Most self-employed people, including freelance editors, have the inherent challenge of finding clients. But that is only half the story. The real challenge is landing them and keeping them.
To do that, you have to prove your worth. You have to earn a client.
Generosity Is Key
Some freelancers are reluctant to give anything away. I have written before about why I think that is a bad idea. While I may have softened somewhat on exactly how much you should give away, I do think the generous among us get much more than we give.
There are three broad categories for what a person has to give: money, time, and talent.
I don’t see many freelancers donating money to their clients, but they could knock a few dollars off their fees for a new client, or for an old client hiring a new service. Those ideas can help you sign an author.
The trouble I have found, though, is that often the beneficiary of a discount no longer values your services to the same degree.
Giving time and talent—now that is where you can demonstrate how valuable you and your work are. And that is exactly what I mean when I talk about earning a client.
Here are five ways I have earned clients over the years, and you can use them too.
Take Time to Explain Your Editing Process
About three years into my freelancing career, I began working with self-publishers. Each time I had a prospective client, I would write an extensive email explaining how my process works. This took a lot of time and effort that I knew could be spent more wisely.
However, I also knew my clients needed the information. How could I balance these two needs?
Over time, I formalized my process, put it in a document, and now have it posted on my website for any potential client to download and read. Those authors who haven’t read my website receive a copy when we first set up a phone call to discuss a project.
The response has been very positive. I often hear, “I appreciate how open you are about the process” and “I like that you have explained all of the steps up front.”
The benefit to me, besides saving time, is that it sets expectations. Now everyone knows what is going to happen and why. It’s much easier to please your clients when they know what you have promised to do for them.
Take Time to Explain Style Decisions
I earned one client when he asked why some endnotes used a comma before the page numbers and others used a colon. He had been working with a traditional publisher and I was the copyeditor assigned to the project.
I explained that per Chicago Manual of Style, journal citations use a colon and book citations use a comma before page numbers. He said:
“No one has ever been able to explain that to me. Thank you.”
He proceeded to hire me to edit his next book before submitting it to the publisher. Since then we have worked on three more books together over 10 years.
Share Your Talent Through a Sample Edit
Performing a sample edit helps the editor at least as much as it does the potential client. Sample edits allow editors to determine how much work a new project is going to be. It lets you see the writing for yourself, rather than taking the author’s word for it when it comes to
- How long the manuscript is
- How strong the writing is
- How organized the author is
These factors tell the editor how much time the editing will take, what level of editing is required, and how much to quote for the project.
For their part, the author gets to see what kinds of changes will be made and what the editor’s editing style is.
This helps the author to decide whether the editor is a good fit. Further, the author could take the suggestions from the sample edit and apply them to their work before submitting the manuscript for a full edit.
For both parties, the sample edit again helps to set expectations. Clear expectations are key to a good working relationship, and that leads to (1) repeat business and (2) word-of-mouth advertising. Both are essential to a healthy business.
Suggest Additional Resources—Books, Websites, Videos
Having access to additional resources makes you a resource. That means clients will come back to you when they need advice or guidance. It builds trust, and the more someone trusts you, the more likely they are to hire you.
You can find many of my favorite resources on this website and many more in Publishing Resources for Authors, Editors, and Publishers (PDF available on my website; Kindle edition available through Amazon).
Being able to refer clients to other publishing professionals, such as book designers, graphic artists, marketers, and agents, is one more way to be a resource for your clients.
You are valuable for your knowledge and your connections. Proving your value is how you earn a client.
Admit It When a Project Is Outside Your Area of Expertise
The last, best way I know how to earn a client is to admit it when you are not the right editor for a project. This honesty goes a long way in building trust.
For some editors, sending a potential client to another editor sounds like the exact opposite of what you should do. How does that at all contribute to landing a client?
By turning down projects for which you are unable to do a high-quality job, you are saving your reputation.
Rather than being known as the editor who missed a lot of errors or misled an author about their credentials, you become the editor who is conscientious and confident enough to send a client to another professional.
In the future, this client may come back to you with another project, with a different task on the same project, or with a potential new client via a referral.
When it comes to attracting and keeping clients, repeat customers and word-of-mouth advertising can’t be beat.
Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in the Updated and Revised Edition of Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, now available on Amazon!