Working from home
October 18, 2004 10:08 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of getting away from the whole NYC corporate rat race, selling the house, buying a considerably cheaper one in the boonies, and living a simpler and less stressful life. This, of course, depends on being able to make a living, ideally working from home. Two questions: [more inside]

1) How does one get started doing editing (writing, researching, translating) on one's own hook? Do I just write to a zillion publishers and businesses that might be able to use my services and hope a few decide to try me?

2) If I start an editing (&c) site, would it make sense to link it to LH (possibly even call it "Languagehat Editing" or whatever)? Plus: spillover from popularity of site; minus: irreverent/unprofessional nature of site (plus tie-in to comments at MeFi and elsewhere) might turn off potential clients. Your thoughts are most welcome.
posted by languagehat to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would avoid the "Editing services by Languagehat" site. On freelancer resumes it's overkill, and you're right: why link your personal stuff to your professional? I'd spend more time refining several types of resumes to the different areas you are interested in, each with samples of your work, so you have something quickly on hand for every kind of job.

I don't know much about freelancing in any field besides medical publishing and editing, but it can be pretty lucrative for an experienced person; I know many people making a living this way. Some of their moves: developing relationships with different publishing houses (be prepared to spend some time doing site-specific tests for no recompense, blech); monitoring well-established job boards, joining freelancer groups and listservs, and getting certified in their skills (through CSE or BELS, for example). Such accreditation organizations generally have members-only job boards where the jobs are better than run-of-the-mill opportunities and where you can post your own gun for hire ad. I think this same set of actions can translate comfortably into any freelancer job even if you are uninterested in science/medical. You may also want to try professional indexing.

None of this may be your first choice, but they can mark the place until you find your preferred freelancer niche. I wish you the best, I truly do dear languagehat, and if I can help with anything more specific, please e-mail me. I will ruthlessly poll my freelancer friends to spill all the good and ugly stuff for your benefit (a quick run-down on some of the uglies I already know: the aforementioned labor-intensive tests, unpredictable paychecks, self-insurance, tight schedules).
posted by melissa may at 10:47 AM on October 18, 2004

On 1) I don't know about your field specifically, but every successful freelancer or other independent I know (which includes graphic designers, software developers, and random webheads) -- every one of them, started out by working for a paycheck in that field for a good while and moonlighting until they had a client list built up. The few who jumped right in and hoped for the best didn't last very long.

I've been freelance for five years, and have never gotten a single job from cold calls -- they all come from people I've worked with in the past who know my work already, or as referrals from those people. Admittedly, part of that is because I don't bother making cold calls -- but at least two of the corporations I've worked with have "approved vendor" lists. If you're not on the vendor list, you will not get contract work from that company. The only way I know of to get on the vendor list is to do some contract work for that company -- a classic (and deliberate) catch-22.
posted by ook at 10:49 AM on October 18, 2004

There are a lot of people living in way upstate NY, western Massachusetts, and the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania making a good living as freelance editors and coming down to Manhattan a couple of times a month. (I don't know any of these people personally, though I've met them in passing at the offices of friends of mine who work fulltime at magazines and publishing houses, or at industry functions/booksignings, etc.)

It's probably worth joining the Editors' Guild as a starting-point for networking. MediaBistro has some worthwhile talks and classes on this stuff (as well as some complete wastes of time).
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:56 AM on October 18, 2004

Sorry, langhat, ignore "Editors' Guild"--that's for Seattle (I cut-and-pasted the wrong link from a list I was compiling).

I meant, of course, the Editorial Freelancers' Association, which is based in New York.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:58 AM on October 18, 2004

would it make sense to link it to LH (possibly even call it "Languagehat Editing" or whatever)?

In terms of web traffic, most definitely yes, if you mean an actual hyperlink. When my old blog World New York was active, and when I was still doing freelance tech support for a living, I put a single link in the sidebar to my tech support pages. Just one link, just one page.

Well, because of the way Google works, my site quickly became the number one result for "mac tech support new york" and dozens of variations, and a top ten hit for many other combos. The result was lots of calls from potential clients. Because the LH site is very well-linked, I think you could benefit from this, too.

However, I don't know that the LH brand identity is going to do you any good for recruiting clients, except from those which come from your entrenched readership. Unless you don't want to (finally) attach your real name with the LH site, I'd just recommend a non-branded page--just a page--about your editing services. You've already alerted your readers to your career change. You've got a trusted brand, so your good audience will likely respond to that with tips and leads, and you may pick up a stray client or two through Google, for nothing but the time it takes to put up a page.
posted by Mo Nickels at 11:49 AM on October 18, 2004

I would shed city life and move to the country in a second if I had the opportunity, but it's impractical for me right now. You know, you could probably manage to do this without making so much of a sacrafice. I wish I could offer good advice, but don't know much about freelancing. If my organization ever can use your services, you're first on the list...
posted by naxosaxur at 2:07 PM on October 18, 2004

I did it last year, but got to telecommute with a full-time job. Getting started freelancing seriously is kind of tough. I'd say save up a good three months of salary, then do the move so you have some time to selectively choose work and whore yourself out advertise for new work.

It takes a while to get started, but if you do good work and network well, you'll soon have more work than you can handle.
posted by mathowie at 2:12 PM on October 18, 2004

if you do good work and network well, you'll soon have more work than you can handle

Now, that's what I want to hear! Thanks, everyone, some great suggestions -- now that I think about it, it makes much more sense to just add a link to my new site from LH, and melissa and Sidhedevil, I'll definitely explore those links. AskMeFi comes through again!
posted by languagehat at 3:01 PM on October 18, 2004

in bocca al lupo, L-Hat
posted by matteo at 9:58 AM on October 19, 2004

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