Tag Archives: finding work

Wise owls: how I found my first client

All freelance careers start with tracking down that first client. Even the wise owls were chicks once (though probably still wise even then), and their experiences show that there isn’t just one way to go about getting that first paid project.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

I’ll talk about my early career, as my first clients came to me via a now-defunct route. It’s a long time since eBay had classified ads! I also picked up a couple of jobs through Gumtree. Two of my first actions on hanging out my shingle were joining SfEP and getting my website up and out there. My website brought in a few more clients who had found me courtesy of Mr Google – including a novelist I still work for some 12 years later. I also picked up a couple of jobs from what is now IM Available. But my big break was from answering an Announce that went to the whole of the membership (most go to just Advanced Professional and/or Professional Members) – I picked up my first packager client and that broadened my horizons and my experience hugely (which I promptly reflected in my CV). In the early days I also had an (expensive) ad in Yellow Pages, which I cancelled after two years as it was ineffective. But a few days before it was due to come off Yell’s website, a packager looking to hire only editors within the county found me (phew!). We did lots of work together over the ensuing years. I’d certainly advise not putting all your marketing eggs in one basket.

Liz Jones

My first client was the employer I’d just left – a non-fiction book packager. For a while I combined freelance project management (essentially continuing my old job) with working on small editorial jobs for them, alongside another major client (an educational publisher) secured via a former colleague. This all sounds too easy – and it was: it only deferred the inevitable need to find a range of clients, to mitigate the risk of working freelance. At first I suffered many sleepless nights: how would I pay my bills if the packager stopped using me? I realised I needed to take control, and worked hard to gain new work streams – in related areas via old colleagues, and also by ‘cold-emailing’ publishers and other potential clients. It took a couple of years, but I was so glad I put in the effort to market myself at that point. I felt more in charge of my career, and expanded into new areas of work. These days I still work for my first client, but only very occasionally, and I try never to be in the position of worrying about a single client dropping me. (Of course I still do all I can to retain my favourites!)

Nik ProwseNik Prowse

I was forced to find my first client, because I was staring down the barrel of a 3-month redundancy notice. At the time I was working at home, but as an employee, as a staff editor for a science publisher. I needed a change, and redundancy (I realised later) was an opportunity. After deciding to go freelance I made a list of every science publisher I could think of and emailed my CV to commissioning editors, desk editors and managing editors, with the promise of following up by phone a few days later. Most approaches fell on deaf ears. A few turned into paid work in the long term. But two came up with immediate work. One was a European journal publisher offering a very low rate but frequent work. The other was a major university press. The person I’d emailed had a book to place, on molecular biology, and I could start on Monday 16 February 2004. Which was good timing, as I became redundant on Friday 13 February 2004 (very apt). So I finished the working week as an employee and started the next as a freelancer. It made me realise that many freelance opportunities are down to luck, but that you can make your own luck.

Hazel BirdHazel Bird

My first ever piece of work as a freelancer paid £19.03 and took me six hours to complete, so I earned a princely £3.17 per hour. This was back in 2009. I was working full time as an in-house project manager for Elsevier, but I was also in the process of completing the Publishing Training Centre’s distance learning course in proofreading, and I wanted to take on some actual proofreading to keep my future options open.

The client was one of those agencies that arranges proofreading for students and academics. I believe I found them through a Google search for proofreading companies. I know that I completed a test, and I was then added to their list and offered work according to when I was available.

I worked for the agency for around eight months (I stopped after I left my job and began freelancing for my old employer). I worked up to completing around 2–4 articles per week, and by the end of the eight months I was regularly earning over £15 per hour, which I considered a good rate for someone of my experience. There were aspects of the work that weren’t ideal (such as having no contact with the authors and very little feedback), but it gave me a lot of relevant experience to help me upgrade my SfEP membership.

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

My first job came from another, now retired, SfEP member. I had joined the society less than a fortnight earlier, but just in time to put my credentials in the next issue of the old Associates Available. My benefactor lived in my area and quickly got in touch to say she’d had an email from a marketing and comms company based somewhere between our two locations. They needed someone to work in-house for half a day to proofread some web copy. Did I want the job? Well, yes – of course! She passed my details to her contact at the company and the following week I found myself on a train to mid-Cheshire, where I spent several frustrating hours working for the comms company. Yup, it turned out to be a nightmare job and getting paid was also a hassle. But the point is, never underestimate the power of networking and getting your info in front of other people’s eyeballs. Despite plenty of experience, I’d only just returned to the UK after 13 years abroad and I had no contacts. I was very grateful for that first gig. Associates Available has been replaced by IM Available but is as useful as ever for picking up those early jobs that can help you start to build experience and a portfolio.

Michael FaulknerMike Faulkner

This is how I found, not just my first, but my first dozen jobs – so I recommend it as a useful approach for all newbie proofreaders! The only qualification is that you need to be up for academic proofing.

There were three stages:

  1. I worked up a good understanding of the (quite strict) parameters for academic proofreading – in this context I mean dissertations and theses by undergraduates and post-grads, not papers by academics for publication.
  2. I went through my contacts – and my family’s and friends’ contacts – for anyone with any connection, even tangential, to university lecturers in any area with which I was comfortable (I concentrated on arts and particularly law), whether academics, journalists, current students or fairly recent graduates. I was interested in the names of lecturers/profs/supervisors who I might approach, and armed with those names and the courses they taught I got the relevant contact details from their institutions.
  3. I wrote a short, practical, helpful email to each person on the longlist, explaining my qualifications/training; my understanding of what is and is not acceptable in an academic context; how I might hopefully make their life easier (obviously you can’t say this last directly but it has to be implied, possibly with humour); and how swiftly I was able to turn work around.

My first job, for a Saudi student at Kings College London, came almost immediately and I have since worked on many papers by students of the same supervisor. Same for a number of other professors, so for work on which I was able to cut my teeth this approach was pretty successful.


SfEP Members can find out more about IM Available by visiting the Members’ Area on the SfEP website.


Photo credit: owl Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.

 

 

 

Banishing the marketing heebie-jeebies – conference session preview

By Louise Harnby

If you’re a new entrant to the field of editorial freelancing, and you’re attending this year’s SfEP conference in Aston, I hope you’ll join me and my co-presenters Liz Jones and Sue Littleford at our speed start-up session: Things newbies need to know. Together, we’ll be rattling through some top tips to help you with three pillars of editorial business building: finance, pricing editorial work, and marketing. I’ll be handling the marketing section.

banish doubtI know that business promotion gives many newbies the heebie-jeebies, and so, with that in mind, I’ve based the presentation around the questions that I’ve been asked most frequently by anxious marketers-to-be. In this way, I hope the session will be as much about what I think you should know as what you think you want to know!

I want the session to be as accessible as possible, so I’m throwing in a couple of promises, too – there’ll be no marketing jargon and you needn’t have any prior experience of business promotion whatsoever. It’ll just be me talking to you – one editorial freelancer to another. If you hear me utter words such as ‘utility’, ‘drill down’, ‘marginal’ or ‘basis of segmentation’, you have permission to throw things at me!

So what are those frequently asked questions?

  • What is marketing? I don’t have a clue where to start!
  • What do I say? How do I structure my marketing message?
  • What promotional tools or activities work best?
  • How do I get noticed and stand out from the crowd?
  • Should I promote myself as a generalist or a specialist?
  • How do I combat my marketing nerves?

Using those questions as my guide, I’ll provide you with one definition and five frameworks to banish those heebie-jeebies and provide you with a structured way of developing your editorial marketing strategy with confidence and even, I hope, a little excitement.

There’ll be a handout, too, that includes a summary of what’s been discussed and a list of useful additional resources to help you on your editorial marketing journey, including the latest combined edition of my business books, Omnibus: Editorial Business Planning & Marketing Plus (all conference attendees will be entitled to a one-off 20% discount voucher for use against a purchase of the PDF).

Liz, Sue and I will be presenting on Monday, 12 September 2016, between 1.30 and 2.30 p.m. We look forward to seeing you there. [There are a limited number of conference places left if you haven’t booked yet, but do it soon!]

Louise HarnbyBased in the heart of the Norfolk Broads, Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader with 24 years’ publishing experience. An Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), she specializes in providing proofreading solutions for clients working in the social sciences, humanities, fiction and commercial non-fiction. Her customers include publishers, project management agencies, professional institutions and independent writers. Louise is the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour and the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers, Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business, and Omnibus: Editorial Business Planning & Marketing Plus.

Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

Taking editorial tests for clients

By Liz Jones

editing testsSometimes a prospective client will ask you to complete a test, either in competition with other editors for one ongoing editorial position, or for admission to their pool of regular freelance editors. Opinion is divided among editors about the usefulness and ethics of these tests. Should we be required to take them? Is it something of an insult if we can otherwise demonstrate that we have the necessary experience and skills? And is it a waste of our valuable time … or is there perhaps more to it than that?

Although I am rarely required to take tests for clients (most of my work is repeat business or comes via recommendations), I am sometimes asked to complete one if the client is completely unknown to me, or if the work requires particular skills that can only be seen in action.

For instance, I recently completed a test for a client I had approached about an ongoing copy-editing position. It turned out to be quite a palaver – the test itself was absolutely reasonable (in fact I thought it was a very good test), but to be able to complete it I had to install the latest version of InDesign (until that point I was deluded enough to believe that I had the latest version). This, it turned out, also entailed updating my entire operating system. I also needed to buy the Kindle edition of a well-known style guide, and do my best to absorb the relevant parts of it in the time available. Finally, I had to learn a few new ways of using my freshly updated software in order to complete the test.

Was it worth it? Well, I hope it secures me the work, but even if it doesn’t on this occasion, I don’t begrudge the time I spent. Here’s why.

Benefits of taking tests

As I hope I have just demonstrated, taking a test for a client can be a very useful form of CPD. I certainly learnt things, many of them about software that I have been using regularly for the last ten years, and I have a shiny new operating system. It was interesting to work on a particular type of material, some aspects of which were a departure for me. I also learnt aspects of a style guide that is new to me – though it reminded me very much of one that I already knew, which helped. Above all, the thought of someone looking critically at each and every editorial decision I made focused my mind on trying to get it just right. In an ideal world I would approach every job with this level of intensity.

Aside from the CPD aspect, editorial tests can be a great way in for new freelance editors. If people ask me about the best way to find work when starting out, I often recommend that they seek out clients who require them to do tests. If you get as far as taking the test, and pass it, this can negate the need to provide a long list of experience, which can obviously be a barrier for those new to the profession.

When to be wary

Personally, I wouldn’t be happy to take a test for every prospective client. I would rather know as far as possible that I definitely want to work for the client before putting in the time required to do a test properly. There’s also a limit to how long I am prepared to spend on a test. A length of a thousand or so words is OK. Ten thousand words is too long, in my opinion. I don’t think a reasonable client would ask me to take a test that took up more than an hour of my time.

Finally, I would want to be sure that the test is a genuine test. This has not happened to me (probably because of the nature of my client base), but I am aware that some editors have been sent a section of a longer work as a test … only to discover that others they know have been sent different sections. One suspects that some unethical authors might think it possible to get an entire work edited for free in this way.

How to approach a test

Not everyone likes tests, but there are ways to make them less painful. Take your time to read the instructions provided. It’s clear that if you ignore these, you won’t impress, but more than that – the instructions can provide valuable clues about what the client wants. Are there specific points of style mentioned? Do they want you to provide an idea of the time the test took to complete? Do they want you to quote for the work?

It helps to become as familiar as you can in a short space of time with the existing output of the client. Do they have similar material published on the web? If they do, this is incredibly useful in terms of understanding the tone to aim for when editing; it can also solve a few style riddles.

Finally, try to forget you are doing a test. Easier said than done, I know. But once you get into the rhythm of the work, try to enjoy it and just do the best job you can – as if you were editing for your favourite client, on a topic you find fascinating, at a fabulous hourly rate, on a really good day. You probably won’t achieve this state of being until the end of the extract (especially if it’s only a thousand words long).

For this reason, and others, do check over your work again at the end. And again. I don’t always read things multiple times when I edit in real life – it depends on the parameters of the job – but for a test, I certainly will. This is your one chance; try not to blow it. You’ll probably find that the first half of the test piece is not as good as the second, and can be tightened up no end with another pass.

What to take away?

Well, of course, you hope you get the gig. But whether you do or not, I hope I have shown that a test can be a positive and useful experience in various other ways, too.

Liz JonesLiz Jones (www.ljed.co.uk) has worked as an editor in the publishing industry since 1998, and has been freelance since 2008. She specialises in trade non-fiction and educational publishing, and is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP.

 

 

Proofread by SfEP Intermediate Member Sandra Rawlin.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.

Ten ideas to help you find work as a proofreader

Image credit: An Eastbourne Website Designer

Whether you’re just starting out and wondering how to secure that first paying job, or you’re more established and looking to fill a hole in your diary or further develop your business, here are ten ideas to help you find proofreading work.

1. Mine your existing contacts. Let them know what you’re doing and what sort of work you’re looking for. Ask them to share your details with anyone who might be interested in your services.

2. Write a speculative letter or email. Get in touch with potential clients and let them know what you can offer them. It goes without saying that you should check that your correspondence is going to the correct person in the organisation.

3. Go to a local SfEP group meeting. The SfEP has 38 local groups and you can find your nearest meeting on the SfEP website. Talk with your local colleagues about what projects you’re working on and what sort of projects might be of interest in the future. Although this may not yield immediate gains, a colleague may remember that you have a particular expertise and refer potential clients on to you if they are unable to take on a project.

4. Network at other local business groups. Go to local business events and find out who might be looking for a proofreader. Prepare a simple sentence that describes what you do and why you could be useful. Don’t forget to take your business cards.

5. Add your details to the SfEP Associates Available list. Associates of the SfEP can add a listing to the list of Associates Available for work, which is updated every fortnight. Any member of the SfEP can access the list and contact associates if they have surplus work and want to subcontract it out.

6. Add an entry to the SfEP Directory of Editorial Services. If you’re an ordinary or advanced member of the SfEP you can add your details to the SfEP Directory of Editorial Services. This is a searchable database available to anyone looking for a professional editor, proofreader or editorial project manager.

7. Keep an eye out for jobs on the SfEPAnnounce mailer. Vacancies are often posted on the SfEPAnnounce email. The vacancies can also be found on the SfEPAnnounce forum page.

8. Check out the SfEP Marketplace online forum. SfEP members can also post and respond to job offers and other requests for help on specific projects via the SfEP Marketplace forum.

9. Sign up to directories. Some proofreaders have found work after signing up to websites such as findaproofreader.com.

10. Check out freelance job boards. There is a wealth of freelance job boards, such as peopleperhour.com, where you can either list your services or search for anyone looking for a proofreader. Some people find it useful to plug a gap in their schedule or to build up experience or a client base. But it’s probably not the best bet for a sustainable work flow and rates can vary hugely.

For more information about finding work as a freelance proofreader, visit our website and look at our FAQs.

We also sell some useful guides in our online shop, including:

Starting Out: Setting up a small business, by Valerie Rice

Marketing Yourself: Strategies to promote your editorial business, by Sara Hulse

If you have any suggestions for other ways to find work, feel free to add a comment below.

Joanna Bowery

Joanna Bowery

Joanna Bowery is the SfEP social media manager. As well as looking after the SfEP’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and the SfEP blog, she offers freelance marketing, PR, writing and proofreading services operating as Cosmic Frog. Jo is an associate of the SfEP and a Chartered Marketer. She is active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

 

This article was proofread by SfEP associate Anna Black.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.