An American Editor

October 2, 2013

I’ve Been to the Mountain . . .

Generally, when someone says “I’ve been to the mountain,” the person means they have gone somewhere and been enlightened about some topic. Well, that’s me — I’ve been both to the mountain and enlightened.

Last week I both participated in and attended the Communication Central conference, “Be a Better Freelancer! Marketing Magic and More for Your Business.” I admit that before the conference I wondered whether I would learn new things or just hear things I already knew. I should have known better than to wonder.

Every session I attended as a conference goer, taught me new things. My biggest complaint is that I had to choose between sessions; were it possible, I would have attended every one of them. Next time I’m asked to present at the conference (assuming there is a next time), I think I’ll try to negotiate the right to set the schedule so that I can attend more sessions that interest me. 🙂

This was the eighth annual conference put on by Communication Central; I have attended six of the eight, sometimes as a presenter, sometimes just as an attendee. I have never been disappointed by the depth and breadth of the offerings and of the speakers. The conference is almost always held mid to end of September or early October, so for those of you who didn’t come this year, you should begin making plans to attend next year’s conference.

The conference is an excellent way to network. I am aware of one participant who has already received a referral and I suspect others have also. It is also a time to catch up with “old” friends, that is, friends one has met at prior conferences or just in online groups, and learn more about how others view the state of our business. And it is also a time to learn.

The one thing that I noticed at the conference and which disappointed me about my colleagues (again, this is a sweeping generalization and does not apply to all of my colleagues in attendance) is the low self-esteem that seems to hang around editors. When I went to the mountain, I knew I was the best, the greatest, and the smartest editor in the world. What surprised me was that so many others did not think the same of themselves.

Editorial success is much more than being able to identify a part of writing or to query a sentence that reads as if it had been stomped by a team of Clydesdales pulling a wagon of beer. Success in editing is, in great measure, a belief in one’s self, a belief that one is the best, the greatest, and the smartest.

It is not that we need to emblazon that mantra on our letterhead and ram it home to clients; rather, we need to ram it home to ourselves, and our messages — written or oral — to clients need to convey that “I am the best; I am the greatest; I am the smartest” and that the client can search forever and not find a better editor than “me.”

This is much the same message we discussed just a few months ago in Business of Editing: “I Can Get It Cheaper!” in which I wrote:

What I am doing is making the client confident that the only smart decision is to hire me as a professional editor.

Think about this: If you don’t believe you are the greatest, who will? (Right-click on the following link to download a PDF that can be printed and then posted near your work area to remind you to believe.)

If you don’t believe

Business success is always a combination of skills, acumen, and attitude. A positive attitude goes a long way toward building a successful career. Positive attitudes are infectious. More importantly, if you display confidence in your skills and proclaim that confidence, there is less likelihood that your clients will doubt or question the decisions you have made. Timid attitudes make clients wonder and question.

This does not mean that you should tattoo the client with your proclamation of self-esteem. It does mean that you should project confidence in your decisions, in your questions, in your statements.

There is one other thing that I noticed at the conference that is worth discussing here: efficiency. Many of the attendees I spoke with thought that they were highly efficient in their work habits. That is not a good thought to have because if you believe you are efficient, you will not strive to be even more efficient.

As efficient as your process is, it is not efficient enough!

should be your guiding philosophy. Successful freelancers are always reevaluating the procedures they follow and try to wring ever greater efficiency out of those procedures. And if you cannot wring greater efficiencies out of a particular process, you should think about the process and whether there is not a better process that you should implement.

Efficiency and productivity are two cornerstones of successful freelancing. They require constant attention because improvements that can be made in them have a direct impact on profitability.

These were some of the general lessons that were passed on to conference participants. I expect there were others to which I was not privy because I could not attend all of the sessions. Next year come to the conference and see what lessons you draw. Whatever they are, you can be assured that they will help you in your freelancing business.



  1. AE wrote: “If you believe you are efficient, you will not strive to be even more efficient.”

    Likewise, if you believe you are the best, you will not strive to be even better.

    I thought about this a lot during and after AE’s presentation at the conference. The nature of a superlative is that there can be only one. So if I am the best, how can you be?

    Of course, the point, as iterated above and during the presentation, is belief in oneself as a necessary ingredient of confidence. Understood. But it grates on me to think in “best” terms. I know I’m not the best at anything I’ve ever undertaken, and never will be. It’s my nature to not pursue goals with the intensity of purpose and commitment of time that lead to exceptional skill. That’s why I’m a generalist — which is in fact my editorial and personal strength.

    I don’t need to believe I’m the best to feel confident. Confidence comes from experience, attitude, training, and perspective. Also, security. It’s hard to manufacture confidence when the world around you is crashing down, the ground is falling away beneath your feet, and/or you’ve been programmed since birth to accept inferiority. So many external forces interfere with physical, financial, and psychic comfort. Belief in oneself, however, helps one get through the vicissitudes caused by those forces, and grows with every success.

    A large part of confidence comes from accepting mistakes and lack of knowledge; from believing there’s endless opportunity to become smarter and more competent. “Knowledge is power,” they say — a credo that feeds my confidence. Every day I can learn more and become better in an ongoing process that, hopefully, will last the rest of my life.

    Best-ness, if not humbly handled, can lead to arrogance, or a perception of same, which can be a turn-off to peers and customers. If I were the best editor, I wouldn’t need to attend conferences, for instance, because I would already know everything. As AE pointed out, no matter how many times you go, you always learn something new.

    So I take this encouragement to think and project best-ness with a grain of salt. Overconfidence can be as large a problem as underconfidence. Just ask anyone who races (or performs any physical skill at a high level in intense and dangerous competition).

    Although I’m sure there is an editor in the world who is truly the best, that’s a project I would not care to undertake, given the myriad elements involved in being a professional editor. I would rather be really good and constantly developing, and attract clients with my confidence and keep them with my skills and positive attitude. Because I know for a fact that the client can find a better editor than me without searching forever, I’m not going to waste my time trying to convince them otherwise. I’d rather convince them that I am the best editor for *them.*


    Comment by Carolyn — October 2, 2013 @ 5:50 am | Reply

    • I’ve been thinking about Carolyn’s comment and mulling it over. Yes, it could be hubris to claim to be the best of anything, but I think Rich’s point of best-ness has more to do with internalizing that feeling and presenting yourself in a way that conveys confidence and ability than just having a big head about yourself. When you look at any successful company, it claims to be the best. Do we believe that? Maybe not, but I think it helps to instill in consumers enough of a feeling of trust that the company is able sell a lot of whatever it’s selling.

      This blog post made me think of the popular practice of affirmations: The idea is that you tell yourself where you want to be as if it is the present. Thus, “I am the best” is a statement in the present tense that embodies future goals. When I’ve presented myself as the best editor a potential client could possibly want or need, I’ve been more successful than when I had taken a more humble stance. Being the best means that I’m not afraid to tell the client about my strong points and relate them to how I can specifically help the client; not being the best means playing down my strong points because they may not be good enough.

      And if you’ve been unfortunate enough to grow up in an environment where you were “programmed since birth to accept inferiority” or you’re in present circumstances that you feel like “when the world around you is crashing down,” it’s even more important to embrace your best-ness. Go for it!


      Comment by Teresa Barensfeld — October 3, 2013 @ 5:35 pm | Reply

  2. I cannot begin to express how gratifying it is to see that even someone with Rich Adin’s experience can still learn from the Communication Central conference! I’m still pulling together all the thoughts, new info and photos from the event for posting to the Communication Central website, and will update it by the weekend, but this blog post has me on cloud nine!


    Comment by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter — October 2, 2013 @ 3:42 pm | Reply

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