Prospecting for New Business

Prospecting for New Business: Tips for Pros and Newbies

BAEF South Bay Meeting: Oct. 15, 2008
Summary Notes by Karen Horwitz and Bill Lusto

Freelance vs. In-House Freelancing is less predictable, as even long-term projects can end unexpectedly. Recommend having multiple regular clients in case one client goes away. In this economy, in-house positions may be more stable (if you can get one). If you need more training, these are options.

Editing Courses

  • UC Berkeley Extension editing sequence. Teresa Castle is recommended as an outstanding instructor.
  • Editcetera (in-person classes).

Technical Communications Programs

  • DeAnza College
  • San Francisco State

Career Ideas
You can make a career out of being an editor. Some routes to getting started:

  • Hook up with an organization like Editcetera that finds clients for you. This allows you to build a portfolio. But in order to join, you must have been an editor for 4 years, take a test, and show samples of your work.
  • Work for the marketing or communications department of a company. You become the department editor, clean up the boss's memos, and edit the departmental newsletter. This provides you with transferable skills.
  • Do volunteer editing for organizations you belong to, e.g., write and edit the organizational newsletter.
  • Nonprofit organizations always need help. They don't pay a lot, but they do good work and the people are friendly. The work you do provides material for your portfolio.
  • Join BAEF if you are not a member. Your listing in the member directory could lead to clients contacting you directly.
  • Partner with established people in related positions, such as instructional designers and Web designers.
  • Apprentice with more experienced editors. Sign up to work in-house in a publications or communications department to build your experience, make connections, meet people, and get the experience you need to join an organization such as Editcetera.
  • Volunteer to help an organization that publishes a paper or electronic newsletter that could benefit from editing (e.g., the YMCA or doctors' offices).
  • Textbook market is always looking for proofreaders. This is a good way to enter the field; the text has already been copyedited.
  • Craigslist's writing/editing category often includes posts for proofreading work.
  • Work with people who are self-publishing to edit their books. Such authors often need guidance on how to progress from completed manuscript to a manufactured book.
  • A lot of editing work has moved online; investigate where your editing skills might be needed.
  • Edit other people's résumés.

Your résumé should talk about where you're going as well as where you've been. It is easier to market yourself if you identify your core competencies, such as technical or medical editing or whipping engineering specs into proper form. Keyword searches are common recruiting tools. If your résumé is too general, it might be overlooked. Begin by listing your core competences. This is to ensure that your résumé is picked up in keyword searches. Include your software skills (Word, PowerPoint, InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.). Your résumé can be functional or chronological. If you have work experience, focus on the writing and editing skills within each job you had. Quantify where possible, such as saying "Reduced translations costs by 25%." Tailor your résumé for each job that you apply for; only include the experience that applies to that job. Use the keywords that are included in the job announcement (make it match, point by point). You do not need to include an objective.

Cover Letter
As both an introduction and an invitation, a cover letter is becoming an increasingly valuable tool. Write a cover letter that persuades the hiring person (or HR) to read your résumé. Be as specific as you can about what you can contribute or what you are interested in doing based on your skills and experience. Check the various job posting boards for samples.

Editing Tests
Publishers may require you to take an editing test. Some are more straightforward than others. Read every word and every question. Editcetera has a sample editing test on its Web site. (This is a first-round test that checks whether you know the basics; second round tests are usually a multi-paragraph document that canidates would edit). Whether or not you made he grade on employer tests often depends on who is grading it and that person's knowledge and style of editing. It is rare to get feedback when you are not offered the position, which may or may not be the result of how you did on the editing test.

Dealing with Clients
Scale your edits to the level of editing they expect. Grasp the differences between copyediting and developmental editing. Find out what the client wants and what their expectations are, just as you would with a staff position.

When you talk with a client, don't be afraid to ask questions to clarify the client expectations. Find out how much editing the client wants. For larger projects (more than $500), don't be shy about asking for a percentage (50%) up-front as a good-faith gesture. See the minutes from our July 2008 meeting for strategies on getting paid.

Develop a letter of agreement, a contract, that specifies expectations. Here's an example:

According to our phone conversation today, I have agreed to copyedit your novel in manuscript form. In your estimation, the manuscript requires correction of spelling, grammar, syntax, and other mechanical problems, not major reorganizing or rewriting. As we discussed, my fee for this job is $30 per hour.

When you provide the edited document, talk the client through what you did to make the document better. This often helps the client buy into your viewpoint (e.g., why the new structure is better). This strategy can also be used when you present your edits on an editing test. When you edit online, never let the client see the strikethroughs. Hide them—but do make sure the insertions are still highlighted. This makes the document look cleaner and the client may be less resistant to the changes. Psychologically, text inserted in blue, such as this, is less off-putting than seeing a lot of red text that has been deleted.

Not all of the work that you do as an editor will become a portfolio piece. The final product depends on what the client chooses to publish. You can show potential clients a clean section of the document or discuss the changes you would have made if the client had allowed additional edits.

Specialized professional organizations

Comments and Suggestions

  • For full-time editors, the typical number of clients can range from three to four main contracts to six to eight, including those who come through agencies.
  • Journal work is consistent because it is published at regular intervals such as monthly or quarterly. Books depend on the editing cycle. It can be useful to have a mix of clients so you can manage your time while having consistent work.
  • Have professional business cards to offer prospective clients. has special offers (e.g., 1000 business cards for $40 plus shipping). There is an online template. Keep scrolling back to make sure all changes are made. The quality is much higher than what you could produce on a home printer. Printed letterhead is not necessary. Most documents are electronic. You might want to have a letterhead template (or logo) ready to use in the electronic materials you send clients.
  • Most business is obtained through referrals. Editors do not need fancy marketing materials. Having a listing in the BAEF member directory is a better value than having your own Web site and seems to attract more focused clients. If you do have a Web site, be sure to keep it updated.
  • Ginny Redish's book Letting Go of the Words is a useful resource on Web design and maintenance.



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