Ideas for Finding Editorial Work: Tipsheet

Ideas for Finding Editorial Work: Tipsheet

By Virginia Rich
March 18, 2003
Take This Job and Love It: Ideas for Finding Editorial Work

(With contributions from Andreas Ramos, Bonnie Britt, Doug Smith, Ellen Perry, Elyse Lord, Geneviève Duboscq, Hilary Powers, Jill Fox, Kristi Hein, Lisa Carlson, Liz Nagata, Mark Nigara, Patti Reed, Ron Nyren, Ron Rothbart, Sara Shopkow and Sheila Stavish).

Update your portfolio and your résumé

  • Rewrite your résumé each time you apply for a job or send it to a client. Figure out what this particular organization most needs to hear about you; don't make them read the whole résumé to discover the relevant points—find a way to call attention to what you know they want.
    Example: Mary had a résumé that was geared toward college teaching. The version that she developed for editorial work stressed those skills and used the academic accomplishments as background.
  • Consider annotating your work to explain what you want the reader to notice about any samples that you're sending. This is particularly important for writers.
    Example: Sheila realized that the people making the hiring decisions often had little experience judging writing. She made it easier to evaluate her samples by attaching a note to each one that pointed out what it illustrated about her work.
  • Describe your skills in a way that makes sense to the person who will be reading your résumé: for example, a writer on a website may be called a content provider. Be very specific in describing what you can do. See "Definitions of Editorial Services" on the BAEF website for help.
  • Research the company. It's good for you to know what kind of an organization it is, and it's evidence of your interest that you took the trouble.

Pay attention to the other components of a job application or client presentation

  • Write a cover letter that does a good sales job; it's up to you to make it clear why you are the best person for the job.
  • Make sure your references are current. Are telephone numbers, street addresses, and email addresses correct? Is there more current information to add?
  • Consider producing a brochure or a packet that describes your services.

Identify new sources of work

  • Look at as many websites for editorial services as you can find. What do they link to? What services are they offering?
  • Try to educate organizations that don't realize that they need editorial help. Every company publishes something: procedures manuals for internal use, websites, brochures. The end product is better when it has professional attention.
  • Example: Suzanne was asked to proofread part of a training manual for a nonprofit. During the interview, she explained to them that they needed a plan for managing the project and that editorial and design help early on would make the final product more effective and could also prevent expensive mistakes.
  • Collect corporate written materials. Do you see evidence of acorporate style guide? Can you make specific suggestions for ways to improve the materials?
  • Search out temporary agencies that use editorial skills.
  • Find a company you want to work for, and then look for ways to make contact with the people who hire.
  • Example: Once Liz decided that she wanted to work for a particular large company, she cast about among her acquaintances for someone with a friend who wouldbe willing to talk to her about the company and alert her to upcoming opportunities.
  • Look for new ways to combine skills you already have.
    Example: Virginia had edited instructional materials for bankers, so when a contact asked if she could do software manuals, she was able to cite that experience.

Find new places to advertise

  • Consider professional journals, academic departments, and business or management organizations.
  • Post your résumé on message boards at conferences. Ron Rothbart did that at the WinWriters conference, a writer from a local company picked it up, and he had an interview there the following week.
  • Create a website for your editorial services. Make sure that keywords you assign to the website will make the site appear in Google searches.
  • Write letters that describe your services and research companies to send them too.

Expand your search geographically

  • Ask yourself whether you're willing to move for a staff job. What would it take? How much money? Which parts of the country? If an opportunity comes up, you'll be prepared to ask the right questions. If you've never thought about it, you may turn down an opportunity and realize later that you should have pursued it.
  • Prepare a letter or a script (for a phone call) that explains working at a distance to someone who hasn't done it before. Think through some answers to objections a client might raise.
Example: GeneviËve's client wanted her to work on site, but she didn't want to commute. By proposing a plan that met the client's objections, she was able to talk them into it. Sometimes all they need is to have you there for a while to get to know you.

Mine your employment past

  • List for yourself everything you've ever done-paid or volunteer. It's easy to forget that you have tutoring experience, for example, but it may be relevant when you're talking to someone at an educational software firm.
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  • Write down the fields or industries you're familiar with.Look at websites for companies in those fields and refresh your knowledge of specialized vocabulary.

Recognize new opportunities for networking

  • Hand your card to people you meet in the casual carpool across the Bay Bridge. (Sara Shopkow)
  • Take classes. Most are taught by people working in the field, and the other students are also good contacts. Use your homework assignments to expand your portfolio. (Patti Reed)
    Example: During a break at an Editcetera workshop, the woman sitting in front of her asked Fran for her résumé. She worked at Apple and had just been promoted to a position that included hiring responsibilities.
  • Teach a class, give a presentation, write a paper. If you havedone an unusual job, pass on what you learned.
    Example: Ellen had to figure out how to merge indexes for a software Help system that incorporates several different books, each with its own index. She found a co-presenter and offered to speak at an American Society of Indexers conference. Example: Sheila wrote a short article for a business newspaper on how to choose a writer. It didn't pay much, but it was published and she included it as one of her writing samples.
  • Get involved in organizations—both related to your work and related to your other interests. Let people know what you do.
    Example: Aubrey, an indexer, was treasurer of BAEF and got lots of referrals from project managers and others here.
  • Join your local Chamber of Commerce. Prepare your one-minute speech and then go to all the shmoozfest events they hold. Membership can more than pay for itself. Take advantage of whatever benefits they can give you—special advertising rates, etc. That's how it'll really help. (Doug Smith)
  • Hang out on email lists that interest you and post helpful and pertinent comments on the subject matter when you can advance the discussion. Never ask for work there, but do include a line in your sig indicating what you do for a living; jobs will eventually drift into your nets when people who know you as a colleague have need for your specialty. (Hilary Powers)
  • Consider donating a small editorial job to a charitable organization. The people who work there know others they can recommend you to for paying jobs.
  • Thank people who give you leads, and resist the temptation to tell them why that's not what you're really looking for.
  • Think of ways you can maintain contact with past employers or clients without becoming a pest.
    Example: Mark went to Europe to study for a year, but he found time to send emails to the group he had been working with just before he left. Because they knew when he was coming back, he had a contract job waiting for him on his return.
  • When you're working as a member of a group, find time to talk with the others even if you're working at a distance. Make sure they know what you do and you know what they do. If you work well with people, they will want to work with you again.
    Example: As a project manager, Jill always made a point of setting up a meeting with all the members of the team. Not only did it make her projects run more smoothly, but the members of her teams often recommended one another for other projects.
  • Continue to expand your e-mail address list, and let everyone know you're looking for work. Do everything you can to supplement the standard method of just sending your résumé in response to a job listing. Ideally, you want to be a "known quantity" that comes in through some channel besides HR. (Ron Rothbart)

Learn new skills

  • Learn something about the work other people around you do. Even if you never do the art for a Web site or index a book, if you learn as much as you can about these jobs, you'll be able to work with art directors and indexers more effectively.
  • Take courses to enhance your credentials.
    Example: Susan had done marketing writing, so she took courses in grant writing to earn a certificate that gave her credibility in that related field.

Keep up your momentum

  • Plan your marketing efforts. It's easier to keep at it if you assign yourself tasks and set up timetables.
  • Schedule your marketing activities so that you can do something every day or every week. Many steps you take won't pay off for a long time, so it's best to keep on a schedule.
    Example: Jill made a list of tasks and then chose one to do each day. When she had a lot of time and energy, she revised her résumé or researched companies. When she didn't, she sent a card to a former client or made a single phone call.

Professional organizations
All offer opportunities for networking and professional development. Most provide job listings to members. Here is contact information for a few.

Bay Area Editors' Forum Click Membership and Chapters to find the nearest local chapter.

Media Alliance
814 Mission St., #205, San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 546-6334

East Bay Editors Guild
Meets every month at the Rockridge Branch of the Oakland Public Library.
Connect through

National Writers Union-Bay Area Local
337 17th Street, #101
Oakland CA 94612
(510) 839-1248

Temporary agency
See BAEF archives for a past program on continuing education.

UC Extension
Certificate in Publishing. Also other programs and classes at Santa Cruz.

Community Colleges and Adult Schools
There's at least one in every community. Nearly all offer computer classes and software training.

(510) 849-1110

Conferences and papers for writers of Help systems

Bookbuilders West
Seminars and Annual Crash Course

Other Resources
Yahoo!Groups ( Sign in and get a Yahoo ID, and enter the following search words:

Two articles by BAEF members in the North Bay STC newsletter:

Elyse Lord, "Networking in the 'New New Economy,'" (northbay news, July/August 2001)
It's loaded with useful information and URLs.

GeneviËve Duboscq, "An Interview with Steve Ross"
Interview with a recently laid-off tech writer.

Copyright 2004, Virginia Rich.


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