A Civil World. Off-topic discussions on a variety of topics. > Time For a Coffee Break!

freelancing advice

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Dr. F.:
I think I've suggested previously on this site that I'm getting sick of academia. One thing I'm really good at is editing - 40 or so published papers, 2 books (editor), associate editor for various journals. I can also typeset, and do some reasonable epublishing layout - I've done a ton of that, and know InDesign really well.

I was chatting with my mom's BFF, and she suggested I go into freelancing as an editor/proofreader for people who self-publish or epublish. This is something I think I could do, and she would be an excellent source of contacts, being a very successful e-author.

It also occurred to me that my sister is a marketing professional, who would be interested in some freelancing as well.

I'm curious about what my various EHellions think about perhaps a freelance epublishing service that could include editing/proofreading, typesetting, and marketing (with potentially various combinations/permutations of said services, with varying associated costs). I know a bunch of us are involved in epublishing in various forms, so I'd be really interested in whatever responses people have.

Let me say that I am NOT trolling for clients - I'm only floating the idea at this point, and have only suggested it to my sister and have no buy-in from her yet. It would be waaaay preliminary for me to offer any given service at this point (particularly as I have no clue about pricing! LOL!)

Anyway, I'm just curious about what people think and any advice, either particular or general, about freelancing (which is something I've NEVER done and makes me nervous!), would be deeply appreciated!

jmarvellous:
I am a freelance editor with a very busy ebook publishing/formatting company. They do a mix of self-published books and established publishers' books, the latter of which do not require my help.

There's one big hurdle -- almost none of the self-published authors can afford my reasonable (low) editing rates! Many foreign companies do epublishing and "editing" for dirt cheap. I get very few clients. It could not be a full-time job. The company has a dozen full-time staff members producing books for many publishers you've heard of and many independent clients, but a book that can be produced in 2-3 hours will still require 20+ hours of editing time, so the total costs are drastically different.

When you say "papers," I assume you mean academic papers? That's a pretty niche market and I'm guessing people in your field will have a better idea of how much is produced in that market that doesn't have some other way of getting published. Ask yourself: Would I feel as comfortable editing a book in my area of expertise as I would one about dwarves' adventures in fantasyland, or a technical manual, or a dating quiz?

InDesign is a great skill for static layout, but mobi, epub, and other files require programming knowledge, too.

I obviously know more about the editing side than the programming side. My biggest suggestion would be to do LOTS of market research and see if you can get hired as a freelance editor (or designer, or programmer) first.

Starting a boutique epublishing firm seems more "full-time" than "freelance" to me, but your research may point you toward a convenient path that works with what you want.

PastryGoddess:
Understand what the market pays those in your field. 

Also, talk to a lawyer about getting a boilerplate contract drafted.

This is not true of everyone, but lots of people think freelancer=cheap.  When in fact that is not true.  Most of the time freelancer=highly skilled and therefore worth $$$

Don't give your services away, make it clear that if you do a job for x% less than your going rate, that you are doing them a favor, not desperate.

Start slow and build up your business. 

As someone who hires quite a few freelancers, your branding and web presence is very important. If I can't see pricing, then I need to at least see recommendations or have some way of knowing that you know your stuff.   A website doesn't have to be flashy, but it should be informative and easy to use.

Library Dragon:
DH just contracted to have someone proof read his thesis. I just don't have the time and tend to mentally auto correct, so I don't catch problems. Finding someone familiar with Chicago style was the hard part.

Think about what you can offer/market that is uncommon. Build your business before jumping in full time.

Slartibartfast:
I'm more familiar with this from the fiction author aspect, but here goes:

1) go to guru.com to get an idea of what rates potential clients are willing to pay and what rates other freelancers are willing to accept.

2) cry.

3) decide that there's a sufficient supply of idiots out there who are willing to work for almost-free that it's not worth the trouble unless you gain clients exclusively through word-of-mouth.

The problem is, there are a LOT of people out there with the technical chops to make decent-to-good freelance editors, and there's no good way for prospective clients to tell who the really good ones are versus the merely decent ones (or the ones who think they're good but have no clue whatsoever).  There are also a lot of halfway-decent amateurs who will work for free, or in trade (beta reading) for other authors.  Additionally, most self-publishing authors (and even a lot of the smaller e-presses) just can't afford to pay what you ought to charge - the vast majority of e-published novels and novellas (self- or e-press) make less than a thousand dollars.  Spending $800 on an editor (on top of purchasing a cover design, layout assistance, etc.) makes it a losing proposition for almost anyone in the fiction industry.

That said, it *is* possible to do freelance editing - but only if you have rock-solid credentials, of the kind you can point to and everyone will see you *had* to know your stuff.  And even so, business will be sporadic and pay less than you're worth and you'll really only get clients who already know you professionally or get referred, because there's no good way to advertise.  (I mean, you can, but potential clients have no way to know you're any better than the guy next door who charges $1/page because he has no idea what a reasonable rate would be and has never done this before.)

My suggestion would be to see if you can get an "in" with the industry, and see if you can do edits for an e-publisher who might be able to hook you up with a steady stream of work.  Alternatively, if you've got academic credentials in a specific field and you are uniquely qualified to offer editorial services for papers in that field, use your networking in that area to find clients.

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