Friday, 3 September 2010

Please, can I have some more (work)?

Oh I miss editing! I've still been doing my voluntary work whilst being on maternity leave but I really miss getting my teeth into a large project. So once my baby hit 5 months I thought 'the next one I'm offered I'm taking', but I didn't get offered anything. Then on returning from holiday almost a month ago I decided to officially come off maternity leave.

The email took some writing as some of my clients weren't aware that I'd actually stopped working for a while - just that I was too busy to help them earlier this year. The message was eventually sent 2 weeks ago - please, can I have some work?

Several email addresses bounced back, not a good sign. A couple of clients replied to congratulate me and say they would think of me if anything came in but they hadn't got anything at the moment. The others have remained silent. My OH has come home form a hard day's work every day this week and asked if I've got any work, have I sent another email? I can never judge when it is best to send a 'begging for work' email - as I don't really want to appear as if I'm 'begging for work' I want to appear as though 'I have plenty to get on with but as you're nice I'll just squeeze your project in as long as you pay me on time' which I've been able to carry off quite well for the last few years.

Just looked at my bank account - £16.32 - best get that email written then ....

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Maternity Allowance

So I officially started my maternity leave 12 days ago. I found out all about maternity allowance and finally filled in all the forms and sent them off. It is one of the things about being self-employed that you need to claim maternity pay (or sick pay, etc) through the job centre. It can be done online or by filling out reams of paper and posting them off.

I recently discovered that my father-in-law is baffled by this. He can't see how I should be paid for not working. Even though my husband has explained that it is the same as the maternity pay I received when I was employed in an office with my first child.

It turns out that his bafflement goes a lot deeper than that - he doesn't really 'get' that I work. He thinks that because I don't go to an office every day that what I do doesn't qualify as 'work'. The fact that I pay more tax and National Insurance than he probably does doesn't compute - I'm 'sponging' by claiming maternity allowance. Perhaps if it had been my husband who was self-employed his view would be different - there's no paternity pay for the self-employed.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Baby Brain?

I'm slowly getting myself sorted out for the impending new arrival. Planning to stop work at the end of January and have finally sent off all of my paperwork to apply for Maternity Allowance.

Work has been pretty steady but I've been worried about the effect of pregnancy on my work. Within a week I had two complaints. This was a shock as I very rarely get complaints - in fact the last complaint I had was from a rather dodgy character who basically didn't want to pay me for the work I'd done and accused me of shoddy work in an attempt to get away with it.

However I admit - pregnant women get what is fondly termed as 'baby brain' that is, there is so much going on in your head with the prospect of a new arrival and all that implies that you forget things. I've taken to carrying my diary with me everywhere to avoid double booking things and, of course, taking extra care with my work so as not to miss anything.

The first complaint was that I had put everything in the present tense for a 200 page document rather than the past tense - which seemed rather odd. Lo and behold I was able to point them to the instructions that I had been sent which said to please use PRESENT tense (they were very apologetic).

Unfortunately the second complaint has been going on for a long time - I edited a book on screen by a non-native English speaker, returned it to the client after clearing up some queries with the author who remarked that it was odd that I hadn't sent him a list of where his grammar and spelling was incorrect. It isn't my usual practice to do that as it often opens up a can of worms where I spend hours explaining English language usage and defending each change - I'm employed to sort the text out not to teach him English grammar. Plus the job was for a set rate so all those extra hours would have been unpaid.

A few weeks later he sent me a curt email saying that he'd received the proofs and none of the changes that he had identified had been made and could I send him a list of exactly what I had changed as as far as he could see I hadn't touched it. Understandably I referred this back to the client in case the wrong version had been sent to the typesetter (it happens!). He hadn't previously sent this list of changes to myself or the client so I hadn't included them because I hadn't been aware of them. I left it with the client who was going to get it looked at again in-house and get back to me. Today the client has come back with a pdf of all the changes - granted I missed a few but the majority of which I wouldn't have changed because as far as I was concerned the text made sense or because I didn't want to change the author's meaning - in short it has been extensively rewritten in places, which wasn't my brief. I am not sure what the client wants me to do about the problem - I offered to go through it again with his comments in mind but they opted to do this in-house - they paid my bill before his complaints came to light (and I feel that the work I put into the book warranted the charge). But all they can see is the huge number of changes on the proofs rather than the amount of editing that was done before it got to proof stage. Plus as there were a few that I admit I should, perhaps, have spotted I feel that 'baby brain' and the numerous viruses I've caught over the past few months may have meant my editing performance was less than perfect.

In the meantime I have worked for several other clients who have all praised my work - so I'm going to try not to dwell on this, concentrate on finishing my workload for January and then return to it all after my maternity leave. I've apologised to the client and offered to do another project at a discounted rate once I return to work in the Summer and keep looking at those emails/letters of thanks.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Help, My Mum's on Facebook!

The cry of many a teenager I know but I'm in my late 30s and my mum turned 63 today and celebrated by opening a Facebook account. I know people in thier 60s (and over) are very tech savvy but my mum can't programme the DVD without a support group of at least two of us. I should have been warned - a few weeks ago personal calls were banned at her office and suddenly she kept popping up on YahooChat. This coincided with her friend - the 'Joneses' in our family's 'keeping up with the Joneses' scenario - also joining YahooChat, shortly after she appeared on Facebook. I felt a bit left out actually as she didn't mention her intention to me and the first I knew about it was when she sent a friend request to my husband - I had to search for my own mother! Unlike most teenagers I have nothing to hide - I'm actually looking forward to introducing her to Facebook's many delights - just don't mention Twitter to her ...

On another note I helped out in my son's class at school today and the 5 year olds were learning about the Internet - just last week I signed him up for Lego Magazine (for 4-6 year olds) and was asked for the child's email address! So how old should children be before they are introduced to email and social networking sites (thankfully Facebook is limited to over 16s, though I know a 10 year old relative is on there 'to play games')?

Monday, 12 October 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy

If you follow me on twitter you may have caught glimpses of my current state of mind and jam packed life!

Yes there are plans to revamp the room I 'use' as an office that I talked about in my last blog post but unfortunately not for me but for a new addition to our family expected in February. The 'office' will move to a corner of the spare room until said infant is old enough for school and I can up the freelance work again to warrant converting the garage! This news has, of course, opened up lots of questions for my working life.

I went freelance after my son was born so I've had to find out what happens financially. I can claim maternity allowance but will, in effect, have to close my business for the period that I am claiming. You can have up to 10 keep in touch (KIT) days but those are more geared towards attending meetings, training and conferences rather than editing the odd manuscript I should think. This has left me with a dilemma of how to deal with my clients. At present I haven't told any of them of the expected arrival, I'm not sure how long I will want/need to take off work (my OH predicts a week at most) and I'm still smarting from the 3 month work drought after telling them all I would be in Australia for 3 week's holiday back in 2008. Though it feels slightly dishonest I'm inclined not to say anything until the baby is here (and maybe not until I'm ready to start work again) as I have a good network of contacts who I can recommend to clients whilst I am 'too busy'.

I've been quite pleased that work has been trickling in regularly and I've managed to retain some new (non-publishing) clients though the big client of early in the year that occupied most of my time from January to May has now disappeared off the face of the earth (thankfully I did get the final payment from them - eventually). I even managed to juggle my first experience of the 6 week school holidays with relatives visiting, morning sickness and work (plans are definitely in motion to cope better with it next year). A quick look at my accounts show that I'm slightly ahead of this time last year but then scared me as I could also see that I've really only got 3 working months left until baby takes over - not to mention how close Christmas is (oops I said the C word).

I also took on a regional role, rather than just a local one, for the charity that I volunteer for shortly before I found out that I was pregnant. In theory it is a small job but we don't have a full regional team so I feel I should be more involved than I initially signed up for. I like to keep busy ...

Monday, 11 May 2009

My Office

Inspired by a friend's facebook photos I thought I'd share with you - my office. I warn you, it's not for the faint hearted. I'm not a great fan of housework - comes from having a mother who got up at 4am to scrub the house clean before she left for work, and a father who wouldn't let anything touch the surfaces (seriously you daren't put a coffee cup down in their house - I've always thought that they were well suited to the hospitality trade).

So, anyway, back to my office. I have to stress now that this isn't where I work. I did once have a lovely cabin bed/desk set up that had plenty of space to lay out proofs, plenty of storage and the benefit of a bed (2 with the sofa part) for guests. But we were short of money and they were going for £200 on ebay so I had to say goodbye to my desk and settle for an old dressing table.

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Clockwise from top left: the desk - containing the (as of last night now broken) PC, screen and keyboard - not much space for proofs; an odd piece of furniture - a seat in the shape of a hand, carved from a tree trunk and part of a set of two that we are 'storing' for my sister-in-law who emigrated to Australia in 2006 - with our old printer balancing precariously on it; my Winnie the Pooh motto 'my spelling is wobbly. It's good spelling but it wobbles and the letters get in the wrong places'; my computer chair - not the z-bed in the background (next scheduled to be occupied at the end of July - eek); essential software; my 'library' - not sure why DIY is with the baby books - perhaps that's why we only have one child; filing and an old TV - I think there is a theme here.
So my 'office' has turned into a dumping ground for unwanted furniture - two hand chairs (very heavy and it hurts when you stub your toe on them), a chest of drawers, a dressing table and a cabinet once used in the bathroom.
Methinks I need to rethink this a bit .....

Friday, 1 May 2009

One of those days

Do you ever have one of those days? Well I seem to be having one of those years! Take today for example:

Son woke us several times in the night with various requests for juice and biscuits. Then I completely missed my OH getting up at 5am and leaving the house, accidentally setting the burglar alarm off, at 6. The burglar alarm woke my son who was then prodding me every 15 mins to get up and make him breakfast. All of a sudden we were running late. He decided he didn't want to go to school and it seemed to take forever to crowbar him into his uniform, do his reading book and think of something constructive to write in the notes for the teacher (yesterday it was 'we've had this book before, he's bored!' but as I helped out yesterday and now know the teachers have been off sick I wanted to be a bit less caustic - I settled for 'read easily, well done (son)!' Then I discovered that we couldn't get out of the house. Because of our son's nighttime sleepwalking we have to keep the front door locked and when my OH leaves in the morning he locks us in (fire hazard I know). Yesterday a policeman knocked on our door to ask if we'd seen anything the previous night when our neighbour had been burgled. So my OH panics - his parents were burgled when he was about 12 - so now all keys are hidden. I have a memory like a sieve so put in a request that if they had to be hidden could they be somewhere that I might be able to find them - no, the burglars - having smashed a window to get in - would then be able to easily find the keys and get out with the tv. Personally I say let them take the TV rather than wake me up to ask me where my husband has hidden the bloody keys. I eventually remembered where I'd put my own set - where I'd be bound to see them ;-) - and we could leave the house.

As we hurtled down the drive at light speed I realised that the bin hadn't been put out for collection (usually my OH's job so I suspect he overslept too). I quickly computed that we didn't have time to stop and do it, the kitchen bin was still full, and I'd have to come home after school drop off and put it out instead of heading straight to the gym as the bin lorry usually arrives at about 10am.

Once at school son has a minor incident in the playground (which is all his fault) ans clamps himself, limpet like, to my leg. It takes 15 mins - and endless promises of treats at home time - to untangle him and eventually leave the building. Back home, whizz round the house, put bin out.

Got to the gym and discovered that although I had an 'assessment' on Monday my fitness coach hadn't written our my programme card and was now 'off'. I did actually discover this fact on Wed but I hoped that it would appear today. Could I remember what I was supposed to do? So I spent an hour tentatively flailing weights around in the hope that I was working the right bits in between 'hard pushes' on the cardiovascular machine. I think I looked a bit deranged as I left an hour later (if not during the entire workout).

When I checked my phone there were more messages that work has been delayed - as has most of my March work. When I got home there was a haughty message from my mum as I've not been in touch all week and we've not arranged anything for the weekend.

After a long chat with my mum to smooth things over there was a call from a client. Suddenly realised in horror that the project that I have to do for them is due back on Tuesday and I've missed the deadline for the courier as I forgot all about the bank holiday. Luckily they were fine and were actually ringing to offer me more work.

and now suddenly it is time to pick up my son from school and I haven't um got those treats that I promised so willingly this morning so I'll have to head for the shops.

And that pile of work, well it's still sitting there, looking at me ....

Hope you have a good May Day holiday - don't work too hard (be it gardening, decorating, relaxing or proofing).