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

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Value of Joining Multiple Professional Associations and Subscribing to Multiple Professional E-mail Lists

If you're an editorial professional, it's a mistake to limit your memberships to only one or two profession-related groups and to severely limit how many profession-related e-mail lists you subscribe to. And to get any benefits from joining and subscribing, you must actively participate.

Placing too many limits on your memberships, subscriptions, and participation level doesn't help you get exposed to the bigger professional picture. In addition, you won't get exposed to as many professionals who might need your business services or who can refer you to others who do. I started out years ago as a generalist copyeditor. At this point in my career, I focus mostly on medical editing, but I'm not about to give up contact with and exposure to generalist editors and generalists in other editorial professions, because I can learn from them all and can get referrals from them all. I pay membership dues to

I subscribe to the following e-mail lists:

  • The members-only list of the EFA
  • Two AMWA members-only lists
  • The members-only list of BELS
  • Freelance, aka Publishing Industry Freelancers

I appear in the online professional directories maintained by the following groups and e-mail lists:

  • The EFA
  • AMWA
  • The CSE
  • BELS
  • CE-L

I do volunteer work for the following groups:

  • The EFA
  • AMWA
  • CE-L
  • BELS

Why do I do all of that, in addition to being visible on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter? To learn, to grow professionally, to help others ... but most of all, to avoid the dreaded freelancer feast-or-famine work cycle.

I don't have any more time available in the day than anyone else does: I have a husband, three children, one grandchild, another grandchild on the way, in-laws (one of whom has Alzheimer disease) who live in my home, a dog, friends, and non-work-related interests. I need to sleep, take time away from work, have a life. But I'm out there networking as much as I can, to keep my name and business image in front of as many eyes as possible. I haven't had to hunt for new clients in quite a long time (but I do so when I want to) because I'm always in lots of virtual places where people who hand out work can find me, learn about my skills and experience, and get a glimpse of my business personality and ethics.

I didn't join any profession-related associations with the expectation that benefits from being a member would just start flowing my way. Doing that would be as foolish as trying to get years of good mileage and trouble-free transportation from my car without ever putting gas in the tank, changing its oil, checking the wear and tear on the tires, or doing other maintenance tasks. I joined those associations because I know that you get something out of an organization only when you put something into it. Just paying membership dues or just subscribing to an e-mail list does not give you much of value. But getting involved in organizations and e-mail lists gives back a world of benefits, including the chance to make new business contacts, to impress potential clients and subcontracting-minded colleagues with the skills you display in communicating and doing volunteer work, and to build a reputation as a seasoned pro.

Want more choices for networking? Follow the links here for profession-related associations, e-mail discussion lists, and professional groups on LinkedIn and on Twitter. If you're a member of any editorial-related associations or e-mail lists not shown there, please tell everyone about them in the comments, and be sure to include links.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why I Went From Employee to Self-Employed Editor

Everyone who ends up an editorial freelancer comes to self-employment from a unique path. Lots of us on the Copyediting-L e-mail list told our own tales yesterday, which inspired me to share mine here.

I had been working for book publishers as a production editor or the equivalent since 1984. Though I loved what I was doing, I hated the office politics. And by 1994, I had spent 7 years commuting by car, train, and subway for a total of 3 hours each weekday, having to drop my daughter off with a babysitter before school at 6:30 a.m. and then to retrieve her at 7:30 p.m. after the train ride home from work. It hit me that I just could not stand the thought of doing that to my second child, who was then on the way.

So without the cushion of savings that everyone tells would-be freelancers to have available when starting up their business, I began freelancing full time 2 weeks (yes, you read that right) after the birth of my first son in December 1994. With no savings cushion, my husband and I couldn't afford for me not to start working that soon.

At first, my clients were all former employers. When individual contacts at those several companies later moved on to jobs with other publishers, they "took me with them," and I then had freelance projects both from former employers and from the companies those contacts moved on to. Over the years, I got comfortable contacting new-to-me publishers for projects, and then after I was well enough established, new-to-me publishers contacted me to offer projects. I also developed a reputation for being skilled at ESL (English as a second language) medical editing. (My final former employer was a medical publisher, and I honed that skill while working for that company.) I didn't actively seek out such authors; publishers and satisfied ESL authors referred more such authors to me. Now, loads of them track me down.

Just over 16 years after that son was born, I'm doing quite well as a full-time freelance editor, and I'd never go back to employment willingly. I went on to have one more child after that one, in September 2001, and just as happened with his older brother, I was working on freelance projects full time just a couple of weeks after he was born.

If you subscribe to Copyediting-L, watch for (or search the archives for) the subject line BIZ: Freelancing... what made you "go" there? to read other freelancers' stories. And if you're so inclined, please tell your story here, in the comments. We can all learn from one another, and it's enjoyable, reassuring, and inspiring to hear others' stories.

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