My 3 steps to start-up success for editorial freelancers

When I launched myself as a freelancer, I knew nothing about business. And I mean absolutely nada. I didn’t even really know anyone in business. I came from a family of medical professionals who had followed various career paths within public sector healthcare. I, myself, had spent the majority of my working life in the Armed Forces and most of my childhood friends had followed careers in teaching or the private sector.

Entrepreneurship was a pretty alien concept. However, in my quest to marry flexibility with fulfilment, there I found myself, embarking on a new chapter in my career history: self-employment.

The initial outlook wasn’t entirely rosy. I was told that it would take 2−3 years to earn a liveable wage as a freelance proofreader, and less than 50% of businesses make it past 5 years. Well those were odds that I wasn’t willing, nor could I afford, to accept.

However, very early on it became pretty obvious that being a good, even a great, copyeditor and having a website, were not going to cut it on their own. If I was going to make a success of being self-employed then I needed to get my business head on, and fast.

So that’s what I did. I threw myself into learning about copywriting, SEO, social media marketing strategies … the list goes on! Some things worked better than others and the learning curve was steep, but within 6 months I had matched my previous monthly salary and had a steady stream of clients. What had started as a struggling side-line had become a viable business.

Please don’t think that I’m claiming to be an expert; I know I still have a lot to learn. I can only speak from my own experience, but there were some things that really worked for me. And I wanted to share them because maybe they could work for you too.

1. Niching. What I’m going to say here is nothing that you probably haven’t heard before but it’s worth repeating because I believe it really can make a difference, and not enough of us are doing it when we start out. The phrase ‘If you’re talking to everyone, you’re talking to no-one’ couldn’t be truer in our industry. I, like many, started my business offering my editorial services to anyone and everyone. “I help polish up ANY written content,” I would say.

And that just didn’t work.

However, once I had defined my niche (and that could be a whole new blog post in itself!), it was a lot easier to show how I could provide value to my ideal clients and market my services more effectively. The end result? More leads and more clients.

2. Networking. My very first paid jobs came from referrals by people I already knew, and I still continue to get approached by clients through word of mouth. So don’t be shy about telling everyone you know about your editorial business. Most people will be delighted to help you if they can.

Networking can be an incredibly powerful part of your marketing strategy and getting your name out there. One positive to result from Covid is that networking events have become a whole lot more accessible. Editorial forums like those within the CIEP are fantastic, but also think about casting your net a bit further. There are so many different types of business networks out there, find the ones that you resonate with most. I harnessed my military background and joined veteran and military spouse business networks. It was one of the best things I did. Not only for opening up job opportunities but also for support and friendship, which we all need more than ever right now.

3. Mindset. Call it ‘airy fairy’ if you will, and it may not be for everyone, but this has perhaps been the biggest gamechanger of them all. I wholeheartedly believe that my business would not have succeeded in the way it has, had I not invested in some serious mindset work first. Daily mindset practices of gratitude, mindfulness and self-belief have become part of my business strategy, and my life for that matter.

Maybe I’ve just lost you, but if not, and you’re willing to give it a go – trust me, your future self will thank you!

I hope you've found this useful. Taking the leap to self-employment can feel tough, so if you're starting out in the world of editorial freelancing, please feel free to reach out − I'd love to hear from you!