looking for advice about freelance scientific editing
July 25, 2011 7:09 PM   Subscribe

looking for advice about freelance scientific editing

I am a full-time research scientist and have recently started thinking about picking up some freelance scientific editing work (i.e. proofreading and copy-editing scientific papers, theses, conference abstracts etc.), both as an extra source of income and to keep my writing skills sharp. I know that we have an abundance of both science types and publishing/literary types here at mefi, so I'm wondering if anyone can offer any advice.

A brief search brings up a few businesses that purport to act as a middle-man between freelance editors and those looking to buy their services:


Can anyone offer any insight as to the reputation of these services, or offer an opinion as to whether it would be a good idea to approach them?

I also see results for websites of individual editors e.g.


Would setting up such a website myself be a better idea than going through an agency? I am quite comfortable with web development, so I feel that if I went down this route I could play the SEO/adwords/social networking game quite well.

I would be very grateful for any advice, words of encouragement, or words of warning. To give you a little bit of background; I have a degree and a PhD in computational genetics, and five years' postdoctoral experience. I have published several first-author papers in international journals, and currently work at a top-tier UK university. I have made this question anonymous because I'm not sure what my department's view on this kind of work would be; however, I'll be watching the responses carefully so please ask for more information if relevant and I'll follow up via the mods.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (3 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I’m a freelance medical writer and have worked with copy editors (at fulltime jobs), etc. at companies. To be honest (I don’t know what your ultimate goals are other than “keeping sharp,”) but there is more money as a writer if you have interest in that market.

You can set up a website. However, to have people find you, I would highly recommend you use LinkedIn and list your specialties, including your PhD, and people will find you. Also, you can attach your web page to your LinkedIn (there is a space for that within LinkedIn). Trust me your LinkedIn info can outSEO any of the web pages, and lots of companies use LinkedIn to find people to work with at this point.

I can’t speak to those particular companies, but to approach them you can send out a brief letter of introduction. My letter is only a few sentences, I list a specialty (or areas that I want to work in and have worked in), and a brief bullet list of services I offer, andc ontact info. Also, there are lists out there of medical communication companies and you could try them, too, as potential companies to work for as a freelancer.

Words of warning (unless you are just starting): YOU should set your own rate (decide what you want as an hourly rate) rather than having a company tell you they pay X for a project. If it meets your rate, then take it and if it does not, walk.

Feel free to drop me a memail and I can point you to some resources, such as a list of some of these companies, etc.
posted by Wolfster at 7:37 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can't comment on any of your mentioned companies but generally speaking, going through an agency means you get screwed on rates/credibility. Going through an agency IMO would not reflect well on you within your department.

I think (particularly) given your standing, you should set yourself up on your own, and as mentioned use LinkedIn.
posted by mleigh at 11:50 PM on July 25, 2011

You must know the style manual(s) used in your field very, very well, with all their picky nuances (e.g., how tables and such must be formatted, preferred abbreviations, etc.). You don't mention it as part of your background, but that knowledge is what your clients will be paying for.
posted by Wordwoman at 7:36 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

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