Ideas for Finding Editorial Work: Tipsheet
By Virginia Rich
March 18, 2003
Take This Job and Love It: Ideas for Finding Editorial
(With contributions from Andreas Ramos, Bonnie Britt,
Doug Smith, Ellen Perry, Elyse Lord, Geneviève Duboscq, Hilary Powers,
Jill Fox, Kristi Hein, Lisa Carlson, Liz Nagata, Mark Nigara, Patti
Reed, Ron Nyren, Ron Rothbart, Sara Shopkow and Sheila Stavish).
Update your portfolio and your résumé
- Rewrite your résumé each time you apply
for a job or send it to a client. Figure out what this particular
organization most needs to hear about you; don't make them read
the whole résumé to discover the relevant pointsfind a way to
call attention to what you know they want.
Example: Mary had a résumé that
was geared toward college teaching. The version that she developed
for editorial work stressed those skills and used the academic
accomplishments as background.
- Consider annotating your work to explain
what you want the reader to notice about any samples that you're
sending. This is particularly important for writers.
Example: Sheila realized that the
people making the hiring decisions often had little experience
judging writing. She made it easier to evaluate her samples
by attaching a note to each one that pointed out what it illustrated
about her work.
- Describe your skills in a way that makes sense
to the person who will be reading your résumé: for example, a
writer on a website may be called a content provider. Be very
specific in describing what you can do. See "Definitions of Editorial
Services" on the BAEF website for help.
- Research the company. It's good for you to
know what kind of an organization it is, and it's evidence of
your interest that you took the trouble.
Pay attention to the other components of
a job application or client presentation
- Write a cover letter that does a good sales
job; it's up to you to make it clear why you are the best person
for the job.
- Make sure your references are current. Are
telephone numbers, street addresses, and email addresses correct?
Is there more current information to add?
- Consider producing a brochure or a packet
that describes your services.
Identify new sources of work
- Look at as many websites for editorial services
as you can find. What do they link to? What services are they
- Try to educate organizations that don't realize
that they need editorial help. Every company publishes something:
procedures manuals for internal use, websites, brochures. The
end product is better when it has professional attention.
Example: Suzanne was asked to proofread
part of a training manual for a nonprofit. During the interview,
she explained to them that they needed a plan for managing the
project and that editorial and design help early on would make
the final product more effective and could also prevent expensive
- Collect corporate written materials. Do you
see evidence of acorporate style guide? Can you make specific
suggestions for ways to improve the materials?
- Search out temporary agencies that use editorial
- Find a company you want to work for, and then
look for ways to make contact with the people who hire.
Example: Once Liz decided that she
wanted to work for a particular large company, she cast about
among her acquaintances for someone with a friend who wouldbe
willing to talk to her about the company and alert her to upcoming
- Look for new ways to combine skills
you already have.
Example: Virginia had edited instructional
materials for bankers, so when a contact asked if she could
do software manuals, she was able to cite that experience.
Find new places to advertise
- Consider professional journals, academic departments,
and business or management organizations.
- Post your résumé on message boards at conferences.
Ron Rothbart did that at the WinWriters conference, a writer from
a local company picked it up, and he had an interview there the
- Create a website for your editorial services.
Make sure that keywords you assign to the website will make the
site appear in Google searches.
- Write letters that describe your services
and research companies to send them too.
Expand your search geographically
- Ask yourself whether you're willing to move
for a staff job. What would it take? How much money? Which parts
of the country? If an opportunity comes up, you'll be prepared
to ask the right questions. If you've never thought about it,
you may turn down an opportunity and realize later that you should
have pursued it.
- Prepare a letter or a script (for a phone
call) that explains working at a distance to someone who hasn't
done it before. Think through some answers to objections a client
Example: GeneviËve's client wanted her
to work on site, but she didn't want to commute. By proposing a
plan that met the client's objections, she was able to talk them
into it. Sometimes all they need is to have you there for a while
to get to know you.
Mine your employment past
- List for yourself everything you've ever done-paid
or volunteer. It's easy to forget that you have tutoring experience,
for example, but it may be relevant when you're talking to someone
at an educational software firm.
- Write down the fields or industries you're
familiar with.Look at websites for companies in those fields and
refresh your knowledge of specialized vocabulary.
Recognize new opportunities for networking
- Hand your card to people you meet in the casual
carpool across the Bay Bridge. (Sara Shopkow)
- Take classes. Most are taught by people
working in the field, and the other students are also good contacts.
Use your homework assignments to expand your portfolio. (Patti
Example: During a break at an Editcetera
workshop, the woman sitting in front of her asked Fran for her
résumé. She worked at Apple and had just been promoted to a
position that included hiring responsibilities.
- Teach a class, give a presentation,
write a paper. If you havedone an unusual job, pass on what you
Example: Ellen had to figure out
how to merge indexes for a software Help system that incorporates
several different books, each with its own index. She found
a co-presenter and offered to speak at an American Society of
Indexers conference. Example: Sheila wrote a short article for
a business newspaper on how to choose a writer. It didn't pay
much, but it was published and she included it as one of her
- Get involved in organizationsboth related
to your work and related to your other interests. Let people know
what you do.
Example: Aubrey, an indexer, was
treasurer of BAEF and got lots of referrals from project managers
and others here.
- Join your local Chamber of Commerce. Prepare
your one-minute speech and then go to all the shmoozfest events
they hold. Membership can more than pay for itself. Take advantage
of whatever benefits they can give youspecial advertising rates,
etc. That's how it'll really help. (Doug Smith)
- Hang out on email lists that interest you
and post helpful and pertinent comments on the subject matter
when you can advance the discussion. Never ask for work there,
but do include a line in your sig indicating what you do for a
living; jobs will eventually drift into your nets when people
who know you as a colleague have need for your specialty. (Hilary
- Consider donating a small editorial job to
a charitable organization. The people who work there know others
they can recommend you to for paying jobs.
- Thank people who give you leads, and resist
the temptation to tell them why that's not what you're really
- Think of ways you can maintain contact
with past employers or clients without becoming a pest.
Example: Mark went to Europe to
study for a year, but he found time to send emails to the group
he had been working with just before he left. Because they knew
when he was coming back, he had a contract job waiting for him
on his return.
- When you're working as a member of a
group, find time to talk with the others even if you're working
at a distance. Make sure they know what you do and you know what
they do. If you work well with people, they will want to work
with you again.
Example: As a project manager, Jill
always made a point of setting up a meeting with all the members
of the team. Not only did it make her projects run more smoothly,
but the members of her teams often recommended one another for
- Continue to expand your e-mail address list,
and let everyone know you're looking for work. Do everything you
can to supplement the standard method of just sending your résumé
in response to a job listing. Ideally, you want to be a "known
quantity" that comes in through some channel besides HR. (Ron
Learn new skills
- Learn something about the work other people
around you do. Even if you never do the art for a Web site or index
a book, if you learn as much as you can about these jobs, you'll
be able to work with art directors and indexers more effectively.
- Take courses to enhance your credentials.
Example: Susan had done marketing
writing, so she took courses in grant writing to earn a certificate
that gave her credibility in that related field.
Keep up your momentum
- Plan your marketing efforts. It's easier
to keep at it if you assign yourself tasks and set up timetables.
- Schedule your marketing activities so
that you can do something every day or every week. Many steps you
take won't pay off for a long time, so it's best to keep on a
Example: Jill made a list of tasks
and then chose one to do each day. When she had a lot of time
and energy, she revised her résumé or researched companies.
When she didn't, she sent a card to a former client or made
a single phone call.
All offer opportunities for networking and professional development.
Most provide job listings to members. Here is contact information
for a few.
Bay Area Editors'
Click Membership and Chapters to find the nearest local chapter.
814 Mission St., #205, San Francisco, CA 94103
East Bay Editors
Meets every month at the Rockridge Branch of the Oakland Public
Connect through email@example.com.
Union-Bay Area Local
337 17th Street, #101
Oakland CA 94612
See BAEF archives for a past program on continuing education.
Certificate in Publishing. Also other programs and classes at Santa
and Adult Schools
There's at least one in every community. Nearly all offer computer
classes and software training.
Conferences and papers for writers of Help systems
Seminars and Annual Crash Course
Yahoo!Groups (groups.yahoo.com). Sign in and get a Yahoo ID, and
enter the following search words:
Two articles by BAEF members in the North Bay
Elyse Lord, "Networking in the 'New New Economy,'"
(northbay news, July/August 2001)
It's loaded with useful information and URLs.
GeneviËve Duboscq, "An Interview with Steve Ross"
Interview with a recently laid-off tech writer.
Copyright 2004, Virginia Rich.
Back to Meeting Notes: Ideas for
Finding Editorial Work