When your editor tells you, “Excellent job! Thank you so much for the brilliant work you have done for us! Feel free to send us an invoice, you super duper freelance trooper!”
Know what you are getting into from the start. Obviously, it depends on what you’ve signed up for. If you are writing an article that requires heavy research and thoughtful analysis, the project could go on for much longer than you anticipated. This is a likely case if you are just starting out with a client you have never worked with before. Any number of bumps could be in your future. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell what they may be when you are just starting out. But just knowing that they will come and accepting that is a good way to approach any project. You aren’t Shakespeare. Sorry.
A first draft is never a final draft. This is common knowledge. Even if you think you’ve written the world’s most glorious piece on how to whittle small woodland creatures out of imported balsa wood, think again. There are bound to be areas of improvement and your editor is going to show you where.
Don’t be put off by editorial notes. Editors are wicked smart and they know how to guide you when you have steered off course. When they tell you, “I love what you are doing in this section but here’s a way you can do it better…” don’t glare at the screen thinking “You just don’t understand my genius, mannnnn!” Because that would be detrimental to the project, your relationship with the client, your writing, your willingness to improve, and let’s face it, the entire writing community at large. Don’t give writers a bad name! Even if you do feel like you’ve been shot through the heart. It’s not that bad, dude. Suck it up and accept the fact that editor knows best. In the end, it’s you working for them, not vice-versa.
Don’t be afraid to challenge a few editorial notes. If your editor gives you a note that you strongly disagree with for reasons that are valid to the project, you do have every right, as the primary writer, to challenge a note or three. But do it with the style and grace that becomes you as a professional. Don’t say, “I strongly disagree with you here because I’m right and you’re wrong and nanny nanny poo poo.” Not that you would say that. That’s not going to win you any future projects and it makes you look like a tool. Do say, “About your note: I see the direction in which you’d like me to go and I understand your point of view, but wouldn’t it be even better if we did X, Y, Z?” Examine your zipper? Nah. It doesn’t much matter if your fly is down when you are a freelance writer because you are working from the comfort of your home and no one can see you from the other side of their computer! (But seriously dude, X, Y, Z. Ha! Did you check?) … Don’t force your opinions on your editor. Rather, politely offer him/her a creative alternative to the editorial note in question and see if it sticks. Who knows? You may change their mind! Especially if you feel strongly about something and can communicate your idea clearly. And let’s be honest, if you can’t communicate your ideas clearly then you’re probably in the wrong business. Editors are people too and they are (for the most part) very respectful of the writers who work for them. Remember that, above all. You may not be in charge, but you ARE a respected writer. How do you think you got the job in the first place??
Revise with the perfect mix of patience and gusto. Second and third and <gulp> subsequent drafts are where the magic happens. Approach your revisions as if you are polishing a silver statue with a gold-painted rag. It’s not always easy. Gold paint on an old flannel tends to stick to the shirt and only a few flecks may transfer to the work at first. But after awhile, you get better and better at it and you realize… what the hell am I using a rag for? Nurse, hand me my golden paintbrush! And after you’ve cleared away all the mixed metaphors, you start to see perfection shining through. Granted, it takes work. That’s why it’s called work and not lolly gagging. Why, if I didn’t have my own project to get back to revising, I’d probably re-paint this entire bullet point. Thankfully, blogs are an exception. If no one is paying you to write them, that is.
Give your project a final final final read. When the gold paint has dried on your final draft, let it sleep for one night (assuming you aren’t past deadline). When you wake in the morning, go back and give everything you’ve written a final final final read. It’s perfect, isn’t it? You’ve done everything your editor has asked of you and you couldn’t be more pleased with yourself. Oh… there’s one dumb typo and another misplaced comma. Nice, catch! Anything else? You sure? You’ve read it through and come to know that this is the best the project can be? Well all right. Own it. And congratulations! Send that puppy to your editor and watch the accolades (and cash) roll in.
Unless your editor asks you to tweak one last thing. If this happens, you have my permission to throw a hissy fit, drink til you are rotten, sober up, and get back on the horse. Tweak that shit. Work it. That’s how it’s done.
Ahh. Now go find your next project.