Life is too complicated not to be orderly. – Martha Stewart
I receive a lot of emails from people saying they've set up an editorial business but desperately need to work out how to acquire clients; or they’re wondering about what training is necessary to get them started. I firmly believe that these issues (and others) need to be addressed before you set up your business, not after.
Some of my colleagues who are new entrants to the field recently asked me about my own business plan and if I would consider sharing it. This series of three posts is a much tidied-up version of my original hand-written scribbles; some additional reading is offered that I hope will come in useful.
Section 1: What is a business plan and why should you create one?
Any editorial freelancer who made a success of their business without some sort of business plan (1) was extremely lucky or (2) already had experience in the field and some ready-made contacts. I would put money on the second. If you are a new entrant to the field of freelance editorial work, developing a business plan is definitely sensible, and probably crucial.
Gov.uk provides plenty of online advice on start-up business planning along with useful video tutorials. See the Related Reading and Resources section below.
Section 2: Getting yourself ready for market – training
Do you have the skills and training to make you fit for purpose? If you don’t, it’s time to do some learning before you do anything else. Check out your regional or national editorial association and see what they recommend.
Training – How?
In the UK, we have the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and the Publishing Training Centre, both of which provide excellent training for editors and proofreaders – training that is recognized by the publishing industry as a whole. There are other good options, too, that may better suit your needs depending on what stage you are in the process. See this list of UK editorial training providers. If you live outside the UK, take a look at this international list of Editing & Proofreading Societies to locate your nearest association and seek their guidance.
Training – Why?
Training will also ensure you have the confidence and skills to do the job – that you understand the method and structure of an editing or proofreading project. Obviously doing X or Y training course won’t automatically bring clients to your door – for that you need to promote yourself to an appropriate sector of the market. However, when you begin to advertise your service you can demonstrate to a client that you’ve taken the time to learn the necessary skills.
Training – What?
In addition to learning the conventions, language and mark-up symbols, you may also need to know how to use ancillary tools such as Track Changes in Word, or commenting and/or stamps for PDF mark-up. Ask potential clients what their requirements are. A quick phone call or a visit to their website should enable you to establish the training needs for the market you are focusing on. If you can’t find the information from potential clients, have a chat with your fellow editorial freelancers.
Ask yourself the following questions and take a look at the Related Reading and Resources section below for more detailed guidance.
Related reading and resources
Next time ...
Developing a Business Plan II: Sections address client focus, getting experience, and financial assessment.
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I'm an Advanced Professional Member of the UK's national editorial society. Visit the SfEP website for more information.
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