An American Editor

September 9, 2020

On the Basics: Yet another scam warning

Filed under: Editorial Matters,On the Basics — An American Editor @ 12:35 pm
Tags: , ,

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

Sigh … the creeps of the world just keep on trying. If only they’d apply all that energy, effort and — yes — occasional creativity to something productive, maybe we’d achieve world peace.

There’s a new version of the scam pretending to offer editing, proofreading or writing jobs with major pharmaceutical or publishing companies. This one is supposedly from Grifols Pharmaceuticals and refers to something called Telegram for interviewing instead of Google Hangout. Like previous versions, it claims to have found you through the EFA member directory, which many colleagues have found convincing; there probably are versions citing other professional associations as well. Delete, delete, delete! If you’ve received this and responded, do not engage any longer, block the supposed sender to whom you responded and change your e-mail password.

And while I’m on the subject, here are some protection tips from AARP, via “Dear Heloise,” in case you (or someone you know) receive one of the increasingly common blackmail attempts from scammers claiming they have access to your e-mail program, Internet accounts or computer camera, and will release embarrassing photos, videos or social media posts if you don’t pay them, usually via bitcoin or buying gift cards:

Do not respond.

Change your password(s) immediately.

Make sure your anti-virus software is current.

Delete messages from any senders you don’t know or recognize.

If you have friends or relatives whose cognitive functions or access to information like this might be a bit compromised, please warn them about these and other common scams directed at older people. Let’s do our best to thwart these jerks and keep each other safe.

August 31, 2020

On the Basics: The ethics of editing college applications

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

Once again, inspiration for an An American Editor blog post struck in reaction to a collegial discussion list conversation. (Some of you may have seen the beginnings of the conversation; this is an expanded version.)

A colleague mentioned having received a request to write or edit the client’s kid’s college application and said she responded by telling them that college applications should be the student’s own work. She characterized the request as a possible ethics issue, and I agree; I said I would have responded the same way. If they had only asked for editing services, it might have been different.

This is a frequent, albeit unfortunate, type of request. The asker usually has every intention of paying for the service, so it isn’t a scam in the financial sense, but either doesn’t know or care that it could be unethical. I manage or respond to these requests by making it my policy not to provide editing for college or grad school applications; proofreading, maybe, but even that can seem borderline inappropriate.

This might be an uncomfortable topic to discuss, but I’m interested in how colleagues think about it. Some institutions will let applicants use editors or proofreaders for application statements or essays, but forbid hiring someone to write those materials. Some draw distinctions between doing such work for native speakers vs. speakers of other languages, or between disciplines — hiring an editor or proofreader is OK for students in the sciences, engineering, maybe business, etc., but not for those in English degree programs.

I have a huge amount of respect for anyone who is willing to function in a language other than their original one, especially English, which can be a challenge even for well-educated origin speakers (as we often see here). And I’m not monolingual: I’ve studied and used French, German and Spanish — but wouldn’t want to tackle writing in any of them until I had spent time immersed in them again; even German, which I picked up in childhood mostly from listening to my Austrian parents and only studied formally much later.

In the application process, it seems more fair for someone’s command of any language to be clear in — literally — their own words, especially in areas like medicine, where lack of fluency could have life-threatening results.

On the other hand, rejecting an applicant because of clunky English in an application might be a disservice to all concerned. Many applicants are very talented in their fields and deserve the opportunity to continue their educations at institutions in countries other than their own. There also can be a difference between someone’s spoken and comprehended levels of language vs. their skills in writing it. And it’s valuable for students to meet and interact with peers from other countries and cultures, no matter which ones are involved. Being accepted into a program and interacting with native speakers, both instructors and fellow students, day in and day out would improve a non-native’s command of English as well.

One colleague found it “hard to believe someone has the nerve to ask for such a thing in this day and age.”

Actually, I find it understandable (not acceptable, but understandable). It isn’t new. There have always been ways for students to game the system, even if only by having their parents write or edit their school work or applications, and students have been selling their work to each other for ages and a day. It’s even easier to do nowadays than ever before: Entire businesses are built on writing student essays and applications (businesses that do the writing for students at any level, and people who work for such businesses, are unethical in my eyes and those of many others, both individuals and institutions/organizations). Papers, and probably application essays, can be purchased online with ease. Celebrities pay thousands to phony up their kids’ applications, sometimes without the kids’ knowledge.

There also can be a thin line between editing and rewriting, although the distinction between writing and editing is easier to draw.

I typed papers for fellow students when I was in college (back in the Dark Ages before computers 🙂 ), and would correct some of their spelling or basic punctuation errors as I went along, but I wouldn’t rewrite if their concepts weren’t clear. There was a big difference between typing up a handwritten paper and rewriting or even editing it. More recently, I proofread my niece’s résumé and a cover letter for her; she’s in landscape architecture and is bilingual in English and Hebrew. I was comfortable with catching a few typos that had nothing to do with her professional skills, but I did have an ulterior motive for making her material as close to perfect as possible: I’m hoping she gets a job offer here where I live!

The good news is that the growth of companies that do the work for students and the ease of plagiarizing via the Internet has led to innovation in response, such as anti-plagiarism software programs. These can be used not just to check on whether someone has copied from known published works, but whether they’ve used material that has been “outed” as generated by someone (or thing) other than the student in question.

In the discussion of this that I mentioned above, several colleagues had perspectives on this that were ethical and interesting. Some have worked for college writing centers by providing coaching and advice without actually doing students’ work for them. Others have developed freelance services with a similar focus — helping clients learn how to write more clearly and effectively, but not doing the writing for them.

How and where do you draw a line?

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 created the annual Communication Central Be a Better Freelancer® conference for colleagues (www.communication-central.com, now co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.naiwe.com), sponsored by An American Editor and this year planned for October 2–4 as a virtual event. She can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com or Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

August 23, 2020

On the Basics: New resources for freelancers

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

I’m breaking precedent with a Sunday post to share some professional good news: The updated edition of my “Freelancing 101” booklet for the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA), featuring new input from EFA Publications chairperson Robin Martin, and the updated new edition of the EFA’s “Resumés for Freelancers” booklet, which I’ve co-authored with original author Sheila Buff, are among the new publications available at the EFA’s new bookstore:
https://shop.aer.io/editorial_freelancers_association_bookstore

Robin deserves a huge round of applause for herding cats (um, authors) and – even more challenging – organizing the new bookstore.

I hope our subscribers find these publications useful. They were a lot of fun to produce and should be – if I say so myself – excellent resources for various aspects of a freelance editorial (not just editing) business.

August 21, 2020

On the Basics: Yet another scam warning

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

Sorry to end the week on a somewhat sour note, but I wanted to warn colleagues here about an apparent current new scam aimed primarily at editors. (Some of you may already have seen discussions about this one; this is for those who haven’t.)

If anyone gets requests from a supposed Ayse Cetin or Fatma, they are probably scams, although we haven’t figured out what the senders are after. They’ll say they need help with something for a fall class, probably in math — coaching or editing, or writing in general. The initial message is likely to include a Word document as an attachment.

If you respond, they’ll do a few rounds of e-mail correspondence (even if you say that you don’t work in their area), and then they’ll want to meet via Zoom. They’ve wasted a lot of time for quite a few colleagues so far in e-mail back-and-forthing and Zoom time, as well as attempts to research the supposed senders to determine whether the requests are legitimate — but haven’t actually hired anyone.

One confusing aspect in trying to figure out what they’re up to is that they’re spending a lot of time and effort on communicating with several dozen editors to date — far more than most scammers bother with before getting money out of people. I’m guessing that a version of the overpayment scam would evolve; others think this is an attempt at hacking e-mail or Zoom accounts.

If you’ve received and responded to this, change your e-mail and/or Zoom passwords. If you receive any version of this and haven’t already responded, delete, delete, delete.

This kind of headache aside,  here’s wishing colleagues a safe, healthy and fun weekend.

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, now co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.naiwe.com), sponsored by An American Editor, and this year planned for October 2–4 as a virtual event. She can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com or Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

August 5, 2020

On the Basics: The power of saying no as a reputation-builder

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

Owner, An American Editor

As editorial professionals, whether in-house or freelance, how do we build our reputations for not only what we do, but how we do it and who we are?

It may seem self-evident that doing good work is the first and most-important element of establishing a reputation of someone worth hiring, recommending, referring or subcontracting with. There’s more to it, though.

How we do business contributes mightily to an editorial professional’s reputation as well. And a huge factor in that process is knowing when, and how, to say no.

Saying no

It might seem odd to think of saying no as a way of establishing or solidifying your professional reputation, but it can work. Saying no to projects or clients means you know what’s right — or wrong — for your editorial business.

It’s hard to say no to a client or project, especially when you’re just starting out or funds are low and you’re worried about how you’ll pay the mortgage or rent, but doing so can be essential to the health of both your editorial business and your reputation. Saying no means you’re standing up for what you need from your business and what you expect from the people you work with or for. It means you have standards for, and limits on, how you do your work, and are willing to enforce them. Having the chutzpah to say no when appropriate gives you power.

Those standards or limits, and how saying no relates to them, can include:

Hours when you’re available — and saying no to requests (or demands) that you work outside those hours.

Type of projects you will accept and work on — and saying no to projects that aren’t right for you.

Rates you will work for — and saying no to rates that are too low.

Deadlines you will accept — and saying no to ridiculous ones that would make you crazy.

Treatment you expect from clients — and saying no to rudeness, unreasonableness, demandingness (is that a word?) and any other behavior that disrespects you as a professional.

Getting the message across

You can use your website to present your policies on these kinds of topics, as well as creating a template for responding to messages so you’re prepared to deal with challenges when they occur instead of feeling as if you’re a deer in the headlights of an unreasonable, confusing or inappropriate request. Here are a few suggestions for relaying your “just say no” message without actually saying no (at least, not upfront).

Posting work hours

The best way to head off client calls or messages at hours when you prefer not to be available is to put your “office hours” at your website (you do have your own website, of course). Many colleagues use their websites to let potential and current clients know that they aren’t available on weekends or outside specific hours.

Some people will still push that envelope, but posting your office hours means you have a way to push back. It’s also possible to set up a form of autoresponse that says something like “Thank you for your inquiry. I will respond at 9 a.m. of the next business day to discuss your project.”

You also can still do work outside those posted hours if and when you want — or need — to do so. That can mean saying no to the client but yes to whatever you have to do for a project or deadline to work in your favor.

Choosing your projects

Many colleagues prefer not to work on projects with content that is erotic, violent, racist, sexist, anti-Semitic or involves some other aspect that might be difficult to read. That’s our right. Some of us also have specific preferences for the genres we want to work on: fiction vs. nonfiction, young adult vs. adult or middle grade, fantasy, sci-fi, memoir, etc. You can make those go/no-go decisions as your business policy, post them at your website and incorporate them into your e-mail template for responding to potential clients. Like posting your office hours, that can say no for you.

Again, some people just don’t read such material and might contact you anyhow with the offer of work you don’t want, for whatever reason. You don’t even have to quote a reason, but it’s immensely helpful to be able to couch your no in terms of “Thank you for your inquiry, but as you can see from my website, I don’t work on projects such as this.”

Standing up for your rates

Most of us start out charging at the lower end of rates or accepting salaries at the low end of the bar for a variety of reasons, from lack of experience to lack of confidence. If you haven’t had any formal training or experience in your corner of the editorial world, are just launching a freelance business, want to try working in a new genre or topic area, or have no way of confirming that you’re good at what you do (or want to do), it makes sense to charge less rather than more. That goes for salary levels when you’re job-hunting in the traditional work world, as well as for freelancing.

Keep in mind that if you under-charge, you run the risk of spending so much time on low-paying projects to generate enough income to pay your bills that you won’t have the time or energy to find better-paying work.

Just be sure to, first of all, research rates through professional organizations and resources (such as Writer’s Market information, the Editorial Freelancers Association chart of common rates, conversations with colleagues, etc.) for a sense of what you might be able to charge based on your training, experience and skills.

Second, look for ways to defend what you want or need to charge. Your rates or salary should reflect that combination of training, experience and skill level with the added factor of what you need to cover your expenses and have something left for fun. An American Editor founder Rich Adin calls this your effective hourly rate: the income you have to generate to live your life on a level that is not just sufficient but rewarding; a rate based on you, not on someone else, whether a colleague or a client.

If you’re low on training, get some. Look to professional associations, college certificate programs and business resources to do two things: improve your knowledge and skills, and bolster your credibility. If you’re low on experience, look for ways to do more editorial work, even if it’s on a volunteer basis or at a starting-out rate. If your skills seem below par, look for volunteer opportunities, whether with a professional association or a charity you believe in, to do the kind of work you’re interested in and build up those skills. You might even look for a mentor who could help you strengthen your overall knowledge and specific areas of weakness.

The more you can show that you’re skilled and qualified, the easier it will be to say no to prospective clients that only pay peanuts.

Practice makes perfect

Because the necessity to say no is going to crop up for all of us, be prepared. Write out a script for how to turn down work that isn’t right for you, rates that don’t respect you, deadlines that are impossible for you to meet, etc. It can be brief. It doesn’t have to go into any detail or offer any excuses for your no. You might also want to create a backup script for the insistent client who doesn’t want to hear your no.

If you think about and plan for these moments beforehand, it will be much easier to stand up for what you want your business and your reputation to represent.

The bottom line

So how do all these aspects of saying no contribute to establishing your reputation?

Steeling yourself to say no when appropriate creates the impression of someone who is confident enough to have standards and stand up for them. Someone who is strong enough to resist pressure to behave in ways that would undermine their success and their ability to continually improve the quality of their editorial business. Someone who is more than reliable and skilled.

If you develop your ability to say no, you will establish your reputation as someone who is not only an editorial professional worth hiring, but one who can’t be scammed, scolded, underpaid or pushed around. That’s a reputation worth having.

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 created and co-hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues (www.communication-central.com), with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.naiwe.com), sponsored by An American Editor. She can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com or Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

July 29, 2020

On the Basics: Webinar on “generalist vs. specialist” coming up on August 12

Time to toot my own horn a bit, which I’ve been remiss about in recent weeks.

As you can see, I’m presenting a webinar for the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) about whether to position your freelance business — or even your in-house identity, now that I think about it — as a generalist vs. a specialist. The session will be held from 7–8 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, August 12. To register, go to:

Generalist vs. Specialist—Which Works for You? (webinar) SU20

If you missed my pearls of wisdom about “Basics of Proofreading” and “Freelancing 101” in recent webinars, recordings can be purchased from the EFA. Nothing like a “Ruth-full” library!

Being able to do online/virtual presentations in the current challenging times is both rewarding and humbling. My heartfelt thanks to all who have signed up for or purchased recordings of these events. I love sharing information and appreciate opportunities to help colleagues do better at their editorial work.

June 15, 2020

On the Basics: Coping with recent events

Filed under: Editorial Matters,On the Basics,Philosophy & Ethics — An American Editor @ 2:07 pm

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

I’ve been quiet here because I haven’t known what to say about the various crises we’re all facing these days. I’m still not sure, but a few things started bubbling up that I hope will be helpful to colleagues.

COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic offers some lessons for moving on and thinking about the future. Among other aspects, it’s a hard lesson in financial planning. I’ve written several times about planning for emergencies, and this event certainly qualifies as a huge one for so many of us. It reinforces the importance of moves like these.

  • Try to save money as you go along. The best and easiest way to do this is to “Pay yourself first” — take a certain percentage out of every payment and stash it in a savings account. What you don’t see, you can’t spend. If the habit is ingrained, it will also be much easier to maintain in uncertain times.
  • Diversify your work. If you freelance, make sure you have more than one client and type of project, just in case someone you rely on for income has to cut back. If you work in-house and can moonlight without jeopardizing your job, have at least one freelance project in hand. It could be a lifesaver if your company cuts back on your hours or salary during a crisis like this one.
  • Swallow your pride. We all go through hills and valleys in our work. If yours tanks due to circumstances beyond your control, you might have to find a different kind of work to get by. At least one of my colleagues took a job with one of the big-box stores when her freelance work dried up recently. She plans to go back to freelancing, but in the meantime, she has a paycheck and health insurance, even if it means doing non-editorial work. Others have turned to some of the low-paying job sites just to have income for now.
    Several organizations have put together financial aid services for members and colleagues. If you need help, look for those resources and make use of them.
    If you qualified for any of the pandemic-related government loan or grant programs, try not to use all of the funds at once; sock some away in savings for the coming months — we don’t really know if the pandemic is under control or might come back in another wave.
  • Live frugally. Don’t go overboard and make yourself and your family miserable, but try to keep impulse buying and living expenses under control. Such habits come in handy in difficult times and are easier to maintain if they aren’t new.
  • Communicate. Most of us have been quarantined in recent weeks, many of us have been home alone and some of us aren’t comfortable with resuming regular activities yet. Try not to cut yourself off from the world, even when it seems to be coming apart. Use the phone, social media, blogs like this one, and resources of professional associations and community services to stay connected with family, friends and colleagues.
  • Look after yourself. Get out of the house for walks around the block or neighborhood or to nearby parks. Take up new hobbies that you can do at home. Order meals from local businesses that do pick up or delivery. Ask for help if you need it. As businesses reopen and people try to go back to “normal,” continue to use smart health and safety habits.

Civil rights protests

The efforts to respond to, make sense of and prevent deaths of Black people by police officers don’t seem likely to end any time soon. As someone who worked for the Urban League and has been active in the Black press for years, I just don’t know how to handle recent and continuing events in this arena, or what to say here. I just hope there will be positive change, and soon. All I can suggest to colleagues is to be aware, make efforts to be inclusive and stay safe.

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 for the second time with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.naiwe.com), sponsored by An American Editor, and (still) planned for October 2–4 in Baltimore, MD. She can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com or Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

June 17, 2019

On the Basics: Where Do We Go for Our Own Editing Support?

Filed under: On the Basics — An American Editor @ 9:32 am
Tags: , , ,

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, AAE Owner and Editor-in-Chief

As often happens, I’ve been inspired by a Facebook post to write a column here. This time, someone asked where editors who are also writers find editors for their writing work. Here’s how I responded:

“Since I’ve been writing, editing and proofreading professionally for a looonnnng time, I’m lucky to have a network of colleagues and friends whom I can trust to look at my stuff if needed. If none of my go-to people are available, I give preference to anyone who has attended a Communication Central ‘Be a Better Freelancer’® conference.
“I would never bother with a ‘nameless editing site’ or outlets like Upwork. If I didn’t know anyone to ask, I’d go to the EFA, NAIWE, ACES, EAC, SfEP, etc., to look for someone whose skills and background seem compatible.”

As a much-published writer, I get edited by some of my clients, so I know what it feels like to be on that end of the relationship or process. As a freelance editor and proofreader, I work on material by clients, some of whom are more nervous about being edited than others (although I’ve rarely had to deal with outright outrage). As the owner and editor-in-chief of the An American Editor blog, I edit colleagues regularly (and I hope sensitively).

As we all know, editing can be a delicate dance: We have to learn how to balance fixing obvious and more-subtle errors with retaining the author’s voice and not upsetting an author by the level or volume of changes we suggest. We have to learn how to relay our substantive changes with authority and tact — not always easy to do simultaneously. We have to be able to explain or defend some of our changes, which can be a challenge when there’s something we know is wrong but we can’t quote a specific rule to support what we think the author should do.

Being professional editors ourselves makes the search for our own editors both more challenging and more interesting. We’re likely to be more demanding about the skills and experience another editor brings to the process, and we might be more difficult to work for. Finding and working with editors on our own material can make us better at both writing and editing by reminding us of the value of that outside set of eyes on our work, and showing us where our writing needs help. We also might be grateful to learn how to make our own writing better, stronger, livelier …

As editors, we know how the process works. Some of us may have had challenging experiences with clients, so we know how not to behave on that side of the equation.

Steps in the process

The first step is to accept that everyone needs an editor (or at least a proofreader). No matter how experienced any of us might be, we can’t see our own writing with total objectivity. We know what we meant to say and often see that intent, rather than how a phrase, passage or entire article might come across to readers. We even miss clear-cut typos in our own work, especially if we’ve turned off spellchecker to enhance the writing flow or don’t use resources like PerfectIt or various Editorium tools to automate some of the process.

We have to put our egos aside so we can focus on what I see as the ultimate goal of editing: making the work better.

The next step is to define what we need or want from a colleague’s editing services, and whether we can pay for their help.

With all that said, where do we go (channeling the Chief Blue Meanie’s plaintive query to his sidekick Max in “Yellow Submarine”!)?

As I said in my Facebook post, I can’t see myself using online sources like freelance.com, Upwork, Reedsy, Craigslist, etc., to find an editor for my own writing. I know that many colleagues use such sites to find projects and find them worthwhile, but I turn to other channels. I start by looking among my colleagues for someone who has editing experience, has demonstrated strong knowledge of usage and all its aspects, follows the rules of groups or lists that we belong to, and seems as they would be sensitive to an author’s tender ego or at least knows how to relay suggested edits tactfully. In other words, I probably look for someone a lot like myself. We probably all would do that.

Having a colleague edit my writing work is usually a simple matter of contacting someone and saying, “Do you have time to look something over for me?” For those here who don’t have the great good fortune of a network like mine, here are a few tips.

  • Edit yourself — set your manuscript aside for a day or two, and then go through it one more time to make sure it’s as clean and complete as possible. Try to view it through a reader’s eye to find clunky passages, danglers, missing facts, consistent style (especially with character names!), and any other elements you would look for in a client’s material.
  • Put together a brief description of your manuscript or project — genre, length in number of words, preferred style, planned outlet if known, deadline, etc.; level of editing you want to receive; budget. (If you’re low on funds, think of ways you might be able to swap services, but remember how you feel when a prospective client wants Cadillac editing for go-cart prices.)
  • Put your ego in your pocket.
  • Go to reliable sources: the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors, Editorial Freelancers Association, American Copy Editors Society, American Medical Writers Association, Society for Technical Communication, Society of Editors and Proofreaders, Editors Canada, freelance sections of specialty groups like the Society of Professional Journalists or National Association of Science Writers, etc.
  • Post or list your project with one of these professional associations, or identify a few people through their directories who look like a good match and contact them directly.
  • Remember to let those you don’t choose to work with know that you’ve found someone.
  • Go for it!

If you’ve had someone edit your writing work, how did it go? And are there resources I’ve overlooked that colleagues would find useful for this?

May 15, 2019

On the Basics: Rethinking Saving Everything

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, AAE Owner

For more years than I can count, I’ve saved everything related to my work: multiple paper copies of published articles and of pre-computer edited and proofread projects; electronic or digital copies from the days of 5 1/4-inch disks to 3.5 diskettes to Syquest and Zip disks to CDs; finished files on both my iMac desktop computer and MacBook Air laptop; cloud storage …

My theory was that we never know when a client might want to redo or update a project, and I wanted to be the freelancer whom my clients could rely on to have old copies of projects at hand, just in case.

I recently changed my mind about this approach. In preparing to move halfway across the country last fall, even though to a larger space, I found myself wanting to scale back on this extensive, bulky, obsessive wealth of backups. I had to empty out file drawers for the movers, and clear stuff off shelves and out of cubbyholes; the more I could get rid of, the more I could save on the move. A light bulb went off: It seems unlikely that anyone would want anything more than a year old, but even if they do, I could keep a paper copy of everything, so I’d be able to scan anything that someone might want, and update old versions in new, current editions of software.

I went through those file cabinets in my home office and weeded out all but one paper copy each of published works. Then I went back and pitched all the loose copies after I remembered that I have a copy of everything in notebooks organized by year and going back to the 1970s, which creates the one paper copy that all that I really need — in these days of websites and online portfolios, there’s rarely a need to send someone a paper copy of a finished project. Although my file cabinet copies were organized by client or publication name and the notebooks are organized by year, I’m pretty sure I can remember at least roughly when I worked with which clients and thus can pull old copies as needed.

Next, I got rid of all paper copies of edited and proofed projects — anyone wanting to update or revise any of those nowadays will send me an electronic file to work on, and a current version is likely to be different from the one I worked on years ago. Even if it’s the still the same, my edits should already have been incorporated, and it would make more sense to reread the current version as if it’s new than to try to copy old edits from the past. The clients should have paper copies of anything not available electronically and also should be the one responsible for scanning paper copies to create new versions.

I wouldn’t use those paper edits in pitching to new clients anyhow, because no one would want their “before” versions made public, even on a limited basis. I don’t need to wonder about that or to have signed anything promising not to show the edited version of a document to anyone other than the client. If a prospective client wants proof of my editing or proofreading skills, I’d rather do a short sample than risk embarrassing a past client by showing what I did on their projects, even if I can hide their names. And my website has (wonderful) testimonials from clients attesting to the value of my skills and services, often more effective than samples.

After trashing all those paper copies, I bagged all the various types of disks and headed to the local recycling center to dispense with those as well. I still have electronic versions of everything that’s a year or so old on my computers and in cloud storage.

I even gave up my dad’s little classic Mac and my ancient Radius CPU, taking those to the recycling center as well (after wiping their hard drives).

It felt wonderfully liberating to clear out so much old material — and saved a bunch of effort in packing, which probably saved some money in the way of moving costs. I’m hoping a client won’t ask for a very old project after all, but I’m prepared to defend not keeping ancient files or copies, and can always photocopy or scan my paper versions from those yearly notebooks.

The next task for the aspiring organizer in me: going through all those old business and tax records to get rid of everything from receipt copies to entire years’ worth of documentation! That will open up an entire bookcase … I won’t know what to do with those empty shelves.

For a little farther down the road, it’s time to clear out old computer files in my e-mail program, Dropbox cloud storage account and project folders on both computers … at least I can never say I have nothing to do!

How have you changed your processes for saving projects and client files?

April 22, 2019

On the Basics — Making time for marketing

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Editor-in-Chief & Owner

We’ve all heard the seemingly constant drum roll about the importance not only of marketing our editing services and businesses, but of doing so constantly, regularly, eternally. We’re expected to develop and post regularly to our own blogs, comment on colleagues’ blogs, be active in Facebook groups for our various business niches, post often at LinkedIn, blather on Twitter, join in professional associations, participate in the discussion lists and other outlets of those groups, create and send out newsletters, even be visually present in places like Instagram and YouTube. Not to mention attend meetings of those associations, go to the occasional conference, maybe even make presentations.

Oh, and don’t forget learning about and enhancing the keyword and search engine optimization (SEO) aspects of, and updating content at, our websites — assuming we’ve all created websites for our editorial businesses, or had them created for us.

On top of all that, there are also reminders to contact past and potential clients regularly with pitches for new work. It never ends!

Doing all that seems daunting, for introverts in terms of their personalities and extroverts in terms of their energy levels — and, more importantly, seems to leave little time for actual editorial work. One of my clients provides its clients with a list of awards worth entering, and just carrying that out — preparing submissions targeted to various awards, geographies, individuals and services — could require one or two full-time staffers (or freelancers!) with no other responsibilities.

What rarely gets mentioned is how to make time for all that promotional effort when there are actual projects to complete and deadlines to meet (not to mention a personal life). Here are a few ideas.

Oh, and by the way — marketing your skills is important to in-house editorial professionals as well as freelancers, although perhaps not as much. You never know when a full-time in-house job might suddenly go poof! and disappear. If you wait until that moment to start marketing yourself, it will take much longer to get noticed and rehired, and any interim freelance efforts will be much harder.

Start small

To keep from feeling overwhelmed, especially to the extent of letting the pressure to market keep you from doing anything at all, start on a small scale. Don’t commit to blogging every day or posting everywhere every day. Choose a given day, or week, for blog posts, and one or two channels to focus on at first. As the process becomes easier and more routine, increase the scope and frequency of your efforts.

Accountability

Establishing accountability systems is a great way to structure marketing — and work as well. Some colleagues partner with individual accountability buddies to keep themselves on track and make sure that neither marketing efforts nor deadlines go awry. Others participate in accountability groups whose members keep each other on schedule.

One of my online groups invites members to post about their recent successes every Friday. I’m not sure how much good that does for my business, other than keeping me in their minds when members of that group need to subcontract to or refer someone by reminding colleagues of the kinds of projects I handle, but it’s fun to do and a useful reminder of things I might want to add to my website. However, when the new Friday thread would show up, I couldn’t always remember what I wanted to post. I started keeping a Word document on my computer to record a week’s activities, achievements and issues as they occurred; when Friday comes along or I’m ready to do some website updates, all I have to do is copy from there.

Scheduling

One of my clients suggests setting a quarterly schedule for law firms to update attorney bios at their sites, to accommodate news about successes, new professional development activities, pro bono projects, presentations and publications, rankings, and other aspects of individual members of a firm that don’t necessarily change from day to day.

We editors and writers, both in-house and especially freelance, can do the same kind of thing. Having a schedule makes it easier to organize the information you need to add without making it feel quite as daunting to do. If you assign every Monday or Friday afternoon to marketing activities, and put that on your calendar as well, it’s easier to do those activities. Seeing them on your calendar also provides an often-needed nudge to pull together the information you need, or make the effort required, to get it done. It’s always harder to avoid something that’s staring at your from the calendar page or in that to-do list!

Automating

Another helpful approach is to automate your social media postings. There are a number of apps for doing this; you write a post — or several posts — ahead of time and the app sends out the information on a schedule that you set. All you have to do is remember to write something to be disseminated; the app does the rest for you.

Office hours

Using office hours to manage regular work can help free up time to do the marketing activity that we need to do. To keep from being overwhelmed by the combination of client demands or expectations with marketing efforts, set office hours and stick to them (at least as far as clients can see — we can work into the late hours, on weekends and holidays if necessary, but clients don’t have to know we’re doing that).

Many of us put our office hours at our websites. Others craft responses ahead of time to be prepared for those inevitable times when clients ask for work to be done at what we consider unreasonable hours.

Deadline-driven

Another approach is to treat marketing activity as an assignment. This is similar to scheduling specific days to do marketing: Put it on your calendar as if it’s a work deadline.

Networking

You knew I couldn’t write about a business aspect of editing without mentioning networking. Being active and visible in professional organizations, discussion lists, LinkedIn and Facebook groups, Twitter, etc., is essential to your marketing activity. Networking is where you meet and are met, see and are seen. The more people see that you are someone with skills who is worth working with, the more business you will generate.

Rewards

Beyond all of these approaches, some of us respond best to rewards. Be your own Pavlov and build in treats to motivate yourself to market your freelance business. A day off, a brisk walk, a generous helping of chocolate or ice cream, a movie outing … whatever makes you feel good about accomplishing a marketing goal, give yourself a reward for making progress. Sometimes the carrot of that reward is all it takes to push yourself to include a marketing effort on a busy day. And it doesn’t have to be a major move. Something as basic as updating a LinkedIn profile, adding new language to a website, answering a question at a discussion list, attending a networking event — it’s all grist for your marketing mill.

How do you make time for marketing your editorial work? What has worked best for you?

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is the editor-in-chief and — as of 2019 — owner of An American Editor and an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide. She also created and 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.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

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