PATIENCE isn’t one of my strong suits. I have a hard time waiting to reap the benefits of my hard work. Like Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I want it now. I want instant gratification, instant success. This doesn’t happen in freelancing.
I have been working as a freelancer for four years now. During those four years, I have learned that publishers move according to their schedule, not mine. I have also learned that there is a lot you can do while waiting to hear from a publisher.
Join an organization like the Editorial Freelancers Association at http://www.the-efa.org/ or an e-mail list like Copyediting-L at http://www.copyediting-l.info/ or regional editorial organizations like the Bay Area Editors Forum at www.editorsforum.org/ or the Rocky Mountain Publishing Professionals Guild at www.rmppg.org/. You can also join Twitter at http://www.twitter.com or Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/. Do your research. Go to the library. Look for potential clients and contacts.
At the library, ask the reference librarian for either the Literary Market Place or the Writer’s Market. Both are invaluable and provide excellent information about all the publishers.
On your first visit to the library, take some time to become familiar with both of these guides. On other outings when you are doing research, work with one of these books at a time. Working with both has a tendency to overwhelm.
While doing research, bring the appropriate tools for the job. I take a small tablet or notebook. I have even taken 3×5 index cards with me. These are great for writing down the pertinent information you’ll find about the different publishers. That information includes the size of the publisher, the types of books they publish, the number of books they publish each year, and the names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses for the publishers and contacts like managing editors or project editors. This information will prove invaluable later.
Don’t write anything down during your first trip to the library. Consider it a fact-finding expedition. You can even do research in your favorite bookstore. Browse in your favorite section of the store. Check out the books that interest you and look to see who publishes them. You can do this in any location that offers books for sale or where you can borrow them. This is a great way to discover the subjects you’re interested in and learn which of the publishers publish books in those subjects.
On the next visit to the library or to the bookstore, think about one area that interests you. Look up a few of the publishers that publish books in that area. It’s best to limit yourself to an hour a week doing research. You don’t want to become overwhelmed. As I said earlier, there is plenty of time. Consider this type of research as a way of expanding your knowledge about the subject matter as well as the publisher.
After finding the specific publisher in either the Literary Market Place or the Writer’s Market, write the specific contact information down in your tablet, notebook, or cards.
Take the information home and continue your research. Check the company’s website. Read their background information and history. Check their recent list of published books. Make sure you actually want to work with this publisher before you spend any more time trying to get them to notice you.
Check their website to see if they are hiring freelancers. If they are, they will say so.
The publisher’s contact information changes frequently. Don’t get discouraged if the information is not current or up to date. This just means that you will have to do more research. Consider checking out the publishers and looking for more contact information on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/.
If you are a LinkedIn member, check your list of connections. They are a wonderful resource and may be connected in some way to one of the publishers you are interested in freelancing with. They may be able to share names with you that aren’t available in your previous research.
You may also want to check sites like John Kremer’s Bookmarket at http://www.bookmarket.com/. This site does a great job of listing publishers and contacts according to specific types. It’s a great help for writers who want to get their books published. The only downside is the information presented on the site is not always up to date. This is why even with the information you have, it is best to do your research to make sure your information is correct and up to date. Even then, you may find that you have some outdated information. Solution? Do some networking and find out if someone else has some information you don’t and is willing to share that information with you.
Next, decide on the best way to contact your list of potential clients. Do you feel comfortable making a phone call, or do you feel best writing an e-mail or sending a letter? Whichever method you decide to use, remember that you may need to contact these people more than once. In fact, I can guarantee it. No matter which way you contact your potential client, don’t use the same method every time. Vary the routine.
A successful editor and friend of mine, Katharine O’Moore-Klopf, owner of KOK Edit, suggests spending an hour a week doing research and marketing to potential clients. Check out her other words of wisdom at http://www.kokedit.com/. She always has wonderful advice about editing and freelancing. You’ll learn a lot.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t receive instant gratification, see my earlier comments. Remember, you are in this because this is what you want to do. It is going to take time to make this work. Success isn’t instantaneous and doesn’t happen overnight. If you have to, print my previous sentence and put it where you can see it every day.
Take time to revise the information you have. You may want to do this quarterly. Your tastes and likes may also change. You may decide that you prefer one area more than you do another. If you come to this conclusion, act on it. You can change your mind again. It takes time to find your niche. Beginning freelancers are busy finding clients and improving their skills. Finding a niche comes later for newbies.
Revise your cover letter. Update your resume to reflect the skills you are adding to your repertoire. Read books on editing and freelancing. Take classes. Keep learning!
Don’t contact your potential clients more than every two or three months. Yes, you want them to know who you are but if you contact them more than that, you run the risk of annoying them. This isn’t the way to win them over. You don’t want them to cringe when your information appears on their desk or in an e-mail. You also want them to take your call. Don’t pester them! There is a plethora of potential clients out there.
My message for this post is simple. Do your research and read all you can to improve your skills. Remember, freelancing is a journey not a destination.
Finally, relish the successes that come your way. Continue to learn as much as you can. Freelancing is an adventure! If you look at your career this way and learn from your mistakes, you’ll be happier. You’ll also continue to grow as a person. In freelancing, it takes more than a minute to win it.