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The Best Freelance Advice I’ve Ever Been Given

by Marian Schembari on March 19, 2010

I recently wrote an article for Digital Book World about freelancer jobs in publishing. (Take my post, Freelance Jobs in Publishing: taking advantage of publisher outsourcing, from a few months back and put it on steroids.) In order to add more content and actually provide advice,  I put out a HARO request looking to get quotes from freelancers and those who hire them. (I am the sneakiest/most awesomest person ever. I now have about a dozen names of publishing execs who hire freelancers on a regular basis. Genius? Hells yeah.)

Anyhoozey, lots of people responded, but I got a fabulous book of an email from editor Katharine O’Moore-Klopf, of KOK Edit, with a list of the most amazing advice for any freelancer. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use all her tips in my article, so she is graciously letting me reprint some of them here.

So for your reading pleasure, soak up this woman’s ridiculous knowledge:

1. Hand out your business cards absolutely everywhere you go, including such places as banks and office-supply stores; you never know who’ll need your services.

2. Maintain a professional-looking web site: It’s your calling card on the Internet.

3. Keep in constant contact: Find reasons to periodically contact all of your clients so that they remember you. Frequently, the freelancer who gets the call or e-mail for a project is the one whose name is freshest in the client’s mind. Consider producing a very small periodic newsletter that you e-mail or snail-mail to clients.

4. Advertise judiciously: I advertise in the special edition of a Long Island newspaper that’s produced annually for a book fair here, and I have an ad on the web site of the Council of Science Editors.

5. Send out small gifts to regular clients: Once I’ve had a project or two with a particular contact, I send him or her a coffee mug or tote bag or other item with my company name and logo and contact info on it as a thank-you.

6. Put your name and contact info on everything you touch: Develop a signature that you can pop into place easily in each e-mail you send; it should contain at least your name, your company’s name (if you have one), your phone number, your e-mail address, and your web site URL. Every style sheet I produce (those unfamiliar with book editing should take a look at the “Style Sheet” section of this page of my web site) has my logo and contact info on it. If you do hard-copy editing, tape a business card onto the back of the last page of each ms. you edit. For onscreen edits, place your contact info in the document’s properties.

7. Investigate new clients constantly: Absolutely every single time a potential client’s name comes up on an e-mail list, in a news story, in a magazine feature, or anywhere else, search for the company’s web site online. Bookmark it. Find out everything you can about that company. And then set aside a bit of time each week to e-mail or snail-mail or call the companies you’ve checked up on. Let them know you’d like to be of service to them; never ask if they can give you work. In other words, always approach them from the perspective of their needs, not yours.

8. Buy the EFA bookletResumes for Freelancers.” Use it to structure your resume as that of a consultant rather than that of an employee.

There you have it. There’s advice all over the web for freelancers, but Katharine has hit the nail on the head with these little gems of knowledge. Hopefully you’ll find them as useful as I have! (And if you have any other tips, or things you wish you knew at my age… by all means, share away!)


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