The Proofreader's Parlour
A blog for editors, proofreaders and writers
Life is too complicated not to be orderly. – Martha Stewart
In this series of three posts I address key features of business planning that new entrants to the field might wish to consider. Each section offers an action, objective, summary and some related reading.
In Developing a Business Plan I, sections focused on (1) what a business plan is and why should you create one and (2) getting yourself ready for market with training. Part II addresses (3) client focus, (4) getting experience and (5) financial assessment.
Section 3: Client focus
Clients – Who?
Client types are wide ranging, but are they all suitable for you and are you suitable for all of them? Freelance editors and proofreaders work for publishers, independent self-publishing authors, academic authors preparing articles for journal submission, students writing theses, pre-press project management agencies, businesses, magazines and newspapers, freelance writers and bloggers, website owners, and professional associations. This list isn't exhaustive, but it gives you an idea.
In your business plan, compile a list of all the clients you are going to contact. They should be relevant to your background and experience. Make a note of the name of the organization, the types of material it publishes, and the name of the person to contact. Make a phone call if you don’t know the name of the person in charge of commissioning editorial services. My initial list had over 70 entries.
Client focus is about marrying your experience and skills with those of the people/organizations who are publishing printed or online material. When starting out, don’t waste valuable time targeting those for whom you are not going to stand out.
Section 4: Getting experience
Most clients want to take on editorial freelancers who can demonstrate they know what they’re doing. Having a blank CV and no referees won’t make you an attractive prospect. Publishers, in particular, get hundreds of prospective letters every year from freelancers. They also have established banks of editors and proofreaders with whom you are in competition. On the other hand, businesses may not be aware of the value of your services. Being able to show that you have some experience and that people are prepared to endorse your work will make them more likely to give you a break.
It’s not about the money at this point – it’s about getting a bit of experience in a particular field with a strong testimonial at the end of it. Ideally you want testimonials from the kind of people whose recommendations will be recognized by your future clients.
Section 5: Financial assessment
Your business plan should include a financial assessment of your business: what you need to earn, what you think you can earn realistically, and over what period. Bear in mind that it takes time to build up a portfolio of regular clients in a market where you will be competing with established and experienced colleagues. It took me two years to get to the point where I had a bank of regulars who ensured I was booked up 6–8 weeks in advance. There's no sure way of telling how long it will take you, so do be realistic about how long it will be before you are turning work down!
If you are the primary wage-earner in your family, your needs may be different to those of someone who provides a second or top-up income. If you are in receipt of benefits it will be important to speak to your benefits officer to ensure that you are not jeopardizing these critical sources of income until you are confident that you can bring in regular work. Make sure the officer understands the nature of editorial freelance work and the time it takes to build a regular income stream.
Related reading and resources
Client Focus and Getting Started
Next time ...
In the final part of this business planning series, sections will include thinking about your marketing strategy, networking and the practicalities/tools for the job.
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