“Help wanted” ads targeted at our population of editorial freelancers are right in your email inbox almost every day. Access to these job opportunities is a lauded benefit of membership in the EFA.

The EFA currently has 3,000+ members, but they do not all compete for the same jobs. Many of the jobs on the list are fairly specialized, and clients expect to receive only inquiries from truly qualified applicants. We have a varied membership, with various skill sets and levels of experience and differing goals for their businesses. A job that doesn’t fit one member may be just the thing for another member.

What to do when responding to a post on the Job List

Always be respectful and polite, adhering to the EFA’s Anti-Harassment policy

• Write a polite, professional “cover letter” email that briefly outlines why you are the best candidate for the job.

• Follow the client’s instructions about responding. If the client requests writing samples, for example, include them or links to them. If the client specifies no attachments, put your résumé and other information into the body of the email.

• If attachments are requested, send them only as PDFs. Many clients will not open other types of attachments for fear of viruses and malware.

• Send only up-to-date and accurate résumés, publication lists, and so on.

• Be patient and diligent. You may not find the right job for you on the Job List for weeks or even many months on end, and then the day will come when the perfect opportunity arrives and you land a job.

What not to do when responding to a post on the Job List

• Do not respond to a post if you disagree with the material or feel incompatible with the author.

• Do not be breezy, casual, overly familiar, wordy, needy or otherwise unprofessional in your cover letter.

• Do not respond to jobs for which you are not well-qualified. This wastes the client’s time and yours, and makes the EFA and its Job List look bad. And frequent rejection is discouraging.

• Do not pester clients with requests for follow-up. Clients get a lot of responses and are very busy. They often do not feel obliged to contact you if they are not interested in your services. Make contact just once after a week if you were particularly well-qualified for the job, but then move on.

• Do not badger a client with complaints that the job pays too little or is otherwise objectionable. Although most members respond appropriately, we do sometimes hear from clients that they got inappropriate responses (unqualified or even hostile). This feedback tells us that members need to be selective in the jobs they apply for and use the suggestions above to make their responses stand out.

Do not reply to job posters with any biased, hateful, or racially charged language.

• Do not make comments based on race, color, culture, religion or no religion, gender identity, gender expression, age, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, citizenship, education, ability, health, neurotype, marital/parental status, socio-economic background, sexual orientation, and/or military status.

To maintain the integrity of the EFA Job List and increase qualified candidates’ opportunities to be matched with appropriate assignments, it is important for every one of us to recognize and respect the variation in skill sets required within the broad field of editing and writing.

When a prospective client posts to the EFA Job List, the opportunity goes out to most of our 3,000+ members. Quite often, clients receive so many responses before the end of the day that they see fit to send a note that they have received sufficient applications and are no longer accepting any more. If they are overwhelmed by qualified applicants, they might be happy with the situation, but if their email inboxes fill up with the résumés of freelancers who do not meet the qualifications listed in their job descriptions, they are less than pleased and may not use the EFA Job List in the future.

“Respecting the job” means acknowledging that some, if not most, types of writing and editing require skills specific to the task. In some cases, a generalist is not the best person for the job. Writing a video game manual is different from editing urban fiction or editing for a medical journal. The same freelancer is rarely truly qualified to do all three.

General guidelines for determining whether you should apply to a post from the Job List include:

  • It strikes you as something you would be excited to do.
  • Your professional experience meets or exceeds the qualifications specified.
  • The parameters of the job and fee are acceptable to you.

You are probably unqualified for the position and should let others compete for the project if:

  • You don’t understand terms or acronyms in the listing.
  • The post specifies a certain number of years’ experience and you have fewer than that.
  • You have never done the kind of work described in the listing.
  • You have never used the tools, such as computer programs, required for the job.

Of course, there is a gray area for freelancers—when we’re branching out into new topics or services, for example. We shouldn’t feel discouraged from doing so, but when you respond to that listing, carefully consider whether you are respecting the job and the people who do it. Applying for something for which you aren’t remotely qualified doesn’t do your career any good and can damage the reputation of the Job List.

*Excerpted and updated from a two-part article by Robin Martin, currently EFA Co-Executive Pro Tempore, which appeared in the Freelancer.


Robin Martin, EFA Co-Executive Pro Tempore and Publications Chairperson
EFA Board of Governors