Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lauren Bailey’s How To

Former in-house turned freelance editor Lauren Bailey explains how she made an editing career on her own terms and offers advice on how you might do the same.  ♦ 

Even if you haven’t heard of Lauren Bailey, chances are you’re familiar with her work. She’s edited (and written for) everything from magazines to books to the web, notably in her stint working for Writer’s Digest, where she spent several years helming the popular Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market before moving to the books division, overseeing such titles as The Power of Point of View, Mind of Your Story, the fiction anthology You Must Be This Tall To Ride (edited by B. J. Hollars), and Keith Flynn’s The Rhythm Method, Razzmatazz and Memory: How To Make Your Poetry Swing. After leaving Writer’s Digest, Bailey spent some time writing for Amazon and Business to Business before striking out on her own, working for the past five years as a full-time freelance writer and editor. Read on for Bailey’s how-to’s regarding going freelance and making it work.

1. How to become a freelancer

“Be open, flexible, and adaptable. 

Lauren Bailey began professionally writing and editing in college, but she didn’t set out to become a freelance book editor—in fact it was her openness to taking on different jobs, and trying out different genres of writing, that ultimately led her to book publishing, but that openness also led to work writing music reviews, articles for tech companies, fashion copy for Amazon.com (working on their shoe collection), you name it. Bailey illustrates that there is no straight line to building a career; it is about being versatile and being able to work with any kind of company. There is no job you can take that won’t ultimately be helpful to you in developing your skills and professional network.
       Bailey also emphasizes the importance of networking in building a freelance career; she began building her own network during her time as a graduate student in Professional Writing & Editing at University of Cincinnati, and to this day she continues to work with former professors, employers, and colleagues from that period, as well as circles of writer-friends. In fact, when asked her about her transition from working for a company like Writer’s Digest to freelancing—a move that coincided with the birth of her first child—Bailey again goes to the importance of network: “I [actually] kept the job when I started freelancing. I freelanced for the company I worked for, and that’s the key. They know you’re reliable.” From that point on, Bailey continued to expand her business with referrals, and for her first few years as a freelancer, she says she never turned down a client.

2. How to manage time as a freelancer

“Work it like a 9-5 shift. 

Originally, Bailey only worked when her son slept, because she never wanted work to interfere with motherhood. Managing both at once became trickier, however, when she and her husband welcomed a daughter not long after. Bailey tells a story about a night when her daughter was sick and she had to hold (and rock) her child in a sarong with one arm while working with the other.
       After that, the Baileys decided to get a nanny.
      With the extra help, Bailey can focus on her 9-5 workday knowing her children are safe just down the hall. However, if you do work at home, Bailey jokingly recommends an office door “with a lock.”

3. How to create an office environment at home

“Big computer screen, style guides, and time. 

Besides a lock, Bailey’s essentials for an office space are a desk, a large computer screen, shelves with style guides, and a filing cabinet to keep track of her projects and paperwork (though the shelf space might be negotiable, as Bailey has stopped buying hardcopies of style guides.)
       Regarding technology, Bailey is on board with the increase of technology used in the workplace: “[For] my first job, I had to do hardcopies. We would look back at every version in the history and write on the PDF. Technology made it better to turn things around quickly, and it’s a lot easier to collaborate.”
       The technology for editing hasn’t changed drastically—Microsoft Word is still the most common editing tools, as well as Acrobat Pro. When I asked whether she was a Mac or PC girl, she stated that “Macs are mostly used in book publishing, but everyone else still works with PCs.”  In addition to her big computer screen, she also said that her next toy will be a tablet.

4. How to use technology to brand yourself

“LinkedIn and online portfolios.” 

“Do one thing, and do it very well,” Bailey suggests when speaking of social media and online portfolios. LinkedIn is a great way to connect with professionals and to expand your network, and online portfolios give potential clients a way of checking out your work. Bailey doesn't use these exclusively to find clients—she still generates most of work through her professional network. However, she started her website as soon as she started freelancing and brings in a portion of her business through her online presence. On her website, it gives a brief biography, projects that she has worked on, and “kind words” from previous clients. It also provides contact information for her services, which include various types of editing and proofreading. This is a standard guideline for any online portfolio, and answers most clients' queries:  “It is a home base and is so automatic. It’s the first thing that comes up.”

5. How to build a freelancing (or any) career

“Follow the three pillars: [be] great quality, on time, and easy to work with. 

Every bit as important as network is reputation . . . which is how one builds a network in the first place. So it makes sense that, when asked if she has any tips for upcoming writers and editors, Bailey offers those three pillars of professionalism. (“If you have at least two,” she smiles, “you’re okay.”) In addition she says, “The most important thing is to write as much as you can and feel like you can show it. Read as much as you can about the industry.”
       Bailey leaves us with one last bit of advice on the subject of reputation: “Be super professional, because the industry is so small. Treat every job as an advertisement for your personal brand.”

  • About the Author
    Melissa Petrick is an avid Twitter follower of @APstylebook and @ChicagoManual. When she is not editing for various student organizations, she is outside getting her boots dirty at the horse barn. She is currently collecting her coins for her Future Farm Fund and is anxiously waiting for the day that she can edit on her wraparound porch.

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