An enterprising editorial freelancer, having come to potential clients’ attention, stands to profit from helping to enhance their efficiency, productivity, and profitability. Being enterprising may not come naturally to those in this field. But it is important, in the interests of obtaining steady income, to develop a good sense of how one’s business is to be identified and how it is to be distinguished in terms of service offerings, promotional strategy, and pricing, and also important to plan on refining these on a regular basis.
Early on, give your business a name, and set up bank and e-mail accounts for it, as well as a separate phone number. Create a logo for it too, and place it on your letterhead, invoice forms, business card, Web site, and brochure. (A functional résumé may be a suitable alternative to the last of these.)
Identify business niches that you are in a strong position to serve. What technological capabilities, or academic or professional credentials, make it possible for you to set your service offerings apart? What kinds of books, or what besides books, are you prepared to work on? For what editorial services is strong, and preferably growing, demand being insufficiently met in the markets that you are targeting? What client mix (that is, what kinds of publishers, packagers, and others, and in what numbers) do they represent?
Marketing strategy need not be elaborate, let alone expensive, to be effective. It should, though, take several distinct forms. Here are a number of suggestions; which are appropriate for you may well change over time.
Network everywhere; if you are a translator, you may well find it rewarding to be in contact with editors and fellow translators, not necessarily working with the same specialties or dialectal forms or in the same directions, or if you are a writer or editor, you might reach out to designers, indexers, or printers. Join formal organizations, including professional associations, chambers of commerce, and computer user groups; become part of their committees or contribute to production of their newsletters, and also obtain listings in their membership directories. Participate in a variety of social media and mailing lists and other fora on the Internet (where you may be able to be listed in other professional directories). Teach in an adult education program, go on public-access television, or find other venues to do some public speaking.
Send direct mail, appropriately addressed, to potential clients, or call those amenable to calling. Be prepared to send them work samples or to take tests for them, and follow up after doing so (as well as after delivering any resulting work). Be attuned to what your clients need, and keep them informed and happy, so that you will earn their repeat business. Stay in touch with them between projects (and also be in touch regularly with your other contacts), perhaps sending them a greeting card or your newsletter from time to time.
Make referrals when you can, as these may be reciprocated. Along related lines, if you have a Web page, arrange to have reciprocal links with some colleagues who also have them. Send occasional news releases to the press, for example to business news editors. Do some advertising.
Learn which aspects of the above are worth delegating: Web site design, for example, may be better left to someone else, as may brochure layout (or you may be the type of colleague to whom such responsibilities should be entrusted by a writer or editor or translator). Finally, in setting fees for your own range of services, assess not just what your potential clients have proven willing to pay (given both what your competitors charge and what you have charged in the past) but also what your services are likely to be worth to them (given what you have come to know about their business). Best of luck!