Holiday Work Overload: The inevitable lot of freelancers?

What IS it about entrepreneurship (my appropriated term for “self-employment”) that masses of work always pour in at the end of the year? This happens every single Christmas and New Year’s: clients think I’m going to drop everything and work for them.

Naturally. What else do I have to do, eh?

For three years running, it was the indexes of medieval and Renaissance history. When I ran an editorial office at the Great Desert University, one of our journals was a large, prestigious annual. Every issue, of course, being book-length, had to be indexed. That was fine — part of the job. But when the university closed our office, canning me and all five of my staff, the journal came with me.

Like all academics, the authors and editors always ran late on deadline. This meant page proofs would invariably surface late in December…some time after the thing should’ve gone to press. Among the chores I would do for this publication was the index. So a vast PDF would show up along about December 20. The editor wanted the completed index in hand shortly after New Year’s.

Indexing a scholarly tome to the level of perfection that particular editor demanded would take, under the best of circumstances, a good three weeks. But he was always asking for more, more, and more. On deadline. So that would mean I would spend all day Christmas Eve, all day Christmas, all the period between Christmas and New Year’s, and all day New Year’s compiling 20 single-spaced pages of index entries on some of the most mind-numbing copy this side of mathematical biosciences and engineering — the topic of another of our journals.

Last year the editors of a book on medieval maritime history surfaced, wanting an index. It looked like they would hit the holiday window, too. But no…they ran SO late it was July before they sent proofs. By then I was into what has turned into an eight-month-long surgical nightmare. I farmed out the job to a subcontractor, who probably will get all future work from that source.

Now a particularly favored client is back in the country — he’s quite the globe-trotter — and wants to make hay while…the bells jingle. He sent 250 single-spaced pages of copy to edit. I got through 100 pages; earlier this week we spent two hours sifting through those edits and had to quit before we finished. He wants to meet again on Monday for another marathon analysis.

This would be fine any other time of year. But it’s not so fine now. In addition to struggling with the ongoing medical drama — major, exceptionally unpleasant surgery is slated for January 6 — I sing on a choir. That happens to be about the only thing I do that is NOT constant unremitting work. It’s the only thing that gets me out of my garret and around other people. And Christmas is one of its most active times.

I really do dislike it, then, when people think I’m going to spend national and religious holidays working on their projects. Especially when those projects could have been delivered at more convenient times.

Then I still have to do the course prep for the magazine-writing class. One part of that chore entails creating new videos to help students understand what’s involved in writing and marketing magazine copy. The chair of the journalism department wants to deep-six the textbook and rewrite the course so that it substitutes Internet sources for the book’s content.

That, of course, will be a marathon project. I used the healthcare fiasco as an excuse to beg off doing that this spring. But nevertheless, it’s going to have to be done.

Last night I recorded and posted a new video explaining “What Is a Feature,” and realized I’ve got to redo the one on the query letter ASAP. That was after I posted a video on writing the position paper for the freshman comp students (they can’t tell the difference between a position paper, a proposal, and a report). Those jobs absorbed the whole afternoon and evening, and I still have to work on the globe-trotter’s book. Haven’t even started that.

Well. I can’t complain. It is work, and it isn’t waiting tables or greeting shoppers at the Walmart. Still: EVERY Christmas? EVERY New Year’s?

3 thoughts on “Holiday Work Overload: The inevitable lot of freelancers?

  1. Virginia

    I’m curious, why is the globe trotter rushing you so much? I imagine it takes months to write a book so why can’t he wait another two weeks to get it edited? Does he have a deadline? Or is he just really excited to start trying to sell his book?

    1. plainandsimplepress

      He lives in Asia and is in the U.S. off and on. He’s spent most of his adult life as a powerful, affluent CEO and has learned to expect people to jump when he speaks. It’s characteristic of the type of man he is and of his experience. Additionally, it must be said: he’s paying me handsomely.

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