the way. That will be a straightforward job, anyway.

I'm fully booked for the whole of March now, and that's not including the planning meeting I need to have with the publisher of the mag I write for (where I am also contributing editor), plus the copy I need to write for another magazine. I'm going to have to change the way I work with some of my clients - I have several for whom I do short-notice, fast-turnaround jobs and I just can't handle these any more. Yesterday, when I got home from my meeting, I had a job from one such client who wanted the work back almost immediately but I had to start cooking as my beloved P was bringing a foreign colleague home for dinner. Somehow, I squeezed in the job, but enough is enough. All these clients are going to get an email from me very soon saying they will have to start giving me notice of forthcoming work. The only exception will be the Russian stock-market advisers for whom I edit their investment briefings, because they pay very well. Which reminds me - it's the end of the month and I need to invoice them and others.

The investment book publisher I edit for has promised to give me a great reference as I'm upgrading my membership of the SfEP to Advanced status. The upgrade should pay off, literally, in more work. The publisher is lovely, and I like her even more now I've discovered we have a shared love of reggae and ska.

But enough wittering... I have work to do.

21 February 2007

Cheque mate

Well, the postie came up trumps today after all and delivered my cheque book, so I can pay my membership fees after all. Phew!

It also means I have to go to my client meeting tomorrow morning, which means dusting off the suit I hardly ever wear now and keep for occasions like this. You never know when you'll have to play dressy-up for the people that hire you.

I'm still waiting for the book that I'm supposed to be copy-editing to arrive. It was due 2 weeks ago and there's still no sign of it. What's the betting that it gets emailed to me minutes before I leave for my meeting?

Banks and subeditors

I had a huge row with my bank yesterday. Last Friday, I rang them to order a new chequebook for my business account and was told it would be sent out first class the same day. By yesterday, it hadn't arrived and I was getting antsy as I urgently need to send a cheque to a supplier. So I picked up the phone again. The call-centre lackey I spoke to told me it took 7 to 10 working days to send out a chequebook. Does that mean I was lied to on Friday then, I asked? The lackey would only confirm the chequebook had been ordered and said it would be posted shortly. I did a quick calculation - by the lackey's reckoning, it would arrive this Friday at the earliest and possibly as late as Tuesday 27th. Now, as my cheque needs to be with the supplier by 1 March at the latest, I was not impressed. The conversation went into a tedious loop for a while before I demanded to speak to someone higher up.

I was connected to the business banking centre - the chap there told me it had been posted to me on Friday and it would take 4 to 5 days to arrive. So that's not first-class post then is it, I pointed out... We eventually agreed that if it hasn't arrived by tomorrow, I can get an emergency blank cheque from my branch that day. I took the opportunity, while on the phone, to ask why I have had five different business banking managers over the last two years and moan about the lack of customer relationship continuity. That whole call took an hour.

In the interim, an email arrived asking me to attend a client meeting with my lovely graphic designer tomorrow. Now, I don't know if I can go or not - it all depends on whether the chequebook arrives today. If it doesn't, I'll be spending tomorrow morning waiting for the post and, possibly, kicking up an almighty fuss at my bank branch when I could be earning money talking to my client.

On a brighter note, I had a very apologetic email from the editor of the magazine for whom I've just written a food review. Having sent my copy over, it came back slightly tweaked, which was fine, and I ok'd it. Then a couple of days later, I received another version that had been hacked to pieces by the subeditor and ruined, in my eyes. I sent it back, with comments. Looks like I have scored a small victory - an apology and the decision to use the first tweaked version. I must admit I was quite stunned to see my feature so chopped up - in 28 years, this is the first time I have ever experienced this. I guess I've been lucky over the years, in that my copy is generally published with minimum tinkering, although I know that many journalists routinely have their copy completely rewritten by someone else. Having worked as a subeditor myself, I understand the need to cut articles for space reasons and also to modify into house style, which is why I generally write to house style to start with. It's worked fine all these years. But subs should treat copy with care and never do more than is needed. Perhaps things have changed since I sat on the subs' desk.

15 February 2007

Harry Horse RIP

Yesterday afternoon, I was looking at my website stats, as you do, and seeing who had arrived from where. One visitor to my site had googled for the long-defunct magazine I cut my teeth on as a teenager. The rankings were interesting - first up was the owner/editor, who has moved on to great things. I was listed third. And in between us came Harry Horse.

Harry, or Richard as I knew him (for that was his real name), was a year old than me, and immensely talented. I remember when he joined the mag - he would sit for hours in the damp back cellar (we all worked in a basement office), drawing away, turning out brilliant cartoons and illustrations. I used to sneak into that back cellar quite often and just sit with him, watching him draw and chatting to him. I was very fond of him and he was interesting to talk to.

When the mag went bust, we went our separate ways, but I would sometimes run into him in town and have a chat with him. Then I moved away and never saw him again.

So it was a bit of a surprise to see his name pop up on that google search yesterday. I decided to google further and drop him an email to say hi, it's me from your dim and distant past.

Sadly, when I googled Harry Horse I only found his obituary. What a sad loss and a tragedy. Somehow, I found it fitting that I discovered this news on Valentine's Day - to have loved someone so deeply, you'd lay down your life for them moved me beyond words.

I was a month too late. I'll never catch up with Harry now. But wherever you are, mate, I hope you're at peace with Mandy.

13 February 2007

Coping (just)

I'm still in pain. Somehow I managed to edit a hedge funds prospectus for one of my regular clients. And I knocked out 700 words for a newish e-mag on dining out in western Europe. But that was my limit. The diazepam has stoned me beyond belief and I succumbed to a siesta this afternoon.

The haircut, which should have been this afternoon, has been postponed for 10 days. I'm behind, again, on admin and my beloved P has bent over backwards to look after me in my hour of need. We had to cancel the romantic night out so he raced to the supermarket after work. Readers, tomorrow we shall be picnicking at home on lobster and champagne...

12 February 2007

Oh, the inconvenience!

I'm still crippled with back pain. I succumbed to the lure of the GP surgery this afternoon and came home with a prescription for opiate painkillers - at least I get to enjoy my state of unwellness (grin)!

The downside is that I've had to put the mockers on a romantic night out with my beloved P on Valentine's Day as I can't sit for long. I've also had to cancel a planned day and a half trip to London, which couldn't have come at a worse time, as I've just been offered the possibility of writing for a financial newsletter and the editor asked if I would be in London anytime soon to meet up. Grr.

I've also been cancelling work, as sitting for any length of time is so uncomfortable. I have a little booked in for tomorrow, which can't be avoided but should be manageable. And now I'm rejoicing that the book I'm supposed to be editing is delayed - last week I was cursing, but now this is a godsend.

Friends and colleagues have been offering their sympathies - it's good to have the support, even though I'd rather be mobile and productive.

The worst thing about being self-employed is sick leave is unpaid. There are policies available, but at vast expense, and they only kick in after 3 months anyway. I'm biting the bullet and it hurts...

10 February 2007


With back pain.

I've had back problems for many years but since I had surgery in July 2003 I've had very few problems. I've been a good girl and kept up the exercising as much as possible, so as to keep everything in good working order.

Yesterday lunchtime, I bent over the desk and a hip muscle went into spasm. I was in too much pain to do any more work and spent the rest of the day bombed out on Tramadol. I'll have to catch up today, if I can sit long enough. I can't afford to be laid up for weeks, so I hope this is just a blip. Freelancing and back trouble are not good bed companions...

08 February 2007

Delays and low rates

I've just heard that the book I was expecting to arrive for editing has been delayed. No surprise there - delays are very common at the publisher's end. But it's left me with nothing to do, having blocked off a couple of weeks in my schedule to work on the book. It doesn't mean I'll be sitting on my arse for two weeks - just today and maybe tomorrow. And I expect short-notice work will come in. It usually does.

In the meantime, I'm left contemplating how best to fill my day. I will finally book the long-overdue haircut. And brave the snow to go to the bank. Then I can waste the afternoon watching my new box set of Dr Who DVDs (series 1, with Christopher Eccleston).

Someone contacted me yesterday asking me to write feature content for their website. I was cautiously in agreement, but asked what rate of pay was being offered. Back came the reply that the 10 existing 1000-word articles on the site had beenh bought in for around $200. Which meant I was being offered about £10 per 1000 words. And it's not even 1 April!

Magazines generally pay a minimum of £150 per 1000 words, often much more. And I can earn triple that writing for companies, no problem. Writing 1000 words is a day's work. For a tenner? I don't think so! I politely declined the offer.

I despair at the way rates are being driven down.

03 February 2007

Investment bloggers

I just joined Investment Bloggers. I'm not entirely sure why they invited me to sign up - I don't write about investment issues, I just edit anything on investment. I did a 3-year stint in an investment bank as a copy-editor and have since carved out a very nice freelance niche editing books on hedge funds and financial risk management and the like. My writing is more on lifestyle issues.

Still, maybe some more work will come my way... Apparently I am one of only about half a dozen freelance editors in the UK who actually understands investment finance! Which means I am in demand and can command good fees.

More than enough to keep in me in cut-price leather riding boots...

Even though it's the weekend...

I am still working.

Not much, just proofreading a few pages before the mag goes to press, and helping choose the cover shot.

The client who commissioned the tourism feature sent me a cheque this morning. I love it when clients pay promptly. I wish the one I'm about to sue would take a leaf out of the other's book.

To celebrate, I treated myself to a pair of knee-high, heeled, black leather riding boots. For the princely sum of £9!

02 February 2007

My week

Cigs: 20 a day (must cut down again).
Alcohol: 5 units a night Sun-Tues. Cut back to 3 units Wed and Thurs.
Gym: failed to attend again, but did use the mini-stepper in my office. Twice. For about 10 minutes.

My tourism feature went down a storm. Now awaiting publication, plus the URL. Pitched another 6 ideas to the editor. Awaiting feedback...

Invoices sent: 3, plus 2 pending. Plus letter threatening legal action for non-payment of interest on a bad debt.

Managed to make a start yesterday on the copywriting I should have started Monday. Failed to do any more today but I finished the style guide for a client that I should have finished last week. Will resume the copywriting job Monday...

Was offered another book to edit. That's due sometime next week. It should keep me off the streets for a couple of weeks.

Pitched for a freelance writing job on investment stuff. Waiting for a response. Also was contacted by the Investment Bloggers, to see if I'd like to join them, but their URL doesn't work. Ho hum...

The sun's over the yard-arm so it's time for an aperitif.