Providing potential clients with a first-class proofreading service can sometimes mean sending them in the direction of your colleagues …
Most of my proofreading work comes via publishing houses – and at that late stage in the process I rarely have direct contact with the authors. These presses will try to place their books with proofreaders who have experience of working on similar texts and a proven track record of following their house brief successfully. The relationship is therefore between me and my in-house production editor.
When I’m approached by independent writers (self-publishing authors, students and business people) the relationship is different. It’s not always enough to be able to proofread – the clients are looking for a mental fit, too. They’re about to trust you with something personal to them and want to feel that you’re enthusiastic about the job, interested in what they've written, and have their interests at heart.
A Norfolk-based author recently contacted me about proofreading his local-history book. He’d googled “Norfolk proofreader”, found my website, sent a sample chapter, and asked for a quote. Importantly, he was looking to exploit the East Anglian Christmas market so we really needed to get cracking immediately. Now, I’d have loved to work on this book with him – there’s something really special about working with local publishers and writers – but the time frame was impossible for me. At that stage I couldn't have begun work on the project until the beginning of December and he really needed his book to be rolling off the presses by then.
I could have just knocked it on the head, but I wanted to help him find the right person for the job. I knew that he wanted someone who could take on the job immediately and I knew he had a preference from someone local. We chatted about what his needs were and then I offered to put him in touch with my fellow Norfolk-based Society for Editors and Proofreaders’ group, and I told him about the SfEP’s Directory for Editorial Services and the Find a Proofreader website. He took the offer of the first and followed my guidance regarding the second and third. Within 24 hours my could-have-been-client had the perfect person for the job – a colleague from Norfolk who impressed with his sheer enthusiasm for the project and the ability to work within the desired time frame.
Shortly after, I received a lovely email from the author, thanking me profusely for the “exceptional service” I’d provided. Okay, so I didn't get the job, but what goes around comes around in this business. Perhaps he won't forget me – the bottle of wine delivered by mail is some indication of that – and who knows where that little bit of help I offered might lead … a future conversation with a colleague or friend might generate a referral, or perhaps I’ll be available for his next project.
Providing a first-class freelance editorial service is about more than getting the grammar and punctuation right – it’s about helping potential clients find the best fit for their project, even if at times that fit isn't you. Going the extra mile is simply another way of marketing your business – with the added bonus of knowing that you behaved like a decent human being through offering a helping hand.
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I am an Advanced Professional Member of the UK's national editorial society. Visit the SfEP website for more information.
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