What has and hasn't changed since I started out in 2012
I have moved to full-time hours and my work schedule has been more or less fully booked up for the past two years. However, I no longer regularly work weekends unless I have agreed a premium rate with my client. As for most people setting up business the early years involved long hours of work and weeks without a break. This worked for a while, but I learned that I cannot work that way indefinitely; I need regular time away from my desk or I can’t do my best work. And as my turnover has increased year on year as my business grows, I’m now able to take proper holidays at Christmas and during the summer.
When I started out in 2012 my main service offering was proofreading and a little copy-editing; now copy-editing work has overtaken proofreading. I also offer some project management services (including liaison with typesetters, designers and illustrators; picture research; and artwork coordination), as well as e-book conversion review services.
Additionally, I’ve become involved in training delivery. In June 2014 I was invited to present an editing masterclass for fiction authors at our local Wexford Literary Festival. Not long after, I presented a Marketing Tools for the Freelance Editor seminar at the 2014 SfEP conference and, while it was a daunting but exhilarating experience, I learned a lot from it. Last year I was approached by Irish writer and lecturer Claire Keegan to teach a two-day course on grammar, punctuation and style to her students. It went well and we ran the course again earlier this year. The Wexford Literary Festival invited me back this summer as a panel member for an Industry Experts Q&A discussion and I’m also a regular guest speaker on my Local Enterprise Office’s Start Your Own Business course. More recently I’m signed up as a speed mentor at this year’s SfEP conference. So through contacts and referrals I’ve slowly gained experience in editorial and editorial-business training, and I’m interested in how I might further develop it as a business offering.
At the start I cast my net wide in search of clients – anything to get experience. I have since narrowed down my client base. On the fiction side, the majority of my work is for independent authors. Not all of these wish to self-publish; some are preparing their manuscript for submission to an agent, publisher or competition. On the non-fiction side, while I also work with independent authors, the majority of my clients are businesses, public sector bodies and publishers. Due to schedule constraints and short turnaround times, for the moment I no longer work for students.
Continuing professional development (CPD)
Investing in quality training has been a priority for me over the past four years and my short-term aim is to continue to invest in learning new skills in a bid to expand the range of services I offer. I’ve completed six editorial courses (SfEP/PTC/Publishing Ireland) since 2012. Each has directly helped pay for itself, for example, the SfEP’s On-screen Editing 1 helped me work more efficiently and thus earn a better rate, while the Publishing Training Centre’s (PTC) Rewriting and Substantive Editing course gave me the confidence to take on an well-paid editing project I otherwise wouldn’t have.
Recently, AFEPI Ireland members have been able to take advantage of the PTC courses now running at the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin. Ireland-based editors can now avail of these without travelling to the UK as many would have done in the past. They also have the added benefit of presenting an opportunity for freelance and in-house editors to meet.
I regularly learn new ideas and tips from the AFEPI Ireland/SfEP/EAE forums and save shared links for future reference. I find these forums an invaluable source of CPD.
Professional membership and networking
Though it is one of my larger yearly expenses I value my membership of both AFEPI Ireland and SfEP. The support of Irish and UK colleagues, and colleagues further afield, has been one of the most warming experiences of setting up my business. Catching up with AFEPI Ireland friends and colleagues at meetings and training courses in Ireland has been wonderful and energising, and I always come away having learned something. Attending the 2014 SfEP conference in London was an unforgettable experience and I finally understood what ‘finding your tribe’ means.
Since 2012 I joined Twitter and I find it a useful learning platform that has helped me meet and interact with publishing professionals in Ireland and abroad.
When I receive business enquires I always ask how the person found me, as I need to know which of my marketing efforts are working. The majority of my enquiries come via my website, which enquirers say they found following a Google search. My website’s probably due an overhaul but I’m pleased with how it has worked for me. I also started my own blog, Letters from an Irish Editor, at the start of 2014. I admit I really struggle to find the time to post regularly (it takes me several hours to write a single article!) but as there is always increased traffic to my website when I do, I’ll battle on.
When I upgraded to Professional Member I took out an entry in the SfEP Directory and I’ve seen some enquiries and work from this direction. After my website, most enquiries come via my AFEPI Ireland Directory entry and from referrals from colleagues. I think my AFEPI Ireland entry is more successful than my SfEP one due to my location, both in terms of my Irish clients preferring an Ireland-based service, but also from a currency point of view.
Since 2012 I took out a listing on Find A Proofreader and as well as receiving the regular job postings I’ve also had direct enquiries and work from it. While a lot of the jobs have too short a turnaround time for my schedule, my entry helps with my website SEO, so at the current advertising rate I find it’s worth the cost.
What I've learned since 2012
Keys to success
- Good customer service and reputation are essential for business success.
- Training pays for itself in the long run and facilitates the introduction of new services.
- Interacting with trusted colleagues is a valuable source of support and work.
- It is important to trust your business instinct.
- Recognising and seizing an opportunity when it presents itself is essential for business growth.
- Extensive use of macros has a direct positive impact on your profitability.
Personal highlights of the past four years
- Starting my blog in January 2014
- Upgrading to Professional Membership of the SfEP in February 2014
- Making some wonderful friendships in the editing community
- Attending the 2014 SfEP conference and presenting a seminar
- Helping to establish and initially run the AFEPI Ireland Twitter account
- Expanding my range of services
- Being able to take holidays from work
- Being invited back as a speed mentor at the 2016 SfEP conference
Plans for the future
- Upgrade to Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP
- Continue to market my business to gain more valuable clients and to safeguard against client attrition
- Complete a Train The Trainer course
- changing career, starting and running an editorial business
- marketing your editorial business
- offering a new service
- fiction copy-editing
- work–life balance.
I’m looking forward to seeing old friends, meeting online friends in person for the first time and making new acquaintances, and of course learning lots about editing and publishing!
Marketing resources for editors, proofreaders, authors and freelancers
5 marketing tips for the freelance editor or proofreader
How I set up my proofreading and editing business
Book review: Content Marketing Primer for Editors & Proofreaders