KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Friday, January 21, 2011

Adversary or Client? Competitor or Colleague?

I've noticed a troubling divide among self-employed editorial professionals in how they approach finding work with new clients and responding to requests to share knowledge with other editorial pros.

Those on the sad side of this divide won't reach out actively, through e-mails, phone calls, or tweets, to potential new clients, fearing that clients encountered this way are likely to be unsavory fly-by-nights who are trying to get work done for little to no pay. Instead, they complain on profession-related e-mail lists that they don't have enough work and ask where there are web sites that will dole out projects to them. I suppose that they also find the prospect of marketing their services and hunting down clients a bit overwhelming, so they want someone or something to feed them projects. I wonder how they can afford to remain self-employed.

Those on the sad side are also parsimonious with their colleagues. They won't give advice, in person or on e-mail lists, much less on LinkedIn, when asked for it, fearing that their colleagues are merely competitors and will use their advice to steal their clients. They're astounded that anyone would freely share advice, believing that the only way to be a productive editorial pro is to not "waste" time communicating with other pros.

I'm not saying to ignore your common sense and instincts when dealing with potential clients and with colleagues. And I'm not advocating giving away all of your trade secrets. I'm talking about having a little trust.

It comes down to worldview. Do we view humans as most often decent? Or do we view them as creatures to be wary of because they're more likely than not to do us harm? I hold the former view, and I'm most often rewarded for it. I've found that whenever I begin any interaction from a stance of wariness, without having any signals to base that wariness on, I have a poor experience. This holds true for me with both potential clients and newly met colleagues, however I've first come into contact with them.

Which side of the divide are you on, and why?


Anonymous said...

I'm very much on the client and colleague side - just this afternoon I posted a welcome and encouragement to someone in my alumni group on LinkedIn who is just starting out as a proof-reader, and told her to ask if she has any questions.

At least one of my big regular customers came to me originally from another proof-reader who had too much on her plate - and I've returned the favour to her and a couple of other people. It was certainly useful in my very busy dissertation season in the summer to be able to pass the odd client on (plus the string of recommendations they usually create) to that colleague, and a friend who was just starting out.

I also try to reach out to potential clients using twitter, etc - but I also offer snippets of advice to people on the networking forums I visit, making it clear I'm not touting for business, just helping them with the skills I have. Those forums have engendered business too, and I'm pretty sure that the positive and helpful attitude I've tried to use consistently on them has helped this process.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Liz, I'm pretty sure you're right! Everyone enjoys working with a positive, helpful person; no one likes work with a crabby, cranky person.

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