This is an article I wrote for the Professionals Editors Network (PEN) in January of 2021. Reposted here with their permission.
Pretend for a few minutes that you are a client.
Scenario 1: “I’m almost done writing my manuscript, and I know I’ll have to hire an editor. Where can I find a good one?” This is a question most first-time writers have. The vast majority will start with the internet before they even ask friends, family members, teachers, or colleagues. They type “editor” into the URL search bar, and it’s game on.
Scenario 2: A major publisher hired a copyeditor to edit their new brewery book, but this editor is no longer available to take on the project. So the project manager asks their colleagues for referrals and gets many. Now they have to decide on who the right person to hire is. Experience. Reliability. Cost. Vetting this unknown editor. Where are they going to look for information first?
Scenario 3: A fellow PEN member has taken on too much work and now needs to subcontract or refer the work to another editor. They’d also prefer to work with a PEN member. They’ll probably search through the directory first to see whose profile matches the genre and type of work that needs to be done. Then, they’ll most likely go to that person’s website to corroborate they do this type of work. Maybe even look up any testimonials the editor has. (Madeleine Vasaly’s authored a great article on how to improve your directory profile in Get to Know the Member Directory).
So how do those ideal clients, the ones whose work you were born to edit, find you? Take a wild guess. Word of mouth, your online directory profile, but most of all, your website.
Your website is basically the professional you, but online. It’s where that ideal client you’ve been hoping to get sees a photo of you and connects your name to your persona. Your website is where they learn about the work you specialize in. The place where they’ll discover how you can help them, and why they need you now. It’s also where they will read about why other people enjoyed working with you. And finally, a website gives them your business email address (which matches your business name/brand, or your name) and a phone number where they can call you.
Having a website doesn’t mean you need to break the bank, but it does mean you should follow a few basic principles to make sure it’s discoverable and has the necessary information your ideal client needs. Many DIY-type sites will help you build a website based on customizable templates, but you can also build your own through WordPress (if you have the time, patience, and interest in learning how to do it). Then again, your time may be better spent editing billable work, in which case you can always hire the work out to a professional (make a budget, get a referral, and several estimates before choosing any one company).
My top 5 must-haves for a successful editor website:
A Landing page (homepage) with an up-to-date picture of you, your name, and a clear message of what genre you edit in, what type of editing you specialize in, and what problem you’re going to solve for the client.
A Service’s page that goes into detail about what services you offer and what each one of them means, in a language your client can understand. Stating your fees is optional. You can consider adding a ballpark price range or refer to a website that has suggested rates as well, so your client can get a better idea of what they might have to spend.
A Testimonials page with quotes from clients who enjoyed working with you. If you don’t have any testimonials, start gathering them. You’d be surprised at how kind your clients can be if you just ask them for a one-line reference about your work.
A Contact page with a call to action like: “Let’s talk!”, “Email me for a quote!”, “How can I help you today?” Don’t forget to include a hyperlinked email address on your contact page, that when clicked automatically opens a new email message window. You can also include a phone number or your city and state if you choose. Some clients will prefer to hire a local editor, as opposed to an out-of-state editor in a different time zone.
And lastly, your business social media shortcuts at the bottom of each website page, if you use them.
If you already have a website, but it just needs some revamping, consider adding:
Google Analytics (free) to monitor the traffic coming to your site, and what pages visitors are spending time on.
A resources page with articles you have written or links to other useful websites.
“Editorial packages” (that include a discount for booking multiple services at once)
developmental editing + book mapping
manuscript critiques + character arc development
proofreading + query letter writing
book proposals writing + query letter editing
A blog where you post weekly/monthly in-depth insights on how to do certain things better (I have an “8 Questions You Should Be Able to Answer Before Hiring an Editor” that gets a lot of traffic). Your content needs to be related to what you do, more importantly, how you can add value to your client’s work. (Write Blog Posts Readers Love: A Step-by-Step Guide is a good place to start)
A newsletter/email sign-up form. Even though you may not be ready to start a newsletter, it’s important to keep track of visitors to your site and inform them when you have exclusive discounts or relevant information to share with them. Also, although a newsletter isn’t technically part of a website, its copy can be later repurposed into blog content. My writing colleague, and published author, Tiffany Hawk recently changed her newsletter to include information about agents who are currently looking for manuscripts, along with their contact information. This is incredibly valuable to me as I can share this information with writers I’m coaching or whose work I’m editing.
And lastly (if you’re an overachiever) a CRM tool (customer relationship management) that allows clients to book your services in advance, request a proposal, schedule a consultation call, pay invoices, create payment schedules, see project progress, plus a myriad of other great services. After much testing and research, I decided to purchase Dubsado. There is a learning curve to it, but I love how it organizes my projects, my schedule, and how it automates a lot of my communications, invoicing, and project management so I can spend more time editing and less time on admin work.
In short, for a relatively modest investment, today it’s possible to have your own small business website without breaking the bank. The key is that your web presence includes specific basic information so the right clients can find you. Yes, it may take time to get it right, but that’s ok. Remind yourself that it’s an investment in your business and in your future profits.
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Linda Ruggeri is a nonfiction bilingual editor and writer based out of Los Angeles who specializes in memoirs, biographies, cookbooks, and Spanish translation reviews. She co-authored the award-winning book “Networking for Freelance Editors: Practical Strategies for Networking Success” with Brittany Dowdle.