If you are interested in being a beta, there is no shortage of work. There are a large number of stories out there which need
a lot some editing, especially if you work in the fanfiction genres. Getting into the gig is pretty easy, and there are always authors on the lookout for help.
The first way to snag a job is through your friends. You may have some buddies who write stories, and never know about it. Advertise your madd skillz and pimp your services to everyone you know. You might just be surprised at the number of people who are writers on the side. If you know someone who's writing a term paper or a short story for class, offer to look it over for them. Most of us will enthusiastically welcome a second opinion, and it’s good practice for your spelling, grammar, and punctuation skills.
The second way is *gasp* through the 'net. There are hundreds of story archives, beta listings, editing groups etc. that would be glad for the help. If you are good enough, some archives have all submissions looked over before they are posted, in order to ensure quality pieces, and many of them are looking for people to do that. You can pimp your services on your livejournal or your xanga, or the communities therein. Or you can look at yahoo groups. In the past, I have offered my services to authors I admire by sending them a personal email or through a review of their work. Specifically on livejournal, there are quite a few communities which advertise the need for betas, or which facilitate the matching of betas to authors in need. I lurk there, myself, on occasion.
Wherever you offer, it is important to accurately and efficiently represent yourself and the work that you do. For any kind of offer, you may want to include any or all of the following, and should definitely include the first five on this list:
1. Your name or penname
2. An email address, screen name, or another way that you can be contacted by interested parties. (Be smart, folks and don’t give out any personal information like your address or phone number, and I discourage using your real name. Weirdos are everywhere. If you use email, be sure to change your settings so that your real name does not appear when you send an email. You can test whether it does this by sending an email to yourself. Stay safe. )
3. The type of work you do: Mechanics (grammar, punctuation, phrasing, etc), Canon/characterization (making sure everything is in line with the books, if you’re working on fanfic), Consistency (making sure objects appear where they belong, and that the character is a blonde on both page 2 and page 200). Stick with what you know.
4. Your ships and squicks (what you like and what you don't, and I'm not just talking about pairings, here.)
5. Your preferred genres and fandoms, or whether you prefer to work on original fiction, instead.
6. Anything you're especially good at, or any knowledge or experience that you think might come in handy.
7. Any past experiences. Jobs, classes, real life experience, and especially the name of any author you've worked for in the past, preferably with the title of any works you've edited for them and a way to contact them. (It's probably a good idea to let them know that you're using them as a reference, though. Professional courtesy and all that.) Again, try not to give out any identifying information. I usually only include this kind of information if it is asked for specifically, which it usually isn’t.
8. Your preferred length of piece. Say whether you like ficlets, 100 word challenges, or epics, or if it is irrelevant to you. This kind of information is usually included in any requests for a beta, so be sure not to agree to anything much shorter or longer than you’re comfortable with.
Stating these things will make it very easy for any author or group to know if you will suit their purposes.
When you are contacted by someone, they may ask for samples of your work, or references, but not usually. It is not uncommon, however, for them to send you a sample so you can send a sample edit back to them. Do your best, and be polite.
If someone turns you down, don't push it. Authors can be very private about their work, or feel very uncomfortable letting a stranger review their stuff. Don't be offended and try to be understanding. You've given the author a great compliment in even offering to help them out, and most of them will recognize this. If they don't see it as a compliment, they're probably not much fun to work with, anyway
Part II coming soon....