Monday, February 13, 2012
On-site or off-site? Part 2
 
This is the second of two posts about freelancers copy editing or proofreading for magazines during production. Earlier, I looked at working on-site. How does working off-site compare?

Freelancers working off-site: When I work at home, editors sometimes send me paper proofs by courier. I mark them up and ship them back in one batch, on the magazine’s dime.

More often, I receive PDFs by email, one or two stories at a time, or sometimes the whole issue. I read onscreen and make a list of changes in a Word document (a dual-monitor setup helps), then email comments for each article. Example: Col 1, para 4, line 2, delete comma. This approach isn’t as cumbersome as it looks, for me or the editor. It keeps things neat and clear, and there’s room to offer explanations and solutions.

Some clients want comments inserted into PDFs. I often do it, but it’s not my preferred method. When there are lots of things to ask about, the page becomes cluttered and the bubbles are difficult to work with. I also worry that the editor won’t see every remark, although I’ve heard this isn't a problem with Adobe Acrobat Professional (a pricey upgrade from the free viewer).

Freelancers: Being at home enables you to work on other tasks between articles, but the magazine should be the priority -- it likely has daily production deadlines to meet, and the editorial team is relying on you to be available, so take care not to overbook yourself. There are also plenty of distractions in a home office, including email, phone calls, social media, family members and pets. (Of course, that's a standard part of the freelance life, no matter who your clients are.) My fellow introverts: I know you prefer the sanctuary of your home office, but visiting clients is an opportunity to deepen relationships; if you never do it, you'll remain faceless to most of the staff.

Magazine editors: The freelancer is essentially on call for your publication; however, you won’t know where he or she is at any given moment, or have a constant sense of how the work is progressing. Also, an off-site freelancer won’t be attuned to the overall flow of production unless you communicate (“I need story X by end of day” or “Story A is lower priority than B – can you read A first?”). You'll save some money because you're not paying the freelancer when there's nothing to read, but the savings might be offset by courier costs for paper proofs, and you'll have to enter changes yourself unless your freelancer has InCopy (most don't).

In many cases, a combo of on-site and off-site works well. I've worked on-site all week and gone home for the weekend with printouts to return on Monday, and I've worked on-site during the heaviest production days and off-site on slower days.

Regardless of the arrangement – editors, provide adequate time and direction (including a style guide) for freelancers to meet your needs. If your editorial team is behind on production, avoid placing the burden of catching up on freelancers' shoulders. Many are willing to help by reading in the evenings and on weekends, but don't assume they're always available. Also, try to treat freelancers like part of the editorial team. You should always expect high-quality service, but it's human nature for people to want to do a great job for clients they enjoy working with.

What are your pros and cons of freelancers working on-site and off-site?
- Jaclyn Law
About Me
Jaclyn Law

 
Jaclyn Law is a writer and an editor with more than 17 years’ experience. Formerly copy chief at Chatelaine and managing editor at Abilities, she has freelanced full-time since 2006. Her clients include magazines, websites, non-profits and corporations. Jaclyn is president of the Toronto Chapter of the Professional Writers Association of Canada and a member of the Editors’ Association of Canada.
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