For Freelance Proofreaders/Editors: How to Not Get a Business Deal and How to Get One

How to NOT get a sale

Congratulations.  You picked up a free ebook by an author and read it.  You found something that didn’t meet your expectations (whatever those expectations might be) and thought, “Oh goody!  Now I can email this author who’s never heard of me because I don’t have any credentials to my name and offer my services.” AKA I will go up to a stranger’s door and pitch my product to make a sale.

Tacky.  This is so tacky, and I can’t even begin to wrap my head around why anyone would have the audacity to do this.

If you are any good at your job, you will have authors seeking you out.  Authors are VERY busy with writing, editing and promoting out books.  Yes we do edit our own work even though we use a proofreader and editor already! because even the best editor/proofreader will miss something or not understand we intended to do something a certain way in the book.  And don’t even get me started on an editor who has no concept of author voice.

My point is this:

Stop emailing authors you don’t know.  It’s a real turn off and puts you on the “never do business with” list.  Seriously, it’s spam.  And how do you like spam?  Do you love it when people come to your inbox to pitch their product?  Why is it so hard to understand that this method turns people off?

So what do you do to build up your credentials so authors will seek you out?

Start by being active on writer forums.  Get to know the authors.  Engage with them.  Build yourself up as a person first.  We have no clue that you exist.  And just like when we’re starting out, we can’t go around and email strangers to pitch our books to them because we have NO credibility.  You build credibility by being a person first.  This will help you longterm when you get that word of mouth going.  I refuse to trust a stranger with my book unless it’s someone a good author friend has recommended.  Word of mouth is your most powerful tool, but you can’t get it immediately and you can’t do it yourself.  You need time and other people to do it for you.

Note: don’t go on to the forum to sell.  Go on the forum to participate.  Get to know the authors.  Be personable.  Then make a thread after hanging out there for a couple of months letting them know you will offer free services to build up your portfolio.

And for God’s sake have a website or blog!  You are a business, right?  So act like a business.  Have a point of reference for authors to find you.  This is so crucial for us writers, and it’s crucial for you, too.  What are your qualifications?  What books have you worked on?  What makes you better than another editor/proofreader?  Why should we use your services?   Just like with authors, there are a TON of editors and proofreaders already out there.  So why should we go through the slush pile of editors and proofreaders to choose you?

If you learn nothing else from this post, please remember this: if you are good and you build up credible resources for authors to check out your work, you will have authors coming to you.  You won’t have to go to them.


  1. Juli Hoffman says:

    OMG! This reminded me of something funny I read, recently. Let’s see if I can find the link to it…

    Ah ha! So, I read this on one of the blogs I follow, written by a fairly famous blogger/author. She got sick of all the spam she kept getting, and now sends the spammers her own crazy version of spam. It’s a pic of Wil Wheaton collating paper. Now every time I hear a horror story about authors getting spammed, I laugh, and think of this pic!

    I think most writers network through word of mouth. If these spammers want to get right kind of attention, they need to do the right kind of networking. Random emails are a LOT like getting random salespeople at your front door. I don’t answer the door to someone I don’t know, and I don’t open an email from someone I don’t recognize.

    1. ROFL I love that picture! Good for her for sending her own spam back. I delete the emails, but one time I got so annoyed by a certain author who kept spamming me about her book that I sent a reply spamming her with my own book and she never spammed me again. So there’s something to be said for sending out spam in return.

      Does the author who sends the picture of Wil Wheaton say anything in the email or does she just send the picture?

      BTW, I can’t believe how different he looks from when he was on Star Trek: TNG. I had a crush on him when he was in Stand by Me (I saw it in the theater with my mom) and the Star Trek show. 😀

      I don’t answer the door to people I don’t know, and I don’t pick up the phone if I don’t recognize the phone number.

  2. Amen, Ruth!

    That’s funny about sending out one’s own spam. The next time a telemarketer calls me, I think I’ll try to sell them my books. Hee hee.

    1. I know. I did that one time to a salesman at my door who “didn’t have money on hand”, so I said, “So you understand my situation. I don’t have money either.” I notice when it’s turned around, people aren’t such a fan of this stuff. 😀

  3. Lorna Faith says:

    Totally agree! I don’t like getting spammed…I don’t open emails by names I don’t recognize either. Great post Ruth 🙂

    1. This particular message came off my FB author page, so I thought it was a fan who had a question. Looking back, I wish I had the insight to report the person for spam instead of deleting it. Next time, I’ll let FB know about it. Maybe it’ll prevent other authors from being harassed as well. And I agree, never open emails from people you don’t recognize. That’s why we have a contact form on our site, so we know when readers are trying to contact us, though some spam slips in that way but not much. 😀

  4. Bravo! Well said.

    I’ve done a lot of the things you point out are the right way to do it. Networking and word of mouth is so much better for picking up freelance work than mindless blind spam.

    1. Sometimes I wonder if these editors and proofreaders have a standard email they send out to everyone. It’s apparent they are using the free ebooks to find something they can catch so they can contact the author. I’m at the point where I hit delete before I even finish the email.

Comments are closed.