Freelance Writing, Editing, and Proofreading: Complementary Services-EP062
Laura is back for an episode that goes into the complementary services that you can add on to your menu of services either at the beginning of your freelance journey or as you take your company and writing skills to the next level.
There are a lot of complementary services that you can offer along with your writing services, but Laura talks specifically about editing and proofreading. These services can be crafted around your unique freelance writing goals, which makes them an ideal addition to your service offering, but they are also a great way to build your confidence and credibility in the field.
When pitching your expertise, Laura goes into the importance of focusing on your writing background and showcasing your talent. She also shares some tips and advice on how to effectively manage your end to end process based on her own experience.
Hello everybody and welcome back to the Better Biz Academy podcast. It feels like it's been a while since I've taken the time to record an episode but I'm really excited to talk to you about some complementary services that can really amplify your work as a freelance writer to help you earn more money, expand your general menu of what you can offer to clients and learn some new skills as well. Most people who start off as freelance writers do so because they've got some kind of a background in writing in general. That's just something they feel comfortable with, they know they have a skill with it, perhaps they have a teacher who's told them that they are good with writing or they've always gotten positive feedback about their writing. These are some of the common reasons that lead people to become a freelance writer. And today, I want to talk to beginners and experienced writers alike to discuss some complementary services that you can add on to your business either at the beginning or as you take your company and writing skills to the next level. So, what I want to cover in particular are editing and proofreading.
Now there’s lots of different types of skills that you can offer alongside your freelance writing services and you can design your freelance writing business to be in line with your individual goals. So, for example, I grew my freelance writing business at the same time that I was taking on virtual assistant and project management clients. Because of that, I learned a lot of different things about all of those different fields and added some amazing things to my resume, got to work with some really cool companies and have been able to offer things to a variety of different types of clients so that I never get bored. So, you can take whatever direction you want with it and you'll see in the marketplace today, there are plenty of freelance writers and other freelance specialists who do a number of different things. So sometimes you'll see a person who focuses specifically on being a graphic designer but they might also have an additional skillset of some other type, to kind of keep in mind as well.
So, editing and proofreading work really really well for the person who has a background as a freelance writer. As I said, you can do this when you're starting your freelance writing business. Sometimes however, it's even more powerful when you add this as a component of your menu of services in the future. That's because you have a few years of freelance writing under your belt. I'll give you a great example of this. I took on most of the editing roles that I've played as a freelancer after I'd been in business for a while as a freelancer. I'd always been comfortable with my skills as a writer in general but doing that every day all day for a number of different clients, having to meet different types of guidelines and style formatting requirements, all of that really increased my confidence level and also how skilled I was with it. And you'll find often that the more that you write the easier it is for you to write, the faster you can write things and you may even notice that you pick up on other people’s mistakes much more easily. So, because we are likely proofing our own work, particularly at the beginning of your freelance writing business, you almost have this eye that is drawn to commas put in the wrong place or a person who is using the wrong form of a word or other grammar or spelling or whatever mistakes, you will see that in writing more easily when you've been practiced as a writer for a couple of months or years.
And being five years into this now, it's almost laser focused when I'm working on an editing job because I can spot the mistakes so quickly and that's actually contributed to my own complementary service of being a project manager. I work as a project manager hiring freelancers for other companies and a lot of the time those freelancers are writers. I receive hundreds of applications to participate on those writing teams. I use this laser focus editing and proofreading background to look at somebody's writing application so I can tell right away whether or not they are going to be a fit for my client just based on the amount of errors that is provided that I'm seeing immediately in tehri work. So, editing and proofreading work really well as a complementary service for a freelance writer particularly after you're experienced, but that doesn't mean you can't pursue it first or you can't pursue it alongside freelance writing when you first start your company.
The main thing I would tell you to focus on as you're pitching clients or if someone reaches out to you and says, 'hey, I know you're a writer, do you also proof resumes or edit e-books or look over PowerPoint slides to make sure there are no errors', and those types of things. The thing that I would tell you to focus on when you respond to somebody like that is your writing background because for editing purposes, you don't need to have particular designations, you don't need to have a particular degree. Truly the most important thing is whether or not you have the background and the ability to complete the particular project. So, in the writing world you would definitely need to showcase talent. It's a little bit more difficult to showcase proofreading and editing talent but being a writer in and of itself already telegraphs to the client or potential client that you have the skillset and the knowledge to complete the job. So, when you're marketing, editing or proofreading services in conjunction or in lieu of writing services, focus on your role as a writer. That will help indicate to people that you have the necessary background. All of the editing gigs that I have had over the last several years were really ones that the person sought me out. I did not apply for it specifically, the person sought me out because they felt that I was a good writer or they had heard that I was a good writer. So, that's something that you can really lean on.
Another thing that you can focus on when you're talking about clients who may need all of these services together or who may be interested in expanding what you're offering from writing to editing or even somebody new who just heard you're a good writer, is your attention to detail. That communicates volumes in the proofreading and editing world. And I actually have a course, it's on Udemy, very easy to find. It's called "How to Become a Freelance Editor". It's also extremely affordable and it will only take you about an hour to go through the course. So, I encourage you if you are interested in adding editing and proofreading to your menu of services as a freelancer to go check that out because really easy to digest, I talk about the different levels of editing, I talk about how to position yourself, I give you sample work that you can edit and use that as a work sample for your clients. I give you a raw version of a really terrible piece of work that someone turned in to me and you can use that and fix it and mark it up with track changes in Microsoft Word and use that to market yourself. So, that's a really powerful course that I strongly recommend you do check out if you're interested in editing and proofreading.
So, editing is a little bit different than writing because you have to not only have the skills of a writer but you also have to know punctuation and grammar, spelling and then some other enhanced things such as flow, style, tone and format. So, one way that a writer can transition into editing relatively easily is in the academic world. So, the academic world has very specific requirements as far as tone, style and format and that's one of the ways that I first got my foot in the door with regards to freelance editing because I had been in the academic world myself, I understood how important it was to have the citations formatted properly and how to have the headings and sub-headings and in general, what made for good academic writing. So, that's just an example to show you that any background that you have in the field of writing, researching or editing can all contribute to you doing this as a freelancer and it's relatively easy 9 times out of 10 because you're just working through someone else’s materials.
And one tip I will tell you - and I go into great detail in the course about this - is that if you are thinking about adding editing to your services, you have to be really careful about who you work with because you could quote somebody say - they might say, well I got this 1000-word blog post and it needs editing. And you say well it'll only take me an hour and here's my hourly rate. And then you see the blog post and it's a complete mess and it's going to take you longer than an hour. You had no idea that a piece of writing could be this disorganized and unclear. So, my tip to you, my secret super hero tip is to ask to see a sample of the work before you agree to the project. This will give you an idea of how severe the problems are and the type of work that you'd be editing. This also gives you the opportunity to bow out if it's not the right fit for you or if the writing is too much of a mess. Now someone might say, too much of a mess - what's the problem with that because then you could be getting paid more if the work is really terrible. Well, let me tell you about a position I had a number of years ago as an editor.
I was the freelance editor for a site that had more than 200,000 fans at the time; it's grown even more since then. We published three articles per day, between 500 words and 1000 words pretty much every one of those articles; and people had deadlines, they were volunteer writers but they had a deadline every week they had to meet in order to turn their work in. And when I came on as the editor, I'd already been a writer for the site for two years so I knew the ins and outs, I knew the type of work that I was submitting and I knew the final product that was going live on the website because I saw it often. However, things were really different because I did not ask to see the raw files that were coming in from the other writers. The quality that I was turning in and a couple of the other writers were turning in was just not matched by the vast majority of the writing team. So, what I thought would only take 2 to 5 hours per week was taking more like 15 and I wasn't being compensated for it. And the more frustrating part of the situation was that I was being paid a flat rate to do this editing position and the owner of the site who arranged all this was really unwilling to change the way that things were done. So here I am in this situation saying there need to be consequences for writers if they turn in sloppy work or we need to decrease the number of articles we're editing, and the pushback was, no we're not changing anything. We're going to continue producing at the rate we were.
Well I had no idea how much work the previous editor had been doing and it was just really way more than I could handle, way more than I was interested in, certainly more than I was being paid for and it just wasn't a good fit. So, it is not always a better situation to put yourself in a circumstance where the material that you're editing requires a tremendous amount of work. It means that you have to bring a more careful editing eye to it and you'll also have to be really specific about your time and how you're being paid. And a client who doesn't realize how long editing can take, particularly if the work is extremely poor, may give you some pushback and say, well you know, I'm only going to hire you for five hours this week when you're saying it really takes 15. They may not be an easy client to work with. So, that's just something I encourage you to keep in mind. Use that little lesson to ask to see an example of the work ahead of time.
Now sometimes you may not be able to see the entire thing, that's fine. We just want a general overview. Another time that it really helped me to ask that question, I learned my lesson from that experience where I was the freelance editor for another website, someone came to me and said, this book has been written, it was written by someone who is not a native English speaker, he's pretty well spoken in the English language but you can definitely tell that there are mistakes. And I said that please send me one chapter so I can review it. And I sort of guessed about how long it would take me to do each chapter and then gave a quote based on that. Because in longer pieces you'll tend to see the mistakes being made over and over again and it was certainly the case with that project. But at least I had a much better chance of accurately quoting how long it would take me and what it would cost the client because the worst-case scenario is that you bring on a client that needs a lot of work, argues with you about it, and then doesn't want to pay your invoice because you spent way more time than they thought you would have spent. It's really important to be upfront with your editing clients about what is included in the edit as well.
And there’s basically three levels of editing; on the one end, you have very basic - you're basically looking for glaring errors and problems, and then on the more comprehensive end, you're looking for style, tone, formatting, flow - these are all things you'll be asked to give feedback about as the editor on that individual project. So, you've got to know when you start the editing project, what level am I editing at? Are there any other specific guidelines I need to know? That's really important in academic circles or if you're editing someone's work that's going to be sent out for any type of publication, you need to be able to see the formatting and style and citation guidelines in advance. So, keep that in mind.
If you have been working as a freelance writer for some time, you already have the skills to be successful as a freelance editor, if your clients rarely ask you for revisions. Now if proofreading is not your strong suit, then I don't recommend necessarily delving into editing and proofreading as your side hustle. You might be a better fit for doing virtual assistant work on the side of your freelance writing business or some other type of freelance work in general. You need to have a really careful critical eye. You need to be willing to accept responsibility for mistakes that do go out after you've looked it over. There can be a lot of pressure on the editors and again, this was something that happened to me with that job that I ultimately resigned from because it was just way too much work and rigidity. The pressure on the editor happens when someone doesn't meet their deadlines or when the work is so poor when it's turned in that you have to dedicate every waking hour to fix again. And mistakes will happen. This happened to me in that project. We had this Sunday or Monday night deadline, 60% of the writers wouldn't meet it, these were for articles that needed to be published that week so I would be up the night before, sometimes two hours before the article was set to go live, trying to edit it. And a couple of mistakes went through because that was inevitable. And ultimately that doesn't fall back on the writer, that falls back on the editor. So, another helpful tip here is to always budget in enough time to be able to edit the work. Just one more reason why you want to ask to see an example of the piece that's going to be edited in advance.
Now proofreading and editing work really well for writers because you're already trained in the type of skills that you need to be successful. But they can also be really enjoyable as a great break from your day to day work. I have learned over time that I prefer doing 90% of my work as a writer and then the other10% as this mix between project management, virtual assistants and editing and proofreading but you'll find a balance that really works for you. It can help to break up your work day if you are doing blocks of time focused on particular types of projects and then you sort of transition over to doing something else. So if you've been doing a lot of writing lately, maybe you need to give your wrists a break from typing on the keyboard and this is a good time to go in and edit somebody's work, provide feedback, and that's something I also cover in my freelance editing course on Udemy - how to provide feedback, what types of feedback can be meaningful for somebody, where to find clients, all of these types of things that relate to adding in an editing and proofreading component to your freelance writing business.
So, I'd love to hear from you if you're already doing editing and proofreading work, as far as what that looks like for you and how you incorporated it into an existing business, especially if you're doing more of one than another and how you decide to take on these projects or not. If you're curious about learning more, about becoming a freelance editor specifically, and even how to get recurring or big gigs, I really suggest you check out my Udemy course "How to Become a Freelance Editor". We'll put a link to that in the show notes. Look forward to chatting with you on the next episode of Better Biz Academy.
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