Lately, I have spoken with a handful of people about writing and editing for them. Two represent companies rather than individual authors. It’s interesting that these diverse parties have similar requests.
When it comes to completing and submitting applications, I’m one of those folks who won’t submit an application unless I can claim to have most of the experience and/or qualifications listed in the job description. We all know that job descriptions are wish lists, just as we all know that corporations all want to hire 18-year-old kids with MBAs and 10 years of professional experience who will work 60 hours per week on a minimum wage salary without overtime pay.
Ain’t gonna happen.
Besides, if I don’t have every single criteria nailed, that just leaves me with something to learn, a new skill to acquire. That small gap offers growth instead of boredom.
But I digress.
One person to whom I submitted a proposal asked me for project samples. I’d already provided links to project samples in my website, but gave her the benefit of the doubt of likely having received dozens of proposals and not recalling which was specifically was mine. So, I responded with a concrete list, each item hyperlinked. Then that prospective customer asked me to send her samples of those clients’ pre-edited work to show what I had done with those manuscripts.
I replied that I don’t do that. I don’t share clients’ unedited content, because that’s a violation my ethics and of their trust in me. They don’t want their unedited content sent to all and sundry. Instead of breaking their trust (and my contracts with them), I offered to provide that prospective client with a sample edit. I haven’t heard back and doubt I will.
I understand that a prospective client wants assurance that I won’t butcher his or her work when editing it; however, that person also would not want his or her unedited work handed to other people, either. If you don’t want me to do something like that with your manuscript, then don’t ask me to do that with other people’s manuscripts. Fair’s fair.
A sample edit will demonstrate how I would treat your manuscript. There’s no better test for editor-author compatibility.
Another potential client considering me as a ghostwriter mentioned asked to see writing samples. I directed that person to various URLs leading directly to my work. I showed my experience in the genre specified as well as other work. Then came the mention that I’d have to undergo a writing trial which sounded suspiciously like a request for me to write for free. Any professional writer who has been in the game for more than a year or two will tell you: professionals don’t create custom content for free. That’s what all those writing samples are for.
The first request to share a client’s unedited content is, quite simply, unethical. I have no rights to that content. It is not mine to give away.
The second request, one ghostwriters often receive, is also unethical as well as exploitive. This comes under “getting something for nothing” without the security of a contract or the promise of a reward. One doesn’t ask a painter to paint one wall of a house before deciding whether to hire that painter, or a chef to prepare a sample dish before the patron orders a meal.
A third prospective client engaged me in a conversation regarding editing a manuscript. I explained my service and directed him to my website where my rates and recent projects are listed. That person stated that full service wasn’t needed and asked if I were willing and able to deliver an abbreviated version of that service. Of course, I could do that; the author controls the level of service rendered. The author asked for my rates. I provided the information. And … crickets.
The freelance dance requires both patience and perseverance. Patience comes into play when explaining the same thing to many different people—and sometimes to the same people. What I do doesn’t change, but to many folks, what I do is new to them. They don’t comprehend it, and it’s my job to make sure they do understand before we get to the point of signing on the dotted line. Patience also comes into play when a prospective client asks me to do something unethical. I try to give that person the benefit of the doubt: either he did not think the request through or she’s just naive and uninformed. Again, it’s my job to educate that person. Again patience comes into play when a client finally understands what an endeavor will require and how much it will cost. Not everyone is able to or is willing to afford my services. I understand that and, again, work to educate the prospective client on the expected cost of service.
Perseverance is required, because for every “yes” I receive, I get a lot of “no” responses. Just as a prospective client or employer needs to evaluate me as a vendor, I need to evaluate the client. If it’s not a good fit, then it’s best not to do business.