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3 Business Lessons from ACES 2019: Resources

I’m officially an ACES: The Society for Editing groupie — this year, I attended the annual conference for the fifth year in a row.

Many ACES members are freelancers, and there is an unofficial business track at the conference. Many of my main takeaways this year came from these sessions, and they apply to any professional, on staff or independent.

I had so much to say about these lessons that I broke up this topic into three posts on resources, promotion, and focus. Here is the first in this series.

Track your resources, and find patterns

Let’s focus on two specific limited resources: time and money.

Track your time

I’ve had days where I’ve felt busy all day, but in hindsight, I haven’t accomplished much. And a lot of people go freelance because they want freedom and control, including over their time. But to control your time, you need to know what it’s being spent on.

In the session “Maximize Your Time: Growth and Balance for Your Freelance Editorial Biz,” Julie Willson had attendees write out their current tasks (both personal and professional) and about how many hours they spent on that task either per day or per week. She then asked attendees to do the same activity but with only their ideal tasks.

Obviously, for most people, there was some conflict between the two. But when you see what you want to spend your time on and what you’re actually spending time on, then you can figure out what you need to outsource or ignore and what you need to prioritize more.

If you don’t have a good sense of exactly where your time is going, Laura Vanderkam has a time-tracking activity in her book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.

Speaking of tracking time, in the session “Understanding Your Freelance Pricing Feedback Loop,” Erin Brenner and Jake Poinier talked about tracking the time it takes you to do all your different tasks during the work day: billable time, admin work, etc.

Many editors offer a few different services, such as different levels of copy editing as well as proofreading, and it’s also important to know how much time it takes to do each type of service.

While Erin and Jake argued for charging a project rate rather than an hourly rate, Erin stressed the importance of knowing your own editing speed. If nothing else, you need to know if you have the time to take on a specific project within a specific time frame.

Time tracking is valuable for employees as well. Once you know what you’re spending your time on and how long it takes you to do things, you can:

  • Determine how long it’ll take you to accomplish a task, especially if a coworker is waiting to do the next step

  • See if your day’s tasks mostly reflect the type of work you want to be doing or if your job is turning into something that doesn’t fit your career aspirations

  • Document where you (or your department) are being stretched too thin, trying to fulfill unrealistic time limitations, or getting bogged down by unnecessary bureaucracy or meetings

Track your money

Freelancers and small business owners are juggling a variety of clients. For example, I have clients that give me regular work, clients that I see occasionally, and one-and-done clients. And I’ve done a variety of projects for these clients.

Not only is it important to track how long it takes to get work done, it’s also important to track where the money is coming from. How much income comes from those bread-and-butter clients? How much income is coming from one-and-done clients? Do most projects fall under a particular service? Are there other services you love to do but aren’t often on your calendar?

Knowing your business’s big picture financially means you can make decisions like which types of clients or projects you might need to pursue more aggressively.

 

If your organization doesn’t have the time to handle some editorial tasks, including copy editing, proofreading, or writing, contact me. I’d love to see if I can help give you and your team more time.

Megan Rogers