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

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

How to Go from Employee to Freelancer

Looking to go freelance after being downsized? Here's my advice:

  1. Revamp your résumé so that it's skills based rather than employment based. Mine's kind of a hybrid; you can see it here. (Have to finish redoing it!) But because it's not the best example of what I mean, I'm going to steer you to a booklet sold through the Editorial Freelancers Association: Résumés for Freelancers. You need this kind of résumé so that you begin to think like and present yourself as a consultant to be contracted with, not an employee seeking an employer.

  2. Peruse publishers' web sites. You can also go to the local public library and peruse the listings in Literary Market Place. Decide which publishers produce the kinds of books you'd enjoy working on.

  3. Contact the managing editor of each organization by snail mail or e-mail and sell your services. If you use e-mail, include your résumé as a text document (don't use HTML) within the body of the message, and ask the person (a) if he/she would like to see a PDF or Word version of your resume and (b) to send you a copyediting test. Even if you have lots of experience in publishing, you'll likely be required to take and pass publishers' tests until you become an established freelancer.

  4. Once you've taken a test, wait a couple of weeks. If you haven't heard back by then about your results, contact the person again. Once you do hear back, contact the person periodically—maybe every couple of weeks—with a friendly reminder that you're available to handle projects for him/her. Always approach the person from the angle of what you can do for him/her, not what he/she can do for you. Find a way to make yourself memorable. A little bit of humor works for me.

  5. Build yourself a web site ASAP, and include its URL (along with other contact info) in all your correspondence, whether by snail mail or e-mail. You won't attract new clients solely with your site until it's been up for 6 months to a year. But meanwhile, it gives the potential clients whom you're contacting a place to "see" you—something to remember you by. Look at my site; look at other copyeditors'. Take notes on the site features that you think work and on the ones that you think don't work.

  6. Get business cards made ASAP, and give them out to everyone everywhere. You never know which friend's friend's friend's aunt might have a gig for you. Make sure that the look and content of your business cards integrate with the look and content of your web site.

  7. Create letterhead on your computer or get it designed and printed professionally. I had a professional create my logo, and I've plopped it into my web site and into my letterhead on my computer.

  8. Subscribe to Freelance, an e-mail list. You'll learn about the nitty-gritty of self-employment.

  9. Find a mentor. A mentor will advise you, give you reality checks, and encourage you. Make sure that in return, you mentor someone someday. We have to make the world safe for readers! :-)

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