The UK tax year just ended (on 5 April). The Narrative Craft will be three years old on 1 May, so it seemed like a good time to get some insight. In this blog post, I’ll cover what clients and services I’ve dropped, how my business has changed, and what (and who) made the last year my best one so far!
Dropping clients and services
First, from last year onwards, my business has focused on working with indie authors and individual researchers (mostly social/cultural anthropologists).
In the meantime, I have dropped two types of clients:
- Translation agencies
- Publishers and packagers (light copyediting)
The main reason is poor rates of pay. More importantly, in the first two years I offered several different services, perhaps spreading myself too thin. This made sense at the experimental stage, but now I know what I’m best at and what I enjoy the most!
If you work with these kinds of clients, don’t draw any big conclusions from this. What is true for me may not be true for you. I have colleagues doing STEM editing who command great rates from packagers, publishers, or boutique translation agencies.
But for fiction and social sciences/humanities, I found working directly with individual authors and researchers to be both more satisfying and better paid.
I still do translation projects for direct clients but am not seeking new work in this area. Unless an amazing literary translation job lands in my inbox, that is.
How my business has changed
To get a sense of how my activities have changed over the past year, check out these figures:
- Translation dropped from 41% in 2020/21 to 15% of my income in 2021/22
- Developmental editing jumped from 2% in 2020/21 to 17% in 2021/22
- Line-editing and copyediting stayed roughly the same, at 55% to 65% of my income
Pivoting and niching
I’ve also pivoted and niched down:
- I no longer offer general academic copyediting
- My main (complementary) services are now fiction editing and developmental/line-editing for cultural anthropologists
- For fiction, I specialise in fantasy, science fiction, and worldbuilding
Finally, last year I launched a book consulting service too.
A successful year full of interesting projects!
Last year I focused on what I enjoyed the most and was best at, and this has paid off. My profits were up 67% this year and I hit the milestone of making the same income I would have made as a senior lecturer in the UK (roughly the point in an academic career I would have reached at this point).
Psychologically, this felt big, as starting the business was a step into the dark. Now, in many ways, this work feels more secure than paid employment on fixed-term contracts, and freer than employment on a permanent contract.
A large part in this success was down to:
- Being around for longer, with a growing network and consistent internet presence
- Getting help – especially from two editors who offer business coaching (Malini Devadas and Tanya Gold)*
- Learning more about marketing and implementing it
- Doing a good job – so more referrals via word of mouth
I also landed a couple of retainer clients, which gave me a more stable base. This made it easier to filter potential projects that landed in my inbox. (One great rule is that if a project doesn’t make you go f**k yeah! then don’t take it on unless you *really* need the cash!)
Perhaps the most important lesson – which applies equally to indie authors and academic researchers – is that not everyone wants to be edited or values editing.
If you work directly with people who seek out your services and who like working collaboratively on a project, the experience will be smoother. This has been my experience so far!
Finally, the percentage of UK clients has shot up massively, from 4% of my income to 36%. This is because of my switch to fiction, building networks (logically) where I live.
What comes next
Over the next year my focus will be on:
- Fiction line-editing and copyediting
- Developmental editing and book consulting for social anthropologists/researchers interested in storytelling and narrative
I’ll be outsourcing or recommending other professionals for these services:
- Reference list formatting
- Academic translation
- Academic copyediting
As for training, I’ll be deepening my fiction developmental editing skills and applying these techniques, where appropriate, to my work with social anthropologists too.
If you’re reading this and are interested in working with me, you can book a free 20-minute consultation.
*Tanya has an amazing skill for seeing future potential, while Malini’s mindset exercises involve doing difficult but important internal work on confronting ideas about marketing and pricing services. I highly recommend editors work with them!