Freelancing can turn you into a liar. Case in point: This week I had to omit the truth from a client who was checking on my status on a project not due for a month and wanting what I’ve worked on so far.
I told him I’d do my best to get him what I have so far but that I have another editing project with a very short deadline that I’m focused on currently, which is true. Typically I wouldn’t have mentioned the other editing job for fear of looking like I’m too busy to work on his assignment, but I did so to let him know that I have another short-term responsibility I’m working his project around and will definitely be able to meet his January deadline.
What I omitted, however–and would never have been able to say–are that I also hold down two part-time jobs; it’s the holidays and my birthday week; and I have four kids, a soon-to-be-son-in-law, a husband, four siblings, and friends to shop for; there are two work Christmas gatherings approaching, Christmas Day dinner to host, and many other obligations to attend to. Had I mentioned any of those things, even one, I would look unprofessional and would probably never hear from him again, because in the fickle freelancing world, I am expendable and the next independent contractor is just around the corner.
The fact that the editor even asked for part of the project isn’t fair at all. The project isn’t due until January–nearly four weeks away–and I was never told I’d have to turn in partial sections of the book along the way when I took the assignment. Of course, the editor asked kindly about the progress and if it was possible to send back sections already worked on, but what was implied was that he really wants something. Now.
I am, if nothing else, excellent with time management. No matter how busy I am (see the above list), I never go over deadline or fail to get everything done. I never turned in late assignments in school and I haven’t in my career either.
But the editor’s asking for what I’ve finished thus far threw me for a loop. I have a system of how I approach a project, especially one this ginormous (over eight hundred pages). I tend to do a once-over and then go back and double-check my work. Now, since I plan to turn in something to him tomorrow, I had to stop my forward progress and do a reverse take, double-checking what I’ve already worked on.
I had every right to tell him on Friday that I will turn in the entire book on January 4, as agreed upon, but instead I e-mailed him back saying that I’d be happy (another lie) to give him what I’ve done thus far. I didn’t mention that I’d be working both days on the weekend, eight hours each day, to get him what he wants, not needs, so he isn’t stuck with this massive project landing back on his desk in the new year.
It’s unfortunate, but when you freelance, you can never avoid working when other obligations are pulling you away from your desk. You can’t shut down the desktop, close the blinds, turn off the light, and lock the door behind you, saying goodnight to the janitor and tipping your hat to the lobby security worker at the end of the day. If you have work, you must work, no matter the circumstances, whether it means working until 11 p.m. after getting off from your day job or both days on the weekend. The show must go on and the work must get done.
It’s the holidays and my birthday week, to boot, but I am rushing to get out my project due on Thursday for another editor and now this one by tomorrow while trying to do a bang-up job along the way so I will be called upon again to handle similar projects. And I’m doing all this while working five days a week at two part-time jobs. Oh, and did I mention the holiday obligations that I have?
As I said, I’m nothing if not a good time manager, but in the freelancing world, time is always never enough.