If you don’t yet have an online presence, in the form of even a simple website, then it’s time to consider setting one up. It needn’t be anything complicated, but potential clients are increasingly looking to the web to find editors and proofreaders, even if it’s just to confirm that you look like a real person they can trust!
Here are my top tips for planning a simple business website.
1) Do it yourself if possible – you can learn skills that are helpful for your editing …
… such as basic html and good copywriting. If you’re not a techie whizz, use one of the easy free website builders such as WordPress, or a hosted service such as Weebly or Wix (why are they all ‘Ws’?). With the last two you don’t need to worry about all the back-end admin or backing up your site or the software as it’s all done for you. The downside is that it’s more difficult to move your site if you later decide to use a different service.
2) Register your own domain name
It doesn’t cost much to register a domain name (under £10 per year), so get your own. You can use it with hosted services such as Weebly too, and your web address will look more professional than the free option (such as www.[name].weebly.com).
3) Picture yourself!
Add a photo of yourself. It will help potential customers ‘connect’ with you and you will seem more approachable. But make sure it’s a good photo, and nothing too quirky! It’s OK to reflect your personality, but you still need to look professional. Would you do business with the person in the photo?
4) Keep a consistent look
If you have information about your business in various places online – your website, social media profiles such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, or directories such as FreeIndex – then try to keep the look consistent. Use the same photograph and page header and similar descriptions. It will make it easy for people to recognise you, so getting you noticed more.
5) Keep it simple
Remember that (potential) clients just want the facts or a quick answer to whether you can do a particular job for them, so make it easy for people to quickly suss you out. Don’t be too wordy, and provide clear links to different information about you and your business.
6) Use plain English to explain what you do
While you may call what you do copy-editing, proofreading, structural editing, applied linguistics, or whatever, most people won’t know what that means. You can (and should) use those terms somewhere on your site, but also try to explain your services in plain English.
7) Blow your own trumpet (nicely!)
You need to quickly stand out from the crowd these days as you are now competing in a global marketplace. Don’t be shy about pinpointing how you can make a difference to clients. Be creative about how you sell your skills, experience and knowledge. Put up some testimonials from happy clients too. An easy way to do this is to ask for a client’s permission to use something nice or positive they’ve said in an email to you.
8) Make it mobile
Nowadays you must make a website that is mobile-friendly if you want to rank highly with search engines such as Google. If you use the free tools mentioned above then you don’t need to think about this as it will magically be done for you.
9) Don’t pay for SEO
Don’t be lured in by offers of expensive SEO (search engine optimisation) services that guarantee to get your site to the top of the search results. Once you know the ‘rules’, SEO is just common sense. The most important rule is write good copy. Think about the phrases people will use to search for you and incorporate them into your text, but it must sound natural, and definitely don’t ‘keyword stuff’ the pages (or you will be penalised by Mr Google!). Make sure you complete all the ‘behind-the-page’ meta stuff – good page titles, alternative text on your images, page descriptions, etc. The site-builder tools usually have ways to do this built in. (One of the best ways to learn SEO is to use the Yoast plugin in WordPress.)
10) Have it proofread!
Be your own best friend and have someone else proofread your website. You know it’s not going to look good if your site has glaring typos! Maybe offer a site-proofing swap with another member of your local SfEP group?
The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) is a professional organisation based in the UK for editors and proofreaders – the people who make text accurate and clear. Formed in November 1988, the SfEP has more than 2,000 members who provide editorial services to publishers and a wide range of other organisations and individuals. The SfEP promotes high editorial standards and works to uphold the professional status of editors and proofreaders. Its Directory of Editorial Services provides contact information for experienced SfEP members, including details of the skills, subjects and services they offer.