The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

What exactly are you selling?

I've often wondered at times when I've got more work than I can cope with (for whatever reason) whether I could subcontract what I do to others. Yesterday, I got an email from a friend who's a fellow freelancer but in a completely different area of publishing, saying that work had been a bit thin on the ground recently. Seeing as I've been struggling to keep up with what I've got lately, I got to pondering whether I could train her to do some of my work.

I generally tend to think of myself as selling my time and yes, my skills too. But when I really thought about it, there's actually a really complex mix of elements that go into who I am as a professional, much of them to do with the particular mix of experiences I've had over my career. For most of the work I do, I need a certain technical knowledge of language; distinguishing adverbs from prepositions, for example (not always as easy as you might think). Then there's my knowledge, and experience, of using all the various specialist software applications and wading through pages of jargon in briefs and style guides. All that though could be taught, with a bit of time and patience. The unteachable part comes in understanding just what's relevant and important for students and teachers of English. That comes from years of being a teacher, of hanging around with teachers, of going to professional conferences and of feedback from projects I've worked on before.

I'm not trying to say I'm unique, I'm certainly not and I know of plenty of colleagues around the country with similar sets of skills. It is interesting to reflect though on just what it is I'm selling as I sit here at my desk jotting down hours to be invoiced for. It's certainly more than just my time. Perhaps I should be charging a bit more ...


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