Finding Editorial Work

Take This Job and Love It: Ideas for Finding Editorial Work

March 18, 2003
Notes By Gail Saari
Moderated By Kristi Hein

Part one of our Getting Work double feature was a roundtable discussion on finding editorial work, either staff or contract, in a tight job market. Getting Work will continue on Tuesday, May 20, when a panel of publishers and others who hire editorial expertise will reveal what they're looking for in a contractor or employee.

Special thanks to Bonnie Britt and Virginia Rich for coordinating this forum and to all the BAEF members who contributed ideas. The discussion in March on Getting Work centered on the outline Looking for Editorial Work: A Few Ideas by Virginia Rich.

During the course of the discussion, a few ideas were added, as summarized below.

1. Update your portfolio and résumé.

Keep in mind that the potential client is most interested in:

  • Can you do the job?
  • Will you do the job?
  • Will you fit in? Sending résumés by e-mail presents its own set of challenges. Some suggestions:

Write your résumé in Microsoft Word.

Cut and paste the text of the résumé into the body of the e-mail instead of, or in addition to, sending it as an attachment, because some recipients may be afraid to open unsolicited attachments.

Use HTML if possible, but make sure that your plain text résumé is also acceptably formatted. In plain text, for example, use hyphens or dashes instead of bullets.

When sending your résumé as an attachment, save it in Rich Text Format (.rtf) instead of as a Word Document to reduce cross-platform compatibility problems.

If you send an unsolicited résumé by e-mail, don't necessarily expect any reply or acknowledgement, as the recipient may be overwhelmed by the volume of e-mail received.

Sometimes it is better to send a teaser in the form of a cover letter with the question, "May I send you a résumé?" Then you are sure that the recipient is actually interested in you.

Be aware that some résumés are read not by people but by machines that are programmed to scan the résumé and pick out keywords. Become familiar with the keywords that might apply to your potential client and include these in your résumé if you suspect that you are sending it into such a situation. Also, be aware that while sending a résumé as a PDF file does preserve your formatting, a PDF résumé cannot be scanned mechanically for keywords.

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

Your cover letter should convey courtesy and an easygoing approach. Be sure to avoid any hint of arrogance. Consider producing a brochure, post card or Web site that describes your services. One BAEF participant shared that she produces a postcard to introduce her services. She calls the receptionist of a particular potential client and asks about the company, making a point to get the name of the appropriate contact person (usually the head of marketing or communications). She sends a postcard directly to the contact, without having yet spoken to her or him. Three days later she calls the contact, who will probably have just seen her postcard. A positive opening line is: "I've just done such and such a project for so and so, and thought your company might also be interested in my services." Consider enclosing a stamped, self-addressed reply card with boxes for the respondent to check off and send back.

3. Identify new sources of work.

Contact trade boards and chambers of commerce to find out about trade shows in your area. Attend the trade shows to collect literature about potential clients. One way to get into trade shows without paying is to wait outside at the end of the first day and ask to buy badges from people who are only planning to attend on the first day. Examine corporate written materials to see if there is evidence of a corporate style guide. Could you make specific suggestions about improving the materials? When looking for editorial services, be sure to explore the links at the Editors' Forum along with other resources listed at the end of this file.

4. Expand your search geographically.

With a Web site you can solicit much more offsite work. Offsite work, or telecommuting, is much more easily done these days with e-mail, File Transfer Protocols (FTPs), DSL, and other conveniences. A program called Conversions Plus, available from for $69, is helpful for cross-platform problems (between Macintosh and PC computers, for example). Since the cost of living in the Bay Area is expensive, pay rates tend to be high. One could potentially move to an inexpensive location and continue to work for Bay Area clients at Bay Area rates.

5. Recognize new opportunities for networking.

Think of ways to maintain contact with past employer or clients. Keep up relationships on a personal basis and check in regularly. One person suggested sending a tickler such as, "I'm out of town until such-and-such a time in case you are trying to reach me. After I return I'll have some time available to take on new assignments." Other professional resources:

National Association for the Self-Employed offers health insurance policies for members. Annual membership fees start at $96.

Editorial Freelancers Association offers a discussion group and job listings. Membership is $95 per year, plus access to job listings for an additional $25.

Bookbuilders West offers a job file, speaking programs, and opportunities for schmoozing.

American Society for Training and Development offers opportunities for training and professional development.



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