Thank you to all the kind notes and tweets and emails about my last newsletter, which was about quitting. I don't have much new to say about that, except that I am so grateful to have a robust, diversified freelance career that allowed me to do drop a major client and still be able pay the bills.
But enough about that. It's May! That means summer is almost here! And with it, perhaps, summer vacation, to which I say: hooray! I'm a big believer in using the flexibility that freelancing provides to live your life rather than living your work.
But how do you handle that with clients? Easy: tell them now. Yes, right now. Give them a heads up that you're planning to take X to Y off, then follow up with reminders as necessary (depending on how often you work with them). Before a vacation, I'll say "in case of revisions, just a reminder that I'll be off X to Y" whenever I turn stuff in. Editors should plan for your break like they would any other colleague – because that is what you are.
If they push back on you taking time off, or expect you to work on your vacation, I would put them on the chopping block. Even if you can't afford to fire them right now, you can start looking for a way to replace that income. It's just not worth working with people who don't respect you or your boundaries. When I took a month off in June 2019 to drive to California and back, an editor called me two days before I left demeaning that I drop everything to do a revision to a piece I'd turned in weeks before (with plenty of reminders that I was going away). I said no. She said "let's negotiate." I said "no, the answer is no." That goes back to what I said at the top of the email: by having a diverse client base, I can let someone go, whether it's because I don't want to do that a kind of work anymore, or they're being unreasonable. I tell people to not let any one client make up more than 25% of your income. I try to keep it under 15%. It's served me well.
My travel is a bit of an inverse: while I plan to take Fridays off this summer, my real vacation will be a long trip in September and October (I think). That means I'll be sending out emails telling clients that I'm athis summer for extra work, especially if they need someone to write more to cover for staffers taking a break. That also gives them their first heads up about my planned, later, time off.
Of course, editors' workloads don't always line up with your work time. It has been a bit of a slower month, and not just because I let a regular gig go. I took time off in April, which affected May work. I've also been getting a lot of out of office messages, I assume because people are traveling post vaccination to see family, friends, something other than the four walls of their home. I've learned not to worry about it too much. These dips are as common as five editors picking the same due date for their respective assignments (and in that case, I ask to get dates shifted around, or set my own due dates so I get stuff done early – which editors usually appreciate!)
What have I been doing instead? You guessed it: marketing. In the last week, I followed up on 33 letters of introduction (LOIs), and plan to follow up on more today. I've already shaken loose one assignment from a new to me client, and have a "getting to know you call" with another later this week. That might sound like a low response rate, but given how little time following up takes (about a half hour to write and send those 33 emails), not bad! I could also hear back in the future. The longest time between LOI and assignment? Two years. I'm confident they're still at work.
Anyway I've rambled enough. On with the rest of the show.
"Packaging Automation Hits Fast Track in 2021" for Supply Chain Dive
"Smaller, Smarter, and Faster" for Clinical Laboratory News
"How IT Can Support Security in the Event of a Cyber Attack" for CIO Dive
"An Urchin Opportunity Awaits in New England" for Global Aquaculture Advocate
"The Pandemic Brings Supply Chain Out of the Shadows and CSCOs into the Spotlight" for Supply Chain Dive
"It's Game On For Packaging Procurement as Lead Times Lengthen" for Supply Chain Dive
"Cancer Can't Hide" for Medicine Iowa
"Courage Under Fire" for the University of Tampa Journal
"Operations Meets Marketing: Kraft Heinz's Ops Center Breaks Silos to Tackle Supply Chain Challenges" for Supply Chain Dive
"Procurement Meets Marketing: Responsible Sourcing Turns Trendy in the Public Eye" for Supply Chain Dive
"Logistics Meets Marketing: Fast and Free Shipping Promotions Need Supply Chain on Board" for Supply Chain Dive
What I'm Reading
- The Disappearance of Alistair Ainsworth by Leonard Goldberg. I'm all in on this daughter of Sherlock Holmes series. It's not heavy reading, and I usually guess the wrong person for the killer. It's fun!
- Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 1: 1884-1933 by Blanche Wiesen Cook. I love to listen to big, fat biographies as audiobooks, especially books I'd probably never read in print. This is a good one! I plan to listen to volumes two and three in the future.
- Heaven's a Lie by Wallace Stroby. I've read everything Stroby has published – he's great. He's also a Jersey Shore guy, and this book takes place here.
- Daring to Dream and Holding the Dream by Nora Roberts. This is hands down my favorite Nora Roberts series, and this may be my third or fourth time through it (I'm saving the last book for the beach). It feels only slightly outdated – not bad since the series is 25 years old.
- Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. This was a bit of an odd duck of a book, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
- Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker. As devastating as everyone said.
- The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. No, I'd never read it. Imagine!
- When Women Invented Television by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong. Loved loved loved this. Works great as an audiobook too. I learned so much about the early days of television.
- My Anecdotal Life: A Memoir by Carl Reiner. Also great as an audiobook!
- Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. I don't read much fantasy (if you can call it that?) but I liked trying to figure out what the hell was going on.
- Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon. A quick, factual, touching read.
- Clean Getaway by Nic Stone. This one punched me in the heart, as it probably will anyone who loved a grandmom. It's a bigger story than that, of course, but family is right in the middle.
- The Other Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn. This has only the loosest ties to the popular Bridgerton series. Didn't hate it!
- The Problem is YOU by John Burke. I gave this a rare one-star review. Hated it!
- Fin & Lady by Cathleen Schine. This book wandered a bit too much for me, but I did read it on the seven year anniversary of my trip to Capri. Ah travel. It's great!
- The Last Blockbuster. What a delightful documentary! I went to *one* of the last Blockbusters when I was in Alaska in 2013, which has since closed, but I've never been to the one in Bend, Oregon, which is truly the last. This is a really great film, I highly recommend it.
- A Place to Call Home. I cannot recommend this Australian melodrama enough, which is chock full of beautiful people in beautiful clothes and beautiful homes doing sometimes ridiculous things, but also about how an entire generation tried to move on from a collective trauma (WW II) and how often they failed to do so. It's a lot, including that there are two season two finales, which both aired. I don't want to spoil it for you though. It's on AcornTV.
- This is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist. I also enjoyed this documentary, which is different enough than the Last Seen podcast that I think both are worth your time. Seeing some of these characters – and they are characters – gives a different perspective on the case.
- The Other Two. This series is a bit silly, which is the point. I did keep thinking about how these folks were all about to smack into COVID and how that would change their world. HBO Max picked it up for a second season, so we'll see.
- Made You Look: The True Story About Fake Art. Yes I really did get watch a lot of documentaries lately, why do you ask? Another fascinating look into the art world.
- My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Opa! What a great movie to watch while eating room service (which is exactly what I did in Asheville).
- Queens of Mystery. I thought the was okay? I was distracted while watching it, I admit, but I will give this one another go when season 2 is released on AcornTV (this is not a sponsored mention, I just like the streaming service).
- The Comeback Kid and Kid Gorgeous at Radio City Music Hall. I'd seen both of these John Mulaney standup specials before, but decided to watch them again because, well, they're funny. This was before news came out that he was out of rehab, and that he and his wife split up. If you're a Mulaney fan (even if not), I recommend checking out this Vulture piece about his first stand up special since rehab.
- I'll be Gone in the Dark. I listened to the audiobook of the same title, about the Golden State Killer, so I thought this would be a re-hash of what I'd already learned. But I didn't know this documentary was as much about Michelle McNamara's quest/obsession to find him and what it did to her, as it was about the killer himself. It hit me pretty hard because it raised the question of: what happens when the story starts to take over the writer? Do you press on for the sake of truth, of art, of creating for others? Or do you protect yourself? That's also what the Vulture Mulaney piece is about. I've been asking this a lot myself as I dip back into a book project I've been chasing for four years, and whether or not it's worth it for me to keep pressing forward. I don't make a lot of money from my books (in fact, sales from my ebook has now surpassed my first book advance). So why do I do this if it, at times, upsets me so much? TBD.
- Murder on Middle Beach. This docuseries is a lot too: a son investigating the murder of his mother. Also worth your time if you're into that sort of thing.
Until next time!
Jen A. Miller