In Michael Connelly’s The Crossing, retired LAPD detective Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch does something he swore he’d never do: He reluctantly agrees to cross over to the defense to help half-brother Mickey “Lincoln Lawyer” Haller clear a client from a murder rap.
After a career spent putting murderers behind bars, Bosch finds working for the defense to be extremely problematic, even if it requires a similar application of his detective skills. Apprehending criminals is what he does best. That is his mission, and he is nothing if not a man committed to his mission.
But Bosch also has to accept that this crossing is not without its advantages.
“For the first time he realized how free he was to follow his instincts and cast his net in whatever direction he wanted.” (from Michael Connelly’s The Crossing)
In-house editors might feel something similar when contemplating a jump to full-time freelancing, a crossing that could entail pursuing more interesting jobs and clients—a crossing that could also promise a type of freedom unlike anything they’ve ever experienced.
Why Cross Over?
Throughout his career as a homicide detective, Bosch had numerous run-ins with his superiors and with those who didn’t share the belief in his mission.
“With the department he had certainly employed his instincts. But there was always a lieutenant and sometimes a captain to be briefed and an approval needed. There were rules of procedure and rules of evidence. There was a partner and a division of labor. There was a budget and there was the constant, never abating knowledge that every move he made, every word he typed, would be reviewed and possibly turned against him.” (from Michael Connelly’s The Crossing)
Escaping office politics is one reason editors might want to embrace freelancing. Editors are often introverts who shy away from socializing, so freelancing would seem to allow them the freedom to do their work with less social interaction.
And going it on their own works well for many editors.
The flip side of this, however, is that office camaraderie is not always a bad thing, and some enjoy daily, face-to-face interaction with colleagues. Some even need this interaction for their health and mental well-being.
Even when working in isolation, though, freelancers can still find avenues for connecting with colleagues, whether that be through social media, industry conventions, or community meetings at libraries and other local institutions.
Bosch always demonstrates a strong sense of mission. His mother was killed when Bosch was just a boy (a crime Bosch himself solved years after), and Bosch is relentless in the pursuit of murderers.
“He remembered a time long before when he had been told his mother was dead and that he was alone in the world.” (from Angels Flight)
Bosch is driven by the belief that, when it comes to victims, “everybody matters or nobody matters,” and he never wavers from this belief, so no case is too big or too small. (Editors do well to apply this same sense of mission to each and every job.)
Freelance editors have to be similarly driven. They are required to motivate themselves and organize their own time. Freelancers have to do their own marketing and their own accounting. They have to set aside money for taxes and pay these on a quarterly schedule.
“I have accomplished everything in my life by channeling negatives into motivation.” (from Michael Connelly’s Angels Flight)
Many rise to these challenges and even enjoy the administrative side of freelancing (these tasks allow editors to turn off their editorial brains for a bit while still feeling productive), but some simply aren’t suited for this kind of work and need the greater structure that traditional office work provides.
No Boss, But Many Bosses
Most editors have never knocked their boss through a sheet of glass, like Bosch did in a memorable confrontation, but even so, the idea of working for yourself appeals to many. Certain personalities feed off the chance to call all of the shots and to succeed or fail entirely on their own efforts.
As the saying goes, though, if every client is a boss, freelancers can find themselves trading one boss for many.
Benefits of the Office
Full-time staffers enjoy a variety of benefits that cannot be discounted: health care, paid vacations, employer contributions to retirement plans, and even (for some) yearly bonuses.
In addition, offices provide computer equipment, software, and supplies, and some employers will even fund training and cover the costs of conference fees and professional associations.
On the plus side, freelancers can save on commuting costs and can also enjoy tax breaks for a variety of expenses. Freelancers can also save on clothing costs (the classic image of the freelancer is of someone working in his or her pajamas).
A 9-to-5 routine allows a certain ease to scheduling and a predictability that many enjoy. The ability to work when and where you want is, however, one of the main draws to freelancing, and any number of life circumstances can make this very appealing indeed.
Freelancers, on the other hand, might find themselves scrambling for work and taking every job that comes their way. This so-called freedom, then, could seem like anything but if a freelancer is essentially forced to work all the time.
Bosch is not a sit-behind-the-desk type of detective. One of his mantras is “Get off your ass and knock on doors,” which is exactly what freelancers have to do in their search for clients.
“Sometimes you don’t know what you are looking for until you find it.” (from Michael Connelly’s Suicide Run)
One of the advantages of being in an office is that the work is essentially given to you, and you don’t have to go out and find clients. But freelancers need to be on the constant lookout for prospective clients, and as such, they are never not working.
In-house staff generally don’t have to worry about their fees. They agree to a yearly salary and the checks come (usually) on a regular basis.
Freelancers, however, have to first figure out what to charge, which isn’t an easy thing (and freelancers inevitably also face the challenge of raising their rates and successfully communicating these increases to clients).
The truth about editing is that two seemingly similar jobs could require vastly different time commitments, and an editor won’t be able to gauge the amount of time required for a job until after sampling a chapter or portion of the work, all of which makes setting a fee difficult. A freelancer also has to decide whether to charge by the page or by the hour (something that might scare off clients who would be reassured by a fixed price).
For assistance in this regard, Rich Adin at An American Editor has published numerous informative posts about setting fees, and freelancers can also find helpful resources at the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA).
Another question for freelancers is whether to list their rates online or provide individual quotes for each job. As with so many things, there are no wrong or right methods, and one approach might work well for one editor and not for another.
An office gig might seem to offer more security, with freelancers often unsure of whether they will have work, or enough work, from month to month, but layoffs are also a reality, and editors working in-house might feel that all their eggs are placed in one basket. They might reasonably feel that if they lose their job, they lose everything, while freelancers have income being channeled through a number of sources.
The Way Forward
As Bosch found in The Crossing, some decisions tear at your gut, and a clear path isn’t always easy to discern.
Having a strong sense of mission, though, can go a long way toward ensuring that whatever choice you make, you’re going to end up doing the work you were meant to be doing.