Subscribe to Jessica's exclusive newsletter

Subscribe to Jessica's newsletter

* indicates required

Monday, August 24, 2015

How Not to Be a Potential Client

Now that I freelance for a living, my life depends on developing good relationships with clients. Far be it from me to complain about any potential client's behavior, but I need to share this one with the wider world because it's representative of what freelance editors encounter every day. I've changed some of the details to protect the identity of the person who sent me this message via one of the freelancing sites I belong to.
Greetings!
I am shopping around for an editor to go over the final draft of my [genre I work with] novel before I sent [sic] it to print. I need someone who is very detail-oriented to double check for typos, grammar mistakes, etc. Are you available to take on a project this week? My goal is to have the edits done by next Monday. Also, what do you typically charge for a project that is just under 100,000 words?
Thanks!

Let me dissect the flaws in this all too average message so that if you're ever in the market for an editor or proofreader, you can do better. Correspondence to potential editors is one more place you can make a good or bad impression, one more chance to put your best foot forward as a writer.

I am shopping around for an editor to go over the final draft of my [genre I work with] novel ...

The opening is off-putting because of the phrase "shopping around." Yes, freelancers are aware clients do this, but if this person had written something along the lines of "I saw that you like to edit novels in this genre," it would have been a point for them rather than against. It would have shown that the client had read my preferences and may also have done some (highly advisable) research into the books I've edited in the past. Such research benefits both of us because it makes it more likely that you'll find the right fit, which results in a good working relationship and satisfactory results.

I need someone who is very detail-oriented to double check for typos, grammar mistakes, etc. 

It's great that they give some sense of the work they'd like done, but the "double check" sentence makes me suspicious that this person doesn't really know what services they need, and the "etc" doesn't help that impression. Ideally, before you approach your researched editors, you need the following elements in place: 1. A completed book. 2. Someone (preferably many people) whose opinion you trust to read the book. 3. A list of issues your trusted readers found that you can't correct on your own. Editing the book as much as you can by yourself will save you time and money. Knowing the specifics of what you need will make for a better estimate process, saving time, money, and heartache.

Are you available to take on a project this week? My goal is to have the edits done by next Monday. 

What's the rush? Most editors have many projects going on at once and scheduling each project is a superhuman act to begin with. Much as we might like to help, we can't throw our other projects a week off schedule without serious consideration and, ideally, previous notice. It takes time to find tiny errors. This client was expecting someone to find all the needles in 100,000 bits of hay in just a little more than six days. Why the need to get the book to the printer so quickly? Please don't leave your copyediting and proofreading needs as the last hurried step in a production crunch. It stresses everyone out and creates opportunities for the mistakes we're all trying to avoid.

Also, what do you typically charge for a project that is just under 100,000 words?

The last question is inappropriate, since rates are explained on all the freelance sites I belong to. 100,000 words in a week would qualify as a rush job, which is far from typical. How can I know that I would charge typical rates for this book when I haven't seen a sample? A better approach would have been: "Please take a look at the attached sample and let me know your best quote for this last-minute rush job."

Every human interaction is an opportunity to prove you are a thoughtful, considerate human being as well as a professional. Remember that even when you reach out to someone online, there is a human being very similar to you, with their own issues and concerns, on the other end.