How are you promoting your copyediting services to the local business community?
In this post, Embark founder Lorna Walsh explains how the $35 she spent to attend a meeting at the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce might be the best investment she made in her career this year.
I HAD NEVER BEEN TO A CHAMBER OF COMMERCE MEETING BEFORE. In my imagination, such gatherings comprised (mostly) men in suits talking about zoning laws and the impact of the minimum wage. So, when I showed up for a 7:00 a.m. breakfast meeting, I was somewhat skeptical as to how much benefit I would get from it. What I found, however, dispelled my preconception.
There was to be no loitering self-consciously by the coffee urn until it was time to leave. The woman at the check-in desk immediately introduced me to a chamber member who took me under her wing. I imagined we would choose a table and chat with whomever happened to be sitting there. But it quickly became clear that the networking wasn’t going to be casual.
Each table had a designated host, who immediately kicked off a round-table introduction. Everyone had a minute to explain the nature of their enterprise and share business cards. Then, before I had a chance to take my first spoonful of oatmeal, everyone was invited to the front of the room in quick succession to deliver a 20-second pitch.
While I was figuring out how best to my pitch my business, Ideal Type LLC, I gleaned that the membership of the Chamber consisted of freelancers, start-ups, small businesses, nonprofits, and corporations: all potential clients. I don’t recall exactly what I said during my brief stint at the podium (public speaking is not my forte), but the terrifying experience taught me a valuable lesson: have an elevator pitch ready for your freelance business, because you never know when and where you’ll need to give it.
Having heard everyone’s pitches, attendees were invited to announce with whom they wanted to connect before they left the event and why. I was bold enough to stand and identify two people. The first was from a nonprofit, and, when I spoke with him afterwards, he was excited to learn about the Embark Editorial Agency’s pro bono service. However, I struck the mother lode with the second contact I made that morning.
As luck would have it, the sponsor of that meeting was a publishing company that specializes in producing business books, and the people I talked to were interested in my freelance services. Bingo!
Luck & Persistence
I dutifully followed up with both contacts that same week. Nothing came of my conversation with the nonprofit, but within the week I had an informal interview with two employees from the publishing company. It went well, and I was promised work.
Was it really that easy? Sadly, not: there was no copyediting work for me at that time. But over the next few months, I kept in contact with occasional emails. Just when I was losing hope, I received an email from the company asking if I was interested in ghostwriting. I can’t say I jumped at the chance, because I honestly had no idea what ghosting involved. But I was curious and open-minded.
Ghostwriting comes in various forms; read this article by Andrew Crofts for some additional insight into the subject. But, as it turned out, ghosting for that particular publisher is what I would define as heavy copyediting (if you’ve taken the last in the UCBX sequence, you’ll know what I mean by that). The job is not to write new material. Rather, the ghost works with existing transcripts of spoken presentations to better organize the information, add transitions and headers, eliminate redundancy, recast sentences when necessary, and generally ensure the text is correct, concise, consistent, and cohesive. I produced a sample chapter for the publisher, had a follow-up phone interview, and boom! I’m a ghost!
The Take Away
The key lesson here is to get involved in your local business community somehow. People favor doing business with people they’ve met, and more so with people who are members of the same club (think of a Chamber of Commerce as Freemasonry without the funny aprons). The Pasadena Chamber of Commerce has meetings that are open to nonmembers, so check out the schedule of your local chapter. There may be other professional groups, too; check out Meetup.com for what’s happening in your area. I also recommend that you join the Freelancers Union and attend its local networking events (joining is free and so are many events). But whatever you do, be ready with professional business cards, a professional website, an irresistible pitch, and an open mind.