Where Does a Freelance Editor Find Clients?
This week I’m marking the third anniversary of eDitmore Editorial Services, and I’m thrilled to be here. There have been ups and downs since I posted my first piece here more than three years ago, but I feel very blessed to be able to say there have been very few weeks in the past 36 months when I didn’t have at least one project on my desk.
People frequently ask me where I find my clients, so I decided to start this new year by examining that question in depth.
I discovered that, in the past three years, I’ve had about 48 distinct clients—individuals, businesses, university departments, organizations, publishers, and grad students. Of those, 18 came directly or indirectly because a family member, friend, or acquaintance hired me, referred me for a job, or put me in touch with a potential client. Nine came as a result of referrals from past clients or current colleagues; eight came from connections I made while attending writing and publishing functions; four came from my inclusion as an editor in various resource lists; four came when I answered ads for editors; two came because of my participation in email discussion lists; two found me online through my website; and one came indirectly from a letter I had written to a publisher.
The Personal Touch
So, according to my calculations, about 80 percent of my clients in the past three years have come to me through personal connections or recommendations from past clients. Although I knew I had good friends, I was a little surprised to see how completely personal contacts had filled my work days.
In LinkedIn groups and editing discussion lists, I often see questions from new freelancers about how to find editing jobs; they want to know about advertising or optimizing their website for SEO searches. But looking at my numbers, I can see that the best thing I’ve done is to let lots of people know I’m looking for editing jobs.
I’ve found jobs by telling friends and family about my new business; I’ve found jobs by emailing contacts from previous positions to let them know I’m available; I’ve found jobs by attending conferences and having genuine conversations instead of just passing out my business cards; I’ve found jobs by joining organizations and listing my information in directories; I’ve found jobs by participating in online editing discussion groups, which led other participants to recommend me to potential clients.
And I’ve also found a number of very good jobs because satisfied clients have recommended me to their friends or employers or listed me as a resource in their books or online material. In my mind, those are the best jobs to have—and it’s the best way to find jobs because satisfied clients can create a snowball effect. If every satisfied client tells just one friend, and that friend becomes a satisfied client who tells one friend …
As I see it, the more satisfied clients I have, the more opportunities I will have to get future jobs because of past work.
You Just Never Know
I’ve also discovered that opportunities can arise from unexpected sources: I have had two clients in the past three years who found me because of freelance editing work I did more than a decade ago. One found my name listed as an editing resource in a business book I didn’t even know I was listed in.
I even have one odd success story related to a “cold” letter I mailed in 2011 to a publisher I thought might be interested in hiring me as a freelancer. I sent about a dozen letters at that time and got nothing more than polite, “we’ll keep your information on file” responses. But this summer I got a call from an author who was self-publishing a book; he had been given my name from someone I had never heard of at one of those publishing companies I had never worked for. Apparently, the company really had kept my name on file and passed it along to this author, who wound up providing me one of my favorite projects of the year.
Freelancing inherently includes an element of risk, and sometimes I get nervous when I look down and realize I’m working without a net. But as I begin my fourth year, it’s getting easier to keep my head up and just keep moving. This in-depth look at my past clients makes me feel more confident about finding future ones: I just need to keep talking about what I do and keep giving my clients service they are happy to talk about.
I’d love to know if my experience is unique or if other freelancers have had similar experiences. Where do you find your clients? Do most of your projects come because of who you know? What has been your best source of work in the past three years?