Knock briskly, and it will be opened to you.
Is there enough? I’ve often been asked this question by folks trying to get into editing, proofreading and/or book indexing. It also applies to starting almost any business or looking for a job, of course.
My first response is, “Don’t whine!” And please don’t supplicate. I can smell want-work desperation from across the conference room. It’s not pleasant. Makes me want to walk the other way. So, yes, if you act desperate and do the supplication kneel for work, it will likely walk away because of your approach. Unless the employer or prospect likes to play power games. But you don’t want corporate slavery, either, I assume.
It’s not a question of “enough.” It’s a question of finding your match. Always, always. Think about the custom guitar maker. His market is likely small (unlike the market for Coca Cola, for example), but he is in demand and makes a very good living because he provides tremendous value to those customers, and they will pay a premium for it. He doesn’t worry about general job availability statistics. He just has to stay connected to his particular “tribe,” largely through reputation, and he’ll make a great living.
But, you say, what about the newbie? That’s the whole point of the question. The new person to a career field doesn’t have connections yet, nor the expert skill set, necessarily. True. But the market, your tribe, is still there. You just need to be introduced. That’s what targeted marketing and social media are for. I only targeted ten publishers when I started my indexing business in 1995. I waited nine months back then in the days before social media before I got my first indexing job (because the publisher’s first choice was unavailable—after that first job, I became the first choice, not because the other indexer wasn’t available for every job, but because I was excellent!). Set up a website that professionally and consistently presents your brand and do some writing/video/audio in your field of knowledge, regularly. Share that writing or video or audio and your professional interests on your top two or three social media outlets; connections will happen.
“Is there plenty of work out there?” I get asked this question regularly regarding book indexing in particular. This is a shifting career field, although the early 2000s reports of its demise and replacement by search engines have been premature. Which figures. Someday artificial intelligence may reach a level of semantic knowledge that will allow for real contextual judgments about subject significance, but the computer is not there yet. And for copy editing and proofreading, so much need is out there, especially with new self-publishing authors, but they need you to be visible so they can find you. And, they need you to be writing about best practices and the importance of editing and proofreading in order to see the value.
There is plenty of work out there; it’s just a question of establishing that reputation. I don’t believe in the numbers/statistics game in general with almost any occupation unless technology or something is really eliminating a way of working (e.g., buggy whips or whale-oil lamps vs. automobiles and electricity). Everyone can find a niche somewhere, especially with today’s ability to be visible online.
The thing about indexing these days is to be flexible enough to get beyond the printed book. If you’re interested in indexing, take a basic course for the mental of indexing judgment (not everyone has the right mindset), but then make sure you give yourself some self-education in the new areas (ebooks, embedded indexing, taxonomy, even information architecture) that are related to traditional indexing. That will give you more breadth to move into the future. It will pay to think outside the book covers for sure; there’s demand for linked indexes to ebooks, for example, and human-created search keywords for mobile apps that have complex subject matter.
Niches in editing and proofreading are almost endless, but I think the emphasis now is on helping self-publishing authors (don’t forget to charge enough to include hand-holding) more than serving traditional publishers, and being technical savvy to use electronic methods of marking text.
You’ll want to market beyond traditional publishing organizations for all publishing-related services; the publishing revolution continues. You may end up working not only directly for writers, but folks putting up websites, etc. Smaller jobs and more of them maybe, rather than larger book jobs for traditional publishers. Get your PayPal buy buttons set up and you’ll be ready to take care of credit card-paying clients as well!
Go forth, create value, and be visible! And do it again and again. You will find your clients.