A couple months ago, it seemed that all the "I want something for nothing" people were coming out of the woodwork. I received a note on Messenger from a guy who wrote exactly one sentence:
I'M WANTING EDITS!Nothing else. All caps. I knew already I didn't want to deal with someone like this, but I responded politely and asked what he was referring to: a book, an article, something else . . . He replied, "I WROTE A BOOK!"
So I did what I always do in these situations. I gave him my website address, told him to please read the page that listed the services I offer and the pricing involved, and then fill out the contact form so I could learn as much as I could about his project. And . . .
. . . crickets. Which I knew would happen, so I was not surprised but instead was relieved. I have learned over the years to put the ball back in the other person's court to save myself time and aggravation. I have wasted too many hours doing free sample edits on manuscripts that are not even worthy of being classified as first drafts, and telling a writer what will be needed to get their work up to snuff—only to have them say something like, "I don't have much money to spend." Or worse, "I don't have any money. I thought you'd just do it for free."
The following example happened to an editor friend of mine:
This type of stuff happens to her all the time. The same person who sent her this also posted it on an editing "help wanted" group, saying, "Who wants to edit my short story for $10? Think of it as your good deed for the day."
In case you don't know, this is a poor way to approach a group of strangers . . . who happen to be professional editors . . . who earn their living by editing for money so they can feed their families. A good many of those in the group edit for some big-name authors but don't brag about it. When the person was told how passive-agressively insulting her request was, she got belligerent. Belligerent—while asking strangers to work for her for free. A real prize, this one.
She then went back to my friend and asked what she'd charge for it, and was told there was a $75 minimum for any copyediting work. She ridiculed the editor, and I can't remember exactly what the phrasing was, but she basically told my friend she'd gotten too big for her britches and that she (the writer) could easily find a cheaper deal. My friend pointed out that she was being asked to do detailed, skilled work for a dollar amount that would barely buy her a cheap T-shirt at Wal-Mart. The writer came back to her again, a short while later, and bragged to her that she'd gotten someone on Fiverr to do it for something like $20.
As my friend told me this, I reminded her that she was losing nothing by refusing to work with people like this. We also wondered what a $20 edit would end up looking like. I think I have a pretty good idea.
Now, don't get me wrong: I have done my share of free or cheap work when I have deemed it appropriate. Many editors (and cover designers, and formatters, and proofreaders, etc.) do freebies on occasion. Why? Because we're just nice people, I guess. We can't give everything away, of course, because we can't feed our families on good deeds. But it's nice to offer when someone least expects it, simply because we believe in that person's work and want to help them succeed.
I've been on the giving end, and I've been on the receiving end, and I can tell you they both feel great. But it's never, ever come about as the result of bullying strangers.