This is part one of a multi-article series helping editors understand, appreciate and embrace the value of their brand.
Let’s begin with a story.
You’re standing at that networking event you promised yourself you wouldn’t skip again. You’re already guilty of missing the last few events and God only knows you need to put yourself out there more. After covid imposed itself on us, your author-clients have understandably been reluctant to part with payment for your editing services. Not that editing has become any less important of a task. The skill to weave words into a coherent and flowing tapestry still form the foundation that authors use to build their books on. If only it was easier finding those authors in need of your help.
You gulp down a glass of free wine, judged guilty of being left too long out in the open. Steeling yourself, squaring your shoulders, you approach the nearest warm body. A cursory glance at a name badge identifying a potential lead.
This interaction with a stranger serves as an example of where your brand meets its audience.
It also however highlights where branding becomes entangled with feelings of discomfort.
An Introduction to Your Brand
Branding yourself is a process of thinking about how your potential customer sees you.
Before the awkward handshake happens, the protagonist of our short story might be well be wondering;
- How best to approach someone from the networking event.
- How to reply when prompted for the obligatory “What do you do?”
- How to identify if a new lead is actually an ideal match for their editing services.
We could take it a step further by asking what our editor might be wearing in anticipation of finding new business at the event. However, I’m hoping my point is obvious. They might see a confident, experienced editor with a busy work-schedule that could however (luckily) make space for them. Or maybe they see a fumbling, shy editor, clouded by nervous energy, leaving the author unsure of their value.
All of this from that simple interaction with a stranger at the event.
Where Does Our Story Start?
Branding yourself is the process of clarifying your value to your customer. It involves repeated and deliberate effort to stand apart from other editors who might share your customers. When last do you remember standing apart from a crowd being easy?
I want you dear editor to be ready, at the start of our branding journey, to accept and embrace a certain level of discomfort.This is completely normal.
Will I ask you to waltz across flaming coals whilst Tony Robbins hums from my tape deck? Probably not. However, building your branding starts with a foundation of awkward-seeming questions. I need you to hold onto this, as our (re) branding journey begins.
Basic Branding Questions
Here are examples of questions whilst seemingly simple from the outside, carry a deeper meaning than most freelancers and small business realise.
- What is it that you actually do? (Avoid the temptation of stating the obvious here.)
- Why should your customers care?
- What makes your editing services different?
Does my asking you to justify your value cause you discomfort? Indignation perhaps? I want you to focus on your knee-jerk response whilst I push you for clarity. What do you feel? Why do you think you may feel that?
An Assumption of Value
A better brand means nothing to a disappointed customer. The assumption throughout our time together is that you are providing value to your customers. Professional editing services at a fair cost.
If you are reading this whilst ignoring calls from unhappy customers, stop. Bookmark this article. Then do everything possible to deliver on your promises.
Branding Is Not Selling
No. I’m not asking you to oil up and transform into a slick sales machine. Put those Amway boxes away. Branding is not the same thing as selling. Nor does it need to feel sleezy. Branding refers more to choices made before a customer is even found. A strong and clear brand does however directly benefit how successfully you may sell. Think of it like a Red Bull for your sales process. (Or an espresso shot for the ☕ purists.)
I actually find that the more deliberate effort I put into my branding, the less I need to sell. Or rather, less desperately. A clear and authentic brand can do much of the repetitive (sales-related) legwork for you. This is amazing for any of you who may also identify as an introvert.
Your authors are searching for you right now.
- Which of your profiles results appear on the first page of Google search results.
- Do the platforms those results illuminate give the best reflection of your professional editing services?
This is routinely the reply when faced with uncomfortable branding questions. However, I promise you, that unless we acknowledge the elephant in the room (self-promotion is tough) you’ll never be able to properly build your business or your brand. Shy away from the awkward topics such as your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) aka what makes you special, and I can promise you one thing. Mediocrity.
Editors unwilling to embrace the initial awkwardness of branding, or it’s slick cousin, sales, when a new lead asks for understandable reassurance before their purchasing decision is made. Your services risk being overlooked in favour of the editor who is better prepared with an answer.
But I Don’t Care About Branding
Often this comes from an editor who is lucky enough to be able to rely on word-of-mouth for new business. If you feel confident enough relying on new business finding you, congratulations. You’re in a very fortunate position. Hopefully the bountiful blessing of business never dries up.
Remember, deliberately branding your editing expertise and services doesn’t just mean the possibility of more work. It also means a better quality of work. Said differently, less time spent doing work you dislike. That said, everything I’ll write about when it comes to branding is based on my experience. Naturally, it may not be for you. In which case, I do thank you for visiting my text for our short time together.
For those still curious. For those who understand the associated risk and ephemeral nature of “word-of-mouth”. For those of you enjoying our time together, let’s move on.
Fantasizing For the Future
I can’t think of a more unhappy face as that of an editor, hungry for work, when asked to imagine and describe where they want to be professionally in the next 12 months. A tough economy and lack of electricity to brew our morning cup ☕ really has a way of robbing us of our imagination. Don’t let current struggle stop you from imagining what your ideal workday could be.
When deliberately defining your brand, I want you focus on where you want to be. Not where you currently are.
This forward-thinking “refresh” to your situation applies to how you introduce yourself to others. It applies to the wording on all of your online profiles. It applies to your dusty website. I even want you to own a coffee mug proudly labelled, “Kick-ass Editor”. You and your brand are professional. Others need to see this.
Editing Business vs Freelancer Editor
At the core of a successful brand is the ability to separate yourself from the services you provide. Much the same way an editor tries to help an author separate themselves from the product (the book) and view it more objectively. Similarly, an editor often sees more, once they start thinking of themselves as an essential part of an editing business.
A critique of your branding may feel like a personal attack exactly because the editor’s emotions are entwined too closely within their professional services. Taking a step back from your word-magic, and instead swapping the “editor” cap with a “business” cap means that feedback may feel less personal and perhaps the benefits, more obvious.
Branding is Not a Destination
There is no simple wand waved that promises a successful visit from the Branding Fairy. A (more) successful brand is rather the reward for those patiently exploring the answers birthed from awkward-sounding questions. These questions should take time to answer. Heck, some of them will make you squirm. That’s ok. Nothing of value comes easily.
Once you’ve started asking awkward questions. What then? Where does the wisdom gained from these insights then find its home? Anywhere your potential customers might be.
For those of you starting to get excited, we’ll take a deeper dive into the different online platforms, ideal to showcase your editing skills, a little later on in this series of articles.
A Better Ending to Our Story
A suggested alternative ending to our protagonist’s earlier networking event.
You’re standing at that networking event you promised yourself you wouldn’t skip. The last few events ended up surprising you with the unexpected value unlocked. The introvert in you starts to panic.
You sneak a glance at your crumpled crib note, already starting to fade from overuse.
Prepared questions? Check.
Shorter, practised replies? Check.
You square your shoulders, easing your way forward to introduce yourself with an extended hand. Thank God your updated website has all these things written down, just in case!
Ready for our challenge?
I want you to play the part of the protagonist from our story. Prepare a 30 second “elevator” pitch for the new lead you have just met at the business networking event.
The pitch should be professional, clearly explaining why you think you two should absolutely be working together. Feel free to incorporate any mentions of your personal and professional achievements in a way that feels authentic.
Bonus points will be awarded to those of you who capture your elevator pitch as a video.
Will this rehearsed pitch feel strange at first? Depending on your level of comfort with self-promotion, absolutely. I still have a natural shyness when it comes to promoting our book publishing services in person. I have however, learned over time to love and embrace how our brand makes our customers feel.
For those of you who might need a sounding board, I would gladly read and respond to as many of your pitches as possible. Leave your details in the comment section down below if that sounds like you.
Coming Up Next?
In the upcoming 2nd article in this series, we’ll help you define your ideal customer. We’ll also continue the process of clarifying your value to clients.
See you there 😊