In the current job market, many editorial workers have turned to freelancing as a matter of survival. I receive many queries from applicants regarding how to go about freelancing.
Here I will address what, in my opinion, is the single most important asset you need to build a successful freelance career. See Part 2 for more.
You need a minimum of three years (five is ideal), preferably as a full-time employee. Clients will feel more comfortable in your knowledge and abilities if you can demonstrate that you've performed your duties in the past, full-time, at an established institution.
Each industry has its own "lingo". Experience in an industry allows you to understand it and communicate effectively with your clients. As a proofreader, a potential client [e.g., a reference book publisher] might say:
"I have 300 pages that need to be proofed. The footnotes and illos will be sent separately. Please make sure there's a hole for each illo and that all footnotes run consecutive, beginning anew with each new chapter. The chapter title is the right running head, there is no left running head. How long do you think it will take to complete this job?"
With no experience in publishing, it would be difficult to begin to assess the job. Before giving an estimate, some questions you would ask are:
1. Is this typed or handwritten copy?
2. Are there inserts to the existing copy that need to be proofed?
3. What style of proofreading do you use?
4. Are changes to be made on disk or hard copy?
There may be four or five more questions that need to be asked before you can realistically assess how long it will take you to complete this job.
Experience in the industry allows you to have the necessary knowledge to ask the right questions to judge each project.
Knowledge of your industry will also enable you to decide how to charge for the job. Some jobs are billed on an hourly basis, others are billed on a project basis, and still others are billed as a page rate.
Again, if you know your industry, you will be able to effectively calculate how much time the job will take and what billing method to use.