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My new office: Heading west, but stopping short

I am moving to Louisville, KY, on Nov. 18. My wife accepted a new job and we bought a house out there, so I figured it’d make sense for me to move to Louisville as well.

This move, however, won’t impact my ability to help my clients. I am confident that I’ll still be able to help you from my new home office in Louisville. I also will be returning to Washington, DC often.

I’ve been a huge fan of Louisville since I first visited it four years ago. My wife and I, while sure to miss DC, are thrilled to be relocating there.

(And, of course, we used Brandon Green Companies to help us find a real estate agent in Louisville.)

The editing process: 17 steps to a finished paper and happy client

Here’s a 17-step process for editing a document. Obviously, many of the stages can be broken down into more detail. This list, however, is a simple reminder that I keep on my desktop to guide me through each editing job.

  1. Create a folder in the computer for all of this project’s files.
  2. Create a job in QuickBooks under this client if it’s an existing one; create a new client profile and job if the client is a new one.
  3. Create an invoice to track the hours worked.
  4. Turn on Microsoft Word’s track changes in the document (Tools > Track Changes > Highlight and Changes > Track changes while editing; some editors also select Highlight changes on screen, but I find it hard to read a document when the changes are visible).
  5. Make sure there is just one space between sentences and not two.
  6. Edit the body of the document (the specifics of this step vary based on the document).
  7. Compare the references section with the in-text citations; look for multiple publications from an author in the same year and edit the citations and reference to differentiate between them.
  8. Edit your queries to the client to make sure he or she will understand them.
  9. Review the acronym list you created while editing and add it to the document.
  10. Run a spell check to catch any words missed while editing.
  11. Update the table of contents and ensure it is consistent with the headers that are in the text.
  12. Update any other tables (such as a table of figures or illustrations) and ensure it is consistent with the headers that are in the text.
  13. Select Highlight changes on the screen (Tools > Track Changes > Highlight and Changes) so the client won’t wonder if you forgot to use track changes.
  14. Return the document to the client. Call him or her to make sure he or she received the e-mail—corporate e-mail filters have been known to kill many an e-mail with a large document attached.
  15. Follow up with the client to make sure he or she is happy and has no further questions.
  16. Submit the invoice and add an action in your calendar to follow up on its status once it is past due.
  17. Thank the client once payment is received.

Coping with IT-support problems, especially Apple’s .Mac, as a freelancer

I was at a retirement party for a now-former employee of the Fish and Wildlife Service a few weeks ago. When he was given an iPod as a gift, someone joked that now that he’s retired, he won’t have access to an IT person to help him use it.

The same is true for freelancers. Unless you shell out for the Geek Squad (which has a bad reputation, according to Consumerist), you need to solve your own technology problems.

As a Mac user, I handle part of my IT needs by using .Mac. For $100 a year I get access to several services that benefit me as a freelancer:

  • address book, calendar, and bookmark syncing between computers so that information is always current on all of my computers
  • access to my address book and bookmarks on the web so I don’t always have to lug my iBook with me
  • an FTP site for easy file sharing with clients
  • scheduled backups of up to 1GB of files on a secure server so my most important data won’t be lost if my apartment done blows up

In addition, when I bought my iBook, I purchased Apple’s AppleCare protection for about $300, which “extends your computer’s 90 days of complimentary support and one-year repair coverage to up to three years of world-class support.”

Unfortunately, as great as .Mac’s features seem, they don’t work.

  • I’ve never been able to restore data with the backup (and an Apple Store Genius told me that feature doesn’t work that well).
  • My contacts and bookmarks stopped syncing even though .Mac is set up on my iBook to sync automatically.
  • My calendars won’t sync on my PowerBook.

And as comprehensive as AppleCare seems, it doesn’t cover .Mac. Hence .Mac users need to address their problems with .Mac’s customer support, which only offers support via e-mail with a hoped-for response time of 72 hours. A three-day wait is unacceptable.

When I submit feedback to .Mac about these problems, and others I’ve had, invariably I receive an e-mail telling me to read four articles, create two test accounts, and report back to them. And that response isn’t a solution, as a lot of these problems don’t happen immediately or are sporadic.

I’ve elaborated about the advantages of freelancing a lot on this site, but last month when I experienced these problems with .Mac–and some other ones with my iBook–I missed being able to wander down the hall and talk to an IT person.

If you are a freelancer, how do you handle your IT-support needs (especially backing up data to an off-site web server? And if you hare a Mac user, is there any software you’d recommend that does what .Mac promises?

Thank you

Thanks to all of my clients and readers this past year. 2006 was a great year and I am looking forward to writing and editing for you in 2007.

It probably will be a few weeks before I update this blog regularly. I’m in Boston now, visiting my parents. Then it’s off to New York, Edinburgh, and London for that summer vacation I never got around to taking. I’ll be back January 9, 2007.

This trip should be a great one: in New York I’m seeing some friends, as well as Edinburgh’s Hogmanay (and, of course, a Caravaggio). Supposedly Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is one of the best places in the world to celebrate the New Year (and I’ve never been to Scotland). And London is one of my favorite cities.

Investment advice for the self-employed

My Money Blog has an insightful post about retirement savings plans for the self-employed. It looks at the differences between SEP-IRAs and self-employed 401(k)s.

One of the negatives of freelancing is that you have to establish and administer your own retirement plans. Thankfully my two years of brokerage and banking experience, coupled with reading The Motley Fool, has given me the knowledge to make informed decisions.

I’ve just been saving for retirement in a Roth IRA, but am thinking about opening a SEP-IRA as well.

Behold the renovated

If you’ve visited this site previously, you’re probably noticing a few changes. In the past few days I’ve

  • changed the template (the default WordPress one, while simple, was getting tiresome)
  • added tags to all of the posts, making it easy to find entries about similar subjects
  • posted links to popular RSS readers in the side bar so you can subscribe to this blog (yes, this editor now makes house calls)

So if you see any German text (a German created the template I used) or if there are any other problems, please post a comment or send an e-mail to Thanks!

Giving an estimate: word count versus page count

Recently a writer I’ve worked with on a few projects was submitting a proposal and included me as an editor. When he was determining how much it would cost his client, however, he wanted me to break down my services by the page (I assume the request for proposal gave the report’s expected length in pages and not words).

While I usually estimate based on words (typically 500 to 750 words an hour, depending on the amount of work needed), some people do estimate based on the number of pages. It’s a lot harder, however, because a page could have a large graphic or be all text. When I do estimate based on the number of pages, I approximate 250 words per page, although I ask if there will be a lot of tables and figures and adjust accordingly.

Just to confuse matters, however, tables often can require more editing than text does.