Category: copy editing

Structuring your portfolio, finding your voice, organizing your writing life, and more

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Welcome to the second Monday in March. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it’s better than a lie that can hurt you in many different ways.

Here are a few things I’d like to share from The Editor’s Desk.

Structuring your writing portfolio

As a freelance content writer, potential clients always ask to see samples of my work. I have a website that includes samples of my work here and here, and I also have samples on my LinkedIn page. It’s important to have an online portfolio as it’s more efficient than having to send files to potential clients. However, you might not know how to structure the clips (e.g., work) in your portfolio to get the best results. Here are some suggestions for setting up a great writing portfolio:

  • Remember that the goal is to organize and highlight clips in your portfolio so that it makes sense and appeals to prospects in your desired market and niche
  • Regularly check your existing clips (remove any that don’t look good) and add new clips to keep your portfolio fresh
  • Put your high profile and most impressive clips first
  • Separate clips by categories – marketing, journalism, copywriting, etc.
  • Focus on the clips that your ideal clients would search for or want to see
  • Leave dates off the clips – it does not matter when they were done
  • Change the order of clips based on how many times they have been viewed – use page analytics to see the most viewed clips
  • Include brand names were applicable

How to find your voice

Many writers have difficulty writing in their own voice. Your writing voice sounds like you when you read it because it mirrors the voice in your head. That’s the voice you hear when thinking about what you will write before you write it. Sometimes that inner voice doesn’t make it to the page. We sometimes think we need to sound a certain way for our readers. Kayleigh Moore wrote a great blog post on how to write in the voice that’s in your head. She recommends:

  • Remove the filter
  • Add humour to your writing
  • Be brave and open to feedback

Here’s a great quote: Anyone can churn out another boring article. But if you can write with a voice that sparkles with charming personality, you’re doing something that truly only YOU can do. 

Note: I wrote a blog post about finding your writing style, which is similar.

Organizing your writing life

I consider myself somewhat organized when it comes to my business writing life. I keep track of my projects and have different notebooks for different projects. Ali Luke with Craft Your Content provides advice on ways to organize your writing life and be more creative. Some strategies include:

  • Having one notebook for each project (just like I said)
  • Keep your writing gear in a bag even if you only write from home (difficult to get out and write these days, but I like the idea)
  • Use one app or planner to track To Do items (I use a notebook and calendar to have multiple reminders)
  • Set aside blocks of time for different types of writing (I like this idea a lot)
  • Keep track of what you’ve submitted and where (this is how you run a business as a writer)
  • Have a foolproof way of tracking deadlines (I use a calendar and notebook)
  • Use an “end of day” routine to put everything back (I should do this)

Here is some great advice:

  • Today, gather your writing materials together. Find a bag or box—anything will do—where you can keep your essentials so that they’re ready for you. Then, spend no more than five minutes clearing a writing space where you have enough room to work.
  • During the rest of the week, set aside time to write and to get organized. You might want to schedule your writing for 30 minutes, then spend 5-10 minutes taking a simple next step to get more organized. 

Personalizing your B2B content

How often have you received an email or marketing message that felt generic? “Dear Sir”, “To the Marketing Manager,” etc. is a clear indicator that the person sending the email knows nothing about you. People connect with people. People buy from people. If you are in the business of writing B2B content, then you should learn to write to your reader rather than at them. Aaron Cullers at MarketingProfs wrote an article on writing more personalized B2B content, providing the following tips:

  1. Choose the audience you want to reach
  2. Relearn the digital context and competition within your buyers’ experiences
  3. Create personalized content building blocks for every buying stage
  4. Include messages and assets based on buyer behaviour triggers
  5. Test, measure, improve, repeat

Dealing with intrusive thoughts

I sometimes get stuck in my own head, as thoughts will get stuck there and bounce around, interfering with everything else I am trying to think about. I often thought that I was the only one who felt this way, but that’s never the case. Many people face the same challenges. Vivian Manning-Schaffel at Shondaland wrote a great article on coping with intrusive thoughts. Her advice includes:

  • Don’t push those thoughts away
  • Understand that you and the thoughts are not the same
  • Don’t overthink your thoughts
  • Take care of yourself

Here’s a great quote: Once you fully grasp that your thoughts are inconsequential and are unattached to any intention or outcome, they don’t matter as much. If they don’t matter as much, you stop worrying about them and stop anticipating that they will come back…

Quote on consistency

Here’s a great quote from James Clear on consistency:

Greatness is consistency. Meditating once is common. Meditating daily is rare. Exercising today is simple. Training every week is simply remarkable. Writing one essay rarely matters. Write every day and you’re practically a hero. Unheroic days can make for heroic decades.

What I wrote

Check out this blog post I wrote for SellerantHow to create marketing personas for your business.

What I read

I just finished reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I had never seen the movie and had heard great things about it. I don’t usually go for books written in diary or letter format but this was enjoyable, and I was surprised by the shock reveal. I will have to check out the movie to see if it holds up.

What I watched

Upon the recommendation from a friend, I watched The Hunt with Betty Gilpin and Hillary Swank. It’s a commentary on the divide between groups in today’s society. It’s also an enjoyable view with some gruesome deaths and memorable lines.

What I listened to

I listened to the Tim Ferriss podcast episode #501 with Steven Pressfield, who talked about the artist’s journey, the wisdom of little successes, shadow careers, and overcoming resistance. Steven is a great author, who has written a fantastic book called The War of Art – a must read for freelance writers.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Learning to write faster, turning away clients, compelling introductions, and more

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Welcome to the first Monday in March. I pulled a muscle in my side, which made me think I hurt my kidney somehow. It’s still painful after about a week, but I can still roll out of bed, so I have that going for me.

Here are a few things I’d like to share from The Editor’s Desk.

Learning to write faster

If you are a freelance writer and get paid by the hour, you probably don’t want to write faster than you already do. You actually lose money being a faster writer. However, for most other situations (especially when facing deadlines), it can pay to learn how to write your content more quickly. To follow are some quick tips on increasing your writing speed:

  • Write a bad first draft. There’s no need to be perfect with your first draft. Get the words on the page.
  • Walk away from the writing. Taking a break can re-energize you and make you faster when you return to the keyboard.
  • Write in your head. Think about what you want to say, how you want to say, how you want to organize your sections, etc. before putting the words down.
  • Find the best time of day to write the first draft. Some people are great in the morning, others work best at the end of the day or after lunch. You’ll know when you’re most productive.
  • Write to the quality of the project and the client’s needs. Some projects require more effort and quality than others. Don’t spend the time to write a thesis when you’re writing a blog post on the top 10 best pizza places in your city.
  • Outsource some of your tasks. Hire a virtual assistant to handle the administrative work while you spend time on writing.
  • Write about familiar topics. If you’ve written a few articles on one topic, you’ll be able to write more quickly on related topics because you already know the terminology and main issues.
  • Write blog posts in batches. If you have a calendar of assignments, or a plan to write blog posts on similar topics, bang them all out one after another when the words are flowing.
  • Reduce revisions. Don’t edit or revise when you’re writing. Limit the number of revisions that clients can make – charge more for each one.
  • Write longer pieces. Having to start a new project takes time. Writing long pieces keeps you immersed in the writing, and you’ll work at getting it done more quickly than starting something new.

PS. I wrote a blog post about being a faster writer here.

Turning away potential clients

As a freelance writer – or any self-employed person – there will be times when you need to turn clients away. It’s actually a way to grow your business. When you turn away the wrong clients, you make room for the right clients. It can be scary to turn down paying gigs, but there are a number of reasons why you should turn away potential clients:

  • The (hourly) rate is too low. It might be a “good” project rate, but the amount of work involved could reduce the hourly rate below minimum wage.
  • It’s a one-off assignment. If you have to choose between regular work and a one-off, it usually makes sense to turn down the one-off assignment because regular work just keeps bringing in money and opportunities. Of course, some one-off assignments are worth it, especially if they give you experience in a new industry.
  • The work is not in your niche. Again, if it’s a market you want to be in, it’s good experience for the portfolio. But if you don’t plan to work in this niche, pass it along to someone else.
  • Your writing style does not match the brand voice. Yes, you can learn to write in a new style or voice, but if it’s very different from you usual style, it will be challenging for you and a bad fit for the client.
  • The client is likely to be difficult. Stay away – the pay is rarely worth the grief.
  • The client’s desired strengths and requirements are different from yours. Don’t try to fit your square peg into their round hole.
  • There’s a mismatch of personalities. You work with people, not just words, so you need to be able to get along. If it’s not a fit, everyone will be unhappy, especially you.
  • You have a bad “feeling”. Trust your gut. If it does not feel like it’s right, walk away.

How to write compelling introductions

People will often decide to read an article or blog post based on the heading. However, a strong introduction will keep them reading. Kayleigh Moore wrote a great blog post on how to write compelling introductions. She breaks it down to three steps:

  • Step 1: Distill the point of your content into a single, concise sentence.
  • Step 2: Tease out the most interesting aspect of your sentence.
  • Step 3: Write three to four short, conversational sentences based on the first two steps.

Here’s a great quote: ... the short, abbreviated intro gives the reader a chance to warm up to you, your writing voice, and what you’re about to share with them. It doesn’t make any assumptions about the readers’ problems or concerns—and it’s conversational and light.

Editing mistakes to avoid

I know some writers hate editors because they don’t like other people changing what they wrote or commenting on their perfect words. (I’ve been there, and have developed an objective approach to writing for clients.) Unfortunately, too many writers will take to editing their own work, which can actually make it worse than before. Sola Kehinde at Craft Your Content wrote an article on six editing mistakes to avoid as a professional writer:

  • Depending on self-editing alone (we never see our own mistakes)
  • Asking family and friends to edit your work (I hate showing them the finished work!)
  • Not understanding the different types of editing (there are BIG differences between them)
  • Doing different edits in the wrong order (that can cause so many problems)
  • Hiring one editor for different types of editing (not always an issue)
  • Thinking of beta readers as editors (they have a specific role, and it’s not editing)

Here’s a great, self-serving quote: To ensure you get objective and honest feedback about your writing so you can achieve your writing goals, always choose a professional editor or an editing agency instead of family and friends who may only tell you what they think you want to hear. 

How to read more

Finding time to read can be a challenge. How much I read from year to year will vary, but I have been trying to make time to read – keeping books by my bed, turning off the TV to read, bringing a book with me during appointments, etc. Elaine Meyer at Doist wrote a blog post on how to read more. There is a lot of great information in this post, including how to build a reading habit:

  • Make it easy to start
  • Start small (this goes for everything you want to do)
  • Read at a certain time of day
  • Multi-task with audiobooks
  • Make time
  • Create a distraction-free environment
  • Try visual cues
  • Take notes (I’ve started keeping a notebook where I wrote two pages about the book I read)
  • Write reviews
  • Put down a book you’re not enjoying (YES!)
  • Make reading an enjoyment, not an obligation

Here’s a great quote: One of the most effective ways to spend less time on habits like social media, online shopping, or playing video games, is to build “friction” into how you access them. You can also use the friction principle the opposite way for reading. Reduce your reading friction by making it as easy as possible to read books. Plan how you’ll buy or borrow books and the tools you’ll use to read, like e-readers and audiobook apps.

Resource: How to create a profitable eBook and course

If you want to create your own eBook or mini-course, check out Felicia Sullivan‘s step-by-step guide I Created a 201-Page Profitable eBook & Mini Course in One Month. It is published on Medium so you might need a membership to read it (I have three free views per month, as should you, so choose wisely). The guide covers:

  • Selecting a topic
  • Building an outline
  • Pre-selling the book
  • Writing the book
  • Publishing the book

What I wrote

Check out this article I wrote for Nom Nom DataThe Impact of Turnover on Small Teams.

What I read

I just finished reading How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa. It’s a collection of short stories on different people, mostly Laotian immigrants, occupying the same world. It was a great read, as the stories flowed and the characters were interesting and real.

What I watched

My daughter and I watched the movie Finding ‘Ohana. It’s about two siblings from Brooklyn who go to Oahu with their mom to help take care of their grandfather, where they learn about their heritage and seek a mysterious treasure. It’s a fun family movie.

What I listened to

The Build Your Copywriting Business podcast, episode #15, described the 11 traits of the most successful copywriters. It’s an informative episode, so check it out.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Controlling the client’s revisions, creating a rate card, writing a manifesto, and more

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Welcome to another Monday in February. Did you get something done today? Good for you. If not, try again tomorrow.

Here are a few things I’d like to share from The Editor’s Desk.

Controlling the client’s revisions

Have you heard the expression, “Give a weed an inch, and it will take a yard.” (That’s a gardening joke.) The expression applies to clients of content writers and copy editors. The number of requested revisions can get out of hand if you let clients control the process or think that they can make unlimited revisions.

Here are a few tips for reducing (or controlling) the number of revisions that clients request when you provide the first draft:

  • Be clear on the client’s expectations and project scope
  • Ask the client questions before writing so that you can be as clear as possible on what they need
  • Include the number of revision cycles in your contract
  • Have all stakeholders sign off on a completed project review and the first draft
  • Write an outline and show it to the client before writing
  • Ask for consolidated feedback from all stakeholders
  • Request reviewers to use Track Changes when making comments
  • Set a deadline or limit for revisions

Creating a rate card for your business

For some part of my career as a freelance content writer and copy editor, I had a rate card that showed my rates for different services. These days, I will provide quotes based on the client’s description of what they need. Jennifer Goforth Gregory at The Content Marketing Writer wrote a post with five reasons on why to not publish a rate card:

  • One rate does not fit all situations (very true!)
  • Sometimes, it makes good business sense to take a lower rate (some clients are worth it)
  • You do not want to underprice yourself (the client may be willing to pay more than you typically charge)
  • Clients have to reach out to you to ask about your rate (that is inbound marketing)
  • You lose the chance to charge more for difficult clients (some clients are not worth working with, no matter how much you charge)

Writing a manifesto

I’ve never thought of writing a manifesto, although I’ve read a few interesting ones in my day. Rather than writing a list of goals, which many people will do especially when starting a new year, you might want to consider writing a manifesto, which provides direction and guidance for big changes. Amy Stanton with Minutes provides some direction on writing a manifesto, which includes these three steps:

  • Shift your thinking from being externally focused to being internally focused
  • Connect emotions to the various responsibilities you have in your life
  • Create an accountability plan

Here’s a great quote: Remember: a manifesto is not a checklist of goals. This isn’t about our normal Type-A “how fast can we achieve our goals and cross the finish line.” This is about the journey and how we want to act, think, and feel along the way.

Marketing without social media

Social media marketing can be a very effective strategy for promoting and growing your business as a freelance writer, or for any solopreneur. However, there are many other ways to market your services. Alexandra Franzen wrote a post on 21 other ways to engage in marketing without social media. She has some great suggestions – here are some of my favourites:

  • Do a “45 in 45” email challenge.
  • Add info about your product or service to your email signature.
  • Circle back to previous clients and customers via email. Say hi. See if they’d like to hire you/purchase from you again.
  • Start a newsletter and send it out consistently.
  • Gently remind clients that you love and appreciate word-of-mouth referrals. Encourage them to send new clients your way.

What to ask before you quit

Have you ever wanted to quit on a company, client or project? If you haven’t, then you’ve either never worked for someone or you have led the most charmed life. Anisa Purbasari Horton at Fast Company wrote an article on four questions to ask yourself before quitting something:

  • Why did I pursue this in the first place?
  • Why do I feel the need to quit?
  • Have I done everything I can to make this work for me?
  • What do I have to gain by quitting?

Here’s a great quote: We don’t like to think about limits, but we all have them. While grit is often about stories, quitting is often an issue of limits–pushing them, optimizing them, and most of all, knowing them.

How to improve

Here are some tips from James Clear on how to improve:

  1. Lots of research. Explore widely and see what is possible. 
  2. Lots of iterations. Focus on one thing, but do it in different ways. Refine your method. 
  3. Lots of repetitions. Stick with your method until it stops working. 

What I wrote

Check out my article from the November 2020 issue of RHB Magazine2020 Taxation Report.

What I read

I just finished reading The Best of Me by David Sedaris. It’s a collection of fiction and non-fiction stories from his life, some of which was published in other works. Sedaris is a funny author, who keeps a daily journal of what he sees, hears, and thinks, some of which while picking up trash on the side of the road.

What I watched

I watched the movie Hotel Artemis featuring Jodie Foster, Dave Bautista, Sterling K. Brown, Jeff Goldblum, and others. I enjoyed it – if you’re into movies about criminals with a code, you might like it too. It scratched my itch at that time.

What I listened to

I listened to a podcast episode from Freakonomics Radio called “Can I ask You a Ridiculously Personal Question?” It covered the issue of asking sensitive questions. According to the research, most people are not actually afraid to discuss questions on money, sex, politics, and other “sensitive” issues. I guess that depends on who you ask.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Using grammatical metaphors, creating an antilibrary, extracting content from subject matter experts, and more

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Welcome to another Monday. Here are a few things I’d like to share from The Editor’s Desk.

Using grammatical metaphors to say more with less

I’m a fan of being efficient with writing. Keep your writing tight (unless you get paid by the word). Vinh To for The Conversation published a post on using grammatical metaphors to say more with less. Grammatical metaphors involve expressing one type of grammatical form (e.g., verbs) in another form (e.g., nouns). Nominalization involves turning verbs, adverbs, and other grammatical forms into nouns. It offers a number of key benefits, including:

  • Shortening sentences.
  • Clearly showing how one thing causes another
  • Connecting ideas and structuring text
  • Formalizing the tone of your writing

Here is one example of using nominalization to shorten text:

  • Before: When humans cut down forests, land becomes exposed and is easily washed away by heavy rain. 
  • After: Deforestation causes soil erosion.

Creating an antilibrary

I enjoy buying and eventually reading books. I keep all the books I’ve read in a library, and what I haven’t read yet is organized in piles next to my bed – I can’t yet bear shelving books I haven’t read yet. However, there is a lot to be said about doing just that. Anne-Laure Le Cunff at Ness Labs wrote an article about building an antilibrary, which is a collection of unread books. It’s not a new concept, as many learned people have built antilibraries over the years. The goal is often to collect books on topics you want to learn about, and having those books at the ready will make it easier to do so. Some might argue that the Internet contains all known information, but there is something to be said about being able to reach out and actually read a book on something you want to learn about.

If you’re a freelance writer, consider accumulating an antilibrary of books on writing, marketing, and topics in your niche. When you want to do research or get a different perspective on writing, you can just reach out for one of your unread books.

Quote: When an author mentions another book, check the exact reference and make a note of it. By doing so, you will have a list of all the relevant sources for a book when you are done reading it. Then, research this constellation of books. It is unlikely all the sources on the list will seem interesting to you. Sometimes, only a short passage of the source was relevant to the book you just read. But other times, you will discover a book that genuinely piques your curiosity. Add this book to your antilibrary.

Extracting content from subject matter experts

Have you ever interviewed a subject matter expert who is not the greatest at sharing their knowledge with you in a way that makes sense? For various reasons, it can be difficult to do so. I know I’ve been challenged to get answers out of experts when deadlines are looming. Mindy Zissman at MarketingProfs wrote an article about six ways to extract content from subject matter experts. Her tips include:

  • Booking an Abstract Day (a scheduled date and time to ask questions and get content ideas)
  • Reuse one of their presentations
  • Jump on one of their scheduled client calls
  • Do background research before talking to the expert
  • Ask the expert to record their answers
  • Do a writing workshop lunch and learn

Creating a landing page

There is a lot of information on landing pages to be found online. For those who don’t know, a landing page is a page on your website (or on its own) where you offer something interesting and valuable (e.g., white paper, ebook, newsletter) to visitors in exchange for their email address. CJ Chilvers wrote an interesting post on lessons learned about writing landing pages, which are described briefly below:

  • Remember the basics of what the landing page is about
  • Focus on benefits over features
  • Think in 5 second intervals of what is being read
  • Focus on one action you want from the visitor
  • Everything is a trade-off – something you add / leave out will drive visitors away
  • Every page on your website is a landing page
  • Focus on customers first
  • Test everything
  • Be diplomatic with other members of your team

Creating a marketing plan for your small business

A marketing plan will help you to know more about your customers and how to reach them so they business with you. Matt Gladstone at Flocksy wrote a great article on marketing plan tips for small businesses. He suggested the following five steps for creating your own marketing plan:

  • Create and focus on your goals and objectives
  • Define your target audience
  • Do your research
  • Effectively and efficiently execute your plan
  • Plan a timeline and budget

Check out my blog posts on creating a marketing plan:

Thoughts on writing

Morgan Housel, a partner at Collaborative Fund, wrote a few of his thoughts on writing. This one stood out to me:

Good ideas are easy to write, bad ideas are hard. Difficulty is a quality signal, and writer’s block usually indicates more about your ideas than your writing.

What I wrote

Here’s an article I wrote for Digital Privacy News: Saskatchewan Law Against Domestic Violence Raises Privacy Concerns.

What I read

Here’s a great quote I read from Barbara Tuchman (source: The Book, Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 34, No. 2 (Nov. 1980)) on the power of books:

“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.”

What I watched

I’ve just finished watching the first season of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I read the book (and recommend it) many years ago, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I did not remember about the story. I was able to enjoy it with fresh eyes, and I’m looking forward to watching season 2. And with season 3 here, I can catch up and watch it in “real time” instead of binging.

What I listened to

I watched this short clip of an interview between Polina Marinova Pompliano and James Clear on how to optimize your content diet.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Money habits for freelance writers, practicing every day, how to show value, and more

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Welcome to another Monday. Here are a few things I’d like to share from The Editor’s Desk.

Money habits for freelance writers

Alexis Grant with The Write Life published an article on money habits that freelance writers should adopt this year. It can be difficult to manage and organize your finances, so this advice should help. Here are some of Alexis’ tips:

  1. Separate your personal and business finances (I throw it all into a box… sort of kidding)
  2. Pay yourself regularly (I try, I try)
  3. Be smart about invoicing (my way is old school Word and Excel, but it works for me)
  4. Track expenses diligently (I learned this the hard way after my first tax return)
  5. Review profit and loss each month (my expenses are pretty fixed, so when I make less or more I know what’s going on)
  6. Create a monthly checklist

Practice to get better, not to get perfect

Austin Kleon wrote a blog post called 100-Day Practice and Suck Less Challenge. The point of practice should be to get better, not necessarily to become perfect. You’re not competing against anyone but yourself. The whole point is to improve yourself and your skills, and feel good about doing it.

How to show your value

Wes Kao wrote an article on how to instantly show your value of your product. Some of these strategies can be applied to showing clients the value of your writing, editing or other services as well. You can demonstrate your value by:

  • Using before and after
  • Showing, not telling
  • Not worrying about your grammar (that would be an issue for a writer)
  • Increasing desire rather than just decreasing fiction
  • Using a be / have / do framework
  • Aiming for “no brainer” status
  • Doing what makes their “eyes light up”

How to write a freelance proposal

Evan Jensen from the Make a Living Writing blog published an article on how to write a freelance proposal. Most writers will have to pitch to get work, or write a cold email to get clients – it’s how I find new clients as well. This article has some great advice on what your proposal should include.

Here’s a great quote:

When a prospect comes to you, this is going to sound terrifying, you try and talk them out of hiring you. You do that by having the “Why conversation,” which has three steps. Here’s what you need to ask:

  • Why do you need this project? What’s the purpose? Basically, you have them convince you they need this content to help them achieve a goal.
  • What’s the timeline? Why not put this off another month, another year? Why is this urgent? You’re looking for projects that are urgent. The tighter the timeline and risk involved if the client doesn’t get this project done, the more you can charge.
  • Why do you want to hire me? List off all the people who undercut you, charge less than you, including writers on fiverr and Upwork. If you believe what you do is good, now is the best time to raise those pricing objections, and they’ll see that you’re worth it. Once you get these questions answered, prepare your proposal and include their answers verbatim.

Setting goals

Elizabeth Grace Saunders at Fast Company published an article on setting goals for 2021. It is understandably difficult to set a goal when a lot of other things are going on around you and your mind is otherwise occupied. She talks about different types of goals to set and their purpose, including:

  • Schedule goals – common tasks that will repeat
  • Process goals – standardized results for achieving specific results
  • Action goals – doing what you say you want to do
  • Stretch goals – those extra goals to make life just a bit better

Five types of editing

I’ve been a copy editor for more than 25 years, and I know quite a bit about different types of editing. Clients tend to confuse the different terms and will ask for copy editing when they really want a structural edit. Sola Kihinde with Craft Your Content write a blog post about five types of editing for creating top quality content (you should also check out the Editors’ Association for their definitions of editing). The five types of editing discussed include:

  • Developmental editing – high-level view of the document
  • Content editing (also known as substantive editing) – reviewing content by section and paragraph
  • Line editing (also known as stylistic editing) – focuses on sentences and word usage
  • Copy editing – checking spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc.
  • Proofreading – checking the final proof for errors

What I wrote

Here’s an article I wrote for ITPro.comHow to become a data scientist.

What I read

Late in 2020, I read The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I’ve read several of his books, so I was eager to read his newest book. This book entertained and angered me at the same time, which is probably the mark of a good book. The writing, story and characters were great. What angered me was the premise. I’m not spoiling anything, as the description is on the back cover – the main character gets to see what she could have done differently in life to deal with her regrets, and find a life that makes her happy. Don’t we all wish we could have a do over?

What I watched

I finished watching the first (and only?) season of The Queen’s Gambit. The story behind how this show finally made it to air is pretty fascinating, and it’s an interesting show.

I also watched the third (and final?) season of Ozark. It’s just so good – so much lying and intrigue. But it looks like it’s not coming back for season 4 – what a shame.

What I listened to

I listened to a great interview with Tim Ferriss on his own podcast, where Guy Raz interviewed him on how he built what he has today. I knew some of what he discussed, but it was fascinating to learn about how he wrote his books and built his podcast.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Why did you make that edit?

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Some copy edits are obvious – something is spelled wrong, punctuation is missing, a word is in the wrong spot, etc. But sometimes a client will ask, “Why did you make that change?” Sometimes they just want to know, but on occasion they have an issue with a particular edit. I changed what they wrote, and they want to know why.

It’s an interesting question, as there are many reasons to rewrite a sentence or change a word. In most cases, I’ve made the change because I saw a better way of making the point, or I wanted to clarify the thought. I might have felt that the original sentence was too wordy or it needed to be restructured.

On occasion, I will reflect on the edit because the client’s question made me think about why I made the change. Was there a real reason for the rewrite? Did I want to put my stamp on the document? Did I have a problem with how it was written? Does it still work if I leave it alone? Is there another way to go?

There are several reasons why you should explain your edits to clients:

  • It helps them to understand why something is right or wrong, or why a sentence reads better one way versus another, which can help to make them better writers.
  • It shows that you care about making their writing better – you’re on their side, and you want to make them look good to their readers.
  • It’s part of your job to explain what you’re doing to your clients. They have the right to know why you did something, and the right to decide whether to keep your edit or change it back.

When asked, I will explain why I edited the content to the client. It’s their decision to keep my edit or stick with the original version, but I will do my best to answer the question. I want to ensure that they know the reason, and if I feel strongly enough, explain why it’s the right decision. But in the end, it’s their content, and their decision.

David Gargaro

When is an expense an asset?

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A client asked me to quote on editing a large website against the copy deck. I quoted a bit higher than usual, but I explained that I wanted to err on the high side since it was a rather large website, and that the end result would probably cost less than quoted. The client later told me that there was no budget for what I proposed, and that my services would not be required for this project.

I don’t know if they handled the project themselves or found someone else less costly, but it does raise the thought that they were looking at the cost of editing as an expense rather than an asset, or benefit. The website required editing (they thought so initially) because it contained some very sensitive and pertinent information that required a high level of accuracy. My quote was justified because the website required a significant amount of time to edit. The option is to not have it edited (or to find a lower cost provider), which would leave them open to the consequences of incorrect or poorly written information.

What is the value of your reputation? What price do you put on providing accurate information? That depends on the return on investment and the potential costs of the consequences. There is a constant balancing act.

Editing can be difficult to evaluate on a cost-benefit basis. It’s not as visible as design, or even writing, because you cannot “see” good editing… although poor editing is very visible. So, how does someone quantify the benefit of good editing? You can always show the number of mistakes that were caught after the fact, and then determine what it would have cost if they had made it through.

Editing helps to ensure that copy is clear and accurate. It also helps to protect reputations and defend against errors that could cause issues down the road. It’s a worthwhile expense for more than one reason, which makes it more valuable than the actual cost involved.

David Gargaro

Put your head down and write

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Many writing books and experts – including Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones (one of my new favourite books on writing) – state that you should never edit your writing at the beginning of the process. Just write whatever comes to mind and don’t stop until you run out of things to write. Then you can go back to your writing later and go through the editing process. This applies whether you are writing a book, an article, a case study, your biography, etc.

I believe in this process as well, although it might not be as effective when you’re doing other artistic endeavours, like painting, sculpting, tattooing, etc. In those cases, you have to make sure that everything is right before proceeding to the next step.

But the great thing about writing is that you can change what you wrote after you’ve put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Putting all your ideas down – both good and bad – allows you to evaluate them later to see what should stay or go. When you let the words flow, and don’t edit yourself, you might surprise yourself with what comes out. There are many great tools to help you just get the words out of your head (e.g., Evernote, FreeMind, Scribes, the simple notebook), but the point is to just write.

Of course, editing is a necessary step in helping to make your writing better. (And if you need an editor, do let me know.) However, editing gets in the way of the creative process, and can interrupt your flow of thought. So, don’t start editing until you’ve run out of things to write. Now just start writing!

Have any favourite writing books? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David Gargaro

It’s not always about right and wrong

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Some people view the writer-editor (or editor-client) relationship as adversarial. The editor is supposed to find what is wrong with the document. They should fix all the errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, consistency, etc. The editor must convince the writer why something is right or something else is wrong.

Some issues are right or wrong. Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors are “wrong.” However, editing or revising a sentence does not mean that the original sentence was wrong. The new sentence might read better, or might be more appropriate for a particular audience. The original sentence could have been unclear as it was written, even though it was grammatically correct.

Editors must remember that the writer (and client) might want the sentence to read a particular way for a reason. They might want to make their point in their own words (unless there is an obvious mistake). So, the edited sentence might not be “right” in this case. But that does not mean it is wrong, either. It’s just a matter of choice.

The client (writer) might not always be right, but they have the right to choose the words they want.

Need an editor who wants to help you write your best content? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David Gargaro

Don’t break it if you can’t fix it

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Some editors insist on putting their mark on a document. They can always find something to correct or revise. They have a desire to change the content to “make it better.” Even I have to admit that I feel somewhat anxious on occasion if I don’t find something that needs to be corrected or rewritten in a client’s document.

There are many different ways to write a sentence that says the same thing. There are infinitely many ways to write a paragraph or document. But it’s not the editor’s job to change the writer’s wording. The editor is responsible for ensuring that the content is accurate and clear. Changing the wording can change the author’s meaning. And the author might not want anything changed when there are no grammatical errors.

There is an old saying: If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it. The same can often be said for writing. You might think that editing a writer’s sentence, paragraph or content will “fix” it, but you might be “breaking” that content in the author’s eyes. It’s not your job to change it – it’s your job to make sure that the content and message are clear and accurate, and the document reads well. But it might not be broken in the first place, so trying to fix something that is not broken can end up breaking it.

Remember: They’re not your words. Make the content better if you can, but leave them alone otherwise.

Need an editor to make sure that your words speak for you? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David Gargaro