Recently, a couple of us from The Editing Co. Team descended on the Communications building at Ryerson University for a one-day conference on all things bookish, entitled BookCampTO. This year’s iteration featured a distinct choose-your-own-adventure format in which attendees were expected to be both presenters and participants. No topics were pre-selected, and none scheduled in advance. The result: a pleasantly unconstrained learning and networking environment that, in the end, proved to be an inspiring but also sobering experience.
Speakers who stood out in my mind include the sharp-minded Adrienne Montgomerie (@scieditor) who consistently worked to take in the scattered lived experiences of those who chose to share their stories in related industries, and generalize them into useable lessons for the rest of us. In one instance, Montgomerie boiled down a lengthy discussion about marketing for the freelancer into a single curt phrase: “be memorable, and be findable.”
Another noteworthy speaker was Natalie Zed (@NatalieZed). Her dynamism and enthusiasm for productivity was a kick in the butt that many people seemed to greatly appreciate. This is one take-charge lady to look out for – next up, she will be participating in an upcoming Write Club Toronto (@writeclubto) event: 2 opposing writers, 2 opposing ideas, 7 minutes apiece, audience picks a winner.
From my vantage point, however, more than the speakers, a single concern seemed to dominate the interest of many participants: how to survive and thrive as a freelance editor or new author. Many shared stories about entering the field of professional editing and discovering an environment that can often be quite hostile. Participants shared stories of leaving traditional workplaces to become freelancers in a bid to escape poor working conditions. While some were able to succeed at this, many seemed to find that their working conditions were not improved in important aspects, and that the absence of job security was a major issue. Out of these discussions came a very green, budding realization: perhaps this flurry of freelancization was contributing to a kind of “race to the bottom” in which reasonable industry rates could not be agreed upon and maintained; one in which competition amongst those in the industry was a detriment to themselves as well as the clients.
Though the climate of freelancing is often daunting, discussions like the ones at BookCampTO are a productive way to sort through these issues. And they remind us of why we are glad to have organizations like the Editors’ Association of Canada that can help freelance editors to advocate for themselves and their interests.