Meeting Notes – January 23, 2018


  • Brian Buckley (Coordinator)
  • Mary Piper Hansen (speaker, guest)
  • Diane Callahan (speaker, guest member)
  • Julia Phelps (member)
  • Rita Ray (member)
  • Andra Paitz (guest member)


6:00 – 8:00 p.m.


Virtual. Phone conference via (Tried to use Facebook Messenger at the beginning but had technical problems.)

Opening comments


  • Brian — Copyeditor in Toledo area, freelancing for about three years.
  • Mary — Owner of Piper Editorial, has a team of editors. She has been an editor & writer for about 25 years, and has been building Piper Editorial since 2003.
  • Diane — Developmental editor and copyeditor who also does creative writing. She has been freelancing full-time for about two years.
  • Julia — Copyeditor and proofreader, specializes in science and engineering, lives in Dayton area.
  • Rita — Starting her own proofreading & editing business, called Proof It with Rita.
  • Andra — Has been freelance editing for about a year, mostly fiction.

Brief outline of the EFA as an organization, EFA membership benefits, and Ohio chapter goals.

Mary’s talk

Mary’s topic is taking on projects that “feel beneath you” in some way — maybe because of low pay, or because the subject isn’t so interesting to you. But such projects can have big benefits. Five major benefits are:

  1. You can find work that’s really, personally meaningful to you. (Meaningful work, even if unpaid, can often be better than money.)
  2. You can form a valuable relationship with a new client. (Relationships can  lead to more projects from that client, referrals to other clients, and lots of other things.)
  3. You can show your loyalty to a regular client. (If you can handle a frustrating project gracefully, it makes a great impression and strengthens your relationship.)
  4. You can learn something new. (A project where you must acquire a new skill, even if it’s not ideal work, can amount to free training.)
  5. Keeping busy with work is psychologically good for you. (As a freelancer, it’s important to feel busy and in-demand.)

Mary’s talk — questions & discussion

Should you post your rate online (on your website)?

Mary: I wouldn’t. I don’t want other freelancers to outbid me. Rates can change over time, or by project, and I don’t want to be locked in. Many other reasons too.

If you don’t want to work with a client (e.g., after a sample edit), how do you tell them?

Mary: If the reason is a lack of time, I try to find flexibility in our schedules and make it work. If the work isn’t my specialty, I’ll refer them to someone else. If I just don’t like a client, I usually take the work anyway — if you’re patient, you can make it work.

Have you ever turned down a client for ethical reasons?

Mary: No, never been in that situation. Some clients have difficult personalities, but if you focus on being positive and professional, you can make it work.

What kind of client base are you working with?

Mary: Higher education (among other things). In education, there’s a big shift from static textbooks to engaging interactive experiences, which is exciting.

Have you ever applied this philosophy (taking non-ideal work) and regretted it?

Mary: No, not really. Sometimes it’s hard, but find the positives and create your own happiness.

Diane’s talk

Upwork is a job posting site for freelancers. It’s less about background/resume, more about cover letter and what you can do now. Diane has found some long-term clients on Upwork.

The site does take a fee (percentage) of each job, but amount decreases as you earn more. But no flat fee per se for the free account, just a percentage.

Freelancers can review (give star ratings to) clients, just like clients can review freelancers.

Can do hourly or fixed-price contract.

Have to do some hunting to find good work, stuff that’s reasonably well-defined and pays well.

Three tips for starting out:

  1. Don’t undervalue yourself. Put a rate that feels like it’s on the high side, let client negotiate you down. If rate is too low, may make you seem inexperienced.
  2. Write a personalized cover letter — focus on what you can do for their project, tailor each letter to their job, rather than talking a lot about yourself.
  3. When offering a sample of work, try to tailor it to their specific needs.

Diane’s talk — questions & discussion

One person has heard some bad things about Upwork in the past, but is glad to hear it’s working for Diane.

Diane: Be picky about which jobs you apply for — don’t apply for a job unless you actually do want to do it.

Some discussion of tutoring and editing student papers through the website Chegg. Positive experience.

Some discussion of the website Fiverr. But rates seem very low, seems like it would be hard to compete.

Diane: In Upwork, the sample edit is a big determining factor for getting the job. Might be a good idea to quote client a fee for sample edit, rather than letting them set the fee.

Diane: When applying for an Upwork job, you can attach a file. I always attach a sample of my work.

Diane: Working with Upwork clients outside of Upwork isn’t allowed.

Chapter news

Ohio chapter is now two years old!

New members in the last six months:

  • Kendra Brown – Cincinnati area
  • Rita Ray – Toledo area
  • Jenn Michaelis – Columbus area
  • Andrew Escobedo – Athens area
  • Diane Callahan (guest) – Columbus area

What’s the difference between the overall EFA organization and the individual chapters?

Brian: Chapters are smaller communities within the EFA, a way for members to connect, get to know each other, and learn.

Is there a Facebook page or Twitter account specifically for the Ohio chapter?

Brian: There’s a Facebook page and a Twitter account for the national EFA organization, but not for the Ohio chapter specifically. I’d be open to us having a Twitter account if someone wants to volunteer to run it.

Brian — cashier’s check fraud

Brian tells the story of what happened to him several months ago:

I received the initial email Nov 17, last year, from a “Michael Russells.” Subject line: “EDITOR NEEDED FOR COPY EDITING”

He says he has two “articles” that need editing – one is 25,000 words, the other is 47,000 words. He sent me the first one to look at. Title is “Entrepreneurship in healthcare.”

We trade some initial emails.

Initial warning signs/red flags:

  • No mention of being affiliated with any organization, nothing about how these “articles” will be published.
  • Emails are written in poor English, but “article” is pretty good English. Clearly not same person – so, again, what organization is this?
  • He says he wants a substantive edit, but the subject line says “copy editing.” When asked, he says he wants a substantive edit, but seems rather indifferent.
  • He’s very interested in sending 50% payment up front, even before I’ve sent any sort of agreement. When I do send an agreement (which took some time to write up), he never bothers to actually agree to it.
  • As email conversation goes on, he focuses more and more on the up-front payment he’s sending me (cashier’s check), ignores my other questions. He even gives me a valid USPS tracking number.

I’m pretty suspicious by now, but I can’t figure out how the scam would work, since he’s so intent on paying me up front. I wait for the check to arrive.

I get the check November 24, and within a couple hours he’s emailing me to make sure I deposit it. The check itself is obviously fraudulent – not because of how it looks, but because (1) it’s supposedly from the American Airlines Credit Union (and he’s never mentioned AA), and (2) the amount is four times what we agreed on.

I google “cashier’s check scam” and finally learn what’s going on. If you deposit a fake cashier’s check, the money does appear in your account at first. The scammer tries to get you to send the “extra” amount back to him. Eventually, the bank/credit union discovers the fraud and you’re on the hook for all of it.

Just to be totally sure, I talk to the credit union, and they confirm the check is fake.

I just ignore his emails (and text messages) after that. He gives up trying to reach me pretty quick. I also report him to the FBI, to Google (for using a Gmail address), and to his VoIP provider.

Questions & discussion about fraud, digital resources, and other topics.

Julia: I did get a phishing email once, seemingly from PayPal, that seemed legitimate. But I realized what was happening in time, and didn’t enter my password.

Rita: LastPass might help with that — it’s a password manager, and will auto-fill your password on websites only if the URL is correct.

Judy Brody sent a link to this page, which lists useful digital resources, including LastPass. Some discussion of other resources on the list, including Zoom, Wave, and VisualHunt (a picture-finding site). Talking about VisualHunt led to discussion of another picture-finding site, Pixabay. Several members have been impressed with Pixabay as a resource.

Some discussion of how to do billing — all up front? Partial deposit? Invoice monthly? Varying answers — do what works for you and the client.

Several people in the discussion have had the feeling that they work too slow, and are sometimes uncomfortable charging by the hour. Tracking your time and calculating pages per hour is one way to overcome that. (Suggestion of aTimeLogger as a time-tracking app.) If you feel that you’re spending too much time going down “rabbit holes” in places in the manuscript, one suggestion is to mark these spots somehow, move on, and come back later. Often, when you return later, the problems are easier to solve because of new information or more context.

Suggestion: When coaching a new author to improve their writing, rather than writing out long editorial comments, consider looking at the front of Garner’s, which has the 100 most common editorial comments. You can simply point the author to the appropriate number on that list, which saves time.

(End of call.)