As a freelance editor, I am intimately familiar with the constant need for self-marketing to keep the work flowing. The cycle of “feast or famine” can be an all too real scenario. Today’s guest post is by a colleague of mine who found herself in an odd marketing dilemma and decided to draw the line. Here’s her story:
Hello! My name is Lesley, and I live and work in the UK. I am a freelance copy editor and proofreader specializing in fiction. I have an assistant, namely, a geriatric chocolate Labrador called Fudge—although I don’t think my clients are interested in his skills! My clients are interested in how skilled I am at my job, how much I charge, and how long a project will take to complete.
As a freelance fiction editor, I, like many of my colleagues, have to actively go out and look for work. It doesn’t get handed to me on a plate. What I mean by this is that I regularly sit at my desk and spend hours, sometimes days, trawling the internet for new sources of clients. I have contacts with several commercial publishers, but I especially enjoy the intimacy of working with independent authors who want to be responsible for publishing their own work. Sometimes they come to me directly, having found my website or my directory entry on the SfEP website. Often, I am approached via the Find a Proofreader website. I will be the first to admit, however, that being freelance can lead to times (thankfully not for long and not very often) when there is a dearth of work. To prevent such a nightmare scenario, I and other freelancers often sign up for work with one of the many self-publishing agencies out there. The ones who offer editing at rock-bottom prices can be dismissed straight away as not to be approached (and probably should be by authors, too). Don’t get me wrong—it’s not because we editors want to charge impoverished authors exorbitant fees. I and many of my colleagues have spent much time and a great deal of money ourselves obtaining the right qualifications, and after that, even more time gaining appropriate experience. Because this role is often a sole source of income (as it is for me), editors need to be paid a living wage and one which reflects our skills. A low-paid project can be great for a newbie to get experience, but that’s as far as it goes. Thereafter, we do quality work for quality fees.
So, back to self-publishing agencies. Usually, with the best ones, editing services are provided to authors as part of a package. The editor will sometimes be in-house, but more often, the company will call in a freelancer. An agency will have a list of approved editors who have been vetted according to their qualifications and experience, and will sometimes have done a test edit specific to that company.
I recently felt it was time to refresh my client list, so I had a look around for some new sources of work. I came across one agency I hadn’t heard of before. For reasons which will become clear later on, I’m not going to name it. I contacted them and asked how one would go about putting one’s name forward as a freelance editor. This was their response: “You must post a short cover letter (approx 300 words) on your blog or website about X’s services and why you are interested in working with X. This article must also include the URL of our website, either embedded as a link within a word or mentioned separately. Email the URL of this cover letter, along with your CV, to [HR]. After reviewing this cover letter (which must be posted on your blog or website) and your CV, our HR team will contact you to take your candidature forward. Please note that your candidature will NOT be considered if the URL of this cover letter is not received along with your CV.”
I’m aware that touting myself over the internet looking for work may be considered by some to be shameless, but every service provider and retailer does this, every day. However, prostituting myself on my own website or Facebook page in order to advertise this company is beyond the pale. Who do they think they are? And what would any potential client visiting my page and seeing such an apparent endorsement think of me? I’m delighted to say that my professional colleagues, including Josephine, agree with me, and I think that the attempt of this company to generate free advertising at my expense is going to backfire on them!
My contact details, should you wish to get in touch, are: www.perfecttheword.co.uk, www.sfep.org.uk/directory/lesley-jones, http://findaproofreader.com/listings/lesley-jones-proofreader-and-copy-editor/
Thank you, Lesley, for sharing your experience! It can be frustrating to encounter unscrupulous companies like this one. Thankfully, there are plenty of honest and hardworking folks out there to even the balance. Just remember to do your due diligence and research potential partners. Look at feedback, ask for references, and speak to colleagues. Whether you’re a writer or editor, choosing someone to work with can be a daunting task. Fortunately, you are not alone and there are vast resources available to you in our technologically advanced information age. Don’t give up!