Using the Force as a Freelance Writer & Editor

A guest post by Mahesh Raj Mohan

the forceThe Star Wars saga is my most favorite film series.  There are many scenes throughout the films (including the prequels) that resonate with me, but one of the most powerful moments occurs in the first film.  It’s near the end, when Luke Skywalker turns off his targeting computer during the Death Star trench run.

Logically, it’s a terrible move.  He’s operating a heavily armed starfighter while attacking the heart of the evil Galactic Empire.  And he’s decided to swap out a very expensive and precision-tuned targeting system for his nascent “Jedi” powers?!

And yet, Luke succeeds where the veteran Red Leader (who used the targeting system) failed.

I wish life could be like Star Wars  (lightsabersX-Wings! Jedi!)

But it isn’t (mortgages! home repairs!  annual physicals!)

As a freelance writer and editor, I use intuition and reason in equal measure.  You definitely need both.  But there are times when pure intuition (“the Force”) has been absolutely invaluable to me and my business.  I can think of four occasions this year where intuition either saved me or blared warning bells that I ignored (to my chagrin).

For you, my dear guest readers, I’ll distill three areas of the interview/prospecting process where intuition helps me during client engagements.  I call it (as of just now) the ACE Process:

Attitude

I like to present a friendly, motivated, and professional attitude to clients and prospective clients.  I know within a few minutes of a phone call or in-depth e-mail exchange whether or not a prospective client and I are a good fit.  Some folks like to play mind games, or they just can’t be bothered with basic courtesies.  I’ve realized that I do not work well with such people.

Compensation

Freelancers often walk a line between practicalities like keeping their homes/apartments heated and intangibles like maintaining their sanity.  There are times when it is necessary to take a lower-paying gig, but if the client requires the moon and stars to make a project soar, then I usually charge a fee commensurate with the amount of time it will take.  I take on projects by-the-hour, but I prefer to price by project, so there are no surprises.  Aside from a calculator, this requires a near-Jedi state of mind so I understand a client’s concept through-and-through.

Expertise

Intuition is critical when I’m evaluating a project and timelines.  I ask myself if I really am the best writer for a client’s project.  If I can’t answer “yes” with any confidence, I usually decline or give a referral to writer/editors who have the necessary skills and background.

So if reason and logic fail you while you are navigating the Death Star trench of job boards, Google Adwords, e-mails, and referrals, think about switching off your targeting system, take a few deep breaths, and do what feels right.

And, remember … the Force will be with you.  Always.

 

[box border=”full”]Mahesh Raj Mohan is a freelance writer/editor based near Portland, Oregon.  His reviews have been published by Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper The Oregonian and Hugo-nominated website Strange Horizons.  His screenplay, “Indian Errand Day” is a 2011 Kay Snow Award Winner.[/box]

Photo  Credit: flaivoloka

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0 thoughts on “Using the Force as a Freelance Writer & Editor

  1. I love this post! Just last night I was telling my husband about an experience that really helped me that day. Even though I’m on a really tight deadline, I needed to buy some things at Office Depot and chose to walk there instead of drive. I knew I didn’t have time to waste, but I wanted to clear my head. During that walk I thought of an idea for the very project I was stuck on, and when I got home I put it all down on paper and finished it, feeling very inspired by my new take on it. E laughed and quoted Yoda “You must unlearn what you have learned,” because usually I’d be more efficient with my time while on deadline.

    So yes, great points here! Intuition is so important, whether you’re using it as you take on new clients or as you approach a project. 

    • Mahesh Raj Mohan says:

      Thanks for your comment, Natalia! 🙂  I totally know what you and E mean about “unlearning what you have learned” especially with writing and projects and deadlines.  I’m glad your walk helped you unlearn.  Great things about writers is that we continually learn and unlearn and get better. 🙂  I’m glad you worked through your “stuck point,” 🙂

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