Vaguely Employed

Today I was officially paid for the first time for my freelance editing job. They pay monthly, which isn’t especially pleasing to me, but it’s a job. Or, rather, it was, until I ran out of regular work.

When I was contracted, they had an unusual amount of assignments and were looking to bring people on as quickly as possible. A potential contractor would normally have 4 weeks to go through their training, but at this point, they asked me to do it in less than 2. I finished it all over a weekend, at which point I was ready to take on paid work.

The first four jobs I took were smaller – between 3 and 25 minutes of edited work. They pay per minute of finished — transcribed or translated — audio or video, so the faster an editor is, the more work he or she can accept, and the more money the editor gets paid. Unfortunately, after my first four jobs, everything dried up and I haven’t done anything since.

They have email alerts, so I can get notifications when there are files on their “market.” But, for whatever reason, I haven’t been able to sign on and pick anything up as quickly as other people.

I’m really hoping this dry spell doesn’t last much longer. I don’t have a lot of time left in the summer to work and am not fast enough to pick up some of the longer files they need finished. Since the required turnaround is usually 24 hours, I have to be really careful not to accept work that’s more than I think I can handle. If I’m doing most of the editing and transcribing while Bea is asleep, then I really only have about four or five hours a day that I can really focus on the job unless I want to stay up all night working and then be with her all day while Charlie’s at work.

The editing program is set up so that each individual word must be placed in a specific cell to match up with the speaker’s voice, so not only does it take an understanding of language and grammar, but I also have to be able to focus all of my attention on it. I’ve attempted working while Bea is tearing around the house screaming at me. Ineffective.

There are two main things I like about this job: one, it’s strictly freelance. I can work from home on my own schedule, taking as little or as much work as I think I can handle. Second, I am certified to use their software and program which, if things go well for the company, will be something that will look good on my resume.

On the other hand, both of those things are also hindrances. If the company doesn’t do well (it’s still relatively new and small), no one will care if I’m certified to edit using their software. And, while I am under no obligation to take work, there is no guarantee I will get any. The people who have been with the company since the start have first dibs on the files; the rest of us have to fight to sign on fast enough to pick up files when they become available.

If necessary, however, I think I’ve been offered another job at a coffeeshop. Last weekend, I got a text message from a number I didn’t know. The message said something like, “Hey, I heard about what happened between you and [the district manager who fired me]. Someone who owns a coffeeshop in Lincoln Park is looking for help right now,” and, if I was interested, I should let the owner know I’d worked at the other place, however briefly. I texted back to say sure, I was interested, and to thank the person for thinking of me. I still don’t know who it was. She told me her name, and it’s not someone I recall working with or meeting during my brief employment. Although I’m pretty sure I met everyone that was employed there.

So I called the owner of this local coffeeshop (but not before removing my somewhat negative review on Yelp) and she said she’d already scrambled around to find coverage for the employee who was in the hospital. If I was interested in working there, though, she said she needs someone starting in August and would love to sit down and speak with me. I said sure, that I’d come in and turn in an application, drop off my resume, whatever.

So here’s the moment where I have to ask myself if I really want to go back to working at a coffeeshop (and one that also serves ice cream and lots of different kinds of food). Do I want to work at a restaurant, or do I just want to make coffee? I just want to make coffee. I don’t want to make grilled cheese sandwiches and soup and scoop out gelato. Just espresso drinks, please.

I also don’t want to spend all my free time at work. I’m still unsure of what a full schedule as a graduate student is like. Will I have to read 75 books per quarter? Will I have to start attending conferences and presenting papers? Will I need to spend every waking moment writing, reading, and studying? I honestly have no idea what the workload will be like in my program, so I’m not quite ready to commit to a regular schedule where I’m rushing out the door the moment Charlie gets home.

Then again, I’m getting really sick of shitty coffee. Most cafes will pay you an hourly wage, let you split tips with co-workers, and give you a half or a full pound of free coffee (or some tea) each week. The take-home would be worth it to work a few shifts a week and probably more lucrative financially than the editing job.

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