by Natalia Iwanek
This month’s The Editors’ Vine* meeting took place on May 9, 2020, with guest speaker and freelance editor Lenore Hietkamp. The interactive discussion also featured 12 Editors Canada members and student affiliates from Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario. The group comprised a mix of seasoned and beginner editors, with many recent graduates from editing programs and others in their first years of editing.
Although the meeting was originally planned as a discussion for freelance editors to move outside their comfort zones, the unexpected pandemic transformed it into a brainstorming session of how to market editing skills during unusual times. All participants agreed we must change our mindset and seek out opportunities to challenge ourselves and grow and survive in these uncertain times.
Understanding Our Value
The first topic of discussion was on ways to go beyond our familiar situations as well as obstacles that participants had personally encountered. Attendees took turns relating their experiences with a variety of advice about promoting yourself when you are an introvert, setting up websites, using social media as a marketing tool, and using business cards and blogging to attract clients.
Lenore weighed in by discussing the difficulties faced by freelance editors in a society that undervalues and misunderstands the editing process. Although we may feel secure in our skills, we often lack the confidence to communicate them properly. Ultimately, Lenore said, the onus is on editors to convince clients of their value. We should pursue experiences and opportunities that help us overcome this hurdle.
Participants stressed the importance of a searchable website as well as the implementation of SEO to drive traffic to the site. Blogging was encouraged, as consistently uploading new content attracts both search engines and clients. Our websites, however simple, reveal a great deal about our personalities. Other advice included designing a website to appeal to one’s target market and including a website link in email signatures. One participant mentioned the use of freelance websites to build a portfolio while another revealed that the purpose of marketing is to tell a brand story. Always remember that you are your brand, online and in public. [Editor’s Note: read “5 Ways You Can Improve Your Website to Find Clients” for more tips on marketing yourself through your website.]
For those of us struggling with clients and rates, one participant advised giving clients good value from the initial correspondence about a project. Even though clients may later be surprised at our rates, if we prove our worth from the start, they will understand that we are worth the investment. The trick is figuring out how much money you need to make; that is, the rate that makes you feel valued. Lenore suggested working out the amount needed per year and adjusting that to a monthly average. The importance of increasing our rates steadily, not only for ourselves, but also to advance the editing profession, was also highlighted.
One participant noted the value of picking a niche, stressing that this focus will not deter clients from approaching us with requests outside those niches. In addition, it is crucial to pursue our desired type of client; in turn, they will often recommend us to other similar clients. However, if financially feasible for editors, declining work from undesirable clients was also recommended.
Importance of Networking
Finally, participants discussed the importance of networking and getting to know fellow editors through events such as monthly meetings. Lenore noted that since we often work alone, we lack peers with whom to compare our work. Networking events give us a sense of what others in the industry are doing and increase our confidence. Other suggestions included participating in email discussions and Facebook groups such as the Editors’ Association of Earth.
One participant emphasized doing things with intention; this is a business and not just a hobby, after all. Depending on your audience, you may benefit from using terms such as editing consultant over freelance editor. Another stated that self-promotion often includes educating clients, some of whom may consider editors superfluous with the advent of grammar-checking programs. In addition, editors were urged to offer something free, such as website freebies or a blog with tips, which would highlight their value to potential clients and encourage them to hire us.
Final Marketing Tips
Lenore continued with tips on promoting ourselves and finding our market including researching our ideal niche, making contact with those in that field, and cold calling. In addition, she encouraged editors to make use of existing networks; if someone cannot use our services, maybe they know someone else who can. She stressed that we should not make assumptions about what people can afford or what services they need.
On a final note, Lenore discussed the moral dilemma when contacting clients during this unprecedented pandemic. Ultimately, as in any situation, she recommended approaching clients with respect and humility.
Although this was my first Vine meeting, I would definitely attend again, and I would encourage others who wish to meet members outside their local branch to attend as well. The meeting was informative and interactive, with various opinions and experiences from all over the country.
* The Editors’ Vine is a new initiative by Editors Canada to connect members who face barriers in attending twig or branch meetings (which, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, is currently all of us). Two meetings with the same theme are held each month (on the first Thursday and the following Saturday) via Zoom. Please contact [email protected] for details.
Natalia Iwanek is a Toronto-based editor and writer. She specializes in article and blog writing, copy editing, and proofreading.
This article was copy edited by Amanda Clarke.