My friend and neighbor Carol is an accountant with a pretty solid small practice. Every year she faces several frantic weeks of nonstop work. Sometimes it’s hard for a writer & editor to appreciate the hectic stress of the annual tax-season ritual, because most of the time our work is self-inflicted. Lately, though, I’ve come to grasp something of her experience.
For the past several weeks, I’ve been working 14-hour days, seven days a week on editing and indexing projects. It has been “feast or famine” elevated to the nth power. Two of my heaviest-hitting writers are in-house. One will be back in the country in a week or so and wants to take his 385-page book to press. Now. The other dropped 60 chapters on me, and then rhapsodized about his plans for the next book.
Just as these projects were beginning to coalesce, a new academic client showed up at the door with a handsomely paying indexing project.
Well. I wasn’t about to turn that guy down, you can be sure of that. So I took on the index in addition to the sprawling international memoir and the never-ending story.
Meanwhile, another Chinese Ph.D. student emitted a cry for help. This author’s dissertation director remarked that her English was “appalling” (it’s not that bad, for crying out loud!) and apparently threw several other brickbats at her. So we’ve gone through her first three chapters, trying to render them into English and still preserve her meaning. Political science cum communications studies at “the Princeton of the Pacific Rim.”
The result was, to put it mildly, a killer. I shipped off the last of these things on Friday and have been comatose all weekend.
HowEVER! Despite the pain this tsunami of work engendered, it also engendered three months’ worth of projected revenues: almost enough to cover the losses I’ve accrued a-sailin’ the Amazon.
If I could get this kind of work coming in steadily — say, two such projects a month — it would more than meet my annual goals. It would handily replace the adjunct income, in a fraction of the number of hours required to earn that much through teaching.
The question is…how? How to get paying work to come in at a steady pace? Weeks — sometimes months — go by with no significant projects in house, and then it all comes cascading down on your head. To get it done on deadline, you have to farm stuff out to the underlings, meaning you don’t earn what you need to live on.
I think (hope) the answer is more and better networking. I need to meet more of the kind of people who send me the kind of work I want. More people referring jobs my way should mean fewer long, dry spells.
So late last week I joined the American Society for Indexing, a venerable group if ever there were one. They have a list of indexers for hire, which is good…and even better, they have special interest groups (SIGs! Remember those from AOL days?) where people apparently get to know each other virtually and that also have their own, more specialized referral lists. Tomorrow (with any luck), I’ll begin trying to build a little presence there.
And I also joined the Author’s Guild, which has a variety of services and blandishments to attract passers-by. I’ll see what I can do about making myself apparent there.
I’d like to pick up more indexing work. At $4 to $6 per indexable page, an index is not a bad gig. It’s surely no more eye-glazing than reading freshman comp papers, and the pay is one helluva lot better. This last book, a collection of essays on the Anglo-Saxon visual imagination, was actually very interesting. Who knew the Ango-Saxons got up to so much? It was a far more cosmopolitan culture (at least, it was among the privileged classes) than I’d realized.
Anyway. Indexing. Editing. More, but less. Less at a time, that is.