Category Archives: Marketing

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.

26 reasons to go to the 26th SfEP conference

If you still need convincing to go to this year’s SfEP/SI conference (with the theme ‘Collaborate and Innovate’), here are 26 reasons to book your place right now.

  1. Quite simply, it’s the SfEP’s biggest professional and social event of the year.
  2. It’s the first-ever joint conference to be held with the Society of Indexers, which means new faces and more networking opportunities.
  3. It’s taking place in the tranquil surroundings of Derwent College at the University of York.

    Derwent college

    Derwent College, University of York

  4. If you’d like to see more of this beautiful and historic city, you can take a pre-conference literary tour of York. (Requires separate booking.)
  5. Attending the conference is an unrivalled CPD opportunity. There are over 30 sessions to choose from, covering a diverse range of subjects and interests, from editing academic journals to understanding the self-publishing process, and from the ethics of proofreading dissertations and theses to financial planning and honing your presentation skills.
  6. You can attend one of the pre-conference workshops on Cindex, Macrex, PerfectIt or Edifix. (Requires separate booking.)
  7. The AGM, at the start of the conference, is a valuable chance to find out more about how the Society is run, and have your say.
  8. There is a range of international speakers booked, from the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Australia as well as all over the UK.
  9. You’ll meet up with old friends, or people you’ve only met previously online – or make completely new acquaintances.
  10. For freelancers, it’s a great time to network with colleagues and potential clients; for corporate subscribers, it’s a chance to find freelance talent.
  11. There’s the chance to get dressed up (if you like) at the Gala Dinner. When else do freelancers get to wear posh frocks and suits?
  12. For that matter, for some of us it might be a chance simply to get dressed, if our popular image is to be believed …
  13. David Crystal (honorary vice-president of the SfEP) is giving the after-dinner speech, which is sure to be a treat.
  14. You don’t have to do the cooking or washing up for a few days!
  15. Experience the joy of finding yourself in the company of so many other people who understand the importance (and use) of the semicolon. This is truly a rare thing.
  16. Expect a fascinating Whitcombe Lecture from John Thompson (a founder of Polity Press, Professor of Sociology at the University of Cambridge and author), who will consider how the publishing industry is adapting to change.
  17. Earn points towards upgrading your membership of the SfEP.
  18. If you’re a first-timer, take the chance to grill meet the current SfEP council over drinks on the first night.
  19. Breakout events such as the Tweetup and the exhibitors’ fair provide a range of things to do between sessions.
  20. On the last afternoon, attend the ‘Crystal ball’ panel session, and put your questions to six publishing experts: Alison Baverstock, Allyson Latta, Sam Leith, Peter McKay, Kate Mertes and Lynn West.
  21. The closing lecture, by Eben Muse (Researcher in Digital Media at Bangor University), promises an intriguing look at how readers are adapting to change, and the future of reading itself.
  22. Make the most of your time away and attend the SfEP’s pre-conference course, Introduction to fiction editing. (Requires separate booking.)
  23. As well as your fellow editors, you can meet the lovely staff from our offices in Putney, who keep the SfEP running smoothly all year round.
  24. Try your luck in the raffle, with a range of fantastic prizes on offer, including a handmade book by session leader Paul Johnson.
  25. Be amazed at how revived and enthused you feel after a few days away from your desk. There’s nothing like it for rekindling your love of editing!
  26. Finally, there’s still time to make the most of the early-bird discount if you book now – until Friday 24 April.

We hope to see you there!

Liz Jones SfEP marketing and PR director

 

Liz Jones is the SfEP’s PR and marketing director.

 

 

Elevator pitches for editors

Spring daffodils

Time for a bit of spring cleaning – tidy that desk and dust down your elevator pitch.

It’s that time of the year – at least in the UK – when the spring flowers are out, the birds are singing, there’s a fleeting glimmer of sunshine … and it’s the end of a tax year (or the start of a new one, depending on how you choose to look at it). Perhaps it’s time to tidy the desk, chuck out a few reams of paper and dust down the elevator pitch.

There’s much to recommend being able to tell people what you do in a way they can understand. Let’s face it – it can be an uphill struggle when it comes to justifying our existence. No, we don’t just check for spelling mistakes. And no, Word’s spellcheck function is definitely no substitute for the real thing. Yes, we might love words, but passion doesn’t pay the bills. Sure, an edit is not usually a life-or-death situation, although ‘mere’ typos can do serious damage to reputations and lives – and the work medical editors do, for example, carries a particular weight of responsibility. Good communication in any sector is vital, so there is genuine importance attached to our job, and it takes skill and experience to do it well.

An elevator pitch is typically a short and simple summary of your business offering, using language that anyone can understand. It says who you are, what you do and what you can offer a potential client. A good example will tell a story in miniature, rather than comprise a blurted-out list of bullet points. You need to captivate your listener – and you haven’t got long to do it; perhaps 30 seconds. (The tallest lift in my town only goes up one floor, so I’d have to be especially concise.)

If you’re trying to communicate your worth to so-called non-publishers, you might need to strip things right back to the basics; you could even use an analogy. About a year ago I wrote a description on my website likening the work of an editor to the craft of a sash window renovator. (It only occurred to me afterwards that I should have struck some kind of reciprocal deal with the window restorers, asking them to compare their work to that of a professional editor.) The point is, it can help to explain what we do if we make it more tangible.

Publishers may be easier – they already understand the difference between copy-editing and proofreading, for instance, and they know why they need us. But all publishers are different, and you may still need a very focused approach to make that particular publisher understand why they should hire you, and not the other twenty editors who have also cold-called them that month. What areas do you specialise in? What specific skills and qualifications do you have?

To write your elevator pitch, try putting everything down on paper (or screen) first – everything that differentiates you and your business. Stick to the positives – describe what you can do, not what you can’t. Then, when you have your description, do what you do best – edit it. Cut out all the extraneous material until you’re left with the pure message that you want to convey. Take your time. Tell that story. Nail it.

Now you have your perfect pitch, what can you do with it? One thing you could do is learn it by heart, and then take yourself off to some local networking events (or even an SfEP local group meeting) and actually use it. You might discover that you enjoy the process, and you could even pick up a new client or two. (Remember, contacts you make may not lead to immediate work; it’s often about the long game.)

However, the real beauty of this is that you don’t have to actually deliver the elevator pitch for it to be of real benefit. You’ve just spent quality time focusing on the positives of who you are and what you do. See how you’ve distilled the essence of your business so you understand exactly what you offer and why it’s worth something to others? Now you can use this knowledge of what makes your business brilliant (what I like to think of as your secret elevator pitch) to inform the way you sell it to others, in whatever way you choose.

Do you have an elevator pitch? Has it helped you market your business?

Liz Jones SfEP marketing and PR director

 

Liz Jones is the SfEP’s marketing and PR director.

 

Proofread by SfEP provisional intermediate member Gary Blogg.

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

Round-up of the ten most popular SfEP social media posts in March

SfEP logoSocial media moves very quickly, and the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds are no different. So, to ensure you don’t miss out, here’s a summary of our ten most popular posts in March:

  1. 7 grammar myths you learned in school. OxfordWords blog. (Posted on Twitter and Facebook 23 March.) The Oxford Dictionaries OxfordWords blog suggests that some of the grammar rules we learn in school should be described more as helpful guides, while others are simply ‘inventions’.
  1. 10 British words that baffle Americans. BBC America. (Posted on Facebook and Twitter 19 March.) The reference to ‘craic’ as British raised some eyebrows among our Facebook fans.
  1. Friday Funny: Acyrologia. (Posted on Facebook 20 March.) Several of our Facebook fans had their own suggestions for words that sound similar but have a completely different meaning.
  1. The 50 books every child should read. i100 Independent. (Posted on Facebook and Twitter 5 March.) To mark World Book Day, we shared a list compiled by Sainsbury’s of books every child should read before they turn 16. Our Facebook fans added their own suggestions and argued that children should be allowed to discover their own favourites and that any book that gets children reading is good.
  1. 32 of the most beautiful words in the English language. Buzzfeed. (Posted on Facebook 11 March and Twitter 12 March.) Our Facebook fans were keen to add their own favourites, although it was noted that a reference to the source of the words would have been a bonus.
  1. Feeling the freelance squeeze. Northern Editorial blog. (Posted on Twitter 16 March.) A blog post by SfEP professional member Sara Donaldson explores the often difficult subject for freelances of talking prices and money.
  1. Are these the best book-to-film adaptations? The Guardian. (Posted on Twitter 9 March.) A survey by BT TV, coinciding with World Book Day in the UK, the nation’s top ten book-to-film adaptations. One of our Twitter followers said she’d enjoyed Sense and Sensibility as a book much better after seeing the Emma Thompson/Kate Winslet film version.
  1. Sweden adds gender-neutral pronoun to dictionary. The Guardian. (Posted on Twitter 26 March.) The official dictionary of the Swedish language is adding a gender-neutral pronoun, hen, to enable reference to a person without revealing their gender. One of our Twitter followers suggested this would be a solution to the dreaded singular ‘they’.
  1. Semicolons: how to use them, and why you should. Huffington Post Books. (Posted on Twitter 23 March.) The author of this article suggests a big part of the semicolon’s problem is its mysterious nature and seeks to clarify its usage.
  1. There is no ‘proper English’. Wall Street Journal. (Posted on Twitter 17 March.) The author of this article argues that grammatical rules are merely stylistic conventions and that it is time to consign grammar pedantry to the history books.

Joanna BoweryJoanna Bowery is the SfEP social media manager. As well as looking after the SfEP’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and the SfEP blog, she offers freelance marketing, PR, writing and proofreading services as Cosmic Frog. Jo is an entry-level member of the SfEP and a Chartered Marketer. She is active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Proofread by SfEP entry-level member Karen Pickavance.

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

Keeping things going

If you know where you want to take your business, you can decide how to get there.

Here on this blog we’ve recently had some interesting examples of how colleagues – from a range of backgrounds, and with different levels of editorial experience – got started. Next is to consider ways to keep the momentum going through the first few years, and take your business to the next level. As with getting started, there are as many different ways of building sustainability into an editorial business as there are editors, but here are some general tips.

Building a solid client base

When you start freelancing you may gradually build up your business with a handful of clients, and it can be all too easy to start depending on one or two favourite contacts who supply you with a stream of work. But this is a big mistake: no matter how valued you feel, or how well you get on with them, as a freelance you will never be anything other than expendable. The only way to counter this fact is to have a range of clients that you continue to add to over time, and this means ongoing attention to networking and marketing.

Many editors don’t like the thought of either, but they don’t have to mean delivering elevator pitches to rooms full of strangers, or blogging (if you don’t want to). The important thing is to find your own ways of keeping up with existing contacts and finding new ones, using the approaches and platforms that feel most natural to you.

Support networks and feedback

For some of us, one of the hardest aspects of long-term freelancing is the lack of contact with work colleagues. It’s not just about sharing water-cooler banter; it’s also about having people around to bounce ideas off, and to offer support when we suffer setbacks. It can be utterly galling to give a project your all, send it off into the ether and never hear anything about it again. In this situation, how do you know if you’re doing it right? How do you cope with the resounding silence?

You might ask your clients for feedback, but there’s no guarantee they’ll have the time to give it. Don’t despair – various editorial organisations (including the SfEP, of course) offer ways to interact with other editors in person at local group meetings, or online in the forums. And plenty of editors also use Facebook to link up with an international community of editors. You don’t need to feel alone.

Two traps to avoid, when you do make contact with other freelancers, are moaning about particular clients online (you never quite know who’ll end up reading what you write), and comparing yourself to others. Remember that every freelance business is unique.

Staying on message

Uniqueness is important. There are lots of editors out there, and more are appearing all the time. Although this tends to be a very supportive industry, you also need to be realistic about the fact that the only person who can keep your business going is you. To do this effectively, you need to be very clear about what you can offer clients that no one else can.

Now’s the time to develop your specialisms. Perhaps a particular interest (for example in biochemistry, or education, or erotic fiction, or step-by-step craft books) got you started. If you’ve proofread or edited a lot of material in a particular area (and you’d like to do more), you need to say so. The more you do, the more specific experience you will have and the better fit you will be for particular projects.

Think about finding your voice, too. As editors we are often invisible in our work (and that’s as it should be), but when we interact with colleagues or clients, our personality does count. Yes, if you do a good job, you are likely to get hired again. But the way we conduct ourselves in all sorts of other ways matters too. Does your website communicate what makes you the editor you are? Find a way to tell the clients you want to work for what you in particular can offer them.

Maintaining awareness

You need to look at the bigger picture as you progress, and track the projects you’re working on – not just so you can schedule them in and get them finished on time, but so you can analyse other aspects of the work you’re doing. Do you know which of your clients pays the best hourly rate, for example? Do you know which pays you most each year? And do you know who pays you quickest? All these things are easy to keep track of using various free or paid-for apps, or Excel. Find what works for you, and use it.

It’s not just about how the numbers stack up, either. Once your business is up and running you can start to focus on trying to secure more of the work you do want, and scaling back on anything that grinds you down.

Constant improvement

Keeping things going long term depends on a series of constant small improvements. Did something take you a long time to do on one project? Find a way to do it quicker next time; ask for advice if you need it. Are you unhappy with your average hourly rate? Use increased efficiency to improve things as far as you can, and seek out clients who pay better. Not good at negotiating? Take tips from those who are and give it a go – you have nothing to lose (and perhaps much to gain).

You may reach the point where everything’s come together and you’re drowning in work (yes, really). But be careful! Now’s the time to concentrate on working smarter, not harder. Stay organised, don’t feel you have to say yes to everything (whether individual projects or specific demands from clients), and try to develop a sense for the projects that will reward you creatively and financially, and the ones that will sap all your energy.

Keep abreast of industry trends, and don’t neglect your training. Try to make every job you do better than the last.

Planning for the future

This is not about retiring to your villa in the sun … though it’s obviously sensible to consider the more distant future. But an important part of staying motivated is maintaining your own interest in what you’re doing. Do you want to keep proofreading the same kind of material for the next twenty years? If you do, that’s fine (although bear in mind that particular clients may come and go, and work methods will evolve).

However, if you’d like to shake things up a bit, it helps to think about what you see yourself doing a few months or years from now. This links to the earlier advice about maintaining awareness, and using it to help you consider where to go next. Could you develop new skills? Might you be able to train or mentor new editors? Would you like to write about aspects of editorial practice? Perhaps you’d like to get more involved with your national editorial organisation? Maybe work for a different set of clients in a certain field? Or simply earn more and work less?

Once you know where you want to take your business, you can decide how to get there.

What tips do you have for keeping an editorial business thriving beyond the first few years?

Liz Jones SfEP marketing and PR director

 

Liz Jones is the SfEP’s marketing and PR director. She has also worked as an editor for 17 years, and has been freelance since 2008.

 

Proofread by SfEP entry-level member Anna Black.

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

Keeping it real

SfEP ordinary member Dr Rosalind Davies explores what editors and proofreaders, who operate in a largely virtual space, can learn from businesses that function in a more ‘real’ physical environment.

The Chamber of Commerce in Rochester, Michigan, recently welcomed a writing and editing service to the local business community. The new company, So It Is Written, was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4 p.m. on 12 September 2014.

I smiled as I imagined a similar ceremony in my home office – local business leaders making their way up the stairs to my spare room and crowding in the doorway to watch the unveiling of the computer, telephone, photocopier and coffee mug. Although I found it easy to laugh at what seemed to be an over-formal rigmarole, I quickly had second thoughts. Doesn’t the ribbon-cutting ceremony in Rochester symbolise a new way of looking at the business of editing and writing – at my business?

So It Is Written is an editing business that has laid claim to the same presence and credibility as any other business – a restaurant, art gallery or meat production plant. I stopped laughing about the ribbon-cutting when I realised that this opening ceremony represented a grounding of editorial skills, calling them down from the clouds and marking out a physical space for them.

The Good Copy

The same principle is expressed in another new start-up, The Good Copy, which occupies a large building on a street in Melbourne, Australia. ‘Episode 1’ of the promotional video on The Good Copy’s homepage begins in the dust and debris of the building’s conversion into a ‘newsagent for writers’. We watch as builders drink from polystyrene cups and hammer nails into shelves.

Like the Rochester editing business, The Good Copy’s mission is to bring editors, writers and publishers together and to give them real retail space in which to interact. What is usually, for most editorial freelances, an electronic exchange between supplier and client here takes on flesh and blood in the Melbourne suburb. The Good Copy also aims to populate my own empty-looking work space with a tool kit – what it calls ‘hardcore resources’ – trade magazines, notebooks, style guides and dictionaries, and it believes that my skills could be part of a face-to-face market exchange that takes place as I drink coffee with people who are looking for someone to ‘write stuff for them’.

For some in our profession, the act of editing and writing is beginning to take up real space and retail space, and I, for one, love the idea that I could create a tangible presence for work that is mostly solitary and electronic. Even if this is too ambitious, even if the mechanisms for the way I work do not change, there are things that I can do – new attitudes to adopt – that will make a difference to the way I talk about my work and the way that other people perceive it. The business/communal mindset evidenced by the ribbon-cutting in Rochester and the shopfront in Melbourne should help me to revamp my PR skills and fuel my determination to say ‘I’m doing something here. I’m making something. This is the place I do it in.’

It’s a challenge for the editorial professional to communicate real-world skills and the value that they will add to the presentation, effectiveness and clarity of online or printed content. While we celebrate the connectedness and speed of our access to a global market and its clients, it’s a mistake to forget the reality of the local business community. We must find our way into it, to explore new sources of work, to enjoy a sense of belonging and to make space for the real products that are words and messages.

Ros DaviesRosalind Davies is a copy-editor, writer and communications consultant and the coordinator of the Devon SfEP group. You can find out more about projects she is involved in on her Facebook page. You can also follow her on Twitter. She is available, free of charge, for ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

Proofread by SfEP associate Susan Walton.

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

Ten ideas to help you find work as a proofreader

Image credit: An Eastbourne Website Designer

Whether you’re just starting out and wondering how to secure that first paying job, or you’re more established and looking to fill a hole in your diary or further develop your business, here are ten ideas to help you find proofreading work.

1. Mine your existing contacts. Let them know what you’re doing and what sort of work you’re looking for. Ask them to share your details with anyone who might be interested in your services.

2. Write a speculative letter or email. Get in touch with potential clients and let them know what you can offer them. It goes without saying that you should check that your correspondence is going to the correct person in the organisation.

3. Go to a local SfEP group meeting. The SfEP has 38 local groups and you can find your nearest meeting on the SfEP website. Talk with your local colleagues about what projects you’re working on and what sort of projects might be of interest in the future. Although this may not yield immediate gains, a colleague may remember that you have a particular expertise and refer potential clients on to you if they are unable to take on a project.

4. Network at other local business groups. Go to local business events and find out who might be looking for a proofreader. Prepare a simple sentence that describes what you do and why you could be useful. Don’t forget to take your business cards.

5. Add your details to the SfEP Associates Available list. Associates of the SfEP can add a listing to the list of Associates Available for work, which is updated every fortnight. Any member of the SfEP can access the list and contact associates if they have surplus work and want to subcontract it out.

6. Add an entry to the SfEP Directory of Editorial Services. If you’re an ordinary or advanced member of the SfEP you can add your details to the SfEP Directory of Editorial Services. This is a searchable database available to anyone looking for a professional editor, proofreader or editorial project manager.

7. Keep an eye out for jobs on the SfEPAnnounce mailer. Vacancies are often posted on the SfEPAnnounce email. The vacancies can also be found on the SfEPAnnounce forum page.

8. Check out the SfEP Marketplace online forum. SfEP members can also post and respond to job offers and other requests for help on specific projects via the SfEP Marketplace forum.

9. Sign up to directories. Some proofreaders have found work after signing up to websites such as findaproofreader.com.

10. Check out freelance job boards. There is a wealth of freelance job boards, such as peopleperhour.com, where you can either list your services or search for anyone looking for a proofreader. Some people find it useful to plug a gap in their schedule or to build up experience or a client base. But it’s probably not the best bet for a sustainable work flow and rates can vary hugely.

For more information about finding work as a freelance proofreader, visit our website and look at our FAQs.

We also sell some useful guides in our online shop, including:

Starting Out: Setting up a small business, by Valerie Rice

Marketing Yourself: Strategies to promote your editorial business, by Sara Hulse

If you have any suggestions for other ways to find work, feel free to add a comment below.

Joanna Bowery

Joanna Bowery

Joanna Bowery is the SfEP social media manager. As well as looking after the SfEP’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and the SfEP blog, she offers freelance marketing, PR, writing and proofreading services operating as Cosmic Frog. Jo is an associate of the SfEP and a Chartered Marketer. She is active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

 

This article was proofread by SfEP associate Anna Black.

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

 

Don’t forget the ‘old’ ways: marketing via letter writing

Writing letters is an overlooked marketing tool

By Louise Harnby

In a recent conversation about marketing with my colleague Rich ‘An American Editor’ Adin, I was reminded of how ‘sometimes the old ways are the better ways’ (Adin, personal correspondence).

Take old-fashioned snail-mail marketing. Sending letters is still as powerful a marketing tool today as it was 50 years ago. So why is this still a strong proposition? Might it even be a stronger proposition than email marketing?

10 reasons to write a letter

1. Better response rates: Crawford Hollingworth, in ‘Slow snail mail – why the tortoise is still beating the hare’, notes that ‘[r]esponse rates to letters are typically 30 times better then email – around 3.4% for direct mail, compared to 0.12% for email in 2012’. Letters take more time and effort, but those numbers alone provide a persuasive argument for using your postie! I’d recommend reading Hollingworth’s article in full. The author uses the lenses of psychology and behavioural science to consider why the letter is still a great proposition when it comes to getting someone’s attention.

2. Permanence: A letter is a physical thing – a piece of paper – and that means it can be physically moved around and read in multiple places. It can also be filed in a manner that isn’t deletable with one finger. This gives it permanence. You may not get positive results to your letter-writing campaign straight away, but having your information filed in the traditional way means it’s likely to survive longer in a drawer than it will in a digital inbox.

3. Psychology of perceived effort: There’s something about a letter that tells your customer you’ve made an effort. In reality, if you’re crafting an email designed to solicit work, you’ll take just as much care over the content. But it’s the perception that counts here. Sending a letter tells the customer that you’ve done more than craft the content – ‘letters can evoke a greater feeling of commitment in us. We acknowledge the time and effort someone has put into writing to us, to stamping and posting the letter and this can make us feel more committed to responding’ (Hollingworth, n.d.). A letter offers the customer the personal touch – ‘[r]eceiving a tangible, physical item such as a letter is usually experienced as a more personalized and involved form of outreach than receiving an email or SMS’ (SpirE-Journal, 2010).

4. Differentiation: When you send a letter you make yourself stand out precisely because you, well, send a letter. ‘These days 99% of correspondence is through email. So, a typed and mailed note with an attached résumé may just end up in the right hands,’ says Paul Gumbinner (2013). I’d add a caveat to this: I wouldn’t take the chance of a letter just ‘end[ing] up’ anywhere – it needs to be addressed to a named person for maximum impact. Nevertheless, Gumbinner’s point is that letters aren’t the norm so, when you use one to put yourself in front of a potential client, you differentiate yourself.

5. Damage limitation: A letter can be handed from one colleague to another, or moved from one desk to another, without damaging the readability of the content. Most of us will have been on the receiving end of the passed-around email that’s become something other than what it started out as. Yes, I’m talking about chevrons. When you send an email there’s a risk that your beautifully crafted message will become corrupted by a plethora of ugly characters, all of which distract the reader’s eye from the reasons why they should hire you as their editor or proofreader. I’d repeat the caveat above – the letter does need to be correctly addressed. Too many pairs of hands forwarding it to your key contact could mean it ends up looking tatty, so do the research beforehand to ensure you have the right name on the envelope.

6. Marketing eye candy: There’s no point in pretending that looks don’t count. They do. And emails are boring. The only way to make them attractive is to attach something, and that requires the receiver to hit yet another button. To do that you need to have already piqued their curiosity. With snail mail, the envelope itself piques their curiosity because it’s not the usual method of communication these days. Furthermore, not only can you design a letter so that it’s attractive, but you can also include additional items, e.g. a seasonally designed, branded postcard, a brochure or a business card, thereby making the whole package more interesting – what Hollingworth (n.d) calls ‘behavioural nudges’. Sending letters may be old-fashioned but it has the potential for creativity and inventiveness that’s very much in the ‘now’.

7. Absorption: Yes, email is hugely convenient – I cannot conceive of being without it – but letters are harder to ignore. Compare the clutter of the email inbox to something physical on the desk. Most busy business professionals’ inboxes are jammed with emails from all and sundry. That, says Gumbinner, makes email ‘totally uninvolving. Some executives literally receive hundreds a day. They skip from one to another. Some are barely read, if at all. Few are absorbed.’ Standing out to your customer is about grabbing their attention and drawing them in. If they’re not absorbed in the message you’re trying to communicate, you’re less likely to secure editorial work from them.

8. Destruction factor: It takes more effort for your customer to crumple and toss an appealingly designed letter and CV/brochure than it does to hit a ‘delete’ button on a keyboard – not much more, but just enough to give you an edge, especially when combined with the absorption and eye-candy elements mentioned above.

9. Sensory impact: Your customer spends a lot of time at their desk and a lot of time looking at their screen. Thinking about differentiation once again, consider how you might be offering your potential client a little added value by writing to them. ‘A physical letter allows at least one extra sensory experience, namely the touch and feel of the paper,’ notes SpirE-Journal (2010).

10. Taking advantage of down time: Snail mail allows your customer to kick back and relax away from the screen for a few minutes. They have to pick up the envelope, open it and then look at the content. That means they are focused on what’s in their hands as well as what’s hitting the back of their retinas. According to SpirE-Journal (2010), ‘Snail mail, unlike eDM [electronic direct mail], has a higher chance of getting read when the recipient is more relaxed.’ That’s good for you, because the customer is more likely to absorb themselves in the detail of the fabulous editorial services you’re offering!

5 things to do

1. Target a named person: Remember to do the research beforehand (by email or phone) to ensure you can put the right name on your envelope. ‘If you want to make a good impression on the person in charge of hiring, you don’t want your letter and CV to look like it was used to wrap someone’s lunch by the time it ends up on their desk’ (Harnby, 2014). Precise, targeted addressing takes extra work but will yield dividends in terms of response.

2. Think about the content: It’s not just about making sure the letter gets to the right person; it’s about holding that person’s attention once they’re reading it. When thinking about what to include in your letter and how to structure the content, you may like to consider my adaptation of Kevin Daum’s differentiation–solution–empathy framework for letter writing (Harnby, 2014: Chapter 20, ‘Going direct’).

3. Build a mailing list: As you acquire the targeted names and addresses of your potential client list, record the information so that you build a mailing list. Having a mailing list is important because it enables you to market repeatedly to the same customers (Adin, personal correspondence). Why? Because clients don’t always respond the first, second or even third time round. That doesn’t mean you’re not a good fit for them. If your skills match theirs, they may just have forgotten you or been too busy with other things. Furthermore, those clients who do respond but who say their editorial freelancer lists are currently full will need a further nudge several months down the line. Having a mailing list takes the pain out of the re-mailing process because you’ve already done all the research.

4. Test: Carry out trials to explore the impact of posting your letters at different times of year, with different enclosures, tweaked unique selling points or alternative postscripts. Different approaches may yield different responses and help you to hone your letter-writing craft and improve your positive response rate.

5. Track: You won’t know how effective your letters are if you don’t keep track of when you sent them, to whom you sent them, what you tested and what the results were. It’s not just about tracking positive responses; it’s also important to keep a record of other future potentially positive outcomes, e.g. ‘we’re keeping your details on file’ or ‘our bank of freelancers is full at the moment, but thanks for getting in touch’. Those are very different responses to ‘thanks but no – we don’t use external proofreaders’, even though the immediate outcome in terms of work is negative. And all of those responses mean something different to the non-responder, who may simply have not got round to contacting you. Re-mailing non-responders and ‘on file or full up’ responders is a worthwhile exercise, whereas contacting the non-user is a waste of a stamp and a waste of your time.

Multiple tools, multiple channels

None of this is to say that you should not exploit opportunities to put yourself in front of potential clients using digital tools. I think you should use these methods of making yourself discoverable. However, don’t assume that there is only one way to make first contact with a publisher, a business or an agency. Smart marketing involves exploiting multiple channels, some of which are bang up to the minute, and some of which have been powerful and effective tools of communication for generations.

Create a website, send emails, explore Google Authorship, build social media networks, make telephone calls, consider video testimonials, advertise in online directories, create business cards, blog … do all these things and more if you feel they’ll put you in front of your customer. But don’t forget the humble letter. You might be surprised at just how much business it can generate for you!

References

Gumbinner, Paul (2013). Making snail mail work for you [online], 2 April 2013. Available from View from Madison Avenue: http://viewfrommadisonave.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/making-snail-mail-work-for-you.html.

Harnby, Louise (2014). Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business (in association with the Publishing Training Centre).

Hollingworth, Crawford (2013). ‘Slow snail mail – why the tortoise is still beating the hare’ [online], 15 July 2013. Available from the Marketing Society: https://www.marketingsociety.com/the-library/slow-snail-mail-–-why-tortoise-still-beating-hare.

SpirE-Journal (2010). ‘The Re-emergence of Snail Mail’ [online]. Available from Spire Research & Consulting: http://www.spireresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/the-re-emergence-of-snail-mail2.pdf.

Louise Harnby

Louise Harnby

Based in the heart of the Norfolk Broads, Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader with 23 years’ publishing experience. An Advanced 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 and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby or find her on LinkedIn.

Proofread by Jane Hammett, an advanced member of the SfEP.

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

5 marketing tips for the freelance editor or proofreader

marketing - promoting and selling, research and advertising

Marketing tips

By Mary McCauley

I studied services marketing in college and before my studies began I had a perception of marketing as a complicated and theory-based business system practised by big US multinational corporations. By the time I finished my degree, this view had changed: for me, services marketing boils down to a simple ‘Which customers do you want to serve and how can you persuade them to buy your service?’ So, in relation to a freelance editorial business, my top five ‘marketing’ tips are very straightforward: be nice (provide excellent customer service); be focused (which specific customers do you want to buy your service?); be professional (build your reputation and protect it); be online (establish a professional online presence); and be generous (network).

1. Be nice

As an editorial professional you are a service provider. You may have the keenest editorial brain in the world and a long list of top academic qualifications but unless you realise that in providing a service to customers you must look after those customers as best you can, then your freelance business will not be all it can be. You are an intangible part of the service your client is purchasing and the client has to want to work with you. As Steve Baron and Kim Harris write, ‘customers often use the appearance and manner of service employees as a first point of reference when deciding whether or not to make a purchase’. In every aspect of your service to clients – be they an independent author, a publishing house, an academic or a corporation – be friendly, helpful, genuine and, most importantly, customer-driven. Use every opportunity to put your client at ease, make it easy for them to work with you, and make them want to work with you again. As retired Irish retailer Fergal Quinn puts it, ‘Think of the main task as being to bring the customer back.’ It sounds simple, right? But so many service providers fail to understand the importance of this concept. Think about it for a minute: are there certain people/shops you won’t buy from, no matter how low their prices, simply because they or their staff are rude and unhelpful?

2. Be focused

Don’t try to be all things to all people: identify your editorial speciality and then actively target those clients who seek this specific area of expertise. According to proofreader and author Louise Harnby, ‘Your educational and career backgrounds will help you to identify core client groups.’ A good way to start thinking about this is to imagine someone you’ve just met asks you what you do. Can you define it in approximately ten words? For example, my response would be: ‘I am a freelance copy-editor and proofreader providing editorial services to fiction authors and corporate clients.’

3. Be professional

Clients are paying you (hopefully) good money to provide them with a service. They want to know that their money is well spent. If they haven’t worked with you before then from their point of view they are taking a risk by contracting your service. You can help minimise their perception of that risk by behaving in a professional manner. This is especially the case if you are starting out as freelance editor and have minimal testimonials or no portfolio. Behaving professionally extends to all aspects of your business. Meet project deadlines or alert the client as soon as possible if there will be a delay; issue formal quotations, project agreements, invoices and receipts; acknowledge client correspondence promptly; treat a client’s project with confidentiality; and so on. If you are a member of an editorial professional body, act in accordance with their code of practice.

4. Be online

Again, it’s very simple: if potential clients don’t know you exist how can they hire you? If they search online for editorial services will they find you? A business website is an excellent opportunity for you to control the message you give to potential customers. WordPress, Weebly and About Me offer free, easy options to create and maintain a website. You can list your services, portfolio, client testimonials, qualifications and, most importantly, your contact details! Ensure the content of your website accurately reflects your values and professional approach. Social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.) provide effective means to interact with potential clients. For example, if your target market includes independent authors join one of LinkedIn’s writers’ group forums. Help potential clients find you by listing your services in online directories, such as the SfEP Directory of Editorial Services.

5. Be generous

The more you give the more you receive, and what goes around comes around. They may be clichés but also good mottos for life – and for business! Network not only with colleagues (online through social media, and in person at editor meetings, conferences, courses, etc.) but also with members of your target market. Don’t focus solely on yourself when networking; few like to converse with someone who drones on about ‘me, me, me’. Think about ways you can be helpful: perhaps if your work schedule is booked up and you cannot take on an author’s project you could refer the author to a trusted colleague and thus be helpful to both; share a colleague’s interesting and informative article/blog post with your network of colleagues, friends and clients; or introduce a client to someone who can add value to their project further down the production process, such as an illustrator or typesetter. Genuine goodwill and generosity will come back to you tenfold.

If you would like to learn more about potential marketing tools for your freelance editorial business, join me for the Marketing Tools for the Freelance Editor seminar at this year’s SfEP conference in September.

What’s your top tip for marketing your freelance editorial business? Which marketing activity has worked best for you and which have you found the most difficult?

References

Baron, S and Harris, K (1995) Services Marketing: Text and Cases. Macmillan, London

Harnby, L. (2014) Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business: Being Interesting and Discoverable. Louise Harnby, in association with The Publishing Training Centre

Quinn, F. (1990) Crowning the Customer: How to Become Customer-Driven. The O’Brien Press, Dublin

Mary McCauley

Mary McCauley

Based in Wexford, Ireland, Mary McCauley is a freelance proofreader and copy-editor working with corporate clients and independent fiction authors. She is a member of both the SfEP and the Association of Freelance Editors, Proofreaders and Indexers (AFEPI) in Ireland. She helps run the new AFEPI Twitter account and also blogs sporadically at Letters from an Irish Editor. Around the time she started her editorial business she took up running – not only to keep fit but also to help maintain her sanity. One of these goals has been achieved. Say hello to Mary on TwitterFacebook or Google+.

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