A note from Louise: Editorial freelance directories are key promotion tools for many proofreaders and editors. My colleague Nick Jones recently took ownership of the online directory Find A Proofreader and he’s kindly agreed to talk to the Proofreader’s Parlour about this exciting expansion of his business.
Louise Harnby: Before we talk about the Find A Proofreader directory, Nick, can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your editorial business, Full Proof?
Nick Jones: I set up Full Proof in 2004 whilst working as an in-house proofreader for Yell. I advertised on free sites like Gumtree and the brilliant FreeIndex directory, and concentrated on getting as many positive reviews from clients as I could. By the time Yell made me redundant in 2010, Full Proof was established well enough for me to go it alone. I now have a team of freelancers to whom I outsource work and we cater for students, businesses, authors and job seekers in the UK and beyond. We’ve got a US English version of the site now so we’re hoping to get more customers across the pond. I attribute much of Full Proof’s popularity to FreeIndex, which ranks us as the top proofreading company in the UK based on our positive reviews.
LH: How did the deal with Find A Proofreader come about?
NJ: I had a listing in the directory already, and in May this year the owner sent all advertisers an email saying she was selling the website and wanted to give us each an opportunity to buy it. Being rather impulsive by nature, I submitted an offer within a couple of hours. I don’t know how many other offers she received in the end – maybe none – but I got the site and I’m pleased about that as it’s doing really well. Mind you, it’s taken up more of my time than I anticipated! When the site became available my wife had just gone on maternity leave and I thought it would be a fun thing for her to get involved with. As it’s turned out, I’ve ended up doing most of the work. It’s my baby. So now I have two babies to look after.
LH: So who’s the site for, broadly speaking, from the point of view of both the freelancers who advertise and the people looking for assistance? I see that despite the name of the directory, the category listings go much further.
NJ: That’s right – as well as proofreaders and copy-editors, the directory also includes other categories such as indexers, copywriters, virtual assistants and translators. Ultimately we want to include all types of professionals working with words and we’re happy to consider adding further categories if people feel we’re missing any. In terms of the end user, the site is aimed at anyone who is looking for a freelancer working with words. Students, businesses, indie authors, publishers, job seekers, bloggers ... the more, the merrier.
LH: The site looks great, Nick – and very user friendly, too, for both the editorial freelancers who advertise their services and those looking for help with their written work. You’ve clearly devoted a lot of time to ensuring the directory works in terms of design and usability. Was it a big task? Can you tell us a bit about what the process involved and the experience you brought to the table when you set about it?
NJ: The site was built using WordPress. I’m no web designer but I know my way around WordPress, having used it for the Full Proof blog. I bought a premium theme, modified the code a bit, rewrote all the copy, paid a friend to design a logo, and then jazzed the site up with a load of Shutterstock images. It wasn’t a massive job, no. The hard bit is finding the time to update the blog and Facebook page regularly. I think I’m going to steal one of your ideas and have a monthly spotlight feature like this, if that’s okay with you!
LH: The thing that struck me most about the site is that it’s much more than a straightforward searchable list of providers. Can you outline the key features for us?
NJ: As I see it, Find A Proofreader has four main features that set it apart from other freelancer directories. The first one is the search bar. Other directories tend to force visitors to search by category or name. A visitor to our site can search by keywords – they don’t have to type in "proofreader" or "indexing"; they can narrow the search by typing, say, "academic", "fiction" or "blogs". As long as the freelancer has mentioned all their skills, specialities and qualifications in their listing and added all the relevant tags they can think of, they’ll show up in these more narrow searches.
The second feature I’d like to talk about is the Get A Quote system. Visitors can fill out an online form with the details of their requirements and submit it to all our advertisers at once. This is great for visitors because it enables them to gather several quotes quickly, and it’s great for the advertisers because ultimately they are advertising on the site to get leads, and we’re sending them leads every week. The enquiries come through to us first, we check they’re not spam, and then we forward them to our members.
The third key feature is the reviewing system. Users can rate advertisers out of five and write a comment about the service they received. The rating system encourages interactivity, which enhances the user experience and leads to repeat visits. More importantly, however, it shows that we care about the end users as well as the advertisers.
Finally, we have an articles section. Google loves relevant, regularly updated content so we encourage advertisers to send us articles on any subject that relates in some way to the directory’s categories. The articles have a link to the author’s website so it raises the advertiser’s profile further, while Find A Proofreader benefits as the articles will eventually show up in the search engines and it may improve the site’s overall rankings, too.
LH: So what do the advertisers get for their money? What kind of information can they include and how easy is it for them to edit their profiles?
NJ: For £20, advertisers get a standard listing for a year under the category of their choice. They can upload images to the listing, they can provide as much information as they want, and they can add as many tags as they like. The more information they provide, the more likely they’ll be found. If they have a website, they can also include a link to it. Unlike some other directories, all our links are dofollow links, which means our considerable "link juice" gets passed on to our advertisers. Google values relevant links very highly, so I’d argue that a dofollow link from a niche business directory is worth £20 a year on its own.
For £45 a year, advertisers can have a Category Featured Ad. This gives them all of the benefits listed above with two added bonuses – their listing will appear above all the standard listings in their category and it will be highlighted so it stands out more. We also have a premium advertising option for larger companies. For just £150 a year they can have a banner ad placed in the sidebar of the site’s main pages.
Editing profiles is extremely easy because the site uses the WordPress content management system. All advertisers need to do is log in, click on the Dashboard button and click on Edit Listing. If anyone does ever encounter an issue with the site or has a question or suggestion, they can contact us via email, phone or live chat. I pride myself on being as responsive as possible!
LH: And what are your plans for promoting the service?
NJ: Most of my efforts are concentrated on getting the site higher in Google’s organic search results. We’ve already seen big improvements since the redesign, but there’s always room for improvement. Google is a tricky beast to master and I’m well aware that content is king these days, so my promotion efforts are mostly spent on regular blogging, networking on Facebook and Twitter, and encouraging advertisers to submit articles to our Articles page. Because I had to buy the site in the first place, I don’t have an advertising budget as such, but I am spending what I can afford on AdWords and Facebook ad campaigns too.
LH: Many thanks, Nick. I think you’ve taken an interesting and innovative approach to running an online freelance directory and it’s been a pleasure to hear about both what’s on offer and the creative development you’ve put into the process.
To advertise your services in the directory or search for an editorial freelancer in the UK, visit the Find A Proofreader website.
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