Getting Taken by Bogus “Editing Tests” By Ingrid Schaefer Sprague

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“Editor available: Free services! No project too big or too small! Gullible, yet thorough. Familiar with many stylebooks. Ask about writing services, too. Call: 555-555-5555.”

Instead of my resume and clips, I should market this description for freelance work. In spite of my credentials and experience, or should I say because of it, I have been “taken” again by another bogus editing test. Although I am not a novice (with over 13 years of experience), I am still amazed that I get scammed by this old trick after watching for all apparent signs.

In marketing my freelance services, I have come across the familiar, yet inconsistent, “editing test.” I cringe each time I see this as a prerequisite for work. I think I understand the reasoning behind such testing, although I do not agree with it. I have even had to administer such testing when I was looking to hire editors. However, the method and content of the testing I provided was far different from what I have encountered as a freelance editor/writer.

What was the difference? Well, let me explain how my quest for more freelance work began…

After answering an ad placed on a website listing editorial positions, I was contacted by a publishing firm that shall remain nameless. I recognized the name, and assumed I had applied with them previously. I looked up the company on the Web, and found the publisher to be legitimate.

After accepting the payment terms, I was provided my tests within a couple of weeks. The tests consisted of a proofreading test and a chapter test for copyediting. The instructions said I needed to also style tag the book chapter once the editing was complete. No deadline was given.

With reference materials in hand, I set out to do the best job I could on these tests. I was sure my copyediting was impeccable; I followed the directions for the style tagging to a tee. I then submitted my completed tests.

Within 48 hours I received a reply – a stock reply, saying my test scores were not “in line” with company requirements. Furthermore, it was not company policy to discuss work submitted for review.

Smack! What a slap in the face for all the work I did. At that moment, it occurred to me why I remembered this company. These same jerks (only my opinion) did the same thing to me years ago. This time I did not think twice about whether my editing skills were superb or lousy when I fired off an e-mail telling them I thought they were frauds.

What a waste of my time – time that could have been spent marketing my services to a company interested in my work or with my family on the holiday. So, in retrospect, what happened and how can we as editors and writers avoid such events?

First of all, let’s suppose my work was not as good as I thought. That is one possibility (although, I believe, incorrect). Another possibility is that the publisher was scouting the field for talent. However, what would be the rationale if I wasn’t employed full time with a competitor? I also was not added to a list of potential freelancers for future work. The third possibility is also the most plausible. The proofreading test is just a cover for the chapter editing test. This “test” completed by the would-be freelancer is actual work. The company never has to pay for the editing and styling. As Angela Hoy from states, “This scam involves