What do people say about your editing and proofreading business when you’re not in the room? Whatever it is, that’s your brand. Here’s what happens when you show who you are by talking about the problems you solve for others.
You’ve got work coming in but your analytics make you wonder whether you should be getting more requests to quote, given the volume of traffic.
Or perhaps you’re a new entrant to the field and have just begun to think about who you want to work with and what your message is.
Do yourself a favour and take a look at your branding. Is it on track?
I spent the first five years of my freelance career specializing in proofreading for publishers, first in the social sciences, then in fiction.
Over time, my client base began to shift. Now, I do sentence-level editing exclusively for indie fiction authors.
Here’s the thing, though. For a long time, my website and directory entries didn’t reflect this shift. And while the content on my blog began to reflect my passion for supporting self-publishers, especially beginner writers, you wouldn’t have known this from the way I communicated my business mission in the rest of my marketing materials.
I was playing safe. I was nervous. I was getting a lot of visitors to my website and a lot of requests to quote. However, only about 25% of those requests were from my target audience – the indie authors. And while the other 75% was work I always referred elsewhere, I felt safe having that as an option.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That was my mantra. I had enough work that I wanted to do, and plenty of offers to quote for work that I didn’t want to do.
Still, I spent a lot of time sending work elsewhere. And I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that a lot of effort was going into marketing that ended up as jobs in other people’s hands. Why not just make things leaner?
Discovering the problem
I found my courage and decided to make some changes. I amended the lead text on my page to make it clear that I was a fiction specialist.
And I readied myself for losing the 75% – those requests to quote that had made me feel all warm, cosy and safe for so long. Over the next three weeks the numbers plummeted. Most of those students, businesses and academics stopped getting in contact.
But things were leaner. I was spending less time sending work elsewhere that I didn’t want to do anyway. I became more efficient, more productive, more focused. I was using my time wisely. I was streamlining my business. I felt great, right?
Honestly? I’d lost my safety net. And I didn’t feel great at all.
I reminded myself that I’d been fully booked for the past two years without having to dip into that 75%, so I should just relax. As you were – that was my new mantra. It’ll be fine – that was my other new mantra. Stop overthinking things – yet another new mantra. Louise Harnby | Mantra Queen is what I should have changed my business name to.
I took a look at my home page, my directory entries, my business cards, and I noticed something. All the passion I felt about championing my target clients was missing.
My branding was off.
Making the message about the client
I completely overhauled my home page, resources page, my SfEP directory entry, my Reedsy profile, even my blog, so that everything started to work together in harmony.
Now I’m telling my target client group about what makes me tick but in a way that focuses on solutions to their problems. It’s all about them, not about me.
Here’s what I learned. Even if you’re findable, when your message doesn’t make your client feel like you get them, then you’re doing a lot of marketing work for a poor return.
And even if that return is enough to keep your schedule full, it’s not giving you as much choice as you could have if your message was on point.
Getting in the right gear
Being findable but having a weak brand is like driving along a motorway at 70 miles an hour in second gear. The car has to work really hard to get you where you want to go! Getting the branding right is like slipping into cruise-control.
Here’s what happened when I rebranded:
Sorting out our branding is the most powerful gift we can give our businesses. If we don’t understand our own brand values, we can’t expect potential clients to. Make sure yours are evident at every touchpoint of your editorial business.
If you want to learn how to do it, my online course Branding for Business Growth will teach you what you need to know. I created this course specifically for editors, because I'm one and I know what the challenges are. For a shorter course on building trust with ideal clients, try To Visibility and Beyond.
To find out more about either of these courses, visit the Courses page.
Louise Harnby is a line editor, copyeditor and proofreader who specializes in working with independent authors of commercial fiction, particularly crime, thriller and mystery writers.
She is an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), a member of ACES, a Partner Member of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), and co-hosts The Editing Podcast.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Fiction Editor & Proofreader, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.
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