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Surviving layoffs as a freelance editor

April 4, 2013 By Raymond Howze, University of Missouri Conferences

Eric Althoff was about to get laid off for the third time in 18 months. Hurricane Sandy was making landfall at his New Jersey home, about to leave him without power for 16 days. And his roommate was about to ask him to move out. But that wasn’t the end of the series of negative events. Althoff was in his mid-30s and faced the prospect of moving in with his parents.

Althoff could only last two-and-a-half weeks with his parents, but was still out of a job.

His career choice: freelance editing.

Althoff began sending out about 20 résumés a day to find a job before he finally found another one.

While soon to be on the job-hunt again, (by his own choice) Althoff presented tips and advice on how to survive a layoff in his presentation The Editor with a Thousand Faces: Zen and the Art of Copy Editing during Friday’s ACES conference.

“Beware of the ‘human invincibility complex,’” Althoff said. “You will face or know someone who will face a layoff in your career.”

Althoff offered 10 tips on how to survive layoffs during the presentation:

·  It’s OK to be down, but try not to despair.

·  Allow for a few days of glorious self-pity.

·  Get your finances in order.

· Sublimate pain into creativity. Write.

·  Polish the résumé.

· Start looking for jobs (LinkedIn, Mediabistro, Indeed).

· Network.

· Take time to enjoy yourself.

· Beware of self-destructive pitfalls.

· Try to stay positive and be patient.

Althoff has edited for a variety of publications — Brides Magazine, Cisco, newMentor, McGraw-Hill and most notably, Hustler Magazine. Althoff suggested people learn a variety of mediums or topics to edit. It’s one reason he has worked with so many different publications and companies.

“Don’t pigeonhole yourself in one industry,” Althoff said. “I didn’t want to forever be known as the porn guy.”

Less than a month after leaving Hustler, Althoff said he was editing women’s lifestyle material.

In a career that is increasingly strained economically, Althoff did have positives to note. There are now more published words than at any other time in history, he said. And that means more copy editors.

“Editors are the last line between professionalism and embarrassment,” Althoff said. “Mistakes do get through. What is more important is where and when the mistake gets fixed.”

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