If we’re serious about setting up an editing and proofreading business, free resources will get us so far, but only so far.
What free is good for
Free is brilliant when we’re starting out, particularly in the following circumstances:
Free is equally great when we’re experienced but looking to shift the goalposts:
Free stuff is about discovery, so that when the time comes to reach into the coffers we’re spending money in the right place.
Free helps us to turn expense into investment.
What free is not good for
Free isn’t great in the long term because the offering usually comes with limitations. It will give us a glimpse, enough to help us on the journey. But that’s all.
The reason free has its limitations is because even creating free stuff and offering free help takes time, and time is money.
Imagine the following scenarios:
CASE STUDY 1
Jane wants to offer developmental editing but has no experience. She does some research and finds the following:
CASE STUDY 2
Jack has identified a skills gap. He’s a great editor but a poor marketer and is dissatisfied with the rates he’s earning from his existing client base.
Currently, he works with project-management agencies who find publisher work for him. And those publishers find authors for the agency. There’s a cost to that author-acquisition work – those agencies and publishers take a cut of the fee at each stage because they have to invest their own time and expertise in making themselves visible. It's that visibility that puts the editing work on Jack's desk.
He starts a discussion in a large editorial Facebook group about his concerns and is offered the following:
What tasters teach us ... and what they don't
In both cases, the freebies are of exceptionally high quality and Jane and Jack learn a ton from them. Creating that content must have taken time and effort.
However, free articles, blog posts and webinars are tasters. Those kinds of things help us understand the lie of the land, and give us a deeper sense of what more we need to learn.
What they won’t do is teach us everything we need to know.
We can’t learn how to become professional developmental editors from those resources alone ... any more than we could learn to cut hair or wire a house to acceptable standards without proper training and guidance.
Same goes for marketing. Take me, for example. It’s not luck and Google that made me a strong marketer. I pay a monthly sub to learn how to do it well from professional marketers, and invest time in implementing the strategies I’m learning.
If Jane wants to become a professional developmental editor and Jack wants to become a strong editorial marketer, both need to take all those freebies and use them to make informed decisions about the money they will invest to turn their investigations into reality.
Examples might include:
Free will help Jane and Jack make decisions. Investment will make them fit for professional purpose.
A better money mindset
It’s perfectly okay to decide that you can’t afford to run a professional editorial business ... but only as long as you decide not to run a professional editorial business.
No one on the planet owns a business that doesn’t have operating costs. Business owners have to take responsibility for training, equipment, invoicing, money transfer, software, marketing, client acquisition, office space, pension provision, taxation responsibilities, and more.
It’s true that the international editorial community is incredibly generous, which means that free resources and guidance abound on multiple platforms.
However, those who are serious about running an editorial business know they have to avoid hobbyist and employee mindsets.
The shoe on the other foot – when you’re asked for a freebie
We can’t have everything we want when we want it. We have to make choices. Freebies help us make the right choices so that the money we spend actually increases our prospects and income in the longer term.
And imagine yourself on the other side of the fence for a moment.
A potential client calls you. They have a book that needs copyediting. ‘The thing is,’ they say, ‘I can’t afford professional editing. How can I get out of paying you? To be honest, I’m just looking for free stuff.’
How fast would you hang up?
Now imagine another writer calls you. ‘I’m in the middle of doing as much self-editing as I can using some free tutorials I found online and some advice from my writing group. There’s a fair way to go,’ they say, ‘but I figured I’d start saving now. Can you give me a rough idea of how much it might cost and how much notice you’d need? That way I can start planning my book budget.’
That’s the kind of client I’m excited about working with.
The editor with the same mindset will be rewarded with guidance and help because they deserve it. The editor who wants it all for nothing won’t and doesn’t.
By all means, grab all the freebies. The creators of those resources want you to have them. Making free stuff that’s invisible and unused is a waste of time and effort.
Just don’t forget that free is the starting blocks. Investment is what gets us to the finish line!
Louise Harnby is a fiction copyeditor and proofreader who specializes in helping self-publishing writers prepare their novels for market.
She is the author of several books on business planning and marketing for editors, and runs online courses from within the Craft Your Editorial Fingerprint series. She is also an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Louise loves books, coffee and craft gin, though not always in that order.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader & Copyeditor, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.
If you're an author, take a look at Louise’s Writing Library and access her latest self-publishing resources, all of which are free and available instantly.
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