Tall Tartan Tells Episode 4

Episode 4   13/02/2019

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

In previous episodes, TTT1, TTT2, and TTT3, 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 this page of the SfEP website or recommended on forums:

  • T&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*. Well, 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’s 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. And 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; also 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 for 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. With the permission of the supervisor. The SfEP have excellent guidelines on this area 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 amongst Freelance Heroes on Facebook (link in TTT3).

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 freelance 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 offered on the Freelance Heroes Facebook page 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. (Again, I can’t take credit for this one either. Thanks, John Espirian.)

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 for newbie editors 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.

 

 

 

 

Proofread by Lisa De Caux, SfEP Intermediate Level Member, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk

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

Tall Tartan Tells Episode 3

     Episode 3  04/01/2019

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, here (1) and here (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. So 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. So that was the easy part. Proofnow Proofreader was born!

“How do I build a website?” I was heard to ponder. I asked around. Two years later, this is a question I hear asked many times in freelance forums. My only experience had been editing my class page on the school website where I taught.

“I hear Godaddy are good,” was one response back then. (If I had known then what I know now … isn’t foresight a wonderful thing?) 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

John Espirian gives ‘relentlessly helpful’ advice as well as offering discounts on his website for subscribing to his emails. One such offer is with Siteground for hosting, amongst others, WordPress. This option was the cheapest. It may well still be. I’m sure experts will be able to confirm this. (Other website hosts/providers are available.)

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). Receiving a friendly critique with excellent tips; followed by more research with other website gurus, including Dave Smyth  and James Devonshire (Freelance Heroes), 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. I can’t find the various links at the moment, but if someone can post them that would be appreciated.

*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). To my mind, 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! 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 SfEP-er John Espirian, 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 SfEP-ers 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 such as Andrew & Pete of Atomic Creative Content Marketing, and MANY others. They 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. But, in my opinion, colleagues have their own preferences when it comes to social media, so sharing your content needs to cover all bases.

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.

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 and its Industrial Development Officer took Glasgow around the UK to exhibitions, promoting its good points. (I know.)

When I married Tom, my artist husband, in the late 80s, my father asked him to which galleries he had touted his work. “I don’t really work that way,” was my husband’s reply. Dad took it upon himself to go around many galleries in Glasgow (at the time we lived nearby in Ayrshire) 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 freelances I suspect.

Networking

These guides from the highly experienced SfEP members (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) support newbie editors; connections on LinkedIn; Freelance Heroes Facebook page is another gem for tips from website and marketing gurus, plus many other specialist freelances, where you may also find that others are interested in your services. I have found myself giving tips about LinkedIn to my local networking ladies, Winning Women in Chelmsford.

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 and those of others.

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’m old-fashioned enough 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 and sundry!

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.

I wish you a healthy and happy 2019!

 

 

 

Thank you to Lisa De Caux (Intermediate Member @The SfEP) for proofreading.