FAQs: Starting A Freelance Editorial/Creative Business

Question: I am starting my own Proofreading and Copyediting Company… I’ve designed a biz card, a flyer, a post card, a brochure, a 2-pg. info sheet, my stationery and envelope. I will get a website once I get a few clients.

I have set up a biz banking account, an email address and a PayPal account. I am ready to start seeking clients! Only problem is I’m not sure where to start first. Here are my questions:


1.   First of all, who did your website?  I love it!  Do you think I need to get my website immediately?

Laura, I did my website using FrontPage (this was Inkwell Editorial’s old html site) – a simple software to use and it allows me control, ie, I don’t have to pay someone to update it, as I update it on a daily basis.

As for getting a website right away, as you’re a proofreader/copy editor, I would say no, it’s not absolutely necessary. BUT, as competition is so fierce, it reflects negatively on you as a business person — and you may lose clients.

I always tell freelancers/small business owners to ask themselves this question, “Would you go into business without a telephone?” I think websites have progressed to this point. I rarely, if ever, do business with companies that don’t have websites. Why? My thinking is, how seriously can you take your business if you don’t have a basic website.

Having a website can also be a timesaver because you can put basic info like your rates, hours of operations, services you provide, etc. up. This answers up front a lot of initial questions prospective clients might have.

NOTE: A website doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. A two or three page site will work just fine – as long as it is professional and informative. DON’T let not having a website stop you from getting started. Just get one as soon as you can – and put the URL on EVERY piece of marketing material you have – ALWAYS.

2.  Is there an inexpensive way to get lists of schools/collegesAnd who would I contact at the schools (besides the newsletter editor) once I got the list? 

I do a lot of research on the Internet – that’s how I reach out to most of my clients. You might want to Google a certain area for “colleges and universities.” You can purchase lists from a mailing list company.

http://infousa.com/ and http://mip.usadata.com/ are two that I’ve used in the past. Again, read up on mailing list companies and what to expect when you use them before purchasing. There are a lot of scammers out there in this field.

NOTE: The best type of mailing list is the one you build yourself. This is more time-consuming by far, but well worth it in the long run. Using a mailing list company though is good to get you started.

3.  Is there an inexpensive way to get lists of businesses in my area? Joining the Chamber of Commerce is $200!  That’s steep and I’m not sure how beneficial that would be? Your thoughts?  I’m going to check with the library.

See answer above. FYI, you’re likely going to spend more than $200 to purchase names for a mailing list company – and then you have to pay for putting your mailing together (even if it’s just copies at Kinkos) and the postage to mail it.

That’s why I like email marketing. It can be more effective than direct mail and is cheaper by far. Sign up with ConstantContact.com to send professional email campaigns. You can sign up for as little as $15/month. As of this writing, it’s free for 60 days or until you get 100 subscribers, whichever comes first.

Be careful not to spam people and put your name/contact info in the email. That way, prospects know that you’re contacting them with a legitimate business proposal, not some spammer sending out a mass email campaign.

4.  I plan to start advertising in ezines that cater to writers. Is there an inexpensive way to get a list of newsletters that cater to writers?

I don’t know of a compiled list of this type of newsletter/ezine. Google terms like “writing ezines”, “writing newsletters”, “writing groups”, etc. and start contacting prospects that look promising to see if they accept advertising.

5.  Would it be lucrative to contact publishing companies, or do they generally have in-house staff?

Many companies use the services of outside contractors; it’s hard to get a foot in the door because they have freelancers that they’ve been working with for years. However, it’s worth it over the long haul – even if it takes you a year (yes, I said year) to get your first assignment.

Usually, once you get your foot in the door, more assignments will come your way from the same company because one editor tells someone in another department and then they call. Once established, a relationship usually lasts for years.

FYI, I typed “Publisher” and “copyediting test” into Google and several companies popped up who offer copyediting tests to independent contractors to become part of their pool.

6. In addition, I would also like to target websites…I see so many typos on all types of websites.  Any suggestions on how I would approach them?

Yeah, the web is ripe with grammatical/spelling errors. It’s become the norm, I’m afraid (even InkwellEditorial.com is guilty of it!).

As for approaching site owners, I’d suggest proofreading/copyediting a page and sending the corrected version to the site owner with a note – something to the effect of:

I know that as an entrepreneur, you’re extremely busy and don’t have time to focus on the minutiae of grammar/editing, etc. Attached is the XX page on your site, which I edited for you. I provide copyediting and proofreading services to small business owners like you who have a multitude of tasks to perform day in and day out! This is my job, like XX is yours. Please contact me blah, blah, blah …

This way, you don’t offend them by just pointing out that their site has grammatical errors and you can fix it for them.  

7.  I’ve also thought about visiting coffee houses and other places that have poetry readings and other writer related events. And I’ve put my flyer up on a Whole Foods bulletin board. I’d like to find more of these…any idea how I can do that (besides the small listings in my phone book)?

Any community outlet that allows the posting of flyers is fair game. Simply talk to people – everyone, everywhere you go. Contact your local theatre group and find out where the “artsy” types hang out and ask if they have an activities list/calendar of events so that you can see upcoming poetry readings, book signings, etc. NEVER leave home without a card. As a matter of fact, make it your business to hand out X number every time you leave your house.

8.  Eventually, I would like most of my business to come from the internet and I’m a bit overwhelmed by all of my competitions great websites out there…and not sure where to begin due to the enormous size of the net! 

Don’t get bogged down or overwhelmed by what everybody else is doing. I’m guilty of this too – it’s hard not to be sometimes. But, YOU have something to offer also. Focus on your dream and take it a step at a time.

One thing I heard Michelle Kwan, the ice skater say, comes to me. She was asked in an interview if she was worried about the other girls in the competition who had perfected some triple jump or other and whether or not her program would be effective enough.

She responded that she never enters a competition thinking about the other competitors. She said her competition was always with herself and that she just focused on doing her program to the best of her ability.

I thought this a marvelous response and a metaphor for life. Why? Because there will always be someone who is more talented, prettier, skinnier, richer, etc. However, the gifts YOU possess are just as important. So, forget what everyone else is doing and do what you can every day, to the best of your ability, with honesty and integrity.

If you do that, you will always be pleased with yourself and you know what – so will most people you encounter. And, when you “fail” (because you will sometimes), at least you can look yourself in the face, knowing that you did the best you could. And, that can NEVER be considered “failure,” just a learning opportunity.

9.  Have I asked enough questions for now?  🙂   Any suggestions on where and how I should start? 

Yes, turn on your computer and put together a list of 100 prospects you want to contact. Get your initial sales letter, brochure, postcard, etc., ready to go.

One final word: Marketing has to become a habit. The easiest way to do this is to make it a habit to contact at least X number of prospects a week (you decide how many works for you).

Some days you may contact none. Other days you may contact a 100. But, whatever your number is, don’t let the week end without contacting them. This way, you will always have some irons in the fire – and before you know it, you will be busier than a fire ant at a Sunday afternoon picnic!

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P.S.: See Inkwell Editorial’s marketing manual, The Small Biz Owner’s Complete Marketing Kit!, for 8 sure-fire low- and no-cost marketing methods that will jumpstart your business — guaranteed! It’s the only marketing advice book you will need to get started marketing the right way — right away.

Good luck!

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