I did a post not so long ago about my job: Freelance Ghostwriting. I explained about what it was, some of the downsides and some of the upsides. I talked about how it’s cool in some ways to actually *be* a paid writer – and how it kind of sucks, too. The reason I’m talking about it again is that I’m stressing out about life right now. Here’s why.
Steady work is hard to find.
I have two clients whom I work with regularly (and a third who is starting to lean towards being a regular, but she’s kind of difficult and wants a lot for very little pay, so I can’t say how long our working relationship will be). One gives me one project a month that includes three 25k parts in a series (so 75k total every month). I get paid a flat rate for these projects (I charge by the 10k) and up to this point, I’ve had pretty consistent projects from him.
They’re all romance. Mostly bad boy, motorcycle romances. And they always come with a fairly detailed outline.
All of which is pretty great. He’s flexible with deadlines, so when I end up in a bind, I can extend by a couple of days with no major problems. I turn them in by the parts – so each 25k has just one “final draft” submission – and the payments are released almost immediately. (Give or take a day.) And I know that I’ll get paid, because the submission dates are funded through escrow.
All of this is awesome, right?
Yes, it was. Until, upon the submission of my last project, he told me that we needed to talk about some tweaks he was making to the process. Tweaks that he felt would “smooth out” the writing process for me. I knew before he even told me what they were that this wouldn’t be good.
I was right.
He said that he would now be putting me in a “work room” with an editor (or editors) who would “help” me in my work. I would be required to submit the projects in 5k increments, allow the editor to look over my work, provide feedback, I would have to use said feedback (potentially making edits on the 5k), then proceed to the next 5k where I would do all of that again.
Maybe this doesn’t sound so bad to you, but from my viewpoint, this is awful. Here’s why.
Why I don’t work for free.
I mentioned that I get paid a flat rate for each 10k I do, right? Okay, so that makes sense. That means when I turn in my 25k, I am paid for that whole submission, then escrow is funded for the next milestone. Great, tracking fine.
So what changes with this new process? Not the money.
I know this sounds kind of greedy, but I’m not getting paid more for doing this stuff with the editors in the “work room”. Which means I’m doing more work for the same pay. Now, maybe you don’t think this will be more work. Or maybe you think that this really will be more helpful for me – after all, editors mean that my writing will be better, right?
Maybe. Probably. I’m a strong believer in editing and what it does for writers as a whole. But here’s the thing: I’m a ghostwriter. Which means I don’t get the credit for any of my writing. It goes out there under someone else’s name and if it’s brilliant, if it becomes the next Hunger Games, if it gets a movie deal and a big house publisher picks it up, I don’t get any of that. Not the glory, not the money, not even the ability to say, “Hey, I’ve got a book in a big publishing house!”
And that’s okay. Really. I knew that when I signed on to do this. But I’m also not doing this for free, and I’m not really doing this for me. I’m doing it for the money. That’s what a job is. Doing it for the money – so I can pay the bills and put food on the table.
So now that we’ve talked about that, let me explain to you how this is more work. An editor is going to tell me what I’m doing right – and what I’m doing wrong. And then they’re going to ask me to fix what I’ve done wrong.
Which means *I’m* making the edits, not the editors. Understandable in your own novel. Less so with someone else’s.
So right there, I’ve got more work.
Now let’s look at the set up. 5k increment submissions. Why is this problematic? Well, partially it goes back to micromanaging. I don’t like my client getting their fingers into *everything* as it’s coming out of my keyboard. I’ve done this before and in my experience, this leaves them with a lot more instances of “why did you do this?” and “can you change that?” or “why don’t we have them do this instead?” all of which means I have to make changes.
Changes mean more writing.
Except I’m still only getting paid for the 25k. But it’s not just that. It’s also that now I’ve got to spend all of this extra time talking to the editors. And the client. And doing the edits. And then presenting the new edits. That’s time I’m not getting paid for – and it’s time that I can’t put towards a) my own writing and b) other paying jobs. Which means I can’t even compensate for the fact that I’m doing more and making less.
And finally, how long do I have to do these 5k increments? I write 75k in a month! (For one project. I actually average between 110k and 125k a month, so it’s already a fairly heavy load.) How am I going to squeeze editing in, as well as revisions, AND all of this extra “needy time” with my client?
Simple. I won’t. I can’t. Which means that 75k will be spread over a longer period of time – meaning I’m making even *less* with no time to fill in with other forms of making money.
Why I have to say goodbye.
Finally, what this all comes down to is this: I won’t be able to work for him anymore.
I’ve explained my position on this to him (in nowhere near this much detail), explaining that I would prefer not to use this new system/set up. I’m still waiting to hear back from him. I hope that he will reconsider this new system, but I doubt that he will. I’m fairly certain that he’ll insist I convert – which means I will insist he find a new writer.
Which means I’m out a job.
Yes, I still have a second project going on with another client – one who even pays more. But they can be difficult and after this project, there’s no guarantee of more work.
It means that in two months (by the end of October), I may be jobless. Again. And since my significant other has already been laid off (and been denied unemployment thanks to his vindictive boss), I’m worried that I won’t make enough to pay the bills.
That’s a problem.
So I may have to say goodbye to freelancing, unless I can find some new clients who are stable and will provide steady work. Things not easily found.
I understand that clients are on a budget and that they want the most bang for their buck, but it sucks because I’m trying to survive out here – and I’m not going to back myself into a corner where I’m running myself into the ground for pennies. It’s not right and I won’t do it. Not because I’m high and mighty or anything like that, but because I can’t afford to. Not when I can go out and find a job that pays regularly, taxes already taken care of, and that I will absolutely hate with every minute that I’m there.
It’s not fair, but it’s life.
I really hope it doesn’t go down this way, but I’m starting to think that it’s going to.
If anyone knows of some work out there or has helpful suggestions, please feel free to comment below!