Guest post by Louise Harnby of the Proofreader’s Parlour. Read part 1 too, lest you think the client said Shuswap (pictured here) not shoe-swap.
The most productive relationships between writers and their editors / proofreaders come about when both parties explain themselves clearly from the outset. If you’re reading this because you’re the editor or proofreader, we’re talking about the way we explain the services we offer.
Putting ourselves in each other’s shoes when we make first contact is the surest way to quickly identify whether the fit looks good enough to continue the conversation. Playing the role of writer was covered in the previous post.
Editorial pros — stepping into the shoes of the writer
Now let’s pop the shoe on the other party’s foot. We start, though, from exactly the same premise: From the writer’s point of view, finding the right editorial professional can be a tricky and time-consuming process. Whether they’re an academic, self-publishing author, business executive, student, educational institution, charity, or NGO, they want a high-quality service that’s worth the money they’re going to invest. Given that the internet is awash with people claiming to be able to help, many writers find that even the idea of finding a professional editor/proofreader brings on a headache.
If someone asks an editorial professional to quote for a job, the best we can do is to give them the information they need, even if they haven’t asked for it. This will help them decide whether to continue the conversation with us, or to go elsewhere. If I want to work with a customer, I want them to know that, and that means helping them see why I’d be a good pair of hands in which to place their project. I want to help them choose me (or choose someone else, if that’s the right decision, as was the case in the above example).
The following information points enable them to work out whether I can help them (and whether they still want me to help them):
- A “thank you” for their enquiry
- The date from which I’m available to book in new projects
- A detailed breakdown of my fee structure
- Details of what my proofreading service includes
- The formats I work in (Word, PDF, paper, etc.)
- My commitment, as an Advanced Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, to quality service-provision and a professional code of practice
- A short list of similar projects completed, and a link to my more detailed online portfolio
- A link to an ebooklet of introductory guidelines for authors (if appropriate)
- Information about how to find other colleagues should my time frame be unworkable (and even a direct referral to particular colleagues if I know I can’t take on the work)
In other words, I’m framing my response to the customer in terms of the value I’m offering them. Given the number of editorial professionals that our customers can choose from.
I’m not convinced it’s enough to fire back a two-sentence response (excluding the salutation and sign-off) that says,
I charge X and I can do Y.
I look forward to hearing from you.”
We owe it to our customers to give them more than that if we want them to feel we’re worth continuing to talk to. It’s not about overwhelming them with information but about demonstrating our professionalism and embedding that first glimpse of understanding that we care enough about what we do to take the time to explain it. And even when we can’t take on a particular project, if we make a good enough impression they might remember us and recommend us to others.
Whichever side of the table you sit on — the writing or the editing — spend a little while with your opposite number’s shoes on. You’ll both save yourselves time, and, should you end up working together, you’ve already instilled a sense of clarity and understanding that will provide a solid foundation for the editorial process to come.
In the previous post, Louise helped us step into the editor’s shoes, framing your request to the editor with enough info that they can answer well.
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Louise Harnby is a UK-based freelance proofreader with 23 years’ publishing experience. She specializes in working with academic presses publishing in the social sciences and humanities, and with publishers and independent writers of fiction and commercial non-fiction. She trained with the London-based Publishing Training Centre and is an Advanced Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders.
Louise hosts The Proofreader’s Parlour, a blog that offers information, advice, opinion, comment, tips, resources and knowledge sharing on proofreading and editing. She is the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers (reviewed on this blog), a start-up guide that helps new editorial freelancers to prepare themselves for setting up and running an editorial business, and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business, due for publication in spring 2014. You can contact her via her website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader or on Twitter as @LouiseHarnby.