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How to Get Your First Freelance Editing Client

You’ve done your editing training and set up the scaffolding of your new editing business. How do you find that very first client?

It depends on who you’re looking to work for, but generally you’ll take a two-pronged approach of looking for work and encouraging the work to come to you.

Looking for Work

Looking for freelance projects is a time-consuming process, one in which you’re competing with every other applicant. The race is on as soon as the first person applies for the project. What will make you stand out from the rest? Over time you’ll build a reputation and not need to rely on responding to ads, but answering ads is often the fastest way to jump-start your business.

Target your search as much as you can, so that you spend more time responding to ads than finding them. Seek out listings that contain the kind of work you want to do for the kind of clients you want to work for. Several professional editing organizations have job lists for members, including the Editorial Freelancers Association, Editors Canada, and ACES. These lists will vary based on membership and the types of job posters they attract.

Also check out EAE Ad Space on Facebook, which most often has opportunities other editors have kindly passed along, and LinkedIn (include a word like freelance to your search terms).

Research the industry you want to work in to see what job listings are available. For example, if you want to edit books for publishing houses, you might check out Publishers Lunch Job Board, which occasionally posts freelance opportunities.

Consider signing on with an agency or bidding platform, like Fiverr. The pay will be lower than what you can earn on your own, but you’ll get some paid experience while you work on your marketing.

When you apply for a project, be sure to follow my job application best practices to help ensure your application is considered and don’t fudge your skills.

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Bringing the Work to You

The best way to get clients is to have them come to you, presold on who you are and what you can do for them. That means marketing and lots of it. Marketing takes time to pay off, though, which is why I also recommend answering ads—at least at first.

Stay organized and motivated by creating a marketing strategy for your business (download my Digital Marketing Strategy Worksheet to get started). Here are some of the first tasks you can do.

Announce your new business on your social media accounts, with a link to your website. Become active on social media, chatting with potential clients and other editors about topics related to editing. Share tips and links and occasionally remind your followers about the services you offer.

Tell your professional network that you’re now freelancing. Be sure to include the kind of editing you do, types of projects you work on, and kinds of clients you work for. Invite them to share the news with anyone they think would be interested.

List yourself in directories of editing and other publishing professionals. As with a job list, each directory will appeal to a certain audience. Find those directories that your target client might be attracted to. Want to work with self-publishing authors? Consider becoming a partner member of Alliance of Independent Authors and get a listing in the group’s directory. Don’t forget the directories of any professional editing organization you belong to. And check to see if your college alma mater has a directory for alumni.

If you want to work for organizations rather than self-publishing authors, put together a list of organizations you’d like to work for and cold-call them. Use my “Editors Guide to Cold-Calling Publishers” to help you get started.

Once you’ve let the world know you’re open for business, network, network, network. Hang out where your potential clients hang out and talk about their work. Participate, too, in groups for editors and freelancers. In both cases, be your best self so people get to know a genuine you. Be helpful and supportive; people remember when you’ve done them a good turn. And even when you feel it, avoid looking desperate. Fair or not, people are turned off by desperation. 

Marketing takes time, so be patient. Keep working your marketing, even as you answer ads and win those first projects. It’s an ongoing process that pays off in the long run.

And good luck with your first projects!

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