Useful Skills for Expanding My Freelance Horizons
July 26, 2014 5:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm an experienced freelancer and have both work experience and no trouble getting work (knock on wood) in freelance writing, PR, marketing, and that sort of thing. So what's something I can pick up that has a lot of freelance work floating around?

I have enough business background to mind my own books (in the interest of full disclosure, that's dropping off a stack of paperwork at my accountant every now and then and letting HIM deal with it) and run things myself and am working on classes in that, so that stuff's covered.

I'd prefer things that don't need college coursework (since I already have that to worry about) and I'm not looking for anything to convert into a full-time career, just something I could pick up and get paid for piecemeal. I thought about something like web programming (HTML/CSS/PHP sorts of things, maybe SQL/Database stuff?) but am curious what else is out there.

Basically I'm looking for "additional skills to add to my freelance repertoire" rather than "skills to enhance my existing freelancing."
posted by Ghostride The Whip to Work & Money (3 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Technical editing for non-native English speakers at your university. You can probably charge $25-$50/hour if you don't have a technical background and $75+/hour if your own degree program is in a STEM field and you are editing papers in that field.

STEM professors, postdocs, grad students, etc. need help polishing their journal articles before submitting them. They sometimes have departmental funding for editing services and even when they don't they're often willing to pay out-of-pocket because their future career depends on publications.

Read a couple books about science writing and journal article publishing. Get in the habit of Googling every term you don't recognize to confirm the spelling. Go over equations, variable definitions, graphs, tables, legends, figure references, etc. with a fine-toothed comb because in my experience those are the areas with the most-overlooked typos.

If you're really good at being anal retentive and working to a tight deadline pressure then you can also take on editing grant proposals.

Make sure you carefully review the formatting and style guide for the target journal or funding source because sometimes most of your "editing" work is just getting things into the proper format.

A lot of academics still use Microsoft Word but the smart ones have switched to LaTeX so you'll probably want to learn that too.

While you *could* do this remotely, I really recommend starting out with local clients. It takes a while to get the hang of the word salad that many native Chinese speakers produce when they're first attempting to write in English syntax and being able to sit down in person and go over anything you don't understand is a lifesaver.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:59 PM on July 26, 2014 [19 favorites]

Someone MeMailed me some follow-up questions to my answer above. Here is a copy of my reply in case OP or others find the information useful:

I used to work for a research institute and my clients so far have been former colleagues from there and word-of-mouth referrals from them.

If I were starting from scratch, I would contact department secretaries to find out which professors were supervising postdocs and grad students and then contact those professors. In my experience, most professors really hate editing their postdocs' and students' work and were delighted to pay me out of their grant budgets to do the first edit for language and formatting before they reviewed it for science content.

I gave my estimates based on words per hour. IIRC, ~1,000wph was average for me but papers that needed a lot of rewriting because almost all the syntax was bad or that had a lot of equations, graphs, tables, etc. that I needed to check super-carefully could be as slow as ~500wph. Once I got to know a particular writer I could often get this up to ~2,000wph through a combination of knowing his/her typical foibles (I'd keep a list and Ctrl-F for the ones that could be searched) and teaching him/her to make fewer mistakes (if I noticed a writer making the same mistake over and over I would print out the relevant pages from the Purdue OWL site).

I did charge for time meeting in person but I came very organized (comments on everything I needed to check with them so I could just zip from issue to issue) so these meetings typically only took 30-60 minutes. I scheduled these meetings for after I was basically done except for my remaining questions/issues and thus could usually wrap up and send them their paper within an hour or so after our meeting.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:15 PM on July 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: Interesting, thanks Jacqueline.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:17 PM on July 26, 2014

« Older Lobster Anatomists Wanted   |   Going to the SF CA DMV without an appointment. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.