In last week’s Tip, I talked about what type of questions to ask a potential client. The goal is to get to know the project and the client to help you make good decisions about it. The next step is to prove your skills.
Show Your Stuff
After the initial conversation, I ask to see the entire manuscript and offer to do a sample edit. I’ll edit 500 to 1,000 words. I don’t want to spend too much time on it; I’m not getting paid, after all. And I don’t want to do an entire unit, such as a chapter, so that the author can get the entire manuscript edited via samples like mine.
Not every freelance editor takes this route, however. Some will take a test, others will share their portfolio of work. Do what works best for you.
If you take a test, it shouldn’t take more than an hour. Again, the client shouldn’t be getting your editing for free under the guise of testing you. And if you’re going to show a portfolio, get previous clients’ permission first to display their work. (Check out Dawn McIlvain Stahl’s excellent series on creating an online portfolio.)
Because each project is different, it’s hard to use a portfolio to show how you’ll work on this client’s manuscript. And unless the client regularly hires editors, they’re unlikely to have a test ready. So I’m willing to give an hour of my time away to prove my stuff. I offer to sign a confidentiality agreement, as well, so the client can feel comfortable about showing me their work. I’m not going to steal ideas or publish their work under my name.
Once I get the manuscript, I note the word count. From that, I can figure out how many standard pages in the manuscript. A standard manuscript page is generally defined as 250 words. Using this measure lets me compare apples to apples across all my projects. If the client will pay you by the page, be sure to agree in advance what defines a page. Otherwise, you could end up earning a lot less than you anticipated.
I then scan the document for any possible formatting issues, such as inconsistent headers, and any supplemental elements, such as tables. These types of things I would edit on separate passes.
I read through the section I’ll edit and then do the edit. I make sure to time the edit. While editing, I’m forming an idea of what kind of editing is needed (light, medium, heavy; macro, micro, or both), what big issues I might have to deal with, and what quirks the author has.
Once I’ve done the edit, it’s time to do the math: how much work the project is, how long it will take, how much I’ll charge, and so on.
We’ll tackle that next week in the final installment of this series.
Photo by Thinkstock.