By Lea Galanter
The Guild’s mentoring program held a panel discussion in May on marketing, which garnered interest from editors new to freelancing. The panel included people with different backgrounds and experiences: Anne Moreau, who has worked as a freelance editor for book publishers and as an in-house editor for advertising agencies for more than 13 years; Beth Jusino, a marketing expert (author of The Author’s Guide to Marketing) who works with writers and other creative people; and me, who started a freelance editing business in January 2016 after decades as in-house editor.*
When I was getting my business off the ground, I took online courses about how to market myself, studied how to set up a business website, attended networking get-togethers, and read books and columns by editors with longtime businesses. There’s a wealth of marketing information and advice available online, and sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming. Being on the panel gave me a chance to hear from others as well as to share my own experiences.
We started by defining the terms marketing and networking. Marketing includes specific tasks, such as creating a professional business card, website, or letter to clients—those outward representations that create an impression of who you are. However, the world of marketing is more creative than that—marketing is everything you do to build a reputation.
Effective marketing includes deciding where you want to focus your efforts (perhaps independent authors), as well as how (such as presenting at conferences). All the panelists felt a professional website is important. It should describe your editorial experience, the kinds of editing you specialize in, and how you work with clients—anything and everything to show that you are the person someone wants to work with.
Networking, which can strike fear in the hearts of introverted editors, entails meeting and connecting with others and communicating who you are and how you can fulfill their needs, whether it’s being published, attracting more clients, increasing sales, or improving writing skills.
Networking online can include being active in Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media groups. Ways to network in person can vary widely, from sitting at the Guild table at a writing conference, attending networking events (Meetup.com is great for finding networking groups), joining a writers’ group, working with a volunteer organization, or taking a continuing education class. The truth is, every time you meet someone and they ask what you do, you’re networking.
Rather than being able to nail down definitive strategies for attracting clients (other than having a professional website!), being on the panel reminded me that different approaches work for different people; editors need to take into account the niche they fill, the kinds of clients they are pursuing, and their own personality. Even as introverts, editors can vary widely—some editors avoid talking on the phone, preferring to communicate only through email, and some editors feel networking in person is a big part of their strategy. Some are adept at using Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and others prefer LinkedIn and other networking groups, including organizations related to their specific niche (for me, that means the American Historical Society and the Historical Novel Society).
Personally, I’ve become a big proponent of in-person networking, even though it’s not the most comfortable thing for me (I highly recommend Toastmasters for gaining confidence in presenting yourself to others). I’ve found that LinkedIn works better for attracting business customers, while Facebook and Twitter seem to work better for interacting with independent authors. One surprising lesson I’ve learned in the past year is that, at least in Seattle, clients want to connect and work with someone local. I’ve also discovered that word of mouth is important in attracting new clients—whether it’s through current clients who rave about your work or through another editor you’ve gotten to know—and that marketing and networking efforts may not pan out for six months to a year, or longer. Planning for the long term is vital.
While many avenues and ways to attract clients exist, one of the most important aspects of all is loving what you do and knowing what you’re good at—the energy that comes with this will help people engage with you. This is important whether your marketing and networking efforts are aimed at furthering an in-house career or finding freelance clients. In either case, it’s important to try different things to see what works for you (even if it’s outside your comfort zone); if something doesn’t work, try something else. It really is about the journey.
*The panelists each volunteered a short list of their favorite resources about marketing, which you can download here.