How do you go about corresponding with/interviewing an editing client?

Communicating with clients is an important part of your job as a freelance editor. This can be tricky business when dealing with clashing interests and personalities but can get easier with experience. To be successful as a freelance editor you must develop good people skills and make the client feel like you are on the same side.   For the most productive relationship between copyeditors and clients, both party’s opinions must be taken in to account and they must be negotiating in good faith. Work can be much more enjoyable if the editor and the client can be flexible and communicate well in their collaboration.

After you and the client have been paired up (usually by way of personal websites, job listing services, or word of mouth recommendations) you must send them a letter that lets them know you are interested in the job. This email should thank them for allowing you to copy edit their text, ask them to meet to talk about the editing details and requirements, and gives your availability and contact information. You must get in contact with the client to discuss the details of the editing job and the contract you both agree on. Prepare yourself with a list of interview questions for the client in regards to:

  • Correspondence preferences (either through email, postal mail, by telephone, or in person)
  • Level of editing desired (light editing for spelling, grammar, etc., or heavier editing)
  • Format/style favored (font, size, layout, etc.)
  • Contact information (is it current and correct)
  • Targeted audience
  • Medium used (are the documents sent by email, snail mail? Is it a website or a book, etc.?)
  • Style sheet (is there a current style sheet? If not, provide one for the client)
  • Editing or update information on charts/tables (is it necessary for the information to stay in the tables or can it be run into the text instead/Do the charts have to stay where they are or can they be moved)
  • Captions for charts or pictures (should you create them if they don’t already exist?
  • Margins
  • Response time (expected length of time for client to get in contact with you over editing inquiries and to approve the edits that you submit to them)
  • Preference of track changes or hardcopy editing

After the interview, type up all of the editing details that you and the client agreed to for the project and send the document to the client so that both parties are aware/have evidence of what was agreed upon. When freelancers negotiate with clients they are discussing the terms of a contract that lasts for a specified period. A contract does not need to be written or discussed in formal language to be binding and enforceable. It might be reflected in a short letter or email message summarizing a phone conversation in which both parties have discussed and accepted specific terms. The letter or email to the client is then the written confirmation of the oral contract and serves to remind both parties of the terms to which they agreed. Both freelancer and client need to negotiate openly and in good faith which generally means honesty.

For additional information:

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By Nicole Westhoff


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