An American Editor

March 9, 2012

The Business of Editing: How NOT to Get Work

Filed under: Business of Editing — Rich Adin @ 4:00 am
Tags: ,

About a month ago, I wrote The Business of Editing: Pricing Yourself Out of the Market When Applying for Work. I thought that pricing mistakes were the leading cause of why one doesn’t get work. Now I’m not so sure.

I recently received a job application in which the applicant wrote:

Minimum Acceptable Freelance Pay Price (Copyeditor): $ 25, per page

Minimum Acceptable Freelance Pay Price (Proofreader): $ 15, per page

Comments: I have no available work to show. Just give me any bullshit assignment, and let my work speak for itself. you will not be sorry. I am college student, looking to get into freelance writing/reporting. My only goal is to have articles published with my name on them and get payed (no matter how miniscule) for my words.

Aside from the obvious that the applicant never bothered to check out my website to see what we do, the comments provided would not induce me to consider this applicant at all. Nothing is right about the attempt other than it catches my attention in a negative manner. How many employers want to be told that their work is “bullshit”? And for those of us whose livelihood is word based, does “payed” inspire confidence?

Although noting one’s goal is laudatory, I would think that goal should be aligned with the prospective employer’s goals.

Accepting at face value that the applicant really is a college student, I wonder what the applicant is being taught and what the applicant has been taught about how the job world works. Needless to say, this applicant won’t be working for me.



  1. Thank you for the smile with my coffee this morning. It never ceases to amaze me that I’m still amazed by some of the things I see.


    Comment by Mare F — March 9, 2012 @ 5:31 am | Reply

  2. I would never suggests such prices. I have a set of rates in a Word doc. table that I will paste into an e-mail when asked for my rates. I think they are low. How do you feel about the rates suggested on the EFA?

    Per your column on taking editing tests, I agreed with everything you said. There have been times when I feel I have completely aced a test, then never hear from the publisher. Some tests are practically a job. I don’t have time to spend copyediting fifteen pages, with five pages of references…for free.

    Currently, I have three editing tests to do. I don’t feel like doing them. What’s the point? It’s crapshoot. Therefore, I’ve been considering taking what you said about copyediting tests, writing back to these publishers, and including samples of my own editing from previous work. What do I have to loose?


    Comment by Mick Spillane — March 9, 2012 @ 11:36 am | Reply

  3. I just wanted to say I enjoy your column. Good insights and pointers. Thank you.
    Haven’t commented until now but had to after seeing this “resume”/application.
    Yup, I just want to get “payed.”
    More proof, if needed, that literacy is dead or at least dying in the U.S.!
    As a former editor of large weeklies, I’d get resumes like this all the time,
    bad grammar, poor spelling, abominable syntax — and it’s getting worse.
    Unfortunately I think many of those who formerly got rejection letters
    are now working at the daily where I live! Errors are legion, but the publisher
    seems to be putting all the focus on cosmetic retouching instead of
    improving the level of reporting… A real headline at one paper: Car could have
    WENT over dam. Yup, they walk among us, they breed… and they think
    they should be in the publishing business!
    Thanks for the chuckle and related sigh…
    Onward and upward…


    Comment by Patricia Morrison — March 9, 2012 @ 1:02 pm | Reply

  4. Oh, heavens! That person – student or whatever – won’t be working for anyone legit any time soon, for so many reasons. If I received something like that from a prospective employee or subcontractor, I’d be torn between laughing myself silly, offering advice, and sending back something along the lines of “No one this unprofessional will work for my company. Please don’t contact us again.” I doubt someone like this wants to hear, or would follow, any advice on presenting him/herself more appropriately, and this isn’t the kind of “candidate” who deserves much of a response, so I’d probably just shake my head and hit Delete.


    Comment by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter — March 9, 2012 @ 1:08 pm | Reply

    • Hi, Ruth:

      I know live in Rochester, downtown on Gibbs St. Could I send you my resume for possible freelance editorial work? I promise not to curse in my cover letter!


      Mick Spillane


      Comment by Mick Spillane — March 9, 2012 @ 1:10 pm | Reply

  5. now* (see I caught that)


    Comment by Mick Spillane — March 9, 2012 @ 1:11 pm | Reply

  6. I have a grandchild that is interrested in a career in writing and, being an interrested grandpa, I have been looking for information to gently encourage her interest. I’m not a professional writer or editor but I do know good writing and advice when I see it, and I have seen it here for the past couple of months. Too little attention is paid to editing, grammer, spelling, or even etiquette (I would never dream of using “Bullshit” in any correspondence) in modern writing. Can you offer some educational guidence for a budding,16 year old grandchild? Or maybe a post on what one needs to know to become a good writer/editor in todays electronic media controlled world?



    Comment by David Beals — March 9, 2012 @ 2:37 pm | Reply

    • David, I have two pieces of advice that I give everyone interested in writing or editing careers. First, get a college education. Second, while in college, take all of the philosophy courses you can. It is not that philosophy courses are geared toward writing or editing; it is that they teach you how to think, which I believe is the most important qualification, rapidly followed by creativity for a writer.


      Comment by americaneditor — March 9, 2012 @ 3:44 pm | Reply

      • I agree. I have a master’s degree in philosophy (an undergrad in English). However, it was studying philosophy where I learned how to be a writer. Unless you’re in an analytic philosophy department.

        Never do a MFA in creative writing!


        Comment by Mick Spillane — March 9, 2012 @ 3:49 pm | Reply

      • I’d like to add reading to the list of prerequisites for a career in editing. Read everything and read all the time. The English language itself is incredibly varied depending on its context; a familiarity with its ‘voices’ is as good a start as any.


        Comment by Anne Fontaine — March 12, 2012 @ 10:14 am | Reply

  7. This has to be a joke, right? The applicant can’t have been serious. :/


    Comment by Vicki — March 9, 2012 @ 6:16 pm | Reply

    • You could be right that this was a joke, but from what I see with my own children, I think this is exactly what employers can expect from many applicants.


      Comment by americaneditor — March 10, 2012 @ 9:22 am | Reply

  8. “Miniscule”?! Yikes. Thanks for the entertaining and eye-opening post.


    Comment by Katie at Tweed Editing — March 18, 2012 @ 11:07 pm | Reply

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