By Christi McGuire
When I started my freelance business, I didn’t even know I was doing just that—starting a business. I only saw it as doing what I loved—editing—and getting paid for it! After a couple years, I realized that I should be intentional about maintaining and growing my freelance business, and I also realized all the mistakes I made along the way. It seems that I’ve learned by doing the wrong thing before learning the “right” way to do it. Nowadays, when I consult with clients about starting and growing their freelance businesses, I am armed with tips so they don’t make the same mistakes I did.
Let me share a few of them with you.
1. Find your niche. When I first began to freelance, I accepted every job I was offered. Some of the jobs I hated doing; other ones I knew I wasn’t qualified for, but I did anyway because I was being paid. Eventually, I discovered exactly what I enjoy doing and am good at doing—Christian nonfiction work. And to narrow that down further, I now specialize in nonfiction book manuscripts and proposals. It took several years to realize this, but knowing my specialty helps me better market myself to potential clients. (And it helps avoid burnout because I love what I do!) If a client asks me to edit something that I know I am not proficient in, such as a science fiction manuscript, I am able to refer her to the Christian Editor Connection to find a better match with an editor who specializes in what she is working on.
To find your niche, ask yourself these questions:
- What types of editing (genres) am I proficient in?
- What do I most enjoy editing?
- Am I able to market myself in this niche?
- Am I able to find paying clients in this niche?
2. Set your prices and terms of service. These also take time to figure out. If you’re just starting in the industry, your rates will be lower than those of established and experienced editors. Your location may also determine your rates. Click here to view average rates in the industry.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What am I comfortable charging?
- What average rate compares to my experience and qualifications?
- What range will my potential clients pay?
- What range will cover my time and expenses?
Also determine your terms of service, which are the “rules” that you set with your clients.
- Will you edit on paper copies, electronically (via Microsoft Word), or both?
- Will you take full payment up front, a 50% payment, or a small deposit?
- Will you offer conference calls or video calls to your clients?
- Will you accept personal checks or payments via PayPal?
- Will you require clients to sign a contract or editorial agreement?
3. Develop your brand. Your brand (your name) is established through a website, social media networks, and marketing avenues. Take the time to create a professional website, which can be done at no cost or a minimal cost via WordPress. Follow these tips:
- Work with a graphic designer to create a header for your website that includes your logo. (Fiverr has professional graphic designers for hire for $5 and up.)
- Determine whether you will do business under a company name or your own name.
- Begin networking on social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. Link your website to these sites using social media buttons.
- Create an intriguing “About Me” page on your website.
- Be sure to have a contact form or a clear way for potential clients to contact you.
- Determine how often you will promote your services via your social media networks.
- Begin blogging on your site. Develop a blog plan—how often you’ll blog and what you’ll blog about.
- Begin to engage with your readers, followers, and clients.
These are only a few tips to get your freelance editing business started. If you’re interested in a full workshop about beginning your business, join me at PENCON in May 2016 in Colorado Springs as I teach “Business for Editors 101.”
I’d love to see you there!
Christi McGuire, freelance editor, writer, and consultant, has been in the Christian publishing industry for over fifteen years. Formerly an editor at LifeWay Christian Resources, Christi has published over one hundred magazine articles, dozens of children’s devotionals, and ten years of VBS curriculum. She is also the coordinator for the Christian Editor Connection, an organization that matches authors with professional editors. Currently, her primary focus is partnering with authors in the creative process to polish their manuscripts and book proposals and help them navigate the path to publishing. Visit her website at www.ChristiMcGuire.com.