Many people often inquire about my profession, and it’s not an easy one to explain. I work from the ‘comfort of my home‘, primarily dealing with words and emails over the internet, rather than engaging in face-to-face interactions. To an outsider, this might seem like an ideal arrangement. There’s no need to confront clients, bosses, managers, or recruits – it almost sounds like freelancing, doesn’t it?
I frequently get asked if I know of more jobs like this. Internally, I respond, “No, and thank goodness for that.” Before you navigate away, let me assure you that this isn’t your typical ‘work from home‘ advice article. In fact, it leans more towards a horror story – less gothic, more gruesome. When you’ve been in my position for a while (which isn’t very long by web standards), you begin to notice the stranger aspects of working online as a web editor, such as the following:
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1. Time Flies Differently Here
You know those moments when parents gather and exclaim, “Oh, how time flies!” as they discuss their kids now in college and the impending stage of retirement? Well, time on the Internet is a different beast altogether. Unlike the traditional 9-to-5, unless you establish a routine, a blink could mean it’s already Wednesday, and two blinks later, you’re at Sunday. Ironically, the reverse also holds true: spend a year on the Web, and it feels like four have passed.
Information that was fresh just two days ago is now considered ‘old’. The digital world demands a constant awareness of new trends, news stories, and product releases. In the time it takes for a letter to reach its destination via post, you could have witnessed six different revolutions, uprisings, or scandals online.
The Internet operates on a different time scale, and when you finally disconnect and glance at the calendar, you might be shocked at how far into the year you’ve traveled.
Navigating the Web: What to Expect and Do
Establish a routine. Regular reality checks are essential. Step out of the house, go for a run, catch up with friends, or read a physical newspaper (the kind that doesn’t update itself and can be lent to someone else without the fear of it being stolen). These activities can help ground you in the real world amidst the fast-paced digital landscape.
2. Everyone Seems to Dislike You
This is a harsh reality. If you’ve spent enough time on the Web, you’ll notice that animosity is one of the most prevalent emotions you’ll encounter. It seems that for many keyboard warriors, there’s no shortage of things to despise: an artist who arrives late for a concert, open letters advocating for a cause, even minor errors (did you catch that?) in blog posts can elicit strongly worded emails.
The reason behind this isn’t always clear. Some people just seem to enjoy expressing their dislike. It’s a twisted interpretation 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.”
In today’s world, both men and women are often filled with unchecked animosity and a desire to confront others, albeit virtually. Everyone has an opinion they would ‘virtually die for’, and there’s little you can do to sway their viewpoint, even though they may be eager to change yours.
What to Expect and How to Respond
Be ready to accept criticism even when you’re not seeking it. If you can’t handle criticism from people on the Internet, then you might be better off working away from it. Honestly, it’s not worth the stress. You can’t afford to be upset all the time.
3. You Are Your Own Manager
If you’re drawn to working from home because of the perceived freedom, brace yourself for a challenging first few months. Freedom, in this context, is a misnomer. What you’ll actually need are self-control, discipline, and a willingness to make significant sacrifices.
The necessity of these traits will become evident when you find yourself explaining to clients or your boss why tasks aren’t being completed: “I got distracted”; “The deadline is still a week away, I didn’t realize the client wanted an early draft”; “I had to assist with my daughter’s recital costume,” and so on.
If you found your previous job’s strict supervisor irksome, you might find yourself missing the structured environment they created, which allowed you to focus and achieve your goals. That kind of setting was optimized for you to concentrate on the task at hand.
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No distractions, no calls from home, no interruptions within that 9-to-5 zone. Your hands were tied, but you got work done. At the end of the day, that’s what clients and bosses value: accomplishments.
What to Expect/Do
Stay disciplined, deliver results, or return to an environment that enables you to do both. How will you know it’s time? When nothing gets done.
4. Scammers Are Everywhere
In the process of receiving guest contributions (many of which are from incredibly talented writers), I’ve encountered a relatively small group of individuals who will go to great lengths to have their post featured on our site. However, their efforts seldom include providing good, original content.
Make a Stand
As an editor, it’s crucial to acknowledge and appreciate the effort that writers invest in their work. Equally, it’s essential to demand this effort. Having collaborated with numerous talented and diligent individuals, I find it difficult to respect writers who plagiarize content from one site and attempt to present it as their own on another.
We, as writers, should extend professional courtesy to our peers in the industry. This could include crediting the original author, providing a backlink to their site, or even mentioning them by name occasionally. Creativity is a rare commodity; let’s strive to preserve it rather than extinguishing it prematurely.
However, it’s possible that these individuals have their reasons for resorting to such actions. Perhaps they struggle to generate original content, or they believe that rewording is acceptable. Alternatively, they might be adhering to the adage, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
5. Trust Your Instincts
Regardless of the underlying reasons, the unfortunate reality is that some individuals will continue their actions until they are caught. Sometimes you’ll catch them, sometimes you won’t. However, the consequences are real and they can damage your reputation and your brand more than they harm the individuals themselves.
Working from behind a computer screen, it’s challenging to pick up on subtle cues. In face-to-face interactions, you can study body language, notice changes in tone, hesitations, and overly long responses. But when all you have is text, these cues are absent. So, what’s an editor to do? The best approach is to roll with the punches and trust that your instincts will guide you when necessary.
Guidelines and Expectations
Exercise caution. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what the best course of action is. I typically rely on my instincts or a moment of frustration to guide my decisions. Perhaps you have a better idea or strategy.
6. It’s the People
In my experience, working in the digital realm is truly exhilarating. It provides an opportunity to interact and collaborate with a diverse group of passionate individuals, all striving to make a significant impact in their respective fields. The web is a unique platform where age, language, and educational background do not serve as barriers but rather as enriching elements of one’s journey.
This dynamic environment is a testament to the survival of the fittest, where perseverance and determination outshine prejudice and discrimination. It’s a space that values action and ‘making things happen’ above all else. If you harbor a dream and are committed to making it a reality, the web is undoubtedly the place to be.