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?