The last few years I made it a custom in January to look at the past business year, to reflect on what went well, what went wrong and to look ahead to the challenges for the coming year. For the purpose of this yearly review I keep a diary[i] in which I make notes of things I encounter throughout the day. It doesn’t take up too much of my time, a few cryptic remarks per day are enough to remind me a year later how things were progressing.
The bare statistics of 2018:
- I indexed 28 books against 32 books in 2017
- Earnings were slightly less than last year
Unpaid work/Volunteer work:
- I kept my website up to date and wrote 5 blog posts, while last year I only kept the website current as there was no blog attached to my previous website
- I didn’t do any unpaid indexing jobs for marketing purposes or charity, just like 2017
- NIN: I did some minor maintenance on the NIN Website and wrote no blog posts, while in 2017, besides maintenance, I wrote two blog posts
- NIN: I developed the NIN emergency plan
- SI: My membership of the CPD Committee of SI in 2018 involved no work at all, just like 2017
- ICRIS: I started as joint coordinator of ICRIS in October 2018
- Website: I build a brand-new website from scratch
- LinkedIn and Twitter: I was slightly more active on both platforms, than in 2017
- I wrote less marketing emails than last year
- I wrote 1 article for “The Indexer”, same as last year
- Attended 2 conferences/symposiums, same as last year
- Gave one presentation, same as last year
- Courses: on WordPress and the Avada theme, in 2017 I didn’t take any courses
- Tutorials: no tutorials, while in 2017 I did several tutorials with Kevin Broccoli
- Webinars: numerous webinars organised by ASI and Index-Manager, while only ASI webinars in 2017
- Books: read no books on CPD subjects, same as last year
Evaluation of 2018
All things considered 2018 was a good year. But when looking back one aspect of my work, which isn’t entirely in my own hands, went disastrously wrong: scheduling.
Several years ago, a client contacted me to index a 3-volume book on a law related subject. I had set aside 6 weeks to index these tomes and declined some assignments that would fall in the same period. Three days before the proofs were due to arrive, I got a message that they were very sorry, but the assignment was withdrawn, due to problems between author and publisher. I was able to get back one of the declined jobs, but it still meant 4 weeks without work.
Since that day I drastically changed my scheduling scheme. I now ask for a lot more time than I really need to complete an index. This gives me ample opportunity to schedule and re-schedule jobs as they materialize. It also can absorb problems of proofs becoming available a bit later than planned. I sometimes had to foist an assignment on another indexer, but generally the system worked fine. Till now.
In 2018 I started on proofs that arrived as scheduled, but after indexing for a few days, it became apparent that there were errors in the proofs that needed to be addressed, which would massively change pagination. So, I had to stop working on the index and wait till the 2nd proofs were ready. When, after a few weeks, these proofs materialized I had already a full workload. This was a scenario my scheduling scheme couldn’t cope with. It meant I had to work into the small hours to get everything done and find other indexers to do some already scheduled jobs. This happened not once, but thrice. I still am not sure how to cope with this. One option would be to decline the job on arrival of the 2nd proofs. I had already worked on all three books for some days, so if I declined, I would have lost several days’ pay. In some cases, this would also have antagonized a very loyal and good paying client.
The second problem that arose last year for the first time, was that after trying to explain to a client that the changes he wanted to be made to the index would be against the international rules and would make the index unnecessarily unwieldy, deteriorated in a shouting match on his part. In the end I withdrew my index and wasn’t paid for an index that took me two weeks to compile.
I must look at my scheduling scheme again and see if I can find ways to mitigate the “2nd proofs problem” described above. I will try to find out how other indexers cope with scheduling and re-scheduling
I haven’t had problems with communicating with authors before, except for one author who communicated only with one peremptory sentence per email. So maybe I should see this as a one-off incident. On the other hand, it won’t hurt to look at my communications skills and try harder to be polite and courteous, while still being assertive.
What has 2019 in store
The Brexit. About 20% of my regular clients reside in the UK. They mostly pay me in pounds. If the pound is going to depreciate any further, I wonder if it is still profitable to work for them. Would it be acceptable, if I asked them to pay me in euros? I don’t have to charge VAT when the UK is no longer part of the EU, so maybe that’s a potential loophole.
I am looking forward to the work involved in being the joint coordinator of ICRIS. I will also start on the Editorial Board of “The Indexer” in 2019 but am not completely sure what precisely is expected of me in that role.
Having done no unpaid indexing jobs for several years, I now have two scheduled for 2019. The first one will be the index to the Proceedings of the Biography Conference “Different Lives’ at the University of Groningen in September 2018. Hopefully this index will show the attendants of that conference the importance of an index. The other one is still uncertain. I was asked to help with the integral index to the diary and letters of Etty Hillesum. The standard edition of her work is translated into several languages (English, German, French and Italian) and the idea is to combine an index to all those translations into one publication. Not sure if I will be working on the Dutch, German or English texts, but I am sure it will be a pleasurable task, if it materializes.
My only planned conference in 2019 will be the meeting of the DNI, at the Frankfurter Buchmesse. I already booked my hotel room in Mainz. Of course, I will also pay a visit to the Buchmesse itself. I am looking forward to both.
[i] Certainly, you can use any paper notebook for this purpose, but I love to use an app. It makes searching in your entries and tagging so much easier. Because I work with a Windows 10 PC, I use Diarium as my work-related diary. If you use a Mac, I would recommend Day One. There are legions of good diary apps out there. I will mention the apps that I tried out, before settling on Diarium for my work diary and Day One for my private diary.
- Diarium is a Windows 10 journaling app, also available as iOS and Android apps, which makes it convenient to use. It costs $20, but if you are quick you can buy it for $6. (promotion ends in a few days). If you do most of your indexing work on a Windows 10 PC Diarium is a very handy option. It integrates with Outlook Calendar, Facebook and Twitter. You can quickly attach files, it even lets you make your notes by dictation. Its only drawback is it boring looks, but maybe this is an advantage for an app you will use for work related things.
- Day One is a journaling app for Mac and iOS, elegantly designed and offering a wide array of features. It would have been my only diary app, if I owned a Mac. It has the ability to set up multiple diaries, so you could keep one especially for work. The app is free, but if you want to use the premium features you need a subscription of $35 a year.
- Penzu is a web-based journaling application, that has an iOS and Android app as well, which makes it almost universal. The tagging option and posting by email are only available in the Pro version, which is subscription-based and costs about $20 a year
- Diaro is another web-based app, that uses Dropbox to sync between platforms (Android & iOS & Amazon). It has the usual search and tagging functions that you expect from an app. It has a onetime fee of $4
- Journey is a journaling app that’s available on Android, iOS, Linux, Mac and PC, so you can write from anywhere. It is free, but if you want to make use of certain handy features, like emailing an entry, you need a subscription.