Sitting here watching the cyclists whizzing round the velodrome, and the track and field athletes hurdling, throwing and jumping, it strikes me that being a freelance editor has some similarities with being an Olympic athlete. With no apologies for being somewhat Team GB biased, here’s why …
- You train hard to be the best in your field. You take your CPD seriously, keep your online profile updated, and network like a champion.
- You eat and drink right. If editors were tested for caffeine as often as Olympians are tested for banned substances, we’d all fail. You know that fruit is a healthy snack and cake is bad, and you try and avoid the biscuit tin every time you go into the kitchen.
- You’re a team player. Like the rowing eights with their cox in charge, you work alongside others, pulling together to get your project over the finish line. The project manager will keep you on course.
- You’re an individual participant. You might only hear from your client at the opening and closing ceremonies of the project, but in the meantime you’re your own boss, managing your own time to meet deadlines.
- You fall over occasionally, but you get straight back up again. Mo Farah tripped and picked up some bruises during his 10,000-metre race on Saturday, but he got up and crossed the line to win gold. If you get knocks on a project, you learn from the experience and move on.
- You pay someone to do the support roles so you can focus. Athletes have trainers, physios, chefs and caddies. You might have an accountant, a cleaner and a personal trainer.
- You’re reliant on your equipment. Your PC (or Mac) is to you what clubs are to Justin Rose.
- You see other freelancers as support rather than competition. Jason Kenny and Callum Skinner are friends, GB-teammates, and are sharing a room in the Olympic village. Only at the last minute did they have to go head-to-head.
- You occasionally have to have a late night. Anyone else stay up to watch the end of the Murray–del Potro match on Sunday night?
- You can change your discipline if you fancy a change. Rebecca Romero won a silver medal in Athens in 2004 in the rowing quadruple skulls, then in 2008 won gold in Beijing in the individual pursuit track cycling. I know of more than one editor who has their name on a front cover as an author.
- You can be a success without everyone knowing about it. Ed Clancy won gold as part of the GB men’s pursuit team, but the name everyone knows from the team is Bradley Wiggins. Behind every bestseller is a hardworking editor.
- Your fans will always be there for you. Alistair Panton flew to Rio from Aberdeen when he heard Andy Murray had reached the finals of the men’s singles tennis. My husband will spend hours fixing my PC if I need help. Similar.
- You always warm up before the main event. Writing your daily to-do list is like Usain Bolt limbering up in his tracksuit.
- You occasionally work somewhere else. Endurance athletes go to training camps. You go to your local library or coffee shop.
- You change your routine from time to time. Athletes vary their training schedules throughout the year. That’s like putting your sit/stand desk in the opposite position.
- You do things that no one other than you and a handful of others understand. What’s the keirin all about? To the casual observer, it’s a man in a hat riding a funny bicycle. If you work on a specialist journal or list, I’m sure you know what I mean.
And of course, some jobs are more of a sprint than a marathon. Others are a marathon when you expected a sprint.