Confessions Of A Web Editor – An Inside Look
I’ve had many people ask me what I do for a living, and it’s quite difficult to explain. You see, I work from the ‘comforts of home’ and deal more with words and emails over the Web rather than face-to-face (with people). From an outsider’s point of view, that sounds like a sweet deal. You don’t have to face clients, your boss, your managers or your recruits (sounds like freelancing, doesn’t it?).
Everyone asks me if I know of more jobs like this. In my head, I’d say, "No, thank goodness there isn’t any." Before you click away, trust me when I say this is not your typical tips to work from home type of write-up. In fact, it’s more of a horror story, less goth, more blood. When you have been in my position long enough (which in fact isn’t very long by Web standards), you realize the weirder sides of things from working online as a web editor – things like:
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You know how it is when parents get together and say, "oh how time flies", your kids are now in college and retirement is the next stage in life? This is different. On the Internet, time moves a lot quicker. Unlike the regular 9-to-5, unless you set your own routine, you blink once it’s Wednesday, blink twice and it’s Sunday. Ironically, the opposite is the same, spend a year on the Web and it feels like it’s been four.
(Image Source: janussyndicate)
Information covered two days ago is considered ‘old’, and there is a perpetual need to always be on top of a new trend, news story or product release. In the same period it takes for you to mail a letter by post, you’d probably have gone through 6 different revolutions, uprising or scandals online. The Internet runs on a different time scale and whenever you get off the Web and check the calendar, sometimes you get a shock of how far into the year you’ve been.
What to Expect/Do
Have a routine. Always run reality checks by leaving the house, going for a run, catching up with friends or reading the newspaper (the kind that doesn’t update itself, and you can lend to someone else without fearing they’d run off with it).
Everyone hates you
This is true. If you’ve been on the Web long enough, you’d notice that hatred is the most widespread emotion you will come across. Apparently for most keyboard warriors, there are plenty of things to hate, an artist who turns up late for a concert, open letters that usually fight for a cause, even small erors (see that?) on blogposts get strongly worded emails.
(Image Source: BenHeine)
There isn’t really a reason behind it, some people just like to hate. It’s a perversion of the quote by Oscar Wilde,
"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."
Today’s man (and woman) is also full of unbridled hatred and a passion to be in someone’s face, virtually. Everyone has an opinion they would ‘virtually die for’, and there’s nothing you can do to change their opinion, even if they want to change yours.
What to Expect/Do
Be prepared to take criticism even when you are not asking for any. If you cannot take criticism from people on the Internet, then you are better off working outside of it. Honestly, it’s not worth it. You can’t be angry all the time.
You Are Your Own Manager
If freedom is the reason you want to work from home, then the first few months will be very rough for you. There is no such thing as freedom – what there is, is self-control, discipline and a lot of sacrifices.
You will notice a need for all this when you hear yourself give your reasons (or excuses) to clients or your boss when things are not getting done: I was distracted; The deadline is still a week off, I didn’t know the client wanted an early draft; I have to help with my daughter’s recital costume etc.
If you hated your strict supervisor in your last job, well you are going to miss the rigid atmosphere that he or she set up to allow you to work and achieve your goals. That kind of setting was optimized so you can focus on the task at hand.
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No distractions, no calls from home, no interruptions inside that 9-to-5 zone. Your hands are tied but you get work done. And at the end of the day that is what clients and bosses look for: accomplishments.
What to Expect/Do
Be disciplined, deliver the goods, or go back the environment that allows you to do both. When will you know? When nothing gets done.
Scammers are everywhere
When receiving guest contributions (a lot of you are amazing writers by the way), I’ve come across a relatively small group of people who would do anything and everything to get a post on the site, anything except give good, original content.
Make A Stand
As an editor, it is very important to appreciate the effort your writers put into their writing. It is also equally important to demand it. Having worked with so many talented, hardworking people, I have little to no respect for writers who copy content from one site and try to pass it off as their own on another site.
As writers, we should show professional courtesy to a fellow member of the same trade, e.g. credit the person who came up with the original idea, give them a backlink to the site, mention them by name sometimes. Creativity is rare enough as it is, let’s try to not kill it off before we all stop writing altogether.
But perhaps they have their reason to resort to these actions: maybe they cannot come up with original content, maybe they think that rewording is acceptable (to them) or maybe they are literally practicing the "imitation is the best form of flattery’ bit.
Go With Your Gut
Regardless of the reason, the bad thing about this is they will go with it until you catch them in the act. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. But the repercussions exist – and they hurt your reputation and your brand more than it does themselves.
Working from behind a computer screen, it’s hard to look for clues. In real life, you can study body languages, notice the pitches, stammers, and a-second-too-long replies, but not when all you have is text. So what is there for an editor to do? Roll with the punches and pray that that gut instinct of yours kicks in when it needs to.
What to Expect/Do
Be very careful(?). (I have no idea actually. I usually wait for my guts and/or short fuse to tell me what to do. Maybe you have a better idea).
It’s the People
For what it’s worth, working on the Web is really fun. You get to meet and communicate with a lot of enthusiastic people who are doing great things with their lives. Nowhere else can you find an environment where there are so many young and old self-starters who would not let age, language or educational background limit them.
It’s an environment where only the strong and the persistent will survive, where prejudice and discrimination take a backseat to ‘making things happen’. If you have a dream you want made come true, and you are working on the Web, you’re in the right place.