Recap of “Ask the Editor Hive: Growing Your Business”

by Małgosia Halliop

The April 26 Editors Toronto program meeting was an online discussion on the subject of growing your editing business. Participants tackled such topics as raising rates and collecting payment, ways to find clients and build relationships with them, and the benefits of the Editors Canada membership and certification, among others.

Jessica de Bruyn, Editors Toronto community liaison, moderated the discussion and started the meeting with a poll on participant editorial experience. Of the 15 or so participants present, the most significant number had been editing for one to two years. Second place in the poll went to a cohort with six to 10 years of experience. The editorial experience of the remaining participants varied widely, from less than a year to more than 21 years. This range in levels of experience made for a natural balance between mentors and mentees in the conversation.

The discussion jumped off from a couple of early questions and fell into several main topics.

Rates: how and when to raise them, to post or not to post, and when to ask for payment

Some of the more seasoned editors reported struggling to know when and how to raise rates. Solutions varied from raising rates once a year by $5 to $10 per hour, to having a talk with long-term clients at the start of a big project to introduce a new rate. If a client says no, there’s a decision to be made whether to take on the project or not. Several editors reported taking on occasional lower-paid projects for prestige or name value, in order to attract other desirable clients.

Participants varied on whether they posted their rates on their websites or not. Some editors find it easier to post rates, especially in the form of set packages, because most of their projects are similar in scope and nature. Posting rates also means avoiding awkward conversations about money. Others work with a wider variety of projects, and only broach the subject of rates once they have seen the project scope.

Asking for deposits of up to 50 percent for new clients was the norm in the group. Participants agreed that with repeat clients, as long as they pay promptly each time, the deposit can be waived. Longer projects can be billed monthly, and payment plans work really well for independent authors, who often don’t have a lot of money to pay in one lump sum. Larger companies are financially reliable, so there’s no need to charge a deposit, but they may be slower to pay because of the layers of approval involved in the payment process. With large companies, sending interim invoices can be helpful with cash flow.

Finding clients: networking, websites, certification, and more

One participant asked, “What’s a way that you’ve met clients that others might not have thought of?” Answers included: getting to know them as acquaintances first, getting into copy editing in an industry where you’ve previously worked in other roles, and introducing yourself on a neighbourhood Facebook site.

A couple of participants reported getting several good clients or even steady work from the Editors Canada Online Directory of Editors (ODE). There was agreement that a great website was a crucial marketing tool. Reaching out directly to publishers for copy editing was also recommended.

Talking about the ODE segued into a question about the Editors Canada certification, which no one in the group had yet tackled. One experienced editor mentioned that, even without certification, her Editors Canada membership always boosts her credibility with corporate clients, most of whom are required to be members of associations in their own fields.

Building relationships with clients

Another participant asked about the importance of ongoing networking with existing clients. This question led to a discussion of preferred communication tools and styles.

How editors keep in touch with clients varied by editorial niche as well as personal preference. Corporate clients might prefer phone or video consultations during business hours; independent fiction authors might be working on writing projects on personal time and prefer an asynchronous mode of communication, like email.

Opinions varied on whether it is possible to build rapport with clients without phone or video calls, but some editors said they choose written communication whenever possible and find it possible to build relationships with clients entirely in writing.

All the experienced editors reported getting to know their clients over time and making time for personal conversation on client calls, for example setting aside a few minutes of unbilled time to chat at the start of coaching calls.

One seasoned editor spoke of regular follow-up with potential clients as one key to her thriving corporate editing business. Any time a client says to follow up later, she advised us, don’t be shy about taking them at their word. Hearing from you will often remind a contact of a project that could use your help.

Jessica de Bruyn shared some simple career advice she had received: “Get a job, figure out what you like, get another job that has more of that, and repeat. This works for editing too: take the jobs and try them out. Keep honing down what you like. Or expand once you figure out what you’d like more of.”

Jessica then wrapped up the meeting by talking about the new Facebook group for Editors Toronto launching in the next few weeks. She also presented two ideas for resources that could be crowdsourced and shared in the group:

  • For finding work: a Google sheet for Toronto editors who have time openings, with some information on what kind of work they’re looking for and a short pitch about what makes them stand out. This would be wiped clean at the end of each month to keep it relevant.
  • For sharing tips: a Google sheet with suggestions in various categories (conferences, literary events, editing resources, favourite public spaces to work in the city, etc.).

These resources would also be shared with Editors Toronto members through the monthly newsletter.

Jessica also put out a call for new members for the Editors Toronto executive, as several current chairs will be stepping down from their positions at the end of the 2021–22 season.

I appreciated learning more about this group of editors in this wide-ranging and organic conversation. I came away with lots of useful ideas and inspiration for future career growth.

Małgosia Halliop is a writer and editor with a focus on environmental and sustainability content for non-profits and purpose-driven businesses. She’s worked in academic publishing, university communications, and as a nature educator.

This article was copy edited by Nada Mostafa.

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