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Being a digital nomad: Or how to edit from the beach

Beach editing

Photo by Rachel Stuckey

By Rachel Stuckey

I’m a digital nomad. For years I’ve told anyone who asked that I was a writer and editor (even though editing pays most of my bills). But lately, the way I work has been more interesting than the work I actually do.

But I’m still getting used to saying “I’m a digital nomad” (and sometimes, I confess, I often use air quotes when I do say it). I know what “digital nomad” conjures up: visions of twenty-somethings with no job prospects and an unnatural attachment to their smartphones.

Air quotes aside, such visions are really just the surface of this cultural phenomenon. (And thanks to Insta-influencers and click-bait web content, that surface seems both beautiful and vacuous). But there are plenty of Gen Xers, Xennials, and even grown-up millennials doing marvellous and fascinating things on the road.

I’d like to think I’m one of the grown-up digital nomads. For the last several years, I’ve been seeking out new temporary homes for me and my editorial services business, sometimes spending months in one place and sometimes changing it up every few weeks.

In 2012, I was a burned-out freelancer looking for adventure. After months of preparation, I headed out on a trip around the world, with stops in Thailand, China, Cambodia, India, the UAE, Spain, France, Italy, and the UK before coming home nine months later. Everyone thought that might be it, adventure had.

But I wasn’t ready to settle back into the same old same old. And I’ve been on the move ever since, spending some months each year in Toronto and the rest of my time in Europe, South and Central America, Thailand, and Vietnam. In 2018, I’m returning to Thailand, and then on to Southern Africa.

This wanderlust may have begun as therapy for my tertiary life crisis. But over the last five years of living and working abroad and living and working in Toronto, I’ve realized that there is a strong economic argument for tackling our gig economy as a nomad. After several months living at home in TO again, my pocketbook is itching to get the heck out of Dodge! (Also, winter is coming, and I hate wearing socks and shoes.) (more…)

Retirement savings for freelancers: What you need to know

  • Retirement Saving for Freelancers
  • by Michelle Waitzman

    When you’re self-employed, saving for retirement is anything but simple. There’s no employee pension, no group RRSPs, and no steady paycheque to count on. I sat down with Aldwin Chin, a financial advisor with Edward Jones in Toronto, to get his insights on how to save for retirement as a freelancer. This is a very general overview, but you can use the links at the end of the article to find more information.

    How much of my income should I be saving?

    You need to prioritize your money to figure out how much you can and should save. Most freelancers should allocate their income like this:

    1. Pay for your current living and business expenses.
    2. Save three to six months’ living expenses in case of emergency or lack of work.
    3. Anything that’s left should go into long-term savings and investments for retirement or for other major expenses.


    Book Review: Make It Happen, by Kari Chapin

    (Chronicle Books)

     Make It Happen, by Kari Chapin

    By Christine Albert

    Time is a commodity that often seems to be in short supply. Recognizing the need for professionals to learn not only how they’re using their time, but also how to work more efficiently, Kari Chapin created Make It Happen: A Workbook and Productivity Tracker for Getting Stuff Done. A business consultant, podcaster, and public speaker, Chapin has also authored two books on growing a creative business and has designed an idea-generation workbook. Having worked for 15 years in marketing and publicity, Chapin understands that time is money—so it’s important to work faster, smarter, and better.

    As the title suggests, Make It Happen is not simply a time-tracking tool. Part journal, part productivity tracker, it lets users create schedules, track time spent on various tasks, reflect on their work habits and possibly improve their process. The workbook provides prompts, activity trackers, schedule outlines, and blank notes sections. While some elements repeat (such as the “Make It Happen,” “Break It Down,” “My Time Today,” “I Could Swap,” and double-page reflection prompts), they’re not set in repeating order. Instead, Chapin includes a blank date box on each recto page—a good choice as it allows for greater flexibility. This open-ended design lets users tailor the workbook to their own work style and preferences. (more…)

    Book Review: Other-Wordly: Words Both Strange and Lovely from around the World  by Yee-Lum Mak 

    (Chronicle Books, 2016)

    By Jaye Marsh
    Other-Wordly: Words Both Strange and Lovely from around the World by Yee-Lum Mak 

    Jungian analyst Robert Johnson’s oft-quoted words from his book The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden have stayed with me: “Sanskrit has 96 words for love, ancient Persian has 80, Greek three, and English only one.” Given the English language’s predilection for absorbing new words from many cultures, it still has a paucity of beautiful and concise terms for the eternal and universal concepts of love, pain, and the sublime. In her search for the sublime in language, Yee-Lum Mak created Other-Wordly in which we find “komorebi: the sunlight that filters through the leaves and trees” and “hiraeth: a homesickness for a home which maybe never was”. Mak is from California and currently completing advanced English studies at the University of Edinburgh. Her love of words began when she stumbled across the Portuguese term for “the love that remains” (saudade), which sparked her search for other “strange and lovely” words.

    Some words are striking, respectfully highlighting different cultural norms. Others show a sense of humour about the human condition. Two paired Japanese words let us peek at cultural values: “tatemae: what a person pretends to believe” and “honne: what a person truly believes.” A lovely Spanish word describes my favourite activity, “sobremesa: the time spent around the table after dinner talking to the people with whom you shared the meal.” Not wanting to spoil the joy of discovery, I expect most of us in the editorial world can relate to page 13: buying books, hoarding books, books piling up – there are words for that! (more…)

    Maintaining mental health while working in isolation

    "Winter Isolation" by Carol Harrison

    “Winter Isolation” by Carol Harrison

    By Shara Love

    There is little that I despise more than going out in crowds, especially at this time of year. With sub-zero temperatures, mounds of snow at every turn, and traffic everywhere, nothing sounds better to me than staying home and cozying up on a comfy sofa with a cup of coffee and a computer or a good book, while waiting for spring. Unfortunately, it behooves me to do otherwise. Winter may encourage my hermit-like behaviour, but I must not succumb to the negative side effects. My mental health and ability to function depend on it.

    One of those negative side effects is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), up to 35 per cent of Canadians experience some level of seasonal depression. Of this percentage, seasonal depression affects roughly 80 per cent of women and 20 per cent of men. Knowing and raising awareness about this condition may help potential sufferers to take preventative action to dodge the blows of this debilitating mental disorder. (more…)

    Editor for Life: Mary Norris, author, query proofreader, and keynote speaker at the Editors Canada Conference 2016

    Interview conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

    A career as an editor is often a solo adventure, especially if you’re a freelancer. So we thought one way to better connect with fellow editors was to ask them the W5: who, what, where, when, and why. Read on for some thought-provoking, enlightening tidbits from those of us who choose to work with words to earn our keep.

    Editor for Life: Mary Norris, author, query proofreader, and keynote speaker at the Editors Canada Conference 2016

    Mary, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do, and how long you’ve been an editor.

    I became a copy editor at The New Yorker in 1981, after three years in the editorial library (archive) of the magazine and a year in a department called collating, where I studied the proofs of some legendary proofreaders and copy editors. Copy editing at The New Yorker is a mechanical process: fixing misspellings and imposing house style—there is no room for interpretation. Finally, after what felt like eons—just as the collating department was being superseded by the computer—I moved to Page O.K.’ing, or query proofreading, a job that allows you to express more of your own sensibility. There are five or six O.K.’ers on staff. We shepherd the pieces through the editorial process, doing our best not to introduce errors when making changes. I’ve been doing this job since 1993. It is demanding and satisfying. (more…)

    Ask Aunt Elizabeth: To freelance or not to freelance?

    By Elizabeth d’Anjou

    Looking for advice on editing the editing life? Whether you’re a beginner looking for tips on starting out or an old hand looking for another perspective, veteran editor Aunt Elizabeth is ready to address your queries. Submit them to [email protected]—you may find the answers you are looking for in next month’s column.

    Ask Aunt Elizabeth: To freelance or not to freelance?

    (1) Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

    I’m thinking of becoming a freelance editor. I’ve worked in-house for many years as an editor at several different magazines, and I’m currently an in-house editor at a major publishing house. I love being an editor, but I yearn to be my own boss. What kind of person do you think it takes to be a freelancer, and can you kindly list a few of the pros and cons of running your own freelance editing business?

    Contemplating in Cabbagetown

    Dear Contemplating,

    I wouldn’t trade my freelance life for any job on earth, but self-employment isn’t for everyone. How can you tell if it’s for you? Well, that yearning to be your own boss is a big indicator that you might be well suited to freelancing; not taking orders from anyone is the biggest appeal for me. (As God is my witness, I will never again have to redo work—or, worse, ask an author to—because of my manager’s poor decisions!) (more…)

    Manage your stress: Tips for freelancers

    By Emily Chau

    Manage your stress: Tips for freelancersMost people are more stressed than they’d wish, and work is often the reason. If you’re working as a freelance editor, you’re probably also feeling the pressure of running your own business 24/7.

    A small amount of stress is healthy if it keeps you focused and challenged, but a large amount can lead to restlessness, eating problems, insomnia, depression, and relationship issues. Worse, it can also lower your quality of work and reduce your productivity.

    Although the symptoms of stress are not always dramatic, it’s important to minimize your stress so it doesn’t become worse. Read on for tips on ways freelance editors can avoid or reduce work-related stress. (more…)