How to find editing work during lean periods

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It can be scary when freelance editing work dries up. Follow my tips on how to find editing work during lean periods.

It happens to us all at some point. Our editing business is bounding along, and we’re booked up for weeks (maybe months) ahead, then boom! The work dries up for no obvious reason and that feeling of panic starts to rise in our chest. Hello, imposter syndrome!

Since I went full-time freelance as an editor and proofreader in 2020, sometimes I’ve been booked up months ahead, other times I’ve taken it a week at a time. Using the techniques in this article, I’ve never had a day with no work.

To keep your calendar full, you need to get proactive. Be visible to your target clients; don’t wait for the work to come to you. If you’re facing a ‘famine’ period in your editing business, follow my tips and, hopefully, you’ll be feasting again soon!

To keep your calendar full, you need to get proactive. Be visible to your target clients; don't wait for the work to come to you. From: How to find editing work during lean periods Click To Tweet

Contact previous clients

If you edit full-length books and you have a portfolio of past clients, it may be time to remind them of your existence. If you last edited a book for them a couple of years ago, they may have another one in the pipeline.

It may not lead to immediate work, but by reminding them of that fantastic edit or proofread you did for them, they may be more than happy to book you in, ready for their next masterpiece.

When you contact them, keep any note of desperation out of your message! If you’ve recently launched a new service, you could mention that you’re contacting them to let them know about it, or to check if they may need your services in the next few months, as you enjoyed working with them and you don’t want them to miss out on a slot in your calendar. You’re doing them a favour by getting in touch, not the other way round.

Use freelancing websites

There are a few freelancing websites out there that editors can use to find work. Reedsy is one of the best ones to have a presence on if you want to be sure of attracting high-quality clients, and for good reason. Their approval process for publishing editor profiles and allowing editors to be contacted by authors via their platform is stringent. If you’re just starting out or haven’t edited many books with A LOT of five-star reviews on Amazon, you may find it difficult to either have your profile accepted or to have the button enabled on your profile by which potential clients can contact you. It won’t harm anything to start the application process, though.

If you’re a regular reader of my articles, you’ll know that my favourite freelancer site (apart from Reedsy) is Upwork. There are pros and cons to the site, but in my opinion, the pros outweigh the cons. Read my article about Upwork, packed with advice for editors and proofreaders

I hardly proactively apply for Upwork jobs anymore because I tend to receive invites to interview on the platform, or potential clients find me via my website, LinkedIn or other places. However, if I feel the fear rising when the end of my bookings is peeking over the horizon, I will carefully trawl Upwork for quality work and send off a proposal.

Other editors prefer different freelancing sites, e.g. PeoplePerHour, Freelancer. If you aren’t already on one of these sites, browse the jobs available and see if you fancy creating an account. All these sites do come with a health warning: Beware of scammers and carefully pick jobs posted by clients who understand the worth of an editor. Some people want something for nothing, and if you accept those rates, it will do you and the editing industry more harm than good.

Some potential clients want something for nothing, and if you accept those rates, it will do you and the editing industry more harm than good. From: How to find editing work during lean periods Click To Tweet

Increase presence on social media

If you don’t yet have a social media account for your editing business, use this downtime to set one up. You don’t need to be on all the platforms. Find out where your target audience hangs out and prioritise those places. Polish up your profile and let your target clients know what you can do for them.

There’s lots of advice online about how to write an effective profile on different social platforms, so do a bit of research before you publish yours. It’s fine to start lean; you can always add to it later.

If you already have one or more social media accounts for your editing business, post more regularly during this lean period. Vary the types of posts. Don’t continually push the hard sell for your business. Employ a patchwork approach, mixing up your post types. Be as helpful as possible (while employing keywords related to your editing business) and people will engage more with you, which in turn will prompt the algorithm to show your posts to more people. This will increase your visibility in potential clients’ feeds.

Polish up your social media profiles and let your target clients know what you can do for them. From: How to find editing work during lean periods Click To Tweet

Reach out to your editing network

You may be a member of one or more editing networks on social media or in professional organisations. Use these connections to enquire about available work.

Fellow editors may have received a work request that they can’t take on because either it isn’t their bag or (lucky them) they’ve got loads of work on already.

Members of the network may also have tips on how to find editing work. We all experience lean periods. Don’t feel embarrassed or too proud to ask for leads.

I can highly recommend the Facebook group set up by Jessica Brown called Editpreneurs. It’s a friendly, professional space frequented by editors of all levels of experience. (If you click on the Events tab of the group, you’ll find the series of Facebook Lives I ran, with lots of advice on how to improve your editor website).

Join professional associations

Being a member of a professional writing or editing association can do wonders for your credibility. You can display a badge on your site, advertising the fact you’ve been accepted into a particular organisation. Some of these associations have online directories of members (e.g. see my entry in the CIEP directory), so this is another opportunity for you to market your services.

Some organisations to consider are:

Directly contact target clients

This one can take a bit of mental preparation, as you will face a certain amount of rejection, but it can be a great way to find your next client.

Make a list of your target client groups, being as specific as possible (e.g. self-published mystery authors, finance companies, animal charities, academics in medicine, independent publishers of non-fiction), then go online to find quality clients who fit into these groups.

Craft your pitch email (again, be specific: Why are you approaching them in particular? What can you do for them?) and fire it off. The more emails you send, the higher your chances of success. You may just find someone who was about to look for an editor or proofreader and you’ve saved them the bother.

If you’re specifically targeting publishers, Rachel Rowlands’ comprehensive article about finding editing work with publishers is a fantastic resource.

Other things to do while you’re waiting for work

Sometimes, we just have to accept the fact that we won’t have work for a short while. While you’re waiting for the feelers you’ve put out to bear fruit (mixing my metaphors, I know!), take the opportunity to do all those tasks you don’t usually have time for.

Prioritise tasks that will make you more ’employable’ and increase your visibility to potential clients. Soon, you’ll be wishing you had a bit more time on your hands!

Work on your business

There are so many non-billable elements to running a freelance editing business, but when our work diaries are full, we can rarely afford to spend quality time on them. Revel in the fact that now you have that time! Don’t fritter away the hours on social media (unless you’re marketing yourself!). Instead, plan your days to include activities such as:

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Develop your editing skills

As freelancers, we don’t have an employer regularly reviewing our development needs. We have to manage our own continuing professional development (CPD). If you find yourself with time on your hands, indulge in some CPD. This doesn’t have to cost a penny.

If you find yourself with some time on your hands, indulge in some CPD. From: How to find editing work during lean periods Click To Tweet

Here are some ideas, some more time-intensive (and cost-intensive) than others:

  • Read quality blog articles about editing and writing. Not-so-humble brag alert: You’ll find lots of these on my website – stay a while! Other top-notch sources include:
  • Take an editing course. Make sure the organisation you pick is reputable and is the best fit for the variety of English you edit (UK, US, Australian etc). I’m a Professional-level member of CIEP and can vouch for their courses, but there are plenty of other reputable organisations that offer training for editors and proofreaders.
  • Learn a new skill. This could be anything that will help you run your business, including macros (Paul Beverley is your man!), Word styles, managing finances, and more.

Keep imposter syndrome at bay

When your work calendar is looking sparse, Mx Imposter Syndrome may come a-knockin’. Kick it to the kerb (or, if you’re in the US, the curb) with these tips:

  • Reread testimonials from previous clients who sang your praises. See, you’re a great editor!
  • Look at how far you’ve come in your business. If you’re just starting out, pat yourself on the back for having the courage to take the freelancing step. Tell yourself you have what it takes (you do!); you’re just not visible enough in your target clients’ sphere yet.
  • Remember that imposter syndrome is a symptom of success. Yes, it is!
  • Identify exactly what is knocking your confidence. If it’s a lack of clients, keep plugging away at the tips in this article. If it’s something else, consider confiding in a fellow editor. They will likely have experienced the same feelings (we all have) and may be able to help you see the wood for the trees.

Over to you

What do you do to find editing work during the lean periods? Let me know in the comments!

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