Category Archives: Marketing

Wise owls: how to market your business in 2017

January is an ideal time to reflect on your freelance goals and identify new ways to promote your editorial business. In their latest blog post, the wise owls provide advice on how to build your business in the new year.

Liz Jones

‘Marketing’ can seem like an intimidating concept, far removed from our usual work as editors, so it can help to think of it in terms of things we can do a little of every day, or every week, rather than a separate task. For me, it’s about keeping myself ‘out there’ in people’s minds – existing clients, clients I would like to attract, and also colleagues who might recommend me. I do this across a range of channels: through my regular interactions with clients (I am quick to respond, helpful and polite); by making contact with potential new clients (by my presence in online directories like the SfEP Directory, LinkedIn or social media, or by targeted emails); and by keeping engaged with what’s going on with my colleagues (via the SfEP forums or other online groups, chipping in when I have something helpful to contribute). I blog too, and it all adds up to what I hope is a positive and helpful online presence, with the overall professional image I want to project.

I don’t do all of these things every day or very aggressively, but rather little and often – the effect is that my marketing builds up to a useful level without my having to put in a massive one-off effort. Having said that, one of my tasks for 2017 is to undertake a more targeted direct marketing experiment, with the aim of achieving specific measurable results for my editorial business.

Abi SaffreyAbi Saffrey

An SfEP directory entry is a great place to start if you don’t have one yet. It’s included in the subscription cost for Professional and Advanced Professional members and we can now edit our own entries – a great way to add in that new software you’ve got to grips with, or include that new client you’re excited about working with. Put a link to your entry in your email signature and it’s like a taster CV for potential clients.

Once that’s sorted, get talking. Make connections. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, this is easier than it’s ever been before. Get talking on social media, through forums, in groups on LinkedIn. Treat people as respected peers, whatever their role, and see what happens. Create relationships – some people may become clients; others could end up being your rock when times are tough. As freelancers, we need both.

Sue BrowningSue Browning

Marketing your business is much more than sending emails or making calls, or even writing a blog or ‘doing’ social media, it’s how you present yourself in all outward-facing situations, and it’s probably unconscious. Wherever you interact – in forums, on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, on your blog, or even face to face – you are expressing your personality and values and, by extension, those of your business. Be courteous, knowledgeable and helpful and, if it suits you, witty or provocative. Ask and answer questions, sympathise and laugh with others, share useful information and stories. Above all, be yourself, and people will notice you for the right reasons. Not all of them will ever want to use your services, but it only takes one… and you may even have some fun in the process.

Margaret HunterMargaret Hunter

If you are marketing then, let’s face it, you are selling something. But what is it, and why would people want to buy it?

‘I’d like you to buy my whatsit. I’m not quite sure what it’s made of, or whether it’s the whatsit you really need … and I haven’t made many whatsits yet, so it might not be as good as other whatsits … but I really need to sell some … please!

No thanks. You’ll know, if you’ve done an internet search for proofreading or copy-editing services, that the competition is fierce. So, imagine the task for an author, business or organisation looking to hire someone. It can be pretty hard to know who to pick. You therefore need to stand out. Hopefully that will be because potential clients can quickly see that what you are selling is just what they need, and that you’re qualified to do the job, making it an easy decision to send an enquiry.

You’ll therefore need to take time to work out what it is you do have to offer, what makes you a good person to offer it, and then find the right words to explain that to others. And the right words will depend on who you are trying to reach. Think laterally – what skills and talents have you built up, in work and in your personal life, that will make you better at doing what you do now?

Some general thoughts:

  • If you’re just starting out, don’t try to offer too much, or more than you have been trained in. Focus on what you know you can deliver professionally and competently.
  • Get the proper training (e.g. from the SfEP or the PTC) and then advertise it prominently, along with your SfEP member logo of course.
  • As soon as you can, get meaningful client testimonials. Whenever you return a job, include a feedback sheet or ask permission to use nice things clients have said about your work in emails.
  • Regularly review your sales offering – is it clear, does it stand out, have you added skills or training?

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

Kick-start your freelancing business in 2017

Every year is the year you are going to be your best. Each and every January you vow to make amends and to take your business to new heights. This year, 2017, will be different. Below we have listed 8 ways that you can make it happen this year. With things you can do from the sofa to ways you can expand your current business pipeline – this handy list from BookMachine is all you need.

1. Social media

Successful business owners are not on social media all day long. However, they do know how to use it to their benefit. Allocate a set amount each day to interact with your followers. Share relevant news, and be interested as well as interesting. Set up lists of your key prospects and contacts and head directly to these lists each time you log on, rather than losing hours with mindless online chatter with everyone on Twitter.

2. Re-assess your rate card

If you have been freelance for a while, chances are you have a fixed rate you have been working to for some time. A new year is the perfect time to re-assess this. Are you earning as much as you would like? Could you charge a higher hourly rate? If this isn’t possible, think about your payment terms or your charges for late delivery and payment – there are many ways you can turn your business up a notch whilst working with an existing client base.

3. Contact everyone you have ever known

Perhaps you are happy with your hourly rate and your terms but want to increase your customer base. The new year is the perfect excuse to get in touch with everyone you have ever known! Wish them a happy new year and remind them about your services and let them know how happy last year’s clients were. Don’t leave this until you aren’t busy. As you know, it can take months for a project to come to fruition, and there’s no harm in getting the wheels turning right away.

4. Befriend your competition

As a freelancer, your competition can actually enhance your business. If you work in tandem with someone who has similar skills to you, then you can pass over work to each other and essentially grow as a business – perhaps even co-branded. Similarly, someone who you perceive to be a competitor might actually have different strengths, meaning that a partnership whereby each of you takes on a different role (one copy-editor and one content editor, for example) might actually help you to expand.

5. Sort out your website

Your website is your shop window. Even if you mainly work on print projects, your prospective customers will judge you by your site. Do you have a brand? Is it modern enough? Can you find examples of client projects and is it easy to contact you? All of these things are basic and can be achieved much more cheaply than you might expect. Experiment with templates until you are happy with your design, or hire a professional to make sure you are set to impress.

6. Meet people in person

The benefit of freelancing is that you can work from the comfort of your own home. However, meeting people in the flesh can really boost your business by helping you to promote yourself and your business and by keeping you abreast of what’s happening in the industry. BookMachine events are a good starting point. [As are SfEP local groups – Ed.]

7. Join an organisation

If you join an organisation and commit to attending events and participating in forums, you have the added impetus to do so. As co-founder of BookMachine, my interest here is in letting you know that as an SfEP member, you get £10 off an annual ‘Promoted BookMachine Membership’ (see the BookMachine page in the Members’ area of the SfEP website for details). This gives you free access to all BookMachine events and most book fairs too. Conversely, as a BookMachine member, you would get a waiver of the SfEP’s member admin fee, saving you £32 on your first year’s membership. Please drop us a line to take up either offer.

8. Learn to say no

Finally, if you are in the habit of taking whatever work you can get, then stop it. It makes sense in year 1, when you are establishing your credentials and building a list of testimonials. After that, if a job doesn’t pay enough or you don’t find it interesting, then just turn it down. Your time is your most precious commodity so don’t settle for less, and make 2017 the year you get what you are worth.

Laura Summers is co-founder of BookMachine – the community for people who make publishing happen. As well as organising events for the industry, BookMachine manage an online network of professionals sharing advice and knowledge. Laura and her team are also available to manage events, business development and marketing projects for small and mid-sized publishers.

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

Banishing the marketing heebie-jeebies – conference session preview

By Louise Harnby

If you’re a new entrant to the field of editorial freelancing, and you’re attending this year’s SfEP conference in Aston, I hope you’ll join me and my co-presenters Liz Jones and Sue Littleford at our speed start-up session: Things newbies need to know. Together, we’ll be rattling through some top tips to help you with three pillars of editorial business building: finance, pricing editorial work, and marketing. I’ll be handling the marketing section.

banish doubtI know that business promotion gives many newbies the heebie-jeebies, and so, with that in mind, I’ve based the presentation around the questions that I’ve been asked most frequently by anxious marketers-to-be. In this way, I hope the session will be as much about what I think you should know as what you think you want to know!

I want the session to be as accessible as possible, so I’m throwing in a couple of promises, too – there’ll be no marketing jargon and you needn’t have any prior experience of business promotion whatsoever. It’ll just be me talking to you – one editorial freelancer to another. If you hear me utter words such as ‘utility’, ‘drill down’, ‘marginal’ or ‘basis of segmentation’, you have permission to throw things at me!

So what are those frequently asked questions?

  • What is marketing? I don’t have a clue where to start!
  • What do I say? How do I structure my marketing message?
  • What promotional tools or activities work best?
  • How do I get noticed and stand out from the crowd?
  • Should I promote myself as a generalist or a specialist?
  • How do I combat my marketing nerves?

Using those questions as my guide, I’ll provide you with one definition and five frameworks to banish those heebie-jeebies and provide you with a structured way of developing your editorial marketing strategy with confidence and even, I hope, a little excitement.

There’ll be a handout, too, that includes a summary of what’s been discussed and a list of useful additional resources to help you on your editorial marketing journey, including the latest combined edition of my business books, Omnibus: Editorial Business Planning & Marketing Plus (all conference attendees will be entitled to a one-off 20% discount voucher for use against a purchase of the PDF).

Liz, Sue and I will be presenting on Monday, 12 September 2016, between 1.30 and 2.30 p.m. We look forward to seeing you there. [There are a limited number of conference places left if you haven’t booked yet, but do it soon!]

Louise HarnbyBased in the heart of the Norfolk Broads, Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader with 24 years’ publishing experience. An Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), she specializes in providing proofreading solutions for clients working in the social sciences, humanities, fiction and commercial non-fiction. Her customers include publishers, project management agencies, professional institutions and independent writers. Louise is the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour and the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers, Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business, and Omnibus: Editorial Business Planning & Marketing Plus.

Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

Are you the same ‘you’ everywhere – what’s your business identity?

By Margaret Hunter

There’s an interesting discussion at the moment on the SfEP forums about choosing a name for your editing or proofreading business. Should you use your own name to emphasise that your business = you + your particular skills, choose a clever play on editing-related words, or perhaps go for something creative with no hint of what you do to pique interest and act as a conversation starter? Is it better to have a short name that’s easy to spell or go for something that people will remember? There’s a good checklist of things to consider when naming your business in a previous blog post.

That got me thinking though about the other nuggets of good practice when setting up your business that have been shared by fellow editors. What is clear is that it pays to spend some time thinking about your complete business identity – or brand. You may not have thought of yourself as needing a brand before but the businesses that look most professional, however small, are the ones with a consistent look, feel and message, wherever you encounter them.
blank notebook

A strategy for consistency

For starters, answer the following.

  • When did you last update all of your directory entries and social media profiles? Did you even remember that you had an entry in Freeindex or About.me or your local business listings?
  • Do all your profiles use the same photo or logo?
  • Did you perhaps experiment at one point with a quirky avatar that you’ve forgotten about but which still lingers out there on the web?
  • Is your ‘blurb’ consistent – perhaps just tweaked for different platforms?
  • Have you used the same branding on all your business documents – e.g. terms/contract, invoice, style sheet, information for authors?
  • When people visit your website (you do have one, don’t you?) will they recognise you as the same person/business that they’ve seen on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn?

Housekeeping your online presence

When prospective clients search for you online, what will they find? Have you clearly separated your personal online presence from that of your business? Crucially, is there anything from your business or personal past that you’d rather people didn’t now see? Member of the SfEP Julie Marksteiner, who started the conversation on business names, has a good strategy:

‘The first thing I did when I decided to go freelance was to Google my name, which resulted in deleting a lot of old social media accounts and cringeworthy photographs. Would rather prospective clients take notice of my proofreading, not the Myspace account from my “emo phase”!’

Resources to help

Copy-editor and proofreader Mary McCauley has a wealth of tips and resources about branding and marketing yourself as a freelancer on her blog. And if you’re serious about revamping your business identity and marketing strategy you also could get hold of proofreader Louise Harnby’s book Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.

Margaret HunterMargaret Hunter (daisyeditorial.co.uk) is a freelance copy-editor, proofreader and book formatter, and is also marketing and PR director of the SfEP.

Proofread by Advanced Professional Member Liz Jones

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

The value of belonging to a professional body

By Margaret Hunter

quality control assuredThe Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has just published a report on how the public view professional bodies. In a survey of over 2,000 people, these are the 3 statements (out of 11) that were most commonly agreed with:

  • Professional qualifications help people to earn more.
  • Professional qualifications raise standards.
  • I would trust a professional more if I knew that they were a member of a professional body.[1]

Does this apply as well to editors and proofreaders as to builders, lawyers or doctors, I wonder? I think it does, especially when we are now competing in a global marketplace. Having an association with a professional body such as the SfEP shows that we care about our credibility, our skills and how we do our jobs. It says to potential clients that we care so much about doing a good job for you that we’ve taken steps to learn how to do it properly, and to abide by the standards and good working practices set by our peers.

In return, our professional credibility raises trust among people who may want to use our services. Awareness of the existence of our training efforts and professional membership creates positive perceptions of the jobs we do. Potential clients can begin to see what we do as a real thing and can start to envisage how it could benefit them.

However, to gain these credibility benefits from our professional membership, the professional body itself needs to have credibility. It’s one of my tasks, as the marketing and PR director for the SfEP, to help make that happen – to raise our profile and get us known for being the go-to place for quality editorial services and training. But all of us have a hand in raising that profile too. When we’re asked what we do, do we take the opportunity to mention the SfEP?

To quote the CIOB report, ‘for professional bodies, familiarity leads to favourability’,[2] so the more people hear about the SfEP, the more they are likely to see it as a professional body that knows its stuff and consequently are more likely to hire an SfEP member rather than an editor who doesn’t have that association.

So, my fellow editors, to mangle JFK’s well-known call to action:

Ask not what the SfEP can do for you, [but also] ask what you can do for the SfEP.

 

Margaret HunterMargaret Hunter is marketing and PR director of the SfEP.

[1] Understanding the value of professionals and professional bodies, The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) 2015, p. 28

[2] Ibid. p. 29.

 

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.

10 tips for building a freelance business website

Build your online presenceIf you don’t yet have an online presence, in the form of even a simple website, then it’s time to consider setting one up. It needn’t be anything complicated, but potential clients are increasingly looking to the web to find editors and proofreaders, even if it’s just to confirm that you look like a real person they can trust!

Here are my top tips for planning a simple business website.

1. Do it yourself if possible – you can learn skills that are helpful for your editing…
… such as basic html and good copywriting. If you’re not a techie whizz, use one of the easy free website builders such as WordPress, or a hosted service such as Weebly or Wix (why are they all ‘Ws’?). With the last two you don’t need to worry about all the back-end admin or backing up your site or the software as it’s all done for you. The downside is that it’s more difficult to move your site if you later decide to use a different service.

2. Register your own domain name
It doesn’t cost much to register a domain name (under £10 per year), so get your own. You can use it with hosted services such as Weebly too, and your web address will look more professional than the free option (such as www.[name].weebly.com).

3. Picture yourself!
Add a photo of yourself. It will help potential customers ‘connect’ with you and you will seem more approachable. But make sure it’s a good photo, and nothing too quirky! It’s OK to reflect your personality, but you still need to look professional. Would you do business with the person in the photo?

4. Keep a consistent look
If you have information about your business in various places online – your website, social media profiles such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, or directories such as FreeIndex – then try to keep the look consistent. Use the same photograph and page header and similar descriptions. It will make it easy for people to recognise you, so getting you noticed more.

5. Keep it simple
Remember that (potential) clients just want the facts or a quick answer to whether you can do a particular job for them, so make it easy for people to quickly suss you out. Don’t be too wordy, and provide clear links to different information about you and your business.

6. Use plain English to explain what you do
While you may call what you do copy-editing, proofreading, structural editing, applied linguistics, or whatever, most people won’t know what that means. You can (and should) use those terms somewhere on your site, but also try to explain your services in plain English.

7. Blow your own trumpet (nicely!)
You need to quickly stand out from the crowd these days as you are now competing in a global marketplace. Don’t be shy about pinpointing how you can make a difference to clients. Be creative about how you sell your skills, experience and knowledge. Put up some testimonials from happy clients too. An easy way to do this is to ask for a client’s permission to use something nice or positive they’ve said in an email to you.

8. Make it mobile
Nowadays you must make a website that is mobile-friendly if you want to rank highly with search engines such as Google. If you use the free tools mentioned above then you don’t need to think about this as it will magically be done for you.

9. Don’t pay for SEO
Don’t be lured in by offers of expensive SEO (search engine optimisation) services that guarantee to get your site to the top of the search results. Once you know the ‘rules’, SEO is just common sense. The most important rule is write good copy. Think about the phrases people will use to search for you and incorporate them into your text, but it must sound natural, and definitely don’t ‘keyword stuff’ the pages (or you will be penalised by Mr Google!). Make sure you complete all the ‘behind-the-page’ meta stuff – good page titles, alternative text on your images, page descriptions, etc. The site-builder tools usually have ways to do this built in. (One of the best ways to learn SEO is to use the Yoast plugin in WordPress.)

10. Have it proofread!
Be your own best friend and have someone else proofread your website. You know it’s not going to look good if your site has glaring typos! Maybe offer a site-proofing swap with another member of your local SfEP group?

Margaret Hunter

Posted by Margaret Hunter, SfEP marketing and PR director.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.

Different types of editing – do the labels matter?

pigeonholes

Sometimes what we do fits neatly into a category of editing … and sometimes it’s less clear.

Recently I’ve seen (and participated in) a few discussions about different types of editing – what they involve, how rates of pay work out for each, and the level of skill or knowledge required to undertake them.

In terms of ‘editing’ (from the perspective of many members of the SfEP), there are several commonly understood types or levels of editing:

  • structural or development editing
  • copy-editing
  • proofreading

The SfEP provides useful descriptions of what is meant by ‘copy-editing’ and ‘proofreading’ – tasks that occupy many of its members for much of their working time.

Then there is also a hybrid we sometimes talk about: proof-editing. This often seems to refer to a job described and commissioned by the client as a proofread, but that actually involves a greater degree of intervention than we might strictly expect of a proofread. There can be various reasons for this, not least of which is the possibility that only one editorial professional has ever laid eyes on the material about to be published – you.

Dialogue with clients

In terms of talking to each other, and to publisher clients, these labels (especially the first three) can be highly relevant and useful – they provide a kind of shorthand to help us understand the parameters of a particular job. Proofreading involves making essential corrections only; copy-editing involves a higher level of stylistic decisions but is still constrained by the client’s requirements and the need to respect the author’s voice, and so on. By using such labels, we have a good idea of what the client wants, and the client in turn knows what they are paying for, and what they should expect to get back from us.

However, being too fixated on these labels can cause problems when we work with people who are not familiar with the traditional book publishing process, which might include a huge range of clients: from self-publishing authors, to students wanting their theses proofread, to business clients, to government departments and various international organisations.

Labels as barriers

How do you deal with editorial work that resists categorisation? Should you try to make it conform by rigidly carrying out the tasks that you would associate with the level of work ostensibly being asked for? Should you reject it on the grounds that you have only been trained to proofread, but it actually looks more like a copy-edit? Or should you adapt to fit the needs of the client? It’s possible that by clinging on to very rigid notions of the prescribed nature of proofreading, or copy-editing, we will fail to provide the service that a client actually requires … and both sides can lose out.

A business client might, for instance, ask you to ‘proofread’ a document. However, it may not mean much to this client if you return the ‘proofread’ document marked up with perfectly executed BS 5261C: 2005, having made only very minimal interventions. It’s highly likely they were actually expecting you to perform major editorial surgery, and provide them with changes clearly set out in such a way that a layperson (not another editor or a typesetter) could understand.

This is where communication with the client is paramount; this applies whatever kind of client you are working for, but is especially important when it comes to assessing the type of work that is required for a ‘non-publishing’ client – you need to understand what they want you to do, and how far they want you to go … and they need to understand the service that you will be providing. As Kate Haigh said when she discussed working for business clients on this blog: ‘business clients want to know that you understand their needs and their material’.

Labels versus rates

The SfEP also suggests on its website minimum rates for the different types of editing, with proofreading seen as commanding a lower hourly rate than copy-editing, and development editing tending to be paid at a higher rate than copy-editing. Project management (which may or may not involve hands-on editing) is expected to command the highest rates. How these rates actually work out in practice is often the subject of hot debate. And many editors will choose to take the line that their time is their time, and should be paid for accordingly, no matter what specific editorial task is being performed.

In short, labels for the types of work we do can be helpful when we talk to other editorial professionals, when we communicate with publisher clients (although all publishers are different, and the exact requirements of a ‘proofread’, say, can vary), and when we assess for ourselves the level of work a job requires. Where the labels can be less helpful, or perhaps where we need to be prepared to be flexible, is when it comes to selling our services to a diverse range of clients, and when it comes to adapting our working methods to fit a client’s requirements – such important parts of winning business, and securing repeat commissions.

Photo on 28-05-2015 at 13.51 #2Posted by Liz Jones, SfEP marketing and PR director.

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Christine Layzell.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.

Ten tips for successful conference networking

meetingBy Mary McCauley

By this time last year I had already booked my flight to my first ever SfEP conference. I had been invited to present a seminar and I was absolutely petrified. I lay awake at night worrying; not only was I going to a conference in another country, I was also going to have to get up and speak in front of a room full of strangers. I knew just one other person attending … and I had only met her once before. What on earth had I let myself in for?

I needn’t have worried. I went to the 2014 conference, met lots of lovely people, made some fantastic new friends, learned an incredible amount (and not all of it during the workshops and seminars) and I thoroughly enjoyed and gained from the entire experience.

Networking, according to our friends in the Oxford English Dictionary, is to ‘interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts’. That’s the formal way of looking at it: I think of it as getting away from my desk, hanging out with my tribe, meeting and learning from interesting colleagues, making new likeminded friends and having fun. So whether you’re a conference regular or a nervous newbie (as I was), here are my ten tips for making the conference networking experience a more fruitful and enjoyable one.

Network online before you go

Joining pre-conference online discussions will make it easier to join real-life conversations come September! You can find out who’s going to the SfEP conference and get lots of advice and tips on all things conference related by joining the pre-conference chats on the SfEP forums. If you have a Facebook account make sure to join any relevant groups in which members are discussing the conference. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow the #sisfep15 tweets – better still, if you use the likes of Hootsuite or TweetDeck, you can set up a dedicated #sisfep15 stream.

If you’re normally a social media lurker rather than an active participant, then perhaps make a special effort to comment more in discussions. If you don’t already have a social media account, then I recommend you join Facebook as a starting point. It seems to be the social media hangout of choice for many editors internationally, and it’s a fantastic tool for meeting editorial colleagues and learning from others.

Use a recent photo of yourself in your social media profile

Many people have genuine concerns about identity theft and privacy when it comes to using an actual photo of themselves rather than a substitute/default image in online profiles. However, it makes it easier to approach colleagues at the conference if you recognise each other’s photos from social media. Try and use a photo that was taken in the past five years – one that reflects the way you look now. It’s easier to make conversation with a new colleague if they’re not completely distracted by the differences between the social media you and the real you!

Make a wish list

Before you head off to the conference (or, following onsite registration, when you get a list of the attendees) make a note of all the people you’d like to meet in person during the conference. This can include both speakers and attendees. Perhaps you’d like to meet an industry expert, training supplier or publisher’s representative; or it may be a colleague whose blog posts or social media comments you admire; or a member of the SfEP council or admin staff (don’t forget to put faces to the names of all the hard-working SfEP office team!). If there’s a helpful colleague whom you haven’t met in person, but who has referred clients to you or helped you in any way, it would be nice to meet them in person to thank them.

Feel the fear and … smile!

So you’ve come out of social media lurking mode and taken part in online discussions; you’ve bitten the bullet and posted a lovely recent photo of yourself on Facebook; and you’re walking in the door for registration on day one of the conference … but all you want to do is find a nice dark corner in which to hide. Just remember that even the most confident person in the room is probably feeling a bit apprehensive – it’s normal, but don’t let it hold you back from having a productive and enjoyable conference. Often what we project is reflected back to us, so a smile goes a long way. The knots in your stomach may not be conducive to smiling, but the more you do it the more you’ll relax, and the more approachable you’ll be.

Arrange to meet up

Adjusting to your surroundings in the first few hours of the conference, particularly if it’s your first, can make networking difficult. If possible, pre-arrange to meet up with a friend, or an online or local group colleague, before registration. Attending registration and the AGM with someone you know will ease you into networking mode – it’s easier to approach other people when you’re with someone. This is especially true if you wish to approach one of the more well-known presenters, guest speakers or panellists!

Be interested

How does one actually network? Well, for a start, try not to think of it as ‘networking’: approach it as mere friendly chatting with likeminded people with whom you share a love of words. Don’t be afraid to use small talk to get you started – where would we be without that wonderful fail-safe topic of conversation that is the weather? You could also comment on your surroundings, ask colleagues about their journey to the conference, where they travelled from, which sessions they’re most looking forward to, which type of editorial work they do, etc. – be interested in them and listen to what they have to say. You’ll find that most people will turn the tables and ask the same questions of you (‘And what about yourself?’), so think through in advance what you’d like to say about the type of work you do.

Help others

I attended non-editorial business conferences in my previous career and I’m amazed at the cultural differences between those and editorial conferences. Editorial folk are a naturally friendly and helpful bunch, happy to reach out to others. That wasn’t always my experience at business conferences! When you meet new people at the conference, be open to helping them – share your knowledge or experience, offer advice if you think it’ll be welcomed, or refer them to other resources or people you think may help them. People will do the same for you, and it’s in this sharing of experiences and knowledge that understanding is formed and connections are made.

Having been the billy-no-mates person at business conferences on a couple of occasions, I know what a dreadful feeling it is. So if you see someone walk in to the conference canteen alone with no obvious group to sit with, or standing alone during the coffee break, why not smile and invite them to join your group. Likewise, if you’re the one alone, don’t be afraid to approach a friendly looking group and simply say, ‘I’m by myself – do you mind if I join you?’

Don’t skip meals and coffee breaks

There may be times when you’ll feel like running back to your room for a quiet lie-down or to catch up on your emails, instead of facing the canteen or coffee stand. Try to fight that feeling and battle through! It’s not a long conference, and you can catch up when you get home (though I do recognise that for some of the more introverted, those quiet times alone are what get them through the entire conference).

In my experience, a lot of the nuts and bolts of networking happens during the meal and coffee breaks, drinks receptions, etc. It’s often during these that new friendships are formed, some of the most valuable discussions take place and ideas are shared – so mingle, mingle, mingle!

Carry business cards with you

While some people feel business cards are becoming obsolete, I believe they’re still a valuable networking tool. When you meet someone at the conference whom you find interesting and friendly, someone you’d like to connect with professionally or socially, then ask for their business card and offer yours in return. Try not to stick the card in your pocket or folder immediately; take a moment to look at the details on it and ask any questions you might have about the person’s work, etc. It may feel really awkward at first, but the more you offer your business card and ask for one, the easier it gets.

Follow up when you get home

There will probably be colleagues and speakers whom you would like to stay in contact with after the conference. When you get home dig out their business cards, or find their details on the lists in your conference pack, wait a day or two and then connect with them online through social media. LinkedIn is a good medium for the more professional-level connections, Facebook for the more friendly and sociable connections, while Twitter is a good catch-all tool. If the person in question doesn’t have a social media account, you could send a ‘lovely-to-meet-you-and-let’s-stay-in-touch’ email instead.

When sending a LinkedIn connection request, personalise the message and refer to your interaction at the conference. If you think you can be of help to the person, mention this in your message. During the conference, perhaps you’ll promise a colleague you’ll share something with them – a contract template, for example, or a link to a helpful blog post. If you do, ensure you follow up after the conference and send the promised item. Likewise, if someone promises you something similar but forgets to send it, don’t be afraid to connect online and follow up.

I found my editorial tribe online; meeting so many of them in person at the conference last year felt like returning home. The conference is a wonderful experience, and while networking online is great, networking in person is even better. Best of luck to all my colleagues heading to editorial conferences in the coming months. Unfortunately, I can’t attend this year but I’ll be with you in spirit (and via the conference Twitter hashtags)!

MaryBased in Wexford, Ireland, Mary McCauley is a freelance proofreader and copy-editor working with publishers, corporate clients and independent fiction authors. She is a professional member of the SfEP and a member of the Association of Freelance Editors, Proofreaders and Indexers (AFEPI) in Ireland. She helps run the AFEPI Twitter account and also blogs sporadically at Letters from an Irish Editor. Connect with Mary on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.

Practical changes to increase your rates

photo (1)The subject of rates is often fraught with difficulty. We work in a competitive field, and there can be tremendous pressure on budgets. However, if you’d like to increase your average hourly rate, there are some small changes – which you don’t have to make all at once – that can add up to a big difference in your earnings over time.

Be strict with yourself

Know how long you can spend on any project in order to achieve your preferred rate, and stick to that. I’m not suggesting that you cut corners or leave bits out in order to achieve this, but don’t get sidetracked, and don’t spend time on anything unnecessary. Monitor your progress as you go. If you realise that the budget really doesn’t cover the work, you can say so (many clients will be understanding if they have underestimated the amount of work involved), but you really need to raise this early on.

Learn to be decisive

Editors seem to love to discuss the details … Should there be a comma, or not? Perhaps a semicolon? And what’s the correct spelling of that word? How should this work be referenced? Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do, and the longer you look at something, the harder it becomes. It’s good to have colleagues to ask, and you’ll be amazed at how helpful people can be and what you might learn – but don’t get sucked into the trap of deliberating over every editorial decision. Use the house style (if there is one) to guide you, use your common sense and the relevant reference tools – and move on as quickly as you can.

Build efficiency into everything you do

I’m not just talking about keyboard shortcuts, find-and-replace routines or macros. All these things, used in a way that suits you and the type of work you do, can speed things up and improve your earnings. Think too about everything you do that surrounds a project. Can you find things quickly on your computer? Are there emails you send regularly that don’t need to be written from scratch each time? How long does it take you to send an invoice when you’re done? The next time you receive a similar project, will you be prepared for it? Each and every task you perform repetitively has the potential to be made more efficient – and the less time you spend doing things you can’t bill for, the more time there is to spend on things you can.

Try asking for more

This sounds simple, but it might be the hardest to do. However, if you don’t ask, you won’t know. The worst that can happen is that the client won’t budge. Surprisingly often, though, they will.

Don’t give discounts for large jobs

It can be tempting to accept a large project at a lower rate than you would usually work for. There is something comforting about having a lot of work booked in, after all. But logically, this means you will be tying up a lot of your time working for less money than you’d like, when you could be looking for other work that pays better. Only you can decide what is acceptable, but don’t feel that you have to do the work for less just because a client is supplying you with a lot of it.

Share information

It can be hard to discuss rates – it’s a potentially emotive topic – and it can be upsetting if you find out that a colleague is being paid more to do the same work. However, making yourself aware of the rates others are getting for similar work puts you in a stronger position to negotiate. You may be able to share this information anonymously through your editorial society (for example, the SfEP provides a ‘Rate for the job’ service for members), and you may find that online discussions shed light on the subject. Or, bring up the topic in person with a few trusted friends. Try not to see it as comparing yourself with others, but rather as arming yourself with information that could help you all.

Keep track

Finally, one of the best ways I have found of keeping my rates moving in the right direction is simply to keep track of what I earn per hour for any given project; I can then look at how this averages out across multiple projects for the same client. In this way I know which of my clients pay best, and which pay worst. If a project dips below what I consider to be an acceptable minimum, I can then figure out if there’s a way I could do the same work faster, if I need to ask for a bigger budget next time, or if it’s simply time to move on.

Liz Jones SfEP marketing and PR director

 

Liz Jones is the SfEP’s marketing and PR director, and has been an editor since 1998, specialising in general non-fiction and educational publishing.

Proofread by SfEP provisional intermediate member Gary Blogg.

 

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.

Specialist Q&A – working for business clients

Specialist Q&A graphicOur editorial industry is made up of people carrying out a huge range of tasks across many different sectors. Although we are bound by common aims – to make text consistent, accurate and clear – our chosen areas of work can differ in fascinating ways.

Kate Haigh (Kateproof) is a freelance proofreader and copy-editor. She has answered some questions on one of her specialisms: working for business clients.

1. Briefly, what’s your work background?

My CV is pretty varied but I have in-house editing and proofreading experience at a magazine publishing company (Govnet) and also for Datamonitor. I have also managed a team for a multinational corporate bank and have worked for the public sector.

2. How long have you specialised in this particular kind of editorial work, and how did you get started?

The first freelance client I got was almost five years ago and was pure serendipity: I went on a web writing course and got offered a lift home by a woman who worked for a local business. She took my card and passed it to her marketing department and the rest is history…

3. What specific knowledge, experience or qualifications do you need?

I find this is where working for business clients differs from working for publishers as I don’t think you need formal training, though confidence is key and I don’t know how confident I would feel if I didn’t have the training under my belt. Experience possibly counts for more as many business clients want to know that you understand their needs and their material. I work on a lot of annual reports, for example, and my experience in banking helps because I understand a lot of the terminology and the common elements that most reports include. One of my USPs is that I studied German at university so though I don’t offer translation services, I work for quite a few German companies as I understand some of the common issues German speakers encounter when writing in English.

4. How do you go about finding work in this area?

Nowadays, people find me through word of mouth and my website. However, when I was first starting out, I went to local networks and met lots of other local businesspeople from various industries. Clients and leads didn’t appear overnight but after about 6 months’ networking at various groups, I started to reap the rewards and continue to do so now even though I don’t currently attend any groups.

5. What do you most enjoy about the work and what are the particular challenges?

Not all business clients are the same. Working for design agencies or marketing teams within big companies often means I liaise with someone who understands the role of proofreading or editing and what I need to do, but lots of companies don’t have this and therefore need me to help them work through the process of getting the work proofread/edited and how best to deal with those changes. With design agencies, I find the work goes backwards and forwards through various iterations of the file as the client, the designers and I all make changes, and this can get quite complex.

Though some people may find the lack of a style guide or formal process less appealing, I like the fact I can influence the work and help a company achieve efficiencies.

Finally, I also have a lot of last-minute, urgent work requests and it can be quite tricky either finding time to fit them in or letting regular clients down. However, on the plus side, if I’m staring down the barrel of a workless week, that very rarely actually happens as something comes in and I go from twiddling thumbs to being very busy.

6. What’s the worst job you’ve had – and/or the best?

That’s really difficult to say purely because I’ve worked on such varied projects. I can’t deny that some of the reports have been very dry but I wouldn’t want to name and shame here. I also had one instance of bad scope creep and that definitely wasn’t enjoyable.

7. What tips would you give to someone wanting to work in this field?

Be confident! Many business clients don’t understand what the editing/proofreading job entails so you need to have the confidence to explain what you’re doing (and sometimes why) and also the confidence to make it clear if something isn’t in your remit.

8. What is the pay like – and are there any other perks?

I find the pay is better than what publishers pay but, for me, more importantly, I set my rates and can vary them depending on the client’s preference: hourly, day rate (common for agencies) or set fee.

9. What other opportunities do you think editorial work in this area might lead to?

I’ve been offered in-house work, and though I wouldn’t choose to return to that permanently, it can be enjoyable as a brief change of scene.

kate2

 

Answers written by Kate Haigh, a freelancer since 2010 working on a variety of projects for publishers, business clients, authors and academics.

 

Proofread by SfEP professional member Louise Lubke Cuss.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.