“Aggregation of Marginal Gains”: Not for the first time in my editorial career, I have to tip my hat to my colleague Paul Icke. It was Paul who told me that the GB Olympic cycling team use this phrase to underpin their performance philosophy (Guardian) and it was Paul who alerted me to the fact you don’t have to be wearing Lycra to apply it to your own business. Paul’s a member of my local SfEP group and he’s a master of turning a minor tweak into a big opportunity.
“Aggregation of marginal gains” is like evolution – make some very small changes and further down the line you’ll have something much bigger.
So what does it mean for editorial pros? For me, the philosophy fits in very nicely with two things: (1) continued professional development – a course, maybe one a year, that teaches me a new skill or refreshes a current one; (2) refining my business strategy – taking stock of how I present my business and where my key markets are, and carrying out the necessary tweaks to make my goals achievable.
My 2012 marginal gains
This year I’ve achieved several marginal gains:
This led directly to the tweaking of my domain name, which delivered consistency to the way in which I brand myself on brochures, my website, my résumé and networking platforms. The introduction of an online downloadable résumé provided an additional way for clients to store information about me.
Experimenting with new directory advertising opportunities has given me insights into how I might access other areas of the proofreading market should I wish to in the future. The revamp of my current SfEP directory advertisement forced me to reassess my primary markets and the message I was communicating.
The live Q&A on the PTC forum was a completely new experience that allowed me to interact with hundreds of colleagues in real time, make contact with many new entrants to the field, and share my experiences with them.
And the two courses focused on aspects of my editorial knowledge that needed improvement and clarity, and I enjoyed learning from colleagues who have more experience in these fields.
The aggregate impact
None of the above marginal gains is a major revision of my original business planning, but when taken as a whole the impact is big. By the end of 2012 I’ll have changed a few things, added a few things, learned a few things, and shared a few things. But when I add up those “few things” and consider how each one is connected with another, the aggregate impact is a “tighter” business – my skill base is stronger, my brand is clearer, my market knowledge has improved, and my business network has expanded.
What's great about this philosophy is that it acknowledges the importance of doing the small things –things that be quick and easy to implement, things that may not cost you anything, things that may even be fun – and yet the overall benefit you'll accrue will be large. If you've achieved some marginal gains that made a big impact when added together, please share them with us in the Comments section. I'd love to make some more tweaks in the next twelve months that I borrowed from a colleague!
If you want to read the notes of the Norfolk group meeting where we discussed lots of marketing ideas, including the domain name issue, click here. You might also be interested in my article Eight Reasons to Place Your Résumé Online. For a more detailed exploration of how to go about professionalizing your domain name, look out for Paul Icke’s guest article on the subject.
For information about training and CPD courses in the UK, check out the PTC’s course catalogue and the SfEP’s online course booking pages. If you live outside the UK, visit your national editorial society’s webpage for advice.
For information about joining your local SfEP group, click here.
Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and copyeditor. She curates The Proofreader's Parlour and is the author of several books on business planning and marketing for editors and proofreaders.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.
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Winner of the Judith Butcher Award 2017 in respect of 'highly visible contributions to the SfEP and its membership'.