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  • Writer's pictureSusan Carr

Don't put all your squirrels in one basket.

Updated: Mar 22

I've written about the lean times when you're a freelancer. Those weeks when there is NO work to do. During these times, it's vital that you still invest in either growing your business or your skills.

But what happens when you have TOO MUCH work to do?

This past week, there were FIVE squirrels in the backyard enjoying the tossing of the peanuts.

If the story of Home Alone 2 is to be believed, the squirrels can hear when the peanuts are tossed in the air and land on the ground.

At least Kevin the Squirrel (haha, get it, Kevin? Home Alone?) is scurrying down that tree as soon as he hears me arrive with the plastic jar full of his breakfast.

And so it seems his friends have also caught on to the call.

It took all my willpower to take this quick picture and walk into my office to get work done. I would much rather have gone outside to the meditation sanctuary and watched them for a while.

But I had over 25,000 words to edit in three days last week.

This amount of work provided me with 95% of my monthly budget.

This is a fairly new editing client, so I am not sure if the volume of work will continue at this level. Since the middle of February, I've averaged editing six articles a week for the client, so here's hoping.

Then, a former client reached out on Upwork asking if I had the time to copy/line edit a manuscript of 115k words.

I had to reach out to my business mentor on how to handle this one.

Editing a lengthy manuscript requires A LOT more work than editing a short article or blog post. When I edit fiction or non-fiction, I read the entire manuscript before I even begin editing. This allows me to understand the author's voice, get inside the story or concepts, and have a general idea of the storyline.

Once I have finished the reading, I move on to editing, which is also a lot of work. According to Reedsy, a copy editor addresses:

  • Spelling

  • Grammar

  • Capitalization

  • Word usage and repetition

  • Dialogue tags

  • Usage of numbers or numerals

  • POV/tense (to fix any unintentional shifts)

  • Descriptive inconsistencies (character descriptions, locations, blocking, etc.)

In contrast, article or blog post editing does not require as much time as a book manuscript.

The quality of the editing I will do is the same, but it's a different editing mindset altogether.

The Grammarist website describes the role of a content editor this way:

The content editor looks at small and big pictures, from your sentence structure to the brand voice. Some questions that a content editor may ask include:

  • Is the whole content structured well?

  • Do the statements in this article provide accurate information?

  • Is the online content optimized for SEO?

  • Is the sentence structure appropriate for general readers?

So, when considering whether I can take on a large project, I have to consider my time restrictions, family responsibilities, and honestly, whether I really want to be tied down to a large number of words every day for the next four weeks.

My business mentor said I couldn't put all of my eggs or, in my case, squirrels in one basket.

Just as putting five squirrels in a basket will probably not end well, neither is placing my confidence in just one, two, or three clients to provide me with work consistently.

For a few different reasons:

  1. Work doesn't last forever -- Long-term may not always mean long-lasting, even though that would be nice. Two months later, the company may find they can save money by having an in-house person do the same work I'm doing.

  2. Diversifying my portfolio -- I like the wide variety I have with my work. One day I'm editing a blog post about the Best BBQ Taco Ideas (which I now have some new recipes to try!), and the next day I'm learning about how the pay gap affects women's retirement savings.

  3. Learning is earning -- The more types of content I work with, the more I learn and add to my skill set. For example, I work with one client whose content is exclusively within the financial sector, and I've learned so much from being immersed in that industry knowledge every week.

  4. Don't miss an opportunity -- Since I have not had to rely so much on the freelancer platforms recently, I don't always check for new jobs daily. But when I do, I'd hate for my time to be so wrapped up in one or two clients that I don't have the opportunity to work on a project like this one:

These are the projects I love to be a part of, and they make me feel that my editing helps others make a difference in their local and national efforts to be world-changers.

So, I devised a price for the 115k-word project and presented it to the client.

And they accepted my price and the time I needed to complete the project.

I haven't heard from the client about the large volume of editing, so I'm glad I didn't decide to put those squirrels in one basket.

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