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Is Cactus Communications (Editage) legit? A review

I need to get this off my chest from the get-go: I have been working for this company for over two years now, I’ve made something like $80,000 with them, and I have no idea what the difference is between Cactus Communications and Editage. My guess is that Editage is a part of Cactus? The editing part? I don’t know. I am sure I could figure it out, but the thing is, I don’t care. I have literally never needed to know.

Here’s what does matter. When I signed up in May of 2017, I was just coming off an expensive (but worth it!) brain surgery. We had three kids (one of whom was brand new), a mother-in-law who couldn’t work or bring in any sort of income but needed a ton of medical care and material goods, we were $10,000 in credit card debt (and who knows how much student loan debt and car loan debt and mortgage debt), we had just taken on a personal loan to get the basement waterproofed because I couldn’t stand the thought of losing more valuable belongings to mold, and I needed to find something.

I paid $15 for a job board subscription, and thought “if I can make $15, it’ll be worth it.” I applied, took a test, took another test, and was in.

In May 2017, I made $195.24.

In June through December 2017, I made about $17,000 more. Definitely worth it.

The following year, I averaged about $3000 per month with this company, and I’m set to do that this year, too.

So is it a scam? It’s not a scam. It’s actually run extremely well, considering all the moving pieces. A client (generally an academic from a non-English speaking background) hires Editage (or Cactus, whatever) to edit a paper, I can see from my dashboard how much I would get paid for that particular service on that particular paper (it is complicated – it depends on my recent ratings, it depends on the level of service, it depends on the length of the paper, it depends on the deadline). “A 2,000-word standard level service, for $30?” I think. “Due in 14 hours? I can manage that.” And that’s how it goes – one job at a time, some worth literally pennies, some have been worth over $1000. I see what’s available, decide if it fits into my schedule, proofread it at a professional level, send it in.

My work often gets reviewed by somebody in-house in…India I think? And they review me, which affects my later payments, so I have a strong incentive to do a good job. Customers, too, can offer feedback, although they often don’t.

The positives:

  • Did I mention I’ve made $80K with this company? Let me mention that again.
  • It is very straightforward – if I want to do a job, I take the job. If I don’t want to take a job, I don’t take a job.
  • Payments have always been exactly what I have expected (there have actually been one or two times when something wasn’t write, but I e-mailed them and they fixed it, immediately), through Payoneer, which I had never heard of, and they are directly deposited into my account. It’s smoother than my W2 job.
  • I can do this work at 4 a.m., at my kids’ gymnastics practices, while my apple crisp is baking. I can do it in my pajamas, while drinking wine, or, like now, on my porch swing in the late fall sun.
  • The amount of work per job varies. Some jobs take me less than ten minutes and I make forty bucks. I’ve gotten better at figuring out which ones are likely quick over time. The quick ones are so, so gratifying.
  • I have learned a ton over the past two years. These are high-level academic papers, and while some of them are not really that interesting to me, many are incredibly interesting.
  • I can’t speak to its sustainability, but I can say this – there is never a lack of work. I could do double the amount I am doing now, probably triple, if I wanted to.

The negatives:

  • I can do this work at 4 a.m., at my kids’ gymnastics practices, while my apple crisp is baking. I can do it in my pajamas, while drinking wine, or, like now, on my porch swing in the late fall sun. It’s very hard to turn this off – to say “actually, right now, I’m just going to watch Viv practice her back handspring.” I could literally work every waking hour, and sometimes, I do. All work and no play makes me something something.
  • There is a lot of work, but it’s hard to know if that work will still be there in 2 years, or 2 months, or 2 weeks. I do not interact directly with the clients, do not set up my dashboard. What is there is there, I can take it if I want it. It feels risky to know that my dashboard could be empty and I would lose it all. (Do we ever know for sure our companies will stay afloat?)
  • The amount of work per job varies. A job that has to be edited for a specific format for a specific journal, especially certain ones, can take hours longer than I expected. I’ve gotten better at figuring it out, but…sometimes I still have a job that I expect will take me one hour that takes me four. The long ones are so, so frustrating.
  • I hate having my work reviewed. I mean, I like it when I get 4/4. I hate it when I get 3, or even 2, or one time, maybe twice, I got a 1. The company is in…India? So a lot of feedback gets posted at 2 or 3 in the morning. I am embarrassed to admit how many times I have woken up in the middle of the night, checked my feedback, and then not slept until morning, justifying my use of “the” or feeling ashamed at…my use of “the.” This has gotten better over time, but it took me about a year to be able to brush it off. There were times when I wanted to quit over it, for real. This…is more a problem with me than with the company.
  • It’s hard working without colleagues. I mean, I’m sure I have them. All over the world, probably, sitting on their porch swings in the setting sun, drinking wine and keeping an eye on their frolicking kids. But I don’t know who they are and I certainly have nobody to bitch about the boss’s new policy to. I’ve become friendly with some of the people who allocate the jobs, so that’s nice, but it’s a surprising drawback to not having to get out of your pajamas…nobody else is getting out of theirs either.
  • For heck’s sake, I don’t even know the name of the company. Although they have excellent resources for editing and processes, it still feels like everything is behind a curtain. There’s no physical hall to walk down on my way to work, no “good morning” to say to the boss, whoever that is. I do the work, money shows up. It is disconcerting to be a cog in a machine that feels so unknowable.

Cactus Communications has made it possible for us to live at the level that we want (three active kids, supporting an older generation, paying off school loans, making home improvements, paying off debts instead of incurring them), and I am so very grateful that I paid that $15 to sign up. Although I’ve had my mostly-shame-induced moments of wanting to quit, this work has enabled us to get on our feet and head toward FI.

Is it a scam? Is it legit? It is 10,000 percent legit.

7 thoughts on “Is Cactus Communications (Editage) legit? A review”

  1. THANK you! I have always been curious about your line of work, but hesitated to inquire about a rather personal topic. (Well, it’s not really personal but you know what I mean ☺️). Very impressed with your income and your transparency regarding the drawbacks.

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  2. Hey there! I happened to come across this post and it really made me smile. 🙂

    Like you, let me start with a disclosure: I’ve been working with CACTUS for the last 13 years, and I currently lead our researcher education and community building initiatives. I’ve not been directly involved with any of the editing team work for the last few years, but I have been in the past so I have a good sense of how things work.

    Thanks for providing a really balanced and objective perspective that I’m sure will help many people who are considering freelance editing as a career option. Thank you also for the very transparent overview of your experience with Cactus. I shared your post with my colleagues, and we really appreciate the time and effort you put into sharing this.

    I thought I should just clarify a couple of things for you, because it’s only fair that you know and trust the people you work with!
    – Cactus Communications is the parent organization, and Editage is the division that offers services such as editing, translation, and publication support to academics worldwide.
    – CACTUS has been around for 17 years and Editage is currently the world’s biggest provider of such publication support services. We have about 1000 employees globally.
    – We have offices in the US, UK, India, China, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore, and since we have customers and freelancers around the world, we are running round the clock, so that would explain the middle-of-the-night emails. I’m not completely sure if our processes and scale would allow this, but if you have a preference for a time slot within which you’d like to receive such emails, you should share this with your Managing Editor and they’d let you know what’s possible.

    I know that we’re trying hard to be less of a faceless name behind a curtain to all our freelancers and customers, although it’s hard with a completely online-run business. We’d love to hear any suggestions you might have to help us achieve this!

    We’re all so happy to know that CACTUS helped you tide over a difficult time and I hope that we can always be there for you!

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    1. Oh thank you! I wrote this thinking about people who were afraid to apply, without any consideration that you guys might read it. It’s really been wonderful for me and my family, and I have recommended it to dozens of people.

      I don’t need any special email slot – I’ve gotten used to the time difference and when the baby is up in the middle of the night it’s nice to have some activity to look at!

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