Saying “No” to Editing Freebies

When I first started freelancing, an acquaintance asked if I would edit some copy. A small project, that would take little time. The content was minimal, so I did the favor.

But it didn’t end there. No good deeds, right?

The person came back — again and again and again for copy edits. The “small project” snowballed into something way larger.

One day I presented a job quote instead of saying: “Sure thing!” The person was shocked, shocked, that I had the gall to charge money for, well, doing my job.

Honestly, it was the individual’s perceived affront that stiffened my resolve. The implication that my services should be free because we had known each other for years, and the unmistakable undercurrent that freelance editing wasn’t a “real” career path.

I’ve since created a standard response to requests for free editing or proofreading, shared here in a recent discussion on Mastodon (read December’s blog about why I’ve migrated there):

And, yes, this is truly the response I give to friends/relatives/professional network, as well as any large organization or small business where I am applying for work — I will only continue the application process if there is a flat or hourly rate offered for the work sample. No freebies.

The power of saying “no” cannot be overestimated. Freelance editors, proofreaders, writers … we all need to internalize the worth of our work and then memorize a reply to offer up at a moment’s notice. A rejoinder that honors our expertise.

Advocating for the value of those services elevates not only your own business — in too many ways to count — but also that of fellow freelancing peers.

When Your Social Media Marketing Site Becomes Untenable

I’ve written before about the importance of social media marketing for promotion and networking for freelance editors. But what happens when one of those networks — on which you’ve spent years building brand awareness, cultivating relationships, developing a following — goes rogue?

Other social platforms I’ve put time and effort into have literally gone kaput in the past, the most recent being Google Plus. But that was not as ubiquitous as the one I’m referencing here: Twitter. I’ll not go over all the developments — if at all active on social media, you know what’s happening — but suffice it to say the atmosphere there is not terrific.

In fact, the toxicity is impossible to ignore, which is why I’m refocusing efforts on the other site where I’m active, LinkedIn, plus building a new presence on another — which, for now, is Mastodon. What these actions entail:

LinkedIn: Cross-checking professional Twitter freelance and small business follows (who also followed me back) on LinkedIn, and extending an invite to those I’m not already connected with. Then, concentrate on being a lot more active on the site. Not just with content curation, but regularly engaging my previous and new connections on a weekly basis.

Mastodon: Set up and verify the account by linking to my website and vice versa. Recreate my Twitter network (as much as possible) by using a tool to find and follow tweeps who are also on Mastodon; Movetodon is the best of the available apps. Then spend time learning to use the site, and connect with new editing, proofreading and small business peers.

The process has been extremely time-consuming. And I’m not even certain that Mastodon is my final platform for a second social media marketing presence. For example, I have a placeholder account on Post.News and have preregistered on Spoutible. Everything still shaking out, and will be for several years.

In the meantime, join me on LinkedIn or Mastodon to continue the fabulous discussion:

If you’ve made your own Twitter migration to these or other social platforms, please share your thoughts in the comments!

Can You Edit With a Headache?

There’s a familiar creeping pressure in my temples. Sometimes right, sometimes left, other times both. I try to ignore the sensation, but eventually I take off my glasses and increase the size of the type on the laptop screen to 150%. After reading the same line of copy five times, action becomes necessary.

Migraines have been a pain (pun intended) throughout my adult life. The worst ones lasted for days on end and no amount of over-the-counter pain medication or rest extinguished them. When working in corporate communications in my 20s to early 40s, I would soldier through the day in misery until collapsing at home.

Then I had a child at 42 and went freelance. And that posed a whole different set of issues, because a screaming toddler is not going comply with mommy’s desperate requests for quiet.

Then medical science provided much-needed help. In the 2010s, my primary doctor proscribed a new medication that puts the kibosh on my headache in fairly short order (one to three hours). A godsend, really.

And that brings us back to the question posed in the headline: Can you edit with a headache? You can try, but honestly, I don’t recommend it. You are not doing yourself or your clients any favors by attempting thorough and accurate editing and/or proofreading of copy with a pounding migraine. There will be mistakes, resulting in unhappy customers and possibly poor reviews.

Even with the medication, which I take at the first hint of discomfort, relief is not instantaneous. The headache resolves faster when I lie down in a darkened room after taking the meds (another perk of work-at-home freelancing). Then I can return to effectively editing and proofreading.

Self-care is important both personally and professionally. Acknowledging that you need downtime if a migraine is imminent is smart business practice, regardless of industry.

Taking Back My Editing Portfolio (and Saving Some Money, Too)

A portfolio of work is essential in both job hunting, and for freelancers such as myself, in acquiring new clients.

Years ago, I painstakingly arranged hard copies of my work in one of those flat, zippered art display cases with clear pockets. (I still have that case and all its contents, somewhere in the basement.) The rise of the internet, however, required a digital plan.

Online Evolution

In the late 2000s I migrated everything into a Dropbox file, with many folders containing lots and lots and LOTS of documents. It was dense and tiring to wade through. So when the first version of my website went live in 2015, I decided to up my game by downsizing the number of pieces and finding a better way to display them.

There are websites that exist solely for housing online portfolios of art, writing, marketing collateral … anything, really. After researching five or six I chose one, paid a fee – there’s always a cost involved; these are businesses providing a service, after all – and began adapting my editing, proofreading, and copy evaluation samples to the site parameters.

The end result was a pleasing presentation of 10 items. I was all set!

Five Years Later…

I revamped the entire website in 2020 with a new URL – – and a shiny new logo, tag line, and WordPress theme, plus revised copy. The only thing I didn’t update: the portfolio.

But the portfolio content, remaining on the third-party site, was getting long in the tooth. In 2021 I began choosing new samples, and the arduous chore of swapping out the previous ones: writing descriptive explanations, formatting, etc.

During the months-long process (doing this all myself, breaks were necessary when frustration set in), something began to bother me.

Here I was, updating my work on a site where it displayed well and was easy for potential clients to browse … but where I was paying $60 a year. That’s $300 over five years! Why would I continue paying out of pocket when I have a cool, updated website where I can showcase my skills for free?

Why indeed?

The Grand Experiment

The first task: recreating a single entry. After a week and few different layouts I had a good template: streamlined and easy to navigate.

Migrating all 10 entries over to the website began last November, and on February 3, 2022, my brand-spanking-new Portfolio page went live.

Visitors: Please Stay and Browse

Now when directing peers and clients (potential and existing) to view my editing and proofreading samples, they won’t need to take an extra online step … they’re already on my website.

It’s smart digital marketing strategy. Housing the portfolio on my own website creates opportunities for people to stay and look around. To view my Services and Blog pages. Perhaps they’ll even use the Contact page to ask for a project quote!

What form does your own portfolio take? How do you display your own work, and why that particular way? Please share in comments section below, along with links!

An Editor’s Shelter-In-Place Diary 11-16-21: The Editing (and Life) Middle Ground

Copy can absolutely be over-edited. Clients will not be pleased with the results if their content comes back and is completely changed in tone, or cut down well beyond what they wanted. (Trust me on this.)

A middle ground exists in editing any particular project, as it does in life situations. Part of my function as an editor is determining and remaining within the parameters of a job, while still completing a comprehensive edit.

Forming these parameters requires a clear and frank discussion with the client from the outset, in which I will ask the following questions:

  • What are the project goals?
  • What is the tone (i.e. conversational, corporate, somewhere in between)?
  • Does the client want a basic, intermediate, or line edit? (This often requires a more detailed explanation of the editing levels.)
  • Should the copy be tightened, or cut to a certain word count?
  • Is the client open to a conversation about a more extensive edit if, after reviewing the draft, I feel that would be beneficial to meet their project goals?

Sometimes I’ll find that the content requires, say, a developmental or other type of edit. In this case I will refer the customer out to a fellow editor or an industry site like the Editorial Freelancers Association on which to post their job. This saves time and money for both of us.

When the gig moves forward, I am in a good position to know what, how, and how much to edit. And if changes to the scope of editing do occur, the open communication will help with ongoing conversations. Either way, the work proceeds more smoothly – even with the inevitable hiccups – within the established editing and proofreading boundaries.

Adjusting to a New Middle Ground in Life

Twenty months have passed since the pandemic lockdown began. Several weeks ago I received the COVID booster / third shot. That coincided with progressing to a “new normal,” as they say. Running errands to stores as needed. Seeing an indoor performance – the first since 2019 (the fall high school music concert; my son plays flute in freshman band).

My middle ground? Continuing to wearing a mask (or two) everywhere inside.

Still, it does indeed feel like moving on in a true, substantive way. So …

An Editor’s Shelter-in-Place Diary Comes to an End

Yes, the time has come to retire this series … but not the blog itself! Please bookmark for new posts, or connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter for updates.

And reach out if you require editing, proofreading, or copy evaluation for your business content project!

An Editor’s Shelter-In-Place Diary 8-6-21: Embracing My Editing Superpower

Earlier this year I wrote about deciding to remain a part-time freelance editor, instead of seeking full-time work. Since then I’ve decided to embrace the first, best use of my editing mojo.

Namely blogs (especially blogs) and other business-related marketing communications copy: website content, marketing collateral, email newsletters, press releases.

Over the last few years, I tried to diversify by taking on some fiction and academic work … and the projects, though small, were hard.

I have the utmost respect for editors who specialize in these fields. And I learned a hard lesson: these are not my niche areas, and because of the level of difficulty (and my inexperience) I wasn’t able to truly enjoy the process.

If this ongoing (sigh) pandemic has taught us anything, we should take a clear-eyed look at our professional lives and embrace our strengths. Working on what we’re truly good at – and that we want to learn more about to increase our expertise over time – gives meaning, motivation, and purpose to our professional lives.

Editing and proofreading business content is not exactly sexy … but it is my particular superpower. And you know what? That’s cool.

What’s your professional superpower? Share in the comments below!

An Editor’s Shelter-In-Place Diary 4-15-21: Hope Blooms; Blogging Task Blocks

My favorite rhododendron survived another winter to fully bloom, and I too made it through and finally received the COVID vaccine.

Even while largely working and staying at home, I now venture out to a museum indoors here, a restaurant outdoors there. Still masking up (doubly so inside), still socially distancing.

And so I explore this new, new spring normal carefully, hopefully.

Block Out Time for the WHOLE Blogging Process

Here’s an exchange I had on a recent Twitter #BizapaloozaChat with host Ivana Taylor and fellow chat participant Leslie Williams:

The gist? Blogs are time consuming, from creation to publication to promotion. And while the hours spent will certainly vary, you still need to schedule your blogging activities accordingly. Here’s a typical breakdown of my processes:

  • Brainstorming ideas;
  • Writing a rough draft;
  • Putting the copy aside for a bit;
  • Edit, proof, and rewrite as needed;
  • Putting the copy aside for a bit;
  • Final editing and proofreading;
  • Searching for / choosing an image;
  • Placing website URL and logo on the image;
  • Format the copy in a new post on website (WordPress);
  • Upload image to website and insert into post;
  • Test any links;
  • Decide upon blog categories and tags;
  • Save draft and put aside for a bit;
  • Load preview for final reviewing and proofing;
  • Publish;
  • Write social media posts for promotion; and
  • Post promotional copy to social media.

That is a LOT of steps! But this is typical, even for a bimonthly / quarterly blog like mine.

Add every part of the blog – from start to finish – to a dedicated portion of your workday calendar. This will alleviate frustration by making the process routine and efficient, which in turn will actually save time and help limit grammatical errors and other embarrassing mistakes!

How do you handle your blogging practices? Share in the comments below!

An Editor’s Shelter-In-Place Diary 2-12-21: Decisions, Decisions; To Copy and Paste … or Not

Do I want to remain a freelance editor? Apply for full-time positions … or maybe part-time? Onsite or remote? Perhaps a combination of these?

These are questions I’ve been mulling over daily in the last few months while job searching, as described in my last blog post.

Then I got an interview for a content editor position, and made it to second round interviews. That morning before the interview, I wrote out my daily to-do list. What jumped out was how much the shelter-in-place routine was … still the same. And how much those items filled the day.

When would I complete these responsibilities and chores if I took on a full-time job? What about the volunteerism that I value? Answer: after or before. Or not at all. Ugh.

Sometimes, the path to take is clear as a cloudless blue sky. This was one of those times. I bowed out of the second interview, and resolved to apply to part-time, remote editing positions only as well as one-off freelancing projects.

I felt lighter afterwards, a sure sign that I made the right decision for right now.

Pam’s Pearls on Editing and Grammar: Repurposing Previous Communications

Are you copying and pasting the content of a previous email (text, direct message, social posting, etc.) into a new one, and just changing a few relevant details? That’s perfectly OK and something I often do to save time.

Once that copy is, well, copied and pasted, the next step is to … STOP!

Do not press “send” without double checking your final communication. That entails:

  • Proof your work.
  • Run the text through spell check. (If a text / direct message / social posting, paste the copy into Word or Google Docs and use that program’s spell check function.)
  • Put the copy aside for least five or 10 minutes.
  • Reread one final time.

Does the message convey exactly what you want and to whom you want, without errors or embarrassing gaffes? Excellent! NOW you can send with confidence.

If there is an editing or grammar topic you’d like “Pam’s Pearls” to feature, leave a comment below!

An Editor’s Shelter-In-Place Diary 12-28-20: Looking to 2021 – Keep on Editing, Keep on Job Searching, Keep on Sheltering … for Now

This pandemic and blog series has blown past the nine-month mark. There is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel (as the saying goes) in the form of several different vaccines … but resolution is still months off. So I will keep on…

Keep on Editing

Editing is at the core of everything I do professionally, whether for clients on their projects or for myself in emails, social media, and other communications or writing.

I’ve been editing (and proofreading and writing) for a while. Often, I don’t give much thought to the process; but there are other times when I become conscious of myself editing (and proofreading and writing). This is a good thing!

Every skill requires both practice and active awareness to keep maintain a high level of competence. Even if one is extremely proficient at the skill, having welded it for years in a variety of settings.

So as I look forward to 2021, I will keep on editing and strive be mindful of the method in any number of moments.

Keep on Job Searching

A year ago I began actively looking for permanent work, as described in the November 2019 blog “You may need a current resume next month. Next week. Tomorrow. Today!” After a couple of interviews the search came to a screeching halt during the March COVID-19 lockdowns.

Navigating a new work-life reality of son/husband/myself in our house 24/7 and my home office no longer mine (which I fully agreed to) … well, job hunting fell out of the top-10 of the to-do list for months. I applied to permanent jobs and freelance gigs here and there, but didn’t really pick up the search until late November.

Because coronavirus is still with us for the foreseeable future – even as the vaccines roll out – I’m limiting my applications to fully remote positions … and within those positions, I’m focusing on editing / copyediting / proofreading.

One thing this pandemic has reinforced: work at something you enjoy, because life is seriously too short to spend working on something you don’t. In my case, that means a primary professional focus as an editor.

Keep on Sheltering … for Now

Our family has no preexisting conditions of note, so our turn to get one of the vaccines won’t occur till sometime later in the spring of 2021.

Until then, we’ll mostly keep sheltering in place with occasional socially-distanced forays outside – full masked, of course. This Editor’s Shelter-In-Place Diary series will likewise continue, for at least a little while longer.

I wish all of you a happy and safe New Year. See you in 2021!

An Editor’s Shelter-In-Place Diary 11-18-20: Proofreading Tips and Eye Strain Busters for Error-Free Biz Communications

Working remotely – as many of us are continuing to do eight months into the COVID pandemic – means that many of our communications will continue to be digital. I’m referring to written exchanges. We all use Zoom, Skype, WebEx and similar platforms for virtual meetings, of course, but those are generally not ongoing over the course of the workday. Discussions with team and coworkers take place via chat during virtual meetings, text messages, direct messages (DMs) via social media, emails … the list is really endless.

Knowing that I primarily edit business copy for a living, people increasingly ask if it really matters if work emails, text / chat / DMs error-free and grammatically correct? My super-short answer: YES!

Your written communications, no matter how brief, are a reflection of work commitment and professionalism. Even if the recipient says nothing about a typo-filled message, such errors do make an impression. If you didn’t care enough to proofread an email, will you truly focus on the details of the task at hand?

Keeping copy error-free is not rocket science. Here are a few straightforward tips to help:

  • After writing something … even the briefest of texts … let that copy sit before pressing “send”! Walk away, do another task, for at least five to 10 minutes (or longer if possible) and then check for typos.
  • Get someone else to review your messages! A second set of proofreading eyes is always indispensable.
  • Spell check! While far from perfect, the spell check function is a good backup to catch basic grammatical and spelling issues.
  • Slowly read the copy OUT LOUD. Repeat! Your ears may catch what your eyes missed.
  • If you’re feeling really ambitious, try reading the text backwards. A neat little trick that works wonders.
  • For more pointers, check out my previous blog on this topic.

And, finally, an essential and often overlooked action that helps globally with regard to business communications of all types:

Reducing eye strain!

Staring too long at that laptops, tablets, smartphone screen is not a new issue. But add in Zooms, Microsoft Teams, Google Meets, etc. to replace in-person meetings during COVID and eye fatigue increases exponentially. Unsurprisingly, eye strain also impedes your ability to accurately and effectively edit and proofread your messages (and all other copy, too).

Remedies include changing the angle of your laptop as well as your posture and distance from the computer, filter screens and apps, eye drops, and even glasses that block blue light!

Here are articles with these and other easy-to-implement solutions that will help both you and your partially or fully remote K-12 child:

Do you have a terrific proofreading or eyestrain-reducing tip? Share it in the comments below!