Monday, December 20, 2010

The End-of-the-Year Rush

Time to blog has been limited this month. I've come up with a number of ideas for posts, but actually writing them out? Well, you'll have to check back next month for any real content. December has been one of the work-heaviest months of my year. It's not really surprising that I've been busier than usual this month; one of my major clients is gearing up for its annual meeting in the spring, and, as those of you who have worked in association publishing know, associations like to launch new titles at conferences. A spring or late-winter conference means a work-stuffed holiday season.

So, until I have more free time (or I decide to blog when I should be doing "real" work), I will leave you with this, via various editor-types on Twitter:

Where does the comma go in the line "God rest ye merry, gentlemen"?

I wish you a joyous holiday season and a great start to 2011.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How Can I Help You? (Part Two)

Freelancers know that it can be hard to turn a prospect into a client. Even if you have a great resume full of relevant projects, there are always reasons for prospects not to hire you. Most of these aren’t personal—declining budgets, freelancers already in place, limited need for freelancers—and they may be tough to overcome. Still, landing clients who offer good work is worth the effort. So how can you increase the likelihood that one of these great prospects will give you a shot? By showing them that you’re not just a good editor, graphic designer, or writer—you’re a good person to do business with because you care about the work they do.

Start, of course, by contacting prospects, and keep doing so until they respond or until it’s clear that they are not going to respond. Remember that any response at all is better than none! If prospects ask you for more information about your background or tell you that they’re not hiring freelancers now but will consider you when they do, that’s a decent start. It’s vital to stay in touch with these people. If a prospect says that his organization isn’t currently hiring new freelancers, contact him again sometime in the next one to three months. (Some people would probably recommend a more aggressive timeline, but if an organization isn’t hiring freelancers this week, they probably won’t be hiring next week, either. Allow some time for the organization’s needs to change.)

When you contact the prospect again, demonstrate that you have a real interest in the organization. (If you are not genuinely interested in the organization, or at least in the work you’d be hired to do, perhaps you should target a different organization.) If you see an article in the newspaper or in an industry publication about the organization, mention it. You might also mention that you’ve been following the organization on Facebook or Twitter and enjoyed items in its feed.

And here’s where the helping part comes in.
  • If you’ve read or watched something that might be of interest to the prospective client, tell him or her about it. The prospect may already know about it, but it never hurts to show that you care about the same things he or she does.

What else can you offer a prospect?
  • Additional services. Many freelancers don’t do just one thing. I consider myself a copyeditor and proofreader of books, but I’ve also written for a trade magazine and a number of newsletters. My first love is editing, but if you’d like me to write an article for you, I’ll do it!
  • Referrals to excellent freelancers in other fields. If you’re a copyeditor and the prospective client isn’t currently hiring editors, mention that you know a skilled and reliable copy writer, book designer, or photographer—whoever you know and trust to do good work for the client.
  • A discounted rate for your first assignment. In truth, I’m on the fence about this. I have not yet done this, but I haven’t ruled it out entirely, either. Some freelancers might even offer to do a small amount of work for free to prove themselves to the client. I don’t believe in this. Solid clients—the kind who pay well, and who will keep offering you work—will pay you for all of the work you do.

We all know that giving doesn't always lead to receiving, but it's worth a try. If nothing else, you've shared a bit of your professional knowledge with another person--and that's a good thing.

How have you gone above and beyond to show prospects or clients that you care about their business? Have your efforts yielded new clients or more work?

Monday, November 29, 2010

How Can I Help You? (Part One)

If you’re a fellow independent editor, writer, or other freelance professional, you may have participated in International Freelancers Day (IFD), a two-day online learning event held in late September.

If you haven’t heard of IFD, here’s what it was all about: About two dozen successful entrepreneurs, most working in communications or creative fields, recorded videos on a variety of topics, such as negotiating rates with clients, drumming up business on Facebook, and increasing your productivity. The videos were available online through October 31. (If you missed them and are curious, check out these notes on many of the videos.)

I watched about half of the videos and took a lot of my own notes. While skimming them, I realized that several of the speakers gave similar advice, though they were speaking on different topics. One common thread running through a few of the videos was the idea that solo professionals often have to give to get. In other words, reciprocity is essential—and it isn’t enough to simply tell prospective clients that you offer excellent service or quick turnarounds, even if you do, if you want them to hire you. Doing fantastic work will help your client once he or she hires you—but getting him or her to give you a chance is the hard part, isn’t it?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve tried a number of marketing methods. You’ve probably figured out what your target market is and contacted people within that market. If you’re good on the phone, maybe you’ve made cold calls. If you’re more comfortable communicating in writing, maybe you’ve emailed your prospects. If a graphic designer was kind enough to create a postcard for you, maybe you’ve sent cards.

And if you’re anything like me, the response has been tepid. I’ve found that it is very, very difficult to win work from cold prospects, even if you’ve done a lot of work just like the work they do. In many cases, these clients are already working with freelancers who do the same thing you do, or perhaps they rarely or never outsource work. To win work from these prospects, it seems to me that you need to contact them at precisely the right moment—perhaps when a longtime freelancer is temporarily unavailable, or when they suddenly have an unusually large workload. But there is no way for you, the outsider, to know when this will be the case. So what can you do?
  1. Keep contacting prospects over time. If you don’t get a response the first time you call or write, try again in a few weeks or months.  I’m not comfortable contacting no-replies more than about three times, but some would say that you can and should bug them many more times than that. I would do it if I thought it would work, but in my opinion, being ignored three times is plenty.
  2. Give prospects something more than a promise to do great work.
In Part Two of this post, I’ll suggest ways to show clients that you’re not just another freelancer—you’re someone who cares about their business. In short, you’re a partner who will help them succeed. Check back later this week for Part Two.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Fun: Cute Caps, Jane Austen's Mistakes, and More

Friday Fun, bits related (however loosely) to editing and writing, will be an occasional feature here.

  • Love typography? You'll like Daily Drop Cap. Typographer and illustrator Jessica Hische creates several imaginative initial caps each week, free for bloggers' use. I adore the Q, a whimsical tomato slice. 
  • Was Jane Austen a "sloppy writer"? Based on Austen's rough drafts, an Oxford professor has concluded that the author was a poor speller, an inconsistent punctuator, and no grammarian--and that her work must have undergone heavy editing before publication. But linguist Geoff Nunberg says that Austen's mistakes are excusable; in fact, they weren't necessarily mistakes. She was writing at a time in which the rules of spelling and punctuation were not yet firm. Nunberg writes: "What's remarkable about Austen is the way that artistry shows up even in those ragged manuscripts. The punctuation may look slapdash or peculiar to modern eyes, but those complex sentence structures are always already there." We editors would probably wouldn't mind correcting more mechanical errors if they were surrounded by solidly good writing!
  • On Twitter, @thecreativepenn linked to a Lifehacker post on favorite notebooks. Ninety-five percent of the writing I do now is on the computer, so my notebook nerdery has receded considerably, but as a teen, I was on an endless quest for the perfect notebook. The definition of "perfect" varied with my moods, but I remember being particularly enamored of fat five-subject notebooks. I filled them with cringe-worthy first chapters of "novels," lists of characters' names, and angsty journal entries. Nowadays, I just keep a small spiral-bound notebook to jot down notes about my current editing or proofreading project. Do you have a favorite notebook?
  • Speaking of nerdery, I'm looking forward to checking out Franklin and Eleanor, the story of the Roosevelts' unusual marriage. I was a bit of a presidents buff as a kid. Back then, old FDR was interesting to me primarily because he was president for twelve years, an unfathomably long time. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Changes for

Welcome to the website of Transformations Editing, an independent editing company specializing in the editing and proofreading of nonfiction books, and to my new blog, Metamorphosis.

This new site is intended to be more dynamic and content rich than the original site. To that end, I've decided to begin blogging. You might think that this is a natural choice for a word person and something I should have started long ago, and in a way, you'd be right. Until now, though, I wasn't sure I was ready to jump into the conversation. There are zillions (all right, maybe thousands) of bloggers writing on topics similar to ones I'll cover here: editing, writing, language, and freelancing. What can I contribute that will be different and valuable?

The answer: Posts based on my own experiences editing and proofreading books, working with clients, and marketing my services. If you're a fellow independent editor or proofreader, I hope you'll find that we have much in common and much to talk about. If you're a book author or aspiring writer, I hope that my posts will help you as you prepare your manuscript for an editor. And if you are a staff editor, I hope that you'll spend a few minutes learning about how Transformations Editing can help your busy editorial team.

Please comment: What would you like to read on Metamorphosis?