Day of Meeting: November 11, 2013

Speaker: Cynthia Hartwig of Two Pens

Amanda announced that the next meeting is a member showcase. It will be a show-and-tell opportunity scheduled for Monday, January 13, 2014.

How Cynthia got us talking and writing

Cynthia’s background is in advertising, and she’s written for Microsoft and Amazon’s social media. She also teaches how to write for social media. Her love is fiction, and she talked about the effectiveness of committing to a writing practice such as NaNoWriMo. A lot of the things we do as writers can be applied to other areas of our work. Writing practice is a way to untangle your process. Think about your website as your brand, as the type of editor you are and the type of business you want.

Cynthia talked about the necessity of continuing to evolve and refine your online presence and communication style. You and your business are constantly changing.

She took a poll. How many attendees do not have a website? How many have a website but would like to update it?

Then she engaged us in a series of free-writing exercises.

1) Simply write about who you are as an editor. There are a couple of rules: Take four minutes to write. No crossing out. Don’t worry about grammar, etc. Just don’t stop writing. You’ll often be surprised at what comes out. Just don’t stop.

How can you be heard in cyberspace? A website is your first bastion for telling people who you are as an editor, for telling people who you are and what you want to do. How can you differentiate yourself from all the other people out there?

There are:

  • 500 million people on Twitter
  • 1,262,120 blogs
  • Facebook users have passed a billion
  • More than 150 million LinkedIn users
  • 51 million websites

Tapping into the power of the network

Social media allows you to tap into a network. It creates a multiplier effect. It breaks down silos and a narrow individual reach. You have to think of ways to enlarge that network.

She uses Twitter all the time to stay current. Social media lets you share resources and knowledge quickly. The various forms of social media are free tools but still a one-to-many marketing method. Your website is your hub to all of them.

Branding 101

To attract a following, you must create an identity to follow. Individuals have personal identities or personas. Brand, personality, persona = who you are. It’s often hard to tell from a website who the provider is and what service is being provided. Multiple personas will fracture your identity. Many editors’ websites present “a laundry list,” and you don’t know what the editor is best at or for what she is best suited. You have to narrow down the list.

2) Create a mind-map — a collection of the identities you could own. List the possible identities you could own. Think about the specific types of editing you most want to do. Make a list of your possible identities, then circle the top two.

3) Express the real thing about you and your editor brand.

Focus on what you most care about, the most authentic thing about you and your editor brand. She gave attendees four minutes to write about the persona we most care about and what we say when we talk about ourselves. Get to the heart of what it is you care about. That is the key to an authentic brand.

Cynthia then solicited members to read what they wrote about themselves. She then invited us to review some editorial-service websites and critique them for their effectiveness at communicating exactly who they are and what they offer.

“Kitchen sink editing” was one assessment of the first site we looked at.

“Not flashy, great identity” was the comment for Beth Jusino’s site.

The next site we looked at had a navigation bar that was a laundry list of service items. The tagline, “Writing with Clarity,” even managed to be confusing. Cynthia’s comment: “A tagline masquerading as a communication.”

The next one had a first line that was open to question: “Chicago Freelance Proofreader and Copy Editor.” Attendees wondered if that implied he used only CMoS as the style guide, or that he serviced only the Chicago area.

Define your brand first, then build up from there how you present yourself online.

Thumbtack, which is a service-transaction facilitator for local providers, really knows what they’re doing. One member heartily recommended it, saying he got a lot of his business through the site. It is ranked very high on Google.


Forty years of research proves that your audience will remember your information longer and relate to you before they know who you are if you include images.

4) Take two minutes and brainstorm a list of visuals that you could include on your website.

“How many of you have a picture of yourself on your list?” Cynthia asked, nodding approvingly at those who raised their hands.

You want an image that says something about yourself, not an image from the DOL. You want to look professional, but it doesn’t have to be stiff. An image increases stickiness. It says something about you, that you’re the kind of person people want to do business with. Brainstorm a list of what you need to call attention to on your website.

What do you want to lead with? It depends on your priorities. Start with the important ones.

5) List for two minutes the top three or four things you want on your home page. .

Decide whether or not to have a tagline. You can certainly have a snappy tagline, but for editorial services, you can have a much more straightforward tagline as long as you are concise.

Questions for Cynthia

Q: If you’ve never done a website, what is the best way to start?

A: If you have enough skill and judgment, there are plenty of platforms. She recommends WordPress. You can try it out for free. Non-graphic folks like Foursquare. She has referrals for small design firms. As far as maintenance goes, if you dedicate an hour a week, that should be enough time to keep your website up to date.

Q: Can I combine my resume writing business with my copyediting?

A: Yes.

A comment about blogging: Cynthia blogs about once a week. It’s the there, there—when she tweets, for her own marketing.

Q: Where to put testimonials from clients. Should they be on a separate page, spread throughout the site, or on the homepage?

A: Cynthia recommends putting at least one testimonial on your home page. She recommends including the person’s name, for authenticity. Video testimonials get ranked very high in search engines.

Q: Do you have your students sign a waiver if you use their video testimonials praising your class?

A: Yes. The URL of your page should be optimized according to the keywords. Google hates when you make changes to the URL. You can set the default in WordPress for the date of the post, or to pull from the headline, etc.

Q: Is your name or your company better to use as the URL?

A: Your name. If you’re a writer, your URL should be your name rather than a book title, for example. One member explained that she uses a business name as her URL rather than her own name, because her name is difficult to spell; Cynthia approved.

Q: How do I leave myself open to finding out what I’m best at, if I’m just starting?

A: Pick the top two things you like right now. You are always better owning a niche. If you are all things to all people, you are nothing. You can add services later. The dirty little secret: you start with what you want to do, and eventually you’ll get there. You have to say who and what you are first.

Email Cynthia if you want a .pdf of the slides. Follow her at @twopens.