Gardening Your Business

Gardening your business blog post

Do you ever think about how you garden your business? Gardening or growing your business should be both proactive and reflective.

Mindful Gardening

This blog post was inspired by a whole day I spent on Mindful Gardening. Organised by a good friend, she inspired me with her content. I could relate everything she said to running my freelance proofreading business, change, and the effects on my mental health.

The participants had access to a large garden with room for 10 participants to sit with space, to be still, and to be silent.

It was a luxury to close my laptop for the day and just stop. Just. Be.

Gardening themes

We were guided by her short reflections on the theme of gardening:

  • seeds
  • plants
  • compost
  • pruning
  • seasons and weather

Planting seeds

The seed of my freelance business was planted in January 2017 when I launched my website (proofnow.co.uk) and joined the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP).

I planted more seeds by training and telling everyone I knew that, having left teaching, I was looking for proofreading clients. I watered those seeds thoroughly with marketing and publicity.

Growing plants

If you’re lucky, those seeds grow into seedlings and become stronger plants.

What has helped you to grow in your life? How have you changed as a person as you have become older? How have your life events shaped and changed you?

My ‘toddler’ business got noticed as my marketing became stronger and more confident. I built on my training. Students, businesses and a charity became my clients. Voluntary proofreading gave me experience and confidence. I added to the testimonials on my website.

Feeding compost

Seedlings and plants thrive when they are given the appropriate compost, soil, and feed.

How do you feed your life? What nutrition does your life need to stay healthy physically and mentally?

How do you feed your business? What does your weekly or monthly feed routine look like? Do you ensure all the (plate-spinning) elements of running a business are in place: emailing clients, up-to-date invoices and expenses, admin spreadsheets, marketing, CPD (training)?

Two years after starting my business, I started writing my Tall Tartan Talks blog. My posts demonstrate my expertise, specialisms, and experiences of running a business, shared on social media. They have aimed traffic (potential clients, other editors, and freelancers) to my website. ‘Gro-Sure’ for my business!

Pruning

At regular times in the year, pruning is needed to keep plants under control, otherwise they become untidy, too big, and take moisture from smaller plants underneath or nearby. Plants can be trained by pruning to grow in a symmetrical, balanced way or in a certain direction. Or dead stems removed.

What have you cut or pruned in your life? What wasn’t working and had to be removed? How has your life changed direction? How did you preserve your physical and mental health? 

I review the direction my business is going every quarter. Looking back, I evaluate how much I have achieved of my annual plan and then review. I ask myself, what do I have to do more? What can I do less? The next quarter’s plan is tweaked. And my website is brought up to date.

I like the phrase ‘pivoting’. (Think of that scene in Friends when Ross is trying to get the sofa up the stairs with the ‘help’ of his friends. “Pivot! Pivot!”) It means a change in direction.

A life-changing prune happened in my life in December 2015 when I left the classroom with health issues. It took a year for me to work out what direction that prune would have on my family, career, and future. I had been the main wage earner for my 30-year teaching career.

I’m satisfied that what came next was the best outcome. That painful prune led to greatly improved mental health.

Patterns of seasons and weather

Winter, spring, summer and autumn give the garden it’s natural seasonal pattern and rhythm. Plants and people respond to different levels of light and warmth.

How do you feel when the number of daylight hours are at their lowest? What is your favourite season? When is your mood at its best?

What season is your business in? Sometimes I feel I’m in the springtime of my business: the number of clients is increasing; I am reaching out to publishers and accepting new, regular clients. I am reaching out to those clients I want to work with. Marketing is helping me to grow my business.

Do your business clients react to seasons? Are some months quieter than others? Do some months need more marketing to attract clients? How do you plan for when there are quiet times in your business? In the gaps, can you take a spontaneous week’s holiday … or do some training?

How do you cope with a deluge of rain? How do you juggle busy times when your services are in demand? Or when projects are delayed then land together? How do you schedule projects?

‘Twine’ to round up

How do we respond to the physical and mental hurly-burly of everyday life?

Have you got a garden? Does gardening help your mental health?

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See further

For a Quiet Garden near you: quietgarden.org/

More website features you should check (Part 2)

More website features you should check (Part 2)

Since I wrote ‘6 Website features you should check’ to help you make sure your website is up to date and relevant, I have added to that list.

Here is the original list:

  1. Contact email address
  2. Contact form
  3. Spelling, punctuation and grammar
  4. Copyright date in the footer
  5. ‘I’ rather than ‘we’
  6. A photo of you, the business owner.

Tall Tartan Talks here … Following learning and keen to make my website as efficient as possible I commissioned a fellow freelancer (a WordPress expert) to do a review of my website. An MOT, if you like. I am grateful for the many tips she recommended.

Checking more features

Therefore, in addition, I recommend checking these features:

  1. SSL certificate
  2. New tab settings
  3. Broken links
  4. Error 404 message

Go on, look again … Open up a new tab and work through your website and my list.

What and how to fix

1.What is an SSL certificate?

You are researching a topic and click on a website link. It opens. You notice that the padlock on the top left of the website URL (address) is missing. It appears with the message ‘Not secure’.

Some URLs start with http:// while others start with https. Maybe you noticed that extra ‘s’ when you were browsing websites that require giving sensitive information, like paying bills. But where does that extra ‘s’ come from and what does it mean? Your website host should provide you with an SSL certificate. If your website is missing that extra ‘s’, it could put off potential clients.

2. Setting new tabs

Adding content to your web pages might include a linking to another page of your website, eg Contact page with a hyperlink, or linking to another website you recommend.

If a visitor to your website receives an Error 404, there is an error loading that page, or a page link is broken. A quick and easy way to check that you’ve minimised this problem is to check that the links in your website work. Just google ‘broken links’ – you’ll find a selection of websites to help.

When I checked, I found many broken links. Aaargh! It seems I had tweaked and moved my pages around my website muchly over the last couple of years; I hadn’t checked that links still worked. They do now!

4. Personalising your 404 page

Have you tried personalising your Error 404 plug-in? Thanks to another freelancing colleague for that tip. If you feel creative, you could take your branding all the way through to the pages that break. 

You hope that visitors to your website won’t ever see the Error 404 message, but, if they do, they will still see you, your personality and your message, with a link that you’ve placed there redirecting them back to your homepage.

Are you up to date now?

Remember, your website is your shop window. Does it work efficiently? Does it represent you and your business?

And here’s Part 1: 6 Website features you should check in case you missed it.

Interested in branding? Read my blog post on My Branding Process.

Cheery wave from computer. More website feaures you schould check (part 2)
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CIEP2021 Conference

 

CIEP2021 conference

 

The annual online CIEP conference of 2021, organised by the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, was a great success.

As in 2020 the conference was online again rather than at a venue in real life. This is an advantage for our international members and for those with access issues.

I have been a member of the CIEP for five years. This is the fifth conference I have attended.

There were some delicious highlights which I describe in this blog post.

Headline speakers

The two headline speakers I was most excited about were:

  1. Ian McMillan of The Verb fame on Radio 3. He is an English poet, journalist, playwright, and broadcaster. Known for his strong and distinctive Yorkshire accent, he has a friendly interview style. He spoke about ‘My unedited and unproofread life’, things he has spotted while touring village halls, and, what he thinks about signs on doors …
  2. Benjamin Dreyer, author of Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style. He is copy chief at Random House in New York. A great conversation led by Denise Cowle highlighted his experience and wisdom. And that he can laugh at himself and with others.

Session highlights

I’m a freelance non-fiction proofreader, so conference session highlights for me were:

  • Crystal Shelley’s ‘Authenticity reading: Helping writers craft accurate and respectful representation’; also ‘Conscious and inclusive editing: understanding conscious language and the editorial role’

I was aware of authenticity reading, and conscious and inclusive editing from what other editors have shared online. But when Crystal gave concrete examples in her webinars of what is not acceptable in writing because of issues of sensitivity, I could understand how both fiction and non-fiction writers should show more conscious and inclusive language.

  • John Espirian’s ‘How to be a LinkedIn leader’

I have heard John speak about how to use LinkedIn effectively every year for the past 5 years at various conferences. I knew him as the internet director at the CIEP. Because I prefer LinkedIn as a social media channel, I lap up any advice he gives about how to take full advantage of it. I always learn something new. His book Content DNA is on my bookshelf along with other reference and business books.

  • Jill French’s ‘Using Word styles’

I have recently completed the CIEP course ‘Word for Practical Editing’. Jill presents the screencasts on the course. Her session on Word styles was a good reminder of tips I had retained, and skills that are still new and that I need to practice.

  • Suzanne Collier’s ‘Don’t get left behind: Career development for freelancers’

Suzanne shared excellent advice and resources about how to stay current in the world of publishers and publishing.

Lightning talks

The Lightning talks were great, as always. These are short presentations (5 minutes), on any subject, by any member, which are a pleasure to watch. Sometimes humorous, and always something new is learnt.

Networking

I attended the Speed networking on Sunday evening. This comprised of 15 minutes in Zoom breakout rooms, changing every 15 minutes, for two hours! My experience of attending the weekly Cloud Club West meant that  I could keep my introduction to the required 10 seconds. What a buzz!

This year, the attraction of themed networking in breakout rooms was very tempting. I wondered if I would meet edibuddies who had interests in the same field – educational publishing and marketing your business being two examples.

Quiz

The quiz is always fun and very competitive. The Zoom breakout rooms were invaluable for the quiz teams on Monday evening. I’m not hugely knowledgeable on anything, rather more a ‘jill of all trades’. The most amusing part for me was when members started changing their screen names from their official names to those reflecting quiz questions, or sessions held that day.

Wonder

For the café/bar experience there was the Wonder room. Wonder is an app which replicates real life, where you can meet other delegates and move around freely.

Conversations are activated by bumping your avatar into someone. Video and audio are then opened.

Sessions in Wonder were particularly effective after a webinar had taken place. Then they could be discussed with the speaker. Or a member would tweet on Twitter that they were in Wonder, if anyone was free to join them?

wonder room

Thank you

The chair of CIEP, Hugh Jackson, opened and closed conference with touching and heartfelt words. He spoke about the effects of Covid, our community and collaboration, and what comes next …

A grateful thank you to the #CIEP2021 conference team for another successful event of learning, networking and fun.

To read my blog posts about previous conferences (when the institute was the Society for Editors and Proofreaders) see these links:

SfEP2019 and Why SfEP Conference is Cool in which I write about SfEP2018.

The future

Hopefully I’ll see my fellow edibuddies at the next conference in Milton Keynes for #CIEP2022.

If real life isn’t possible, I’ll be just as pleased to see you all online.

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6 Website features you should check

6 Website features you should check Part 1 blog

Have you started your freelance business? Do you have a website? Are you concerned that you don’t have much yet to put on a website?

You may feel terrified at the thought of building a website.

Or … have you owned a website for AGES? Have things changed in your business? Perhaps your website needs refreshing.

Tall Tartan Talks here … Whether you are a new or established freelancer, it is vital to give prospective clients who come across your website the impression that your features are correct and up to date.

Fear not. I have made a list of website features that you should check; that won’t take a moment for you to fix.

Go on, have a look … Open up a new tab, find the admin section of your website, and work through my list.

Website features to check

  1. Contact email address
  2. Contact form
  3. Spelling, punctuation and grammar
  4. Correct copyright date in the footer
  5. ‘I’ rather than ‘we’
  6. A photo of you, the business owner.

How to fix

1. Contact email address

If you have a website, it appears more professional if your email address is linked to your domain name. For example, my website is proofnow.co.uk. My business email is annie@proofnow.co.uk.

Make sure the spelling of your email address is correct on your website. An error means potential clients can’t reach you. Or fellow colleagues. They will give up and try someone else.

It is personal choice if you display your phone number or not. Some freelancers like their customers to book a call, so their number may be linked to a Call To Action (CTA) button.

Being contacted by WhatsApp is the worst, in my opinion, as a way to communicate in business. I keep that app for friends and family. Others don’t want to be disturbed by phone but would rather be contacted by email. Whatever your preferred form of communication, make sure it is apparent and correct on your website.

2. Contact form

A contact form on your website is effective for reducing spam. But ensure it is connected to your email address and messages can get through. It is frustrating for potential clients to send a message for it to be lost in the ether. Check your contact form works by emailing yourself or asking a friend to test it.

3. Spelling, punctuation and grammar

This may seem obvious, but check the spelling, punctuation and grammar. Proofreading the content is vital, especially if you are providing your services as an editor or proofreader.

It is difficult to proofread your own writing because you see what you think is there, not what is actually there. You may have redrafted a phrase and the sense has gone? Yep! Again, ask a friend to check the content for you.

4. Correct copyright date in the footer

Have you ever scrolled ALL the way down to the bottom of a website page you are browsing? There is usually a date at the bottom – the copyright date. It should show the current year or the range of years of business.

You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) how many websites look out of date because the footer hasn’t been updated. Even well-known and established brands have overlooked small details like this.

If the date is wrong, how can we trust other content on the website to be correct?

5. ‘I’ rather than ‘we’

This is a style feature. If you are a sole trader, you own your freelance business. It’s just you, not a team. Do you use ‘I’ or ‘we’?

‘I’ is more personal and gives the impression that you are talking directly to me. I can get a sense of you and your business from your website. ‘We’ gives the impression that you are part of a team providing the service.

Be honest with your content. If you use ‘we’, who else are you talking about? What are the names of the people in your team and where are their photos? That brings me on to the next heading.

6. A photo of the website owner

I am aware that not everyone likes to see themselves in a photograph. But a photo of the freelancer brings a personal touch to their website. I can see a face to put to the name of the business.

It’s not hard to upload a selfie. If it is an up-to-date photo, even better. If you can afford to get a professional headshot taken by someone who can show your personality … fantastic!

Some freelancers use a logo instead. It’s a personal choice. Whatever image you use, make sure it is the same on your website as in any networking groups and social media channels you use.  If you use a photo, we’ll recognise you quicker. You will become a familiar face. And we’ll remember you.

Keep your website fresh

If these features are in place and appear current, the potential clients looking at your website will know that they can trust you. You will give a good impression. The client may even be convinced to ask for your services.

There are other features I haven’t mentioned, but those mentioned here are a start and will point you in the right direction.

Websites are never finished. Don’t think that once it is built, that’s all you need to do. You need to tweak it monthly, at least.

If you add new content, for example, a fresh testimonial, it will keep your website up to date and fresh.

Why your website is important

If you keep these six points in mind, your website will help you come across as a trustworthy and confident professional.

Remember, your website is your shop window.

You may just prefer to rely on a profile on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook to help you persuade clients to book your services. But you own your website. It belongs to you and isn’t at the whim of the social media algorithms.

Your website needs to work for you and represent who you are. Be proud of it!

laptop website

Next: More website features you should check (Part 2)

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Episode 5 – Training

training

Want to be a proofreader? Wondering about proofreading training? Are you a possible client wondering about my professional qualifications?

In this episode I go into more detail about my ongoing training to develop my proofreading business. In previous episodes (Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3 and Episode 4) I detailed my voyage towards becoming a freelance providing proofreading services after decades as a primary school teacher.

If you are confused about what proofreading training to do (and training is VITAL to show your professionalism) this blog may help you make up your mind. Especially if, like me, you have no background in publishing.

Learning something new

After three decades as a primary school teacher, I had succumbed to work-related stress and was on sick leave for five months. Then I had to come to terms with a dawning and daunting fact: a life I had known for 30 years was coming to an end. I was desperate to find a Plan B.

The medication for my newly discovered heart problem (atrial fibrillation) was taking time to embed, and I looked for something to take my mind off my worries. I saw an advert in a magazine for a proofreading course and thought – marking’s my thing, why don’t I try it?

Chapterhouse Publishing

The course was the Chapterhouse Correspondence Course in Proofreading and Copy-editing. I was eager to change direction. I pottered through the course while ‘lunching with ladies’, enjoying my recovery. It took me six months to undertake each section of the four modules. I was happy with what I learnt in the proofreading basics: the 2005 BSI proof correction marks, shorter and longer exercises to practise using the symbols. The exercises are all done on hard copy with red and blue pen! However, copy-editing confused me.

This all happened before my business and website was a twinkle in my eye. But the thought was in the back of my mind. I registered as unemployed, and as detailed in Episode 2, subsequently applied for the New Enterprise Allowance.

My Business Plan was as follows:

  1. Become a member of the SfEP (now CIEP).
  2. Start training …
  3. (and so on)

Of course, if I had known then what I know now … Now I am aware that the SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) and the PTC (Publishing Training Centre) offer some of the most reputable training in proofreading and copy-editing.

Courses

So, during the time I have owned my business Proofnow Proofreader (at this point in my third year), I have ticked off the following courses:

  • Proofreading Progress
  • References
  • Getting Work with Non-publishers
  • Educational Publishing Development Day

There follows a brief summary and my take on each course. These have contributed to my upgrade from Entry Member to Intermediate. For all the courses, you are appointed a tutor and given login details to a forum for students within the course section, to ask questions within a safe environment.

Here is the link to the Training page of the website.

Proofreading 2: Progress (Was P2 now P3)

As I had already got the basics in proofreading knowledge, I headed towards the online course ‘Proofreading Progress’. (Then P2. Now the final of three.) I learnt LOADS more, got confused many times, then thankfully reached surprising clarity and confidence. Grade: Pass!

I was now able to add my qualification to my website with pride.

References Course

My main motivation for doing this particular course was that up, until now, I had worked solely with students, proofreading theses and dissertations. I could justify charging more for services if I could offer more skills. As with all the courses, I found out that there was much more to references than I imagined.

It is an online self-assessment course which means that you learn the facts, take the test at the end of each exercise, check the answers, and move to the next exercise. The concepts covered include the systems of author-date, short-title, and number systems. A useful tip I picked up was to use the software Edifix.

Finally, you print the certificate to confirm completion of the course. It was the hardest course I have ever done. I didn’t enjoy the experience at all. But I learnt a massive amount about a huge variety of references. My notes will be referred to when I need them.

Getting Work with Non-publishers

By February 2018, I wanted to take on a course run as a workshop, to enable networking and discussion with fellow students. I headed to the training building in London and met eight proofreaders/editors/project managers doing the course – all fellow members. Some of whom had been working for educational publishers. But who wanted out and onto other opportunites. Eagerly, I took their contact details as this was one of the routes into publishing I was looking for …

During the day’s workshop we learnt about considering other fields outside publishing, e.g. businesses, large charities, government; how to market ourselves; and how to approach potential clients.  The workshop made us think ‘outside the box’. (This course is no longer available.)

Educational Publishing Development Day

When I saw this advertised, I couldn’t resist – education – it was right up my street! It was booked months in advance, such was its popularity and the calibre of speakers. Again, I headed up to the training building and found myself in a large room with upwards of 80 delegates. But I recognised some faces, thank goodness, and it was lovely to reconnect with members from around the UK.  (Organised by Anya Hastwell – then the professional development director.)

Two speakers who stood out were:

  • Sophie O’Rourke – Managing Director at emc design. She covered what freelancers need to know about the current requirements of educational publishers.
  • Astrid deRidder – Head of Global Custom Publishing at Macmillan Education [international/ELT focus]. Very entertaining and knowledgeable about making educational textbooks relevant to international and particular cultures.

Technology

As someone who has used textbooks in the Primary classroom for decades, I find the development of e-learning materials most interesting. For at least the last 10 years, starting with the installation of interactive whiteboards and projectors, and each teacher being given a laptop, the developing complexity of technology has been exciting. Coupled with the changing of the National Curriculums from the government of the day has led to startling changes in the way teaching and learning happens in the classroom.

E-learning

The arrival in schools of banks of iPads added a new layer of excitement when used as a resource in subjects like ICT (Information and Communication Technology). Though now I think it’s just called Computing (Primary Curriculum 2018). The devices made Guided Reading group sessions very popular, using the Pearson scheme called Bug Club.

My favourite new technology is augmented reality, e.g. pictures in books being brought to life by an app. I think. I first saw this in practice in an EYFS (Reception) class of 4-5 year olds. It really got their attention!

Mentoring and being mentored

I have been fortunate that I have been able to invest in my ongoing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) with the SfEP over the last three years. What’s the expression? Speculate to accumulate.

My hope is to save enough over the next few months to take part in the mentoring scheme as a mentee. Plus attend the SfEP 2019 Conference. Booking is nearly open! We’ll all be asking questions. How about a blog about my last two conferences? Alright, if you insist.

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Proofread by Lisa de Caux, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk

Episode 4 – To Business

business

This fourth episode details the business of preparing for proofreading jobs, and the administrative and accounting side of my proofreading business.

In previous episodes (Episode 1, Episode 2, and Episode 3) I detailed my voyage towards becoming a freelance providing proofreading services after decades as a primary school teacher.

 

Paperwork

Who admits that they actually like paperwork?!

Me!

One of my strengths, I have found through the years, is that I am efficient at paperwork and recording. One of my roles in our household is handling the finances. So I was keen to start things properly as a business owner, and have legally binding templates in place. Three of the following I found on the SfEP website or recommended on forums:

  • Ts&Cs (Terms and Conditions)
  • invoices
  • feedback form to prompt a testimonial from a happy client
  • a recording system for paid invoices.

If you read this blog all the way to the end, you will find the link to free resource templates on my website, which you are welcome to tweak.

You soon discover, as a freelance, that you wear many *hats*. My job as a teacher was very similar – time had to be managed efficiently to fit it all in. One of the many *hats* you wear as a freelance sole-trader is that of business admin.

Once I had built a basic form of my website, I registered as self-employed for self-assessment with HMRC, then prepared the documents. Now I was ready for my first client … eek!

Where to find freelance jobs?

I see this question asked many times on Facebook freelance group pages and on the SfEP forums. “Where do you find opportunities for paid work?”

I signed up for Find a Proofreader. This was the directory I preferred to use to register my services. There is a wide selection of directories out there. There are also strong views about the poor rates offered. They are good to start with for experience. But that topic is not for now.

Initially, I targeted students, as education is my specialism. I followed the advice of Nick Jones (owner of FAP), from his session at the SfEP 2017 Conference, to make my profile as relevant as possible. Sadly, I have never been quick enough to land a proofreading job with this site. Your application has to be very quick off the mark – as soon as a query is sent out!

Universities are another source of work from students. I googled many universities and, in some cases, found the relevant proofreading guidelines page with their policy. I could, therefore, gauge the advice students were being offered.

My first proofreading job

I confess I didn’t know much about marketing when I first started my business. So, imagine my joy, three months after I had applied to be on the Register of Proofreaders at a major university in East Anglia, to receive a query from a student.

Once I had seen a sample, we agreed a rate per 1,000 words and the deadline for the return of the dissertation. She agreed to my T&Cs. I conscientiously got on with the job with fervour.

I finished the job in good time. When I returned her checked writing, I attached a copy of my invoice. I was lucky that she was a prompt payer; and that she was happy to give me a good testimonial about my thorough approach. An excellent first job. Phew!

Since then I have done proofreading for about 10 students, checking for errors and inconsistencies in spelling, punctuation, grammar and context.

Working with students

Of course there are issues around proofreading for students … How much of the writing do you change?

One non-English speaking student wasn’t happy with my proofreading when I sent the proofed dissertation chapter. He pointed out the *errors* I had *missed*. After enquiring, it transpired that he wanted his English to be improved. I recommended that he look for an editor with the permission of his supervisor.

As a result of the misunderstanding on his part, I tweaked the wording on the website page for student clients. To make my terms absolutely clear. I emphasised my role: to indicate errors only and with the permission of the supervisor. The SfEP have an excellent guide called Proofreading Theses and Dissertations’.

Payments, deposits and late payments

A question many people ask is “Will I earn enough to pay the bills?” The answer: It depends … Probably not to begin with, as, on average, it can take up to two years to grow your business to something sustainable. In fact, many people have a part-time job alongside editing or proofreading. I go out every afternoon to tutor Primary children – the change of scene does me good. Two other members of my family also have a *portfolio* of jobs: my husband, for example, has a gardening business to pay the bills alongside his other vocation of art. His week is a mixture of both.

How much you charge is another debate. A popular guide from the SfEP is ‘Pricing your Project’.

Bank transfer is the usual preference as a payment method by clients. Some freelances prefer, depending on circumstances, Paypal or Stripe, amongst others. Again I have observed many views on this subject.

A tip I have picked up from fellow SfEP-ers is to charge a deposit if the project is large, or going to be split over a few weeks. For one student client, I have charged 50%. But it depends on the freelancer and client. For example, that student wanted to send me module 1 to proofread immediately, then, a month later, module 2. She was happy. I was happy.

A huge and growing problem which freelances experience is those clients who pay late or, worse, not at all. A solution is to include a clause on your invoice explaining the Late Payment Fees. (See my invoice template.)

I have got used to spreadsheets. I record the invoice number next to the client name, the amount paid and when. This way my accounts are accurate and up-to-date for tax purposes.

Creative paperwork – no, not that kind!

When you are busy being creative with the images and banner (maybe even a logo?) on your company branding for your website and social media, here’s another tip. Remember to carry it through onto your business templates. It continues your personality and makes it consistent.

My to-do list …

Now (two years later) I have evolved with my business. More SfEP training and a wide range of networking has encouraged me to psych myself up to try a variety of marketing strategies. Imposter syndrome has a lot to answer for.

  • Cold email local businesses, such as Chambers of Commerce, to advertise my availability.
  • Advertise myself to more educational publishers to proofread Primary textbooks, now that I feel competent enough.
  • Provide proofreading specialisms to publishers of children’s fiction and non-fiction. I have discovered that this really excites me!

Therefore, my next job is to add to my spreadsheet of publishers to contact.

This involves listing the publisher/packager name, project manager/editor contact email, date of my introductory email sent, date of reply (if any). I am pleased to say that, out of the first 15 publishers I emailed, I had a positive reply from two! So have a 13% success rate. Which I’m told is good!

But it does mean investing a huge amount of emotional energy, which most of the time isn’t rewarded. But so worth it for the 10%. Learn to develop patience, persistence and perseverance. Or, put another way, ‘a dropped pebble starts ripples’.

Find free resources on my website. It can be very daunting starting your own business. If you want to ask questions or to share experiences, I’m here.

 

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Proofread by Lisa de Caux,  https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk

Credit: My resources are tweaked from the resources available on the website for the CIEP (formerly the Society of Editors and Proofreaders).

 

Episode 3 – Website and Social Media

marketing

This episode describes the stage with my new proofreading business when I proclaimed my arrival! Building a website, social media and content marketing are skills I used to announce to the world my services as a proofreader.

In previous episodes, Episode 1 and Episode 2, I detailed my voyage towards becoming a freelance offering proofreading services after decades as a primary school teacher. In this blog, I describe how I decided on my marketing strategy.

As a newbie freelance business owner, I know some folks who cringe at the thought of putting any personal details ‘out there’, on the interweb. But, in my opinion, how else are you going to advertise your services or get business unless you are a presence on-line?

“A website is essential: you need a ‘shop window’ to display your business.” These were the words of my Business Mentor at my local Job Centre when they helped me set up as a self-employed proofreader two years ago. The process of choosing a website domain, a host, and designing my website, plus researching the content marketing world of social media has been a steep learning curve. This is what I did.

Build a website

By January 2017, my NEA (New Enterprise Allowance) Business Plan (with People Plus) had been approved, and I was told to go and build a website. The only domain name which was available and that I liked the sound of was Proofnow. That was the easy part. Proofnow Proofreader was born!

“How do I build a website?” I was heard to ponder. I asked around. My only experience had been editing my class page on the school website where I taught.

Godaddy was recommended. Fair enough, the building of each page was fairly straightforward: I added Services, Pricing and About pages, with a few photographs for variety. I could add a couple of testimonials after six months.

But, although I was pleased with the look of the site on the desktop of the PC, and on the screen of my Android tablet, it looked dreadful on my mobile.

By December 2017, I knew I wasn’t going to renew with Godaddy. So I did some fairly intense research on who would host my website next.

WordPress

I found Siteground for hosting website companies like WordPress.

I copied everything over from the soon-to-be-expired website, probably using old-fashioned techniques, and not how a designer would do it … But, after a couple of phone calls to Siteground customer service, who were very supportive, I was up and active with my new host. Phew!

Next, I won a website audit with Ahmed Khalifa (a Digital Marketing and WordPress expert). I received a friendly critique with excellent tips, followed by more research with other website gurus gave me the courage to tweak the theme and wording even more.

I am now even  happier with my website and proud of what I have achieved so far. It is easy to manage, and looks great on a mobile! I mention this because statistics show that mobile devices are used more for browsing websites than any other. Folks want to look up a linked site spontaneously and even instantaneously. So, it is essential that your website works, and looks good. Anywhere. On any device.

Basic website tips

  • easy to read, clear font
  • your headshot and/or logo
  • your services – what you can do for your client
  • how does a new client get in touch with you?
  • Say less of what ‘I’ can do (me, me, me), but what ‘you’, the client, needs. How can you (the freelance) can solve their (client) problem? *1
  • match the branding on your website with that on your social media sites where you will publish and market your website. In other words: same headshot, same banner, same headline/tagline for consistent marketing.*2
  • Designing your brand is made easier by choosing prepared designs from a free app. *3

*1  This method of your ‘About me’ page not actually being ‘About me’ (ironically) has been repeated by many on social media. It has been a revelation in tweaking how my website is worded.

*2  Advice from John Espirian and other content marketing gurus.

*3  Canva, recommended by Louise Harnby, is a design programme for those who have basic technical skills. I found it really useful when ensuring consistency in the design for my banners for marketing my website and social media profile pages (covered next). This represents ‘joined-up thinking’.

Everything I tried with my website was using trial and error, with the undo button at hand. Also with sheer surprise if something worked first time!

Content marketing

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, …? What a minefield of social media! So, what kind of content marketer are you? I know some folks who steer well clear. I know some folks who do it ALL, spread themselves EVERYWHERE. Is that a good idea? Does it work? Does it GET you work?

Facebook

I have had a personal Facebook page for 10 years: I use it to stay in touch with friends and family, as well as previous and new colleagues met through networking. The first thing I did on Facebook when I started my business was to advertise Proofnow Proofreader as a business Facebook page because that was the medium I understood.

LinkedIn

Then I met fellow freelancer John Espirian (former member of the SfEP, now the CIEP) and learnt A LOT more about how to use LinkedIn. For example, build a profile page using specific criteria as he describes here. He recommends liking and commenting on the posts of others to engage in conversation. This raises the visibility of your profile. To some, LinkedIn is seen as the conference side of social media, where important leads can be followed, and serious business connections are made. Work may even follow from said connections. This is my favourite way to share with colleagues as it feels more business-like. Here is my LinkedIn page. Judge for yourself. Why don’t you try personalising your invite to connect? Then I will understand how we can help each other.

Twitter

To some Twitter is viewed as the cocktail party of social media. On Twitter, retweeting (sharing) your own posts improves engagement. I am least confident with the use of Twitter. But, because a lot of freelancers are on Twitter, and because I suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), here is my Twitter page …

The main advice I have gleaned over the last two years is from content marketers who say: do what works for you. If you can cover all (and it’s not recommended – unless you have more than 24 hours in your day), fair enough.

I need to do one of them well. Do it with purpose. Do it with meaningful content.

Shout it out!

When I was teaching, and was so frustrated that I felt like shouting at the class or an individual, it was generally much more effective to whisper “When I say … I mean it.” Pause. You could have heard a pin drop with the silence and anticipation. I hope that my whisperings of marketing are making a difference. Perhaps I should be shouting. I am certainly anticipating that doing all I can to market my business will result in getting my name out there, which should result in getting the work in. Tell clients you are available.

Family trait

For those familiar with where I grew up – Glasgow in the 1980s – there was a marketing campaign called ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’. My dad, as an employee of Glasgow District Council (Industrial Development Officer) took Glasgow around the UK to exhibitions, promoting its good points.

When I married Tom, my artist husband, in the late 80s, my father asked him to which galleries he had touted his work. My husband was reluctant. Dad took it upon himself to go around many galleries in Glasgow to promote his son-in-law’s art. I like to think that I have inherited my father’s skills in marketing. He would be proud.

Help, support, share

Having discovered a VAST array of tips in content marketing, I am still, not by any stretch, an expert. Everything I have learnt has been absorbed so much by osmosis. Much like a lot of newbie freelancers I suspect.

Networking

Networking (either in real life or online) with other freelancers means you pick up valuable advice; connections on LinkedIn; online support groups are another gem for tips from many specialist freelancers.

In summary, whatever medium you use, the algorithms love it if you like a post, comment and share what other small businesses are doing. It can’t help but raise your profile.

Business cards

Networking IRL (in real life) with local groups is a great way to get out and about while promoting your business. It is incredibly useful if you can offer business cards or leaflets which act as a reminder of who you are and the business services you are offering.

Moo.com was recommended to me as a business card provider. Their website is user-friendly, with professional-looking products. I’m on my n-th set of 50 cards and they are always complimented.

There is some debate as to whether off-line marketing (on paper) still serves a purpose. But I like to market myself in as many ways as possible. All my social media links are on my cards (again, an area for debate is how much detail to put on them). Nevertheless, I am proud to say I give out my cards to all!

Paperwork

In my next blog, I recall answering my first query from a student. (Just trying to get a sample out of them, while they check if you’re available, when they haven’t actually written their thesis yet.).

Taking tiny steps as I adapted templates to compose my contracts, T&Cs, create invoices for payments and feedback forms.

As a freelance sole trader, you find that you have to be in charge of EVERY facet of your business: admin, IT, marketing, finance, … and that dreaded tax return. But there IS lots of support out there.

I wish you a healthy and happy 2019!

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Thank you to Lisa de Caux for proofreading.