By Amy Haagsma
As a new editor, I have set out to learn as much as I can about editing, both the business and the craft. Among the many fantastic resources I’ve discovered are Louise Harnby’s blog, The Proofreader’s Parlour, and her books, Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.
Harnby is a U.K.-based proofreader and an advanced member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. She has more than 20 years’ experience in publishing and started her own business in 2005.
Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers is written with the complete beginner in mind and assumes no prior editorial experience. It aims to cover everything a new editorial freelancer would need to know, from education and training to finding clients and growing your business.
The introduction and first chapter set the groundwork for what is to come, explaining what a business plan is and why it is important to have one. Harnby emphasizes that editorial freelancers are business owners first and freelancers second, and that you need to have a business mindset and think of yourself as a professional business owner.
Editorial freelancers perform many tasks in addition to editing or proofreading, including accounting, marketing, sales, and technical support. Writing a business plan, says Harnby, helps you prepare for all of these different roles and make good decisions. It also demonstrates that you have researched your market, that you understand and possess the skills required for the profession, and that you have considered your finances and earning potential.
The next few chapters guide you through determining what services you will offer, what training you’ll need, and whom your potential clients might be. For example, copywriting is a natural add-on service for me because my background is in marketing. Because I also have knowledge of engineering, it makes sense to pursue this as a specialty market, at least initially.
Harnby also discusses several ways to get experience and develop a portfolio, and how to set yourself up financially in terms of earnings, savings, taxes, and expenses. There is also a lengthy chapter on marketing and promotion, which covers basics like setting up a website as well as less intuitive strategies such as whom you might want to invite for coffee. (Marketing is also covered in more detail in Harnby’s latest book, Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.) Another chapter focuses on networking, not only to advance your business, but also for professional development and to avoid the isolation that freelancing can bring.
Throughout the book, Harnby highlights several “top tips,” such as including a picture of yourself on your website. Key points are summarized at the end of each chapter. Most major points are also followed by an anecdote from one or more practitioners, including Anna Sharman, Janet MacMillan, Kate Haigh, Liz Jones, Marcus Trower, and Nick Jones (in addition to Harnby). All are varied in their backgrounds, business focuses, and even geography, which gives an interesting range of examples. Louise has also included case studies of three recent entrants to the field and an extensive list of resources.
Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers is an enjoyable book and was therefore a quick read, but I will definitely return to it to work through it in more detail. Harnby begins by convincing you of the importance of having a business plan and then guides you through developing one. It is excellent for beginners, but would also be valuable for anyone looking to expand or refocus their business, update their skills, or find new clients. Although Harnby is based in the U.K., her advice is broad enough to be relevant for anyone, regardless of location. I did find some of the word usage slightly different from Canadian usage, but this did not detract from my enjoyment or comprehension at all. In fact, I found Harnby’s British English quite charming!
For more information or to download a sample, see Harnby’s website.
Amy Haagsma is a communications professional and a graduate of Simon Fraser University’s Editing Certificate program.