Back to School

And breathe. It’s over. Back they go, in their newly purchased school uniforms and shoes that I pray will last longer than three weeks this time. A new year has begun.

September has always felt like a time for new beginnings for me. I went straight from university to a company whose activity was based around both the academic year and the classical music season, and my birthday is also in September (this week, in fact. Send cake). So every September comes the chance to look back over the last year and think about the next one.

I’ve encountered some setbacks over the last twelve months which have forced me to do a lot of thinking about the way I run my business. A few clients and prospective clients had issues that meant I was left with some gaping holes in my schedule, and I didn’t manage to fill them all. This made me realise how much I had been relying on clients finding me through word-of-mouth, and how inadequate a strategy that is for a still relatively new business operating in an extremely competitive sector. I’ve had to make a conscious effort to go out and look for the work I want, and then try to make myself visible enough to get it. This hasn’t been easy for me; I have very little experience with and confidence in marketing myself. But I’m working on it, and one of the most important lessons for me to learn is that marketing is as much my job now as editing is, and my skills in the latter mean nothing if I can’t develop some in the former. With that in mind, I’ve signed up for some sessions on marketing at the upcoming Society for Proofreaders and Editors conference, including one by the ever wise and helpful John Espirian and Louise Harnby, and I’m really excited about those. Hopefully I’ll come out full of ideas, inspiration and confidence to push my business to where I’d like it to be.

In looking back over the last year, I’m making sure I remind myself of some wins as well as looking at what I need to work on. And one thing I can feel proud of was that the cancellations I experienced showed me the value of the policies and procedures I’ve put in place. Unlike marketing, this is an area I feel entirely comfortable in; I come from a background of administration and process management. Thinking of problems before they arise and working out what should happen when they do is definitely one of the things I do well. My cancellation and refund policy, carefully thought out to be fair on the customer and to adequately compensate me for the loss of work, and expressed clearly in my terms and conditions, has been tested and found to be a Good Thing.

So my main challenge for the next year is to be less shy about selling my services. I’m a good editor, and I shouldn’t be afraid to tell people that. I also need to focus on my achievements as much as I focus on my setbacks.

And the second challenge may not be quite business related, but neither is it entirely not. I need to do some exercise. I know, I know – the biggest resolution cliché going, right? But it’s really beginning to hit me now how much more sedentary my life is now compared to when I worked in a really big building with lots of stairs. I feel floppy and creaky and weak, and that’s probably affecting my mood and my confidence. It’s hard, when running a business, to remember to clock off and take care of yourself every now and again, but I realise how vital it really is.

So, off I head into my thirty-somethingth year on this planet, with a positive outlook and, hopefully, lots of cake. I wasn’t kidding about the cake.

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