Category Archives: business of editing

Make a Plan

What happens to your projects if you’re incapacitated? Who will notify your clients, and how will they find the necessary information?

We like to think that we are invincible, but there may come a time when you are seriously ill or injured — or worse — and unable to take care of business. While of course your health is the priority, it’s also a good idea to have some plans in place so that a trusted family member or friend can jump in and notify your clients.

The system I’ve developed for this has three parts:

  1. My master spreadsheet, which lists all of my projects this year and indicates which are past, current, and upcoming.
  2. My client reference manual, which lists contact information for all of my clients.
  3. My computer desktop, which has aliases to the folders for all of my current projects and to my master spreadsheet.

Written instructions in a safe place that my trusted people know about tell them how to get into my computer; where to find the spreadsheet, files, and client reference manual; and what to do with all that information. In short:

  1. Check the spreadsheet and get the project name and contact name for each current and upcoming project.
  2. Look up the contact information for each contact in the client reference manual, and then email or call them to tell them what the situation is.
  3. For current projects, which will have at least something done on them already, zip the project folder in its entirety and email it to the contact.
  4. If a current project shows that a payment has been received already, check my task manager to see where in the process the project was and refund if needed.
  5. If the situation is dire, notify every recent contact in my client reference manual (I cut off “recent” at three years).

There are additional considerations if someone is shutting down your business entirely on your behalf, but I think this is a good system for triaging your business and letting you focus on recovery.

Have you made contingency plans for your projects if something happens to you? Does your plan have any special steps? Share in the comments below!

Leave a note in the comments. (ALL comments are moderated, because OMG the link spam, and the spammers are getting more clever with their legitimate-sounding first posts, so please be patient if your comment doesn’t show up right away.)

Build a client reference manual

Meet my client reference manual.

Despite the photo, the majority of my client reference information now lives on my computer in Evernote; I keep the binder only for stylesheets and memos that originally came in hardcopy only. One of these days, in all my spare time, I may opt to scan it all. Or not.

What’s in my client reference manual?

  • Copies of client style sheets
  • Client preferences, institutional and personal (e.g., publisher A wants manuscript page numbers noted on proof pages; PM1 requires PDF correx be done with stamps; it’s fine to use PDF commenting tools on proofs from PM2)
  • Client rates
  • Records of any discussions we’ve had about potential projects, including rates quoted and the formulas I used to figure it
  • Client policies (publisher B requires all proper names be checked in both copyediting and proofreading)
  • Invoicing procedures and payment time frames (publisher C requires use of their invoice form; publisher D always pays in 8–10 weeks, regardless of due date on invoice; publisher E shuts down invoice processing for the entire month of July, so invoices submitted from May 20 through the end of July won’t be processed until August [yes, I actually have a client that does that!])
  • Personal notes about individuals (not creepy, but something like “PM3 doesn’t like chocolate” so that I don’t send that person a chocolate bar as a holiday gift)
  • Records of any trouble with a particular client (late payment, tendency to ignore instructions and/or boundaries, etc.)

Having this reference allows me to keep all of my information about clients in one place. I also track information on potential clients; you never know when someone will circle back and want to work with you later, after a first project didn’t come together. (It’s happened to me three times this year.) Having the information on the original quote lets me quickly generate a quote for a new project without having to start at square one again.

I’d love to know: Do you track this kind of information for your clients? If you do, how do you organize it?

Leave a note in the comments. (ALL comments are moderated, because OMG the link spam, and the spammers are getting more clever with their legitimate-sounding first posts, so please be patient if your comment doesn’t show up right away.)

Managing tasks

My job as a self-employed editor means keeping track of dozens — sometimes hundreds — of discrete tasks for each project. And at any given time, I typically have three to five projects on my desk at the same time, sometimes up to ten in various stage of completion.
How do I keep track of it all?
The cornerstone of my system is a detailed checklist for each project. I wrangle those to-do lists with a program called Things, but the same principles apply no matter what program you use, whether it’s a dedicated to-do program or a word processor, or even if you make checklists on paper.
These project checklists contain every single little thing I have to do for each project. Everything.
I break tasks into groups, put them in the order they need to be completed, and assign a date to each one. That date may end up shifting a bit, but it gives me a starting point for looking at what needs to get done when.
Because I do a lot of similar projects for the same clients, I’ve created master checklist templates for each type of project from each client. These contain all the possible things I might need to do for that project.
When a new project comes in, I duplicate the relevant template, fill in the project information, and add/remove/adjust tasks as needed.
For example, here’s a task list for a proofreading project:
  • confirm receipt
  • add to master project sheet (this is a spreadsheet where I keep track of all of my projects: word count, ISBN, etc.)
  • schedule
  • check pagination
  • check RHs
  • check alignment
  • check TOC
  • check chapter titles in notes
  • check all chapters present, in order, and treated the same
  • check alphabetization of references
  • check alphabetization of glossary
  • check all notes present and in order
  • print note-checking sheets (I have a particular way of making sure all notes are accounted for; I’ll write about that another time)


  • FM
  • chapter 1 (and so on, through to the last chapter)
  • BM
  • crossmarking (incorporate author changes)
  • check for BBs and stacks
  • final flip-through

Wrap up:

  • finalize stylesheet, if necessary
  • invoice
  • return
  • finalize master project sheet
Because my projects are usually book projects and I usually break those down by chapter, I’ve populated my templates with a large set of chapter numbers. I simply delete the ones I don’t need. This is a huge time saver, since I don’t have to type out chapter numbers every time I get a new project in.
(I do get a good chunk of popular fiction to work on, and those tend to have a ton of super-short chapters. For those, I create clusters of three or five chapters in one checklist item. I’m not that much of a micromanager.😊)
Trusting and following the checklist is the key to making sure tasks don’t fall through the cracks.
I’ll talk next time about how I manage the bigger picture.

Tame your email!

Photographer unknown, ca. 1880. US Postal Museum.

Email can be a nightmare. All those messages jammed into one inbox, all clamoring for attention and action like toddlers wanting to show you their latest trick. How do you sort out the ones that truly need attention from all the rest, the ones who jammed a marble up their nose versus the ones who want to show you the miracle that they can lick a piece of cheese and then eat it or can turn around in a complete circle without falling down?

The answer, my friends, is setting up a different email accounts for different purposes, then using some filters to sort those messages into different folders for different purposes.

A quick note: I am a Mac user who uses Apple’s Mail program. All modern stand-alone email programs that I am aware of can easily handle multiple accounts and filters; you just need to figure out how to do that within whatever mail program you’re using. If you use only a web interface for dealing with mail, you can still use separate accounts, but you’ll have to check them all individually. (Pssssst… That’s no fun. Try an actual email program.)

It’s easy to set up separate email accounts for different purposes, and I recommend setting up at least five: 

  1. a “good” business account for your clients
  2. a business account for email lists
  3. a business account for all other nonurgent business messages (order confirmations, etc.)
  4. a “good” personal account for your friends and family and important personal accounts (bank, etc.)
  5. a commercial mail account for promos, newsletters, noncritical memberships — all that completely nonurgent stuff that you probably don’t need/want to read very often, but want to have for the two times a year you buy something from retailer X because you know there’s a 40% discount code in there somewhere that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t get their emails

On the surface, it sounds like you’re making things more complicated this way (aren’t we trying to simplify?), but trust me, once you get this in place, your inbox will be a thing of beauty.

And if you need more, or different ones to suit your own purposes, have at it. As we say around here, People Vary.

Another quick note: The reason we’re setting up different email accounts instead of simply filtering everything is that the filters you set up in your desktop mail program will not work when you check your email on your phone or tablet. I typically don’t read email on my phone unless I’m out and about and it’s from one of my VIPs (I’ll talk about that in a minute), and when I do, I want to be able to see just the important stuff, not sludge. So I generally only look at the inboxes for accounts 1 and 4 when I’m checking on my phone or tablet.

Now the filters:

  • Set up a folder in your email system for each of your mailing lists, and change the address you use to subscribe those lists to your shiny new address. Most mailing lists automatically append a common prefix to the subject line of each message, so it’s easy to filter on that. For example, all of my Copyediting-L ( mail filters into a folder called CE-L. Bam! No list mail in my inbox.
  • Set up a folder called Nonurgent Business or some such, and filter anything addressed to account 3 to that.
  • Set up a folder called Commercial or some such, and filter anything addressed to account 5 to that.

And then the tricky part: getting the right addresses associated with the right entities. The way I handled getting the dreck out of my inbox was changing addresses with newsletters, promos, membership orgs, and all that as new mail came in. It took some time and effort over the course of a couple of months, but in the end it was worth it. Got a message from Bob’s World of Goat Cheese in your “good” inbox? Still want to hear from Bob? Click the link to change your email address (it’s usually at the bottom of the message) and do it. Some email list managers will only let you unsubscribe, then you have to jump through the hoops to resubscribe with the new address. (I’m sure they lose a lot of subscribers that way. I know I just went meh when confronted with that extra hoop more than a couple times and simply unsubscribed.)

Now, mailing list messages, nonurgent business stuff, and newsletters and the 16 sale messages Ann Taylor sends out every. single. day. will not even darken the door of your “good” inbox. They’ll live in their own folders, where you can view them at leisure, not when you’re trying to find that one message from a prospective client that you know is in there somewhere, but it’s buried under solo business promo newsletters poorly written in the third person and endless coupons for JoAnn, and you can’t quite remember the name, so search does you no good.

And when that Commercial Mail folder gets above a tolerable level of unread messages (because really, no one reads every promo message they get — who has time for that, Ann Taylor?), you can simply nuke the contents unread, if you’re brave, or you can sort by sender and skim before you nuke the messages, like me, because you know you left a receipt you need in there somewhere instead of immediately saving it as PDF and putting it in your receipts folder like a perfectly organized person would.

The remaining two accounts, your “good” business account and your “good” personal account, will naturally filter to the inbox, and your inbox should now contain only those “good” messages. Until the spammers find you, but that’s another post altogether.

Final step, if your mail program has the capability: Mark your active clients, your partner, and (probably) your mother as VIPs. In Apple Mail, that means that when I get a message from one of those people, I get a ding on my phone and a popup on my computer right away. I may not choose to act on that message right at that moment, but I know I have a message from someone important, and I can skim the first couple lines that show up in the notification to see if it’s something I need to deal with now. I can’t begin to count how many projects I’ve been awarded because I was able to see and respond to messages quickly. The VIP system allows me to limit checking my inbox to just a few times a day without missing anything important in between those times.

If you don’t have a similar capability in your mail program, you could set up a special VIP folder and filter mail from certain people to that as an alternative.

This setup will keep your main inbox fairly clean and actionable and get the fluff out of the way until you have time/desire to look at it.

Managing multiple projects

projectstackThe usual workload here at Pax Studio is anywhere from three to six projects at a time, in various stages of progress, although sometimes it’s less, and sometimes it’s more. How do I manage all that? Block scheduling and interweaving.

One of the first things I do as part of my project intake process is preliminary assessment and breakdown. This means taking a small amount of time — maybe half an hour, for most projects — to take a closer look at what is involved, verifying that all the pieces are there, and breaking it down into discrete tasks for my to-do list.

I’ll go into detail about my to-do system another time, but for now, all you need to know is that every little thing I need to do for each project is on that list.

Now, I don’t want to overwhelm myself by trying to shuffle eight million little to-dos around every single day, so I keep my detailed to-do list and my calendar as completely separate entities. I’m even old-school when it comes to my work calendar, and I use a Moleskine Weekly Notebook — I’m a visual person, and while I love my tech toys, I’ve found that when it comes to planning out my week, I need it on paper.

My calendar is nicely divided with one week on each spread, with all the days on the left of the spread and a blank page on the right. Project due dates are written on the calendar in a distinct color that I don’t use for anything else (green glitter gel pen is the current favorite, if you’re curious). I keep a very general to-do overview on the right page: finish this project, start that project, make serious progress on another project. That guides my week, keeping me aware on a macro level of what I need to accomplish for the week.

My project assessment tells me how much time I will need to get a project done, so I translate that into blocks on my calendar. I do not assign actual times to those blocks, although you might choose to do that for yourself, if you need the structure (9-11 a.m., project A chapters 1-4, or some such). I like a bit of flexibility in my day, so I leave it loose.

Here’s a real-life example of my current week.

On my plate:

  • project A: short proof, due Friday, just arrived, not started yet
  • project B: medium proof, due Friday, mostly done
  • project C: copyedit, due a week from tomorrow, mostly done with first pass
  • project D: long proof, due a week from Thursday, started but not very far in
  • project E: long proof, due two weeks from today, not started yet
  • project F: short proof, due Wednesday, just arrived, not started yet (this is for my short turnaround client)
  • write up letter of agreement for upcoming project

For the sake of keeping it simple, I’m leaving out the projects that were due today that I spent the morning wrapping up, returning, and cleaning up after.

So, I take a look at my calendar and see that the only things I have scheduled this week are book group Wednesday evening and a cookout Saturday. I’m going to need to make an extra trip to the store on Friday to get stuff for what I’m bringing to the cookout, so I make a note on Friday’s calendar to go to the store.

I also have a note that we may have a meeting at the bank this week, if all the stars and everyone’s calendars align, so I know to leave a little wiggle room for that, if it comes to pass.

I tend to look at my work in two-hour chunks. I may opt to spend all my chunks on one project, or I may spread them out over multiple projects. It just depends on what’s going on that day. I’ve been doing this for a long time, so I no longer feel the need to write time allocations next to each thing, but if you’re just starting out, you might find it helpful to note them; for example: project A (2 hours), project B (4 hours), or whatever you need to make it work for you.

The plan:

Monday afternoon:

  • bang out that letter of agreement (easy thing to get off my plate)
  • finish main part of project B


  • complete project F
  • complete project A
  • finish first pass on project C


  • work on project D


  • work on project D
  • wrap up final bits of project B and return it


  • readthrough & final correx on project C
  • (don’t forget to go to the store)

Project E still has plenty of time in the schedule and there’s not much else on my plate next week, so I’m not going to worry about it at all this week. If it were a copyedit, I might opt to work half days Wednesday and Thursday on D and then E, but they are both fiction proofreads, and I’ve found that it’s better for me keeping everything straight to not interweave two similar-ish projects.

I can look at this week’s macro to-do list and see that I have no time to add anything else, so if someone comes at me with a rush project they need back this week or early next, I know to say no.

Next week’s macro to-do list consists of finishing project D, then starting and getting a good way toward finishing project E. I know, based on the time I estimated these projects would take, that next week will be a pretty full week, but there is enough time in there to squeeze something else in there if I need to. I don’t worry about looking at scheduling it out by day until the beginning of that week.

This system helps keep me organized and on track.

I’d love to know:

  • When you have more than one project on your desk, do you work on them in sequence, or do you interweave them?
  • Team Electronic, Team Paper —or Team Combo?
  • Do you have a favorite paper planner?

Leave a note in the comments. (ALL comments are moderated, because OMG the link spam, and the spammers are getting more clever with their legitimate-sounding first posts, so please be patient if your comment doesn’t show up right away.)

Don’t organize what doesn’t need to be organized


True confessions: I love my label maker. It turns my filing cabinet and reference notebooks into things of beauty: neat, orderly, easily scannable to find what I need.


I have learned to not turn so quickly toward the siren song of the label maker, begging me to make a crisp new folder for that one lonely scrap of paper that just crossed my desk. I have learned to embrace the controlled chaos of more general folders for those things that I am unlikely to ever have to look at again, but need to keep just in case.

Yes, that’s right: I, hoarder of pretty office supplies, who as a child spent hours of free time coming up with grand organizing schemes, have gone to the Dark Side. I no longer make folders each year for each type of business expense and dutifully file receipts in them (natch, making a copy of a receipt that covers two different kinds of expense and filing each one in the appropriate folder). I don’t have an income folder for each client into which I can drop the little stubs that come with each check.

Pax Studio LLC has a scant smattering of folders in the front of the file drawer to gather paper: general, banking2016 income, and 2016 expenses. That’s it.

I have to go into those folders so rarely that the time spent creating and organizing folders the way I used to and the time spent sorting and filing into those categories is completely wasted. On the off chance that I need to access something in those folders, it’s simple to flip through and find what I need — especially since I’m in the habit of dropping the most recent thing into the back of the folder, so it all stays relatively in chronological order.

Don’t waste time organizing what doesn’t need to be organized. 

I’ll write another time about my slow shift to electronic record keeping.

I’d love to know:

  • Are you a recovering over-organizer?
  • Do you avoid the office supply aisles at Target because you have a life and wandering down there means you’ll lose an hour of it to petting the pretty pens and fondling the notebooks?
  • How do you deal with your paper detritus?

Leave a note in the comments. (ALL comments are moderated, because OMG the link spam, and the spammers are getting more clever with their legitimate-sounding first posts, so please be patient if your comment doesn’t show up right away.)


Text expansion: Your magic secret helper


Anyone who has talked computers and productivity with me for more than five minutes knows of my love for TextExpander, a program that lets you create shortcuts for typing text that you use over and over and over again. TextExpander is a Mac program, but there are several similar programs for PC; my PC-based friends tend to use PhraseExpress. TE is what I know, so I’ll be writing from that point of view, but PhraseExpress will probably do most, if not all, of the same things.

(TextExpander just — as in not even two weeks ago — released version 6, and they’ve gone to a subscription plan for $40/year for individuals. While I have my quibbles about subscription software in general, I think that’s still a good value for something I get so much use out of. YMMV. And it’s also supposed to work on and coordinate with iOS, although I haven’t tried that aspect yet. They offer a trial, so you can try it out before you commit.)

The idea is fairly simple: You set up a shortcuts, and when you type your shortcut, TE automagically expands into the text you’ve associated with it. For example, since I type my business name so often, I set up a shortcut for it. When I type ]]ps, it expands into Pax Studio with a space after it.

You can set up just about any shortcut you like. I like to use two closing square brackets in front of my shortcuts, because they’re not something I would otherwise type in the normal course of my day, and I don’t have to use the shift key to get them. You, of course, can make your shortcuts be anything you like.

TE works with longer snippets (that’s what TE and PE both call the longer text you expand into), too. I have one shortcut set up that will expand five characters into a four-paragraph email.

And you can get even more complicated. You can insert dropdown menus, blanks, and the like into your snippets. You can include fields that will populate with the contents of your clipboard, or the current date or a calculated future date. Snippets will hold styled text (limited) and images as well, and scripts (although I haven’t been brave enough yet to try those).

How is text expansion useful for editors? 

  1. Create shortcuts for phrases, sentences, and paragraphs you regularly use in email correspondence. For example, it’s a lot faster to type “]]msret” than it is to type “Attached are the manuscript, stylesheet, and invoice for this title. Please confirm receipt. [paragraph break] As always, please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or feedback. Thank you for this project, and please let me know if there’s anything else I can put on my schedule for you.” At the paragraph break, I enter any information specific to the project that the project manager needs to know. I’ll also tweak the wording to fit the situation (e.g., the manuscript is large enough that I have to send it via Dropbox rather than email attachment). But the bare bones of the message are there.
  2. Create shortcuts for common author queries. I use ]]dok for “AUTHOR: Deletion okay? //” (years ago, one project manager requested that I end my queries with two slashes, and I’ve adopted the practice across the board; it makes it easier to know when the query is at an end, especially when Word truncates the text in the balloons). I have one also set up just to generate “AUTHOR: ” for when I have to type a query from scratch.
  3. Create shortcuts that expand into marketing or agreement text. I have snippets set up that describe exactly what is included in each of my services. For bonus points, incorporate a date calculation into your quote snippet that will indicate that your quote is good until a specific future date, say one month or three months or one year from today.
  4. Create shortcuts for those numbers you never remember. For example, one client wants me to use their special invoice form, and I have to fill in my EIN on that form, so instead of looking it up, I just type ]]ein and it automagically expands.

Lori’s tips for using text expansion programs: 

  1. Pick some standard preface for your shortcuts, and make it something easy to type. I use ]]. You might choose yy or == or whatever works for you. Just make sure that it’s not something that occurs naturally, or you’ll end up with unwanted expansions in the middle of your words as you type. (It’s not necessary to use a preface, but I found that it’s a lot easier than trying to find plain letter combinations that don’t also occur naturally in words.)
  2. Make your shortcuts several letters long after your preface so that you have many options. If you simply use, say, ]]a as an expansion, you’re limiting the number of expansions you can have, because you can’t then start any other snippet with ]]a. Most of mine are three or four letters long.
  3. Think about choosing the option to play a sound when a shortcut is expanded. I like the aural cue that something has happened so I can be sure I’m not inadvertently typing something I didn’t intend. I like the friendly little bubble sound.
  4. Don’t set up too many snippets at one time. It’s hard to learn and implement a new routine all at one time. Pick a few things to start with (maybe your business name, an email closing, a common author query), then get used to using those for a few days or a week before you start adding more. TE has a handy little popup, too, that will remind you when you’ve typed something that you’ve already set up a shortcut for and tell you what the shortcut is; you might consider turning that option on.
  5. Take time to explore the more advanced options, once you’ve had a chance to get used to the basics. There are some really interesting possibilities there.


I’d love to know:

  • Do you currently use a text expansion program?
  • What types of things do you use text expansion for?
  • If you don’t currently use a text expansion program, do you think it might help you be more efficient?

Leave a note in the comments. (ALL comments are moderated, because OMG the link spam, and the spammers are getting more clever with their legitimate-sounding first posts, so please be patient if your comment doesn’t show up right away.)

(FYI, I just turned everything under the horizontal line, minus the specific bullet points, into a snippet, since it’s something I intend to use on most posts: ]]postend, baby.)

Building a business manual

At the 2016 American Copy Editors Society conference, I presented a session on systems and shortcuts for running a solo business that was well received — standing room only, in fact. (I’m a little bit blown away by that, actually.)

I’ve had many requests to share a little more in depth about some of the things I touched on there, since that hour went so quickly and I couldn’t dive too deeply into anything. So, here we are, at the start of an occasional series about working smart and building efficiency into the ways you do the things that support your business.

Note: While my presentation was aimed at freelance editors in particular, many of these systems and shortcuts could be applied to just about any kind of solo enterprise. I use the same approach in my other business, Alchemary, adjusted to fit how that business works.

And above all, as in all things, People Vary, and what works for me might not work the same or at all for you, so take what works, tweak what needs tweaking to fit your business and work style, and disregard the rest.


So, then, what is a business manual, and how does it help?

A business manual is where you keep all those nitpicky little details about your business that you need to know but don’t need to be rattling around in your head every day, taking up space. It also documents procedures for doing things that you need to do for your business but may not do very often and tend to forget (mail merge in Word, I’m looking at you). All of those details live together in one easy-to-access place.

That one place could be a Word file, an Evernote file, a password-protected webpage, a Google doc — whatever floats your boat. For extra bonus points, you can print it out and put it in a three-ring binder and keep it within arm’s reach of your desk, then update it as necessary. (I’m a bit old-fashioned that way.) Mine is a Word file that lives in my Dropbox, and a printed copy lives in a simple three-ring binder that sits on the bottom shelf behind my desk. I like prettying things up, so it has a nice cover, and I use sheet protectors rather than punching papers. Maybe one of these days I’ll get that cover sheet reprinted in color. Or pull out the crayons. Mine is not so hefty that I need subject dividers, but if that’s the way you roll, go for it.

Why does a business manual help? Because it gathers everything you need to know to run your business all in one place, you save a ton of time digging around and searching for info when you need it. Examples: On the rare occasion when I need to sign a contract in my business name (I’m an LLC), I don’t have to Google around to find the legal way to sign; it’s right there in the manual. Just this past week, I got a new UK client who is going to pay by wire transfer; all the info I need to give them is right there in the manual. For Alchemary, I have to file sales taxes twice a year, and the system to do so is clunky and opaque; the reminders for what numbers I need to gather and which ones go in which box are right there in that manual.

(On a somber note, it also serves as a repository of basic information about your business if something bad were to happen to you.)

Time is money. We’ve all heard this, probably for most of our lives. And it’s true. For every five minutes you spend poking around on the internet looking up how to do something for the umpteenth time, that’s five minutes you’re not spending on paying work. And let’s face it, that five minutes ends up being twenty minutes, because silly cat videos or someone was wrong on the internet. Sure, five minutes isn’t a big deal, but over the course of a day, week, month, year… all that time adds up. I’d rather spend it getting paid or — gasp! — doing something fun.

Here’s what’s in my business manual today: 


  • Bank info, including routing and account numbers and branch hours
  • Incoming wire information
  • QuickPay information & instruction link (Chase’s way to email money to someone)
  • Credit card number and contact phone in case lost or stolen
  • Breakdowns by year of income by client and by service


  • Account numbers (mine and clients’)
  • Cutoff times for different shipping locations
  • Info on what it costs to mail the types of envelopes and packages I send frequently (updated every time USPS changes it)
  • Link to product page for the mailers I like


  • Set descriptions of the different things I do (master)
  • General estimating and pricing info
  • Reminders to self (“this type of project always needs extra time for x, y, and z,” etc.)


  • Language about my policies (master) — turnaround times, rush fees, scope creep, etc.
  • Notes about my own internal policies and rules (never work for jerks, etc.)*


  • Reminders of the routines and timetables I’ve set up for myself*
  • How-tos about stuff I don’t do often enough to master (mail merge, Quickbooks reports — sometimes are just links to well-written posts)
  • Master checklists (reference only)

General office

  • Info on supply reorders, with links, where possible (printer cartridges, label maker labels, preferred pens & pencils, rubber stamps, notebooks, planner)
  • General timetable for upgrades
  • Equipment and software serial numbers, activation keys, and links


  • A link to my LLC formation papers (actual copy in printed manual)
  • How to sign contracts for LLC


  • Running holiday card/gift list
  • Links to purchase cards/gifts I like
  • References
  • Titles I’ve worked on in various categories
  • Cover letter language
  • Reminders of which resume is for which occasion (file name not perfect)


  • Jack Lyon’s awesome wildcards cheatsheet, which I picked up at one of his sessions at Communication Central a few years ago
  • Reminders of those keyboard shortcuts I need for just a couple projects each year but can’t be bothered to store in long-term memory
  • Things keyboard shortcuts cheatsheet (Things is the amazing to-do program that I use [Mac only], which I’ll write about another time)

*I find it extremely helpful to have these things written down. Having clear policies (and adding to them as I go along) about my boundaries and routines is a psychological trick that works for me when my monkey brain wants to go off on a blog-reading spree in the middle of work time or take on a particular type of project or client that just doesn’t mesh well with me. YMMV.

I add to the manual as things occur to me or if I find myself looking something up for the second time.

I also have a separate client manual for keeping track of things specific to each client, and I’ll talk about that another time.

I’d love to know:

  • What other information would you put in your own client manual?
  • Is there anything in my list that you’d like to know more about?
  • What other things would you like to know about running an efficient solo business?

Leave a note in the comments. (ALL comments are moderated, because OMG the link spam, and the spammers are getting more clever with their legitimate-sounding first posts, so please be patient if your comment doesn’t show up right away.)

Systems and shortcuts: The handout

If you were at my presentation at the American Copy Editors Society this morning, thank you! It was a joy to have an overflowing room, and I appreciated your thoughtful questions and insights.

Here is the handout I promised:

I love to hear your feedback and suggestions; email me at lori at this domain.