Suppose you wanted to do something, but physical circumstances stood in your way? That’s what happened to legal blind writer Jeanette Hanscome. Not only has she continued to write despite her handicap, she’s flourished – writing articles and books, and now editing. Here’s how she did it:
When did you start writing/editing professionally?
I started writing for publication in 1995, with magazine articles and stories in Sunday school take-home papers. In 2001, I signed a contract to write my first book … with Focus on the Family! I thought I’d arrived! A few months later I found out I was going to have a baby. (Surprise!) Money was tight, and I really wanted to work from home, especially now that we had child #2 on the way, so I followed the example of many of my writer friends and started offering editing and critiquing services as well.
Why did you want to be a freelance writer/editor?
I have always loved to write, and editing flowed from that. For several years I wrote on the side while working full-time. Then my family moved and I found it difficult to find a job, so I just kept looking for more opportunities to do what I wanted to do most anyway – write. Low vision prevents me from driving, which made job searches even harder (this is why working from home works so well for me). Adding editing to my freelancing efforts allowed me to earn more money without having to worry about transportation.
I took on a traditional job for a while, but when that ended I decided that freelancing was the best fit for me and prayed that I would be able to stick with it. When I became a single mom in 2011, I was so thankful that I’d established myself enough to continue freelance writing and editing when my sons really needed a sense of normalcy, which included Mom being home.
What’s your specialty/focus? Why/how did you pick this?
My writing is mostly for women now, especially single moms. As far as editing goes, my strength is definitely content/substantive. I don’t trust my vision enough to be a good proofreader, and I love helping writers re-craft their thoughts in ways that get their point across better. I also enjoy coaching writers, and critiquing.
What’s your favorite part of this kind of work?
I feel like writing and editing allow me to use my natural bent toward encouraging others. As a writer I get to pass what God has taught me on to readers, or offer hope through a story of His faithfulness. As an editor I have opportunities to encourage writers and help them take their work to the next level. I also love the flexibility! It is wonderful to be able to schedule coffee with a friend into my week, or be available if someone needs me. If my son has a day off from school, I’m home (although, he’s in high school now so he’d probably rather have me out of the house when he has a day off J). I don’t know if I could ever give that up.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome during your career?
Finding enough work! I’m a terrible marketer, and I still haven’t mastered the art of bidding on jobs without coming across as borderline-apologetic. I usually need to be told that it’s time to raise my rates. You know it’s time when a client suggests it. Yes, that really happened.
What’s surprised you the most during your career?
The fact that I’m a freelance writer/editor at all is humorous. I’ve been visually impaired since birth and am technically considered legally blind. I don’t know why that still cracks me up.
Seeing God change my writing direction was a big surprise! I started out writing YA, now I write for women. I thought I wanted to write novels. Instead I seem to have found my voice as a non-fiction writer (especially devotionals), and I love it. In the process, my editing focus has changed so I mostly work with non-fiction authors.
If you could give a new freelance writer/editor one piece of advice, what would it be?
Find your own style and trust it, in writing and in editing. If five Christian PEN members say they charge by the page and charging per hour works for you, don’t give into peer pressure to make a change. If you feel compelled to do some things for free, as long as you aren’t allowing yourself to be taken advantage of, go ahead and be your generous self! We are all wired differently and God has each of us on a unique path, so do what works for you.
If you could do one thing differently in your career, what would it be?
This might seem like a small thing, but I would schedule more time for social media. I don’t necessarily want my face out there more; I want to give my readers, and even potential editing clients, more content, especially on my Author Facebook page. I need to become more skilled at using tools like Canva so I weave some creativity in. It’s just a matter of working it into my week and, in some cases, asking for help.
What’s your favorite kind of work? Why?
Writing is the work I love most. My favorite type of writing is devotional that tells a story in a way that almost feels like a memoir, which is what I did with my book Suddenly Single Mom. When God teaches me something, I immediately want to share it.
What does your work space/office look like?
My youngest son and I live with my parents, so my office space is in my bedroom. I have decorated my space with things that inspire me—a picture of an antique typewriter, old books, Bible verses, quotes, pictures of my kids, special gifts from friends… It can get cluttered pretty quickly, so I try to minimize that by writing tasks for the day on sticky notes that I can throw away as soon as I finish them, which mean that I also have a thing for sticky notes.
What is your go-to snack when working?
I almost always have some form of black licorice in my desk drawer (Good ‘n Plenty, black jelly beans). When they have it in stock, I also love Target’s Zen Party mix—the one with rice crackers, wasabi peas, and other fun crunchy stuff. I have to keep the jar out of my office though and limit myself a little cupful each day. It is so addictive!
Excluding the CMOS (that’s a given) what one editing resource would you recommend? Why?
Honestly? One of my favorite resources is Kathy Ide’s Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors. I kept it on my desk while writing my last book. It is so easy to find my way through and covers all the common mistakes.
If you could only recommend one writing resource, what would it be? Why?
I would recommend attending the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. That is where many writers get their start and continue to go to learn and grow in the craft. There is just something about being surrounded by those who share your passion, and spending so many days in a row taking workshops, hanging out with other writers, and connecting with industry professionals. My year would be incomplete without it.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Yes. If you want to write and/or edit, do it. You will never regret trying, and if this is what God is calling you to do you really need to try. But understand that it takes time to get established. If you need to earn a dependable income, I suggest getting a traditional job and using freelance work a supplement. You will enjoy it a lot more that way! Take time to learn the craft of writing, the rules of good editing, and the publishing industry. Build relationships, because those are extremely important. Most of all, allow God to guide your career.
Thank you so much for appearing on my blog! Have a blessed day!