Oh, the People You’ll Meet

Guest Blogger: Valerie Andrews

 

Oh, the people you’ll meet.

One of the downsides of freelancing is that it can be very isolating. There are no office mates to chat with about last night’s TV show, no “let’s get lunch” conversation with your cubicle neighbor. But freelancing can let you meet people you might never have connected with.

Trying to build my business beyond the one-and-done editing jobs that have been the bulk of my work for the last few months, I reached out to some small publishing companies to outline the services I provide, explaining how I could help improve and extend their own services without adding a full-time person to the payroll.

I got a bite from a publisher of comic books. I’d never edited that type of work before, and I offered a reduced rate to see (a) if I liked it and (b) if I was any good at it. Turns out, I really enjoyed the process, and the publisher liked my work. So now I have several comic books under my belt, with more to come. The publisher is delightful, pays on time and is very complimentary. I made a friend, found a new skill and got paid.

A first-time book writer who is tackling a more scholarly type of project reached out to me for assistance in editing some of the more mundane aspects of the book. We’ve had wonderful conversations about not only the book but life in general. She’s told me several times I lighten her load. That’s nice to hear, but more importantly, she keeps returning for more assistance. And I keep getting paid. Our paths would never have crossed without this book, which would make my life a little less happy on several levels. She’s a really cool person, and I like knowing her.

I met with a prospective client last week to see if we were on the same wavelength about her book project. It turned out we had so much in common that most of our conversation was about our lives. Sure, we discussed the project, and she left rarin’ to go. She even emailed one day to tell me she was working on the book at that moment. I’m excited for her about her book, but I’m happy for me, too. I get a paycheck, and I’ve found someone I really click with.

Not all my freelance ventures have borne that kind of positive fruit.

Through connections at church, I picked up a freelance client or two who referred me to other folks. One of the “other folks” was a busy,  well-to-do housewife (basically a lady who lunches) who needed help organizing a boatload of paperwork in her personal life. She hired me to come to her house to do that very thing. (I’m not a professional organizer, but I have done that sort of work before.) It took me about half the time to complete the job that she’d projected, so she decided I could do other things around her house, like grocery shop, wrap gifts and look after some of her children’s needs. I drew the line there. I’m not a personal assistance, a nanny, an au pair or a babysitter.

I didn’t work for her very long – maybe seven or eight days – but I learned a great lesson from the experience. Always interview your client, be very specific about what services you provide and what you expect from the client, and leave when the job is done. (I was young and didn’t really know how to manage my freelance business yet.)

The housewife’s name has been lost in the fog of years (thank goodness), but the lessons haven’t. The most important one is that I have to like the people I work with. Yes, there’s a possibility – a remote one, I hope –I may have to take what comes, regardless, just to make a living. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the new acquaintances in my life, the work – and money – they’re bringing me and a real sense of connection.