Just a little warning: This is something of a rant, but most definitely a learning experience for me, and maybe just a little bit of advice for you future online bosses out there - maybe.
Recently, I took a stab at trying to support myself with an online writing job. No worries I'll try again, but this one was an epic fail.
My assumption - yeah you know what they say about assuming - was that I would be given a bunch of information that I would then organize and put into some sort of readable content. for the first part, I pretty much did just that. I was handed a document and told how to expand it and what to look for in order to do that. I didn't realize just how much of a work in progress that had been before I got it. The work ended up being about two thirds longer than it was originally, I think - I'd have to count the pages to say for sure - not really important for this though.
Then there came the next project started from scratch. My assumption still holding up after a fashion, I was given a list of links - it ended up being somewhere around fifteen links. They all went to his website and particular pages, and all but two of those pages had a Google Earth picture and a blurb about that picture. I will not discuss the contents because the privacy part of my contract still holds.
Okay, so I started my lists and located these sites on my own Google Earth, which I had to load onto my computer. With no further clue as to how to organize this, I backed off a bit (on the map) and took a look. Three different areas were covered but they look to me to be roughly the same kind of stuff, so, allowing the linear nature of me to decide, I organized my document by location in line around the map. I then took the information from the webpages and copied and pasted pictures and blurbs to my document in that order. Now everything was in one place and I could expand from there - or so I figured.
My next discussion consisted of "maybe we should do an outline" and then some discussion about an introduction. I was also given another link at this point to add in. No problem; thanks to the wonders of writing on a computer, content can be added, expanded, and even moved around with ease. So, I wrote up a brief outline, thinking it was for my use only and really of little importance in the grand scheme of this document, because as I thought, content could be easily added or moved around to achieve the necessary and desired flow.
It took me a chunk of a day to write up this introduction and get it just the way I wanted, knowing and planning that it too would be expanded as necessary during the whole process of working on the body of this work. I even had something of a conclusion started.
Rather than sending the whole document to him again, I merely copied the intro into an email along with assurances that I had made the additions he'd asked for. Come to find out, by return email, he'd wanted the outline and he even sent me a document showing me what he expected. Yeah, it was the whole 'I, A, 1., a., (1), (a)' deal - a very formal outline. Um okay, I haven't done such an outline since I was in maybe Junior High School, though I might have done one in High School. I do remember learning how, but not exactly when - way back then anyway.
Sigh, well if that's what he wanted. Here I am wanting to get my teeth into this document and learn more about the fascinating subject, but maybe it's for the best; it's not as if he can look over my shoulder and see what I'm working on. So I go back to my Google Earth, my document, and that list of links, and I assemble an outline. It ended up being two full pages long by the time I was done with it, and happy with how it looked, so I sent it off.
What I got back was a six-page document filled with red additions and he only did the first couple items. Granted some of that was spacing between the different levels of the outline, but it wasn't the length of the document that dumped me off the deep end, it was the additions themselves. Added to my outline was information vital to the document to be sure, but information I wasn't given. Herein begins my bit of a rant. How am I supposed to include information into any kind of a document, if I don't know that I'm supposed to go find this information? How am I supposed to go look something up if I don't know that I'm supposed to do that. Point me please.
It wasn't the amount of research he expected me to do either, but apparently I was supposed to do it on my own somehow. I was suddenly inundated with the feeling that I needed more than one college degree in order to have an inkling that some of this information might need to be looked up and discussed. I could have taken this suddenly horrendously incomplete outline and used that to complete the document, but I was supposed to come up with all this information myself first. I still shake my head in disbelief at the magnitude of information I was supposed to come up with for this outline with only a handful of links to draw it from. So here I am, hanging by a writerly thread, over an ocean of virtual information, and I'm expected to swim my way, not only to shore, but to the head of a specific river with no land in sight and without a compass. Talk about in too deep.
My small bit of advice for you potential bosses out there in the www. If you want someone to write your book for you, make sure they have ALL the information they need first, along with a clear explanation of what you expect. For me, in this case. I needed this outline. With this outline, plus the handful of links, I would have had the direction I needed. With this outline, I would have known what I needed to look up and I could have taught myself what I needed to know in order to write this document. Asking me to come up with this information, is kinda like asking me to find my way to the headwaters of a specific river in the dark without a compass.
Oh, and while I'm at it, what is the going wage for ghost writing?