An American Editor

September 4, 2019

On the Basics: The ongoing challenge of finding editorial work

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 9:35 am

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner, An American Editor

I’ve started seeing (along with the seemingly constant flow of phony job offers) announcements of new platforms promising to help editorial professionals connect more effectively and efficiently with prospective clients. Some are more open than others; some have confusing business models. One claimed to only work with the 300 “best” editors, with a model that involves somehow pitting them against each other through a process being called consensus editing. The creator of another was planning to charge an editor $50/month to participate, as far as I could tell, and asked for input on his business model — that is, he wanted editors to pay $50 each to test his business model when it wasn’t even up and running yet. (A request that was roundly scotched, by the way.)

These may not be outright scams, but they are among the many sites or companies supposedly trying to put editors and clients together. The savvy entrepreneurs who come up with such “services” are taking advantage of the many people who are desperate for income or portfolio-building projects because they don’t have the experience and networking contacts for better types of clients and projects, or who are more hobbyists than professionals and willing to work for peanuts for the fun of being published somewhere — anywhere. Some of these sites charge the editors to participate, some don’t. Most of them profit from fees paid by both authors and editors.

Some of the more-established ones are being called helpful in creating regular streams of work for editors and our colleagues in other skillsets. Others are considered scams of some sort.

The problem with most of these, both established and startup, is that they usually don’t pay very well. That may not be an issue for people who are just starting out; even low-paying jobs do help you build a portfolio and experience. The low fees also might be acceptable even to more-experienced colleagues who appreciate (or desperately need) a steady flow of income, or a few bucks to fill in the gaps between better-paying projects. Some of them have more-demanding, micro-management-style oversight systems than others, and their critiques aren’t always as helpful (or accurate) as we might like.

Because the legitimate versions of these businesses do find favor with colleagues, they will continue to proliferate. As long as you know the limits and accept the pay rates or overbearing oversight, working for them is no real problem. It might be more profitable, though, to spend some of that time and effort on looking for better clients, even though doing that can be daunting.

Better options

For many of us, the best source of new and well-paying work is word of mouth or referrals from existing and previous clients. Of course, if you’re new to the field, you may not have such resources. Those resources include:

  • Membership in professional associations for your editorial niche,
  • Environments like this blog where you can “meet” colleagues and display your knowledge in comments or guest posts (contact me if you have an idea for a guest column),
  • Participation in professional groups at LinkedIn and Facebook,
  • Your own website to showcase your skills and experience,
  • Current and past clients, and colleagues, for testimonials and recommendations or referrals,
  • Cold queries,
  • Conference attendance where you interact with colleagues in person (because they’re more likely to remember you if you’ve met in the real world) or encounter people looking for freelancers, etc.

Several colleagues over the years have said that telling current clients you have a vacation coming up is practically a guarantee that you’ll hear from people with urgent “Please do this before you leave!” projects who might not have contacted you otherwise.

Another good tactic is to contact past clients every so often to share something relevant to their business, or just to say hello, as a reminder that you exist. When I’ve done that, at least one client has said something like, “Oh, what great timing — you made me realize that we could use your help on such-and-such an upcoming or new project!”

If there are any people in your network of past colleagues whom you haven’t told about your freelance or independent editorial business and services, now is the time to do so. People who know and respect you from working together can be a great source of new business. If they don’t need you (or can’t afford you), they may well know people who do — but you might have to let them know (a) that you’re available and (b) what you offer. They might assume that you’re too busy for new clients or projects, or not be sure of what you want to do in your freelance role.

Platforms like LinkedIn can be quite useful; their ProFinder service has yielded a couple of worthwhile projects, and I’m told that their paid service can be a good investment as well. Signing on with temp agencies also can work in our favor, depending on the agency and its understanding of what we do.

A little light

Despite the proliferation of often-questionable outlets for freelance work, there is good news. In the same week as pitches from the two newest such “services” popped up, I got a call from someone local (St. Louis, MO) who wants to start a new publishing company and turned out to be legit. That, at least, promises to be useful by generating actual work for me as a consultant and for any editors, book designers, layout professionals, etc., who work with him. How did he find me? Through my website. That experience will fuel my website presentation at “Gateway to Success,” this year’s Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference (www.communication-central.com, www.naiwe.com) — in partnership with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE) for the first time — keep it in mind!

In recent weeks, I landed two new projects through Facebook business groups, and I just got a message from a long-time editing client who wanted to know if I’d be interested in writing an ongoing column for his business. Would I ever! I’ve also seen posts from colleagues recently who got new projects or clients by being listed in an association membership directory.

There are ways to find freelance work that does pay a decent rate. Don’t let the cheapskates get you down!

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and— as of 2019 — owner of An American Editor. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues (www.communication-central.com), this year co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.naiwe.com). She can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com or Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

2 Comments

  1. One of your best, Ruth E. Thaler-Carter. You covered all the ground, newbies and seasoned editors, networking and marketing, social media and conferences, and editorial packagers (pro/con). As always, with that cheery optimism and voice of experience. If every editor here succeeded by implementing just one of your excellent suggestions, imagine the dollars that would generate. #payitforward #success #amediting

    Like

    Comment by canadiancopychief — September 4, 2019 @ 10:42 am

  2. Thank you for this thoughtful article. After a couple of dry months, I’m experiencing a resurgence of projects. However, I’m trying to remember the wise advice of marketing myself while I’m busy so that I stay busy! I appreciate the info.

    Like

    Comment by Janell — September 4, 2019 @ 11:44 am


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