Tag Archives: website

Flying solo: Focusing your website on your ideal client

In this Flying Solo column, Sue Littleford gets deep into the business of editing text for your website.

When it comes to the content of your website, there are four stages: the initial content creation of the text, editing it down to do the job efficiently, making it accessible and keeping your content fresh. Let’s take those in turn. (I’m not going to talk about using images in this article – but keep ’em relevant, keep ’em in small file sizes for faster page loading, use alt text for accessibility and be aware of copyright issues.)

Creating the initial content

To paraphrase Malini Devadas, of the recently (and, I hope, temporarily) mothballed Edit Boost, marketing boils down to (1) understanding what you do and (2) who you do it for, then (3) telling them about it.

Your website (alongside the CIEP Directory, for Professional and Advanced Professional Members), is the easiest place to demonstrate the first two, and do the third.

It’s clear that people don’t give your website much time to make a good first impression. I learned at the 2022 CIEP conference that websites have 50 milliseconds in which to do it.

Your content should therefore be attractive and engaging (how I hate that word ‘compelling’ in this context!), be easy to access in terms of language, layout and colours, and focus on the potential client.

So here’s the biggest piece of advice today: create an avatar of your ideal client, then write for them, specifically.

How can you help them? What problems do you solve? Why should they hire you?

It’s always about them, not about you. That should steer your writing.

Think not about what you offer, but about what your client needs.

Keywords are a big thing

These are the search terms that people use in browsers to find what they need. And as search engines have been developed to work with more natural language, so they now reward keywords that appear in natural writing, rather than being crammed in artificially.

Keywords come in three flavours, depending on their length. The shortest are short-tail keywords, and are a word or two long. Long-tail keywords are little phrases – five words or more in length. Medium-tail keywords fit snugly in between, at three or four words long. This flexibility means that using keywords of different lengths can still make the writing appear natural while getting good search engine optimisation – the SEO you hear bandied about.

Short-tail keywords are necessarily more generic: ‘proofreader’, ‘editing’ and so on. The longer the keyword, the more specific it becomes, which is why you need to know the keywords that people type into their search engines.

How do you find out the keywords people use?

There are a number of services available, some paid for, some not. If your website is live, Google’s Search Console will show you the keywords that people already use when finding your site.

Or you can simply search for your service in your browser (like most of the world, I use Google as my search engine, most of the time, anyway) and see what comes up at the bottom of the screen under the heading Related Searches or People Also Ask.

Google screenshot showing related searches

Google screenshot showing what people also ask

There you’ll see what people are typing into Google, which is what you want to incorporate into your content – somehow – so that you are found, too.

For instance, I’m a copyeditor. I don’t proofread – proofreading and I just do not get along. But I know that ‘proofreader’ is the catch-all term for what I do, and people outside the publishing industry will be searching for that, in all probability, or maybe for ‘editor’ far more than ‘copyeditor’. So, I lob ‘proofreader/​proofreading’ into my text whenever I can, even though I don’t offer that service. Google doesn’t read the negative!

Editing the content into shape

Once you’ve created your content (which you can, of course, tweak endlessly even after it’s live) you now need to make it look the part.

I buck the trend, as about 70% of my traffic is on computers, and only 30% on mobile devices (of the mobile devices, tablets barely get a look in. Most weeks, it’s just computers and phones). In most cases, those figures are reversed, I understand (I suspect it’s because I market to publishers and packagers, and people are searching during work hours at their desk; if you market to indie authors, I’d guess those figures flip over in favour of phones).

It’s therefore essential to think of how your content will look on a teensy-tiny phone screen, not just how it looks on your 33-inch monitor.

So that means subheadings (keyword magnets) for ease of navigation, short sentences and short paragraphs.

We editorial professionals do like our words. We use far too many of them (guilty as charged) so here’s a chance to practise your word-cutting on your own text.

Ask yourself what that ideal client of yours wants to know, and will be willing to read. It’s not necessarily what you want to say …

Aside from being visually accessible in terms of paragraph and sentence length, structured around those easy-to-navigate subheadings, you’ll want to make sure the language itself is also accessible. Take a look at a couple of ‘Flying solo’ articles on just this topic: Good communication is accessible and Conscious language and the business-conscious editor or proofreader for some guidance on this.

Then pare away at your text until every word earns its keep – but don’t be so concise that reading it is hard going.

When you’ve finished, your text should be doing a shining job of demonstrating your editorial skills (showing, as much as telling) and speak directly to your ideal client.

Shaping the edited content

When it comes to importing your text to your website, think about possible formatting issues, as you would with any text that is to be published.

Incorporate white space, avoid walls of text and make sure it is easy to find the bit you want. Choose an easy-to-read font, that’s big enough to read comfortably, even on a phone.

If you have things you want your reader to click on, have a button if you can, rather than an in-line link. On my site, the button to email me is pretty visible – different colour, big but not ridiculous.

Accessibility

In 2021 I completely renewed my website, including an entirely new colour palette. One of the hardest parts of the build was to make sure that there was sufficient contrast between text colour and background colour on links and buttons.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are supported by many websites offering to check a page and give instant feedback. My web guy and I spent a couple of hours going back and forth making sure we found colours that worked with the palette I’d chosen (I’d already had my logo redrawn – no going back! But the Coolors site helped us find compatible shades) and passed all the accessibility tests. I see that new colour contrast guidelines are on their way.

Keeping the content fresh

Search engines much prefer sites that don’t look neglected. That means periodically updating your text, whether that’s small tweaks, complete rewrites of a page, adding items to a resources page, posting a blog article regularly, adding new testimonials or adding whole new pages.

Throughout all your updates, do keep that avatar of your ideal client in mind.

But every now and again, as your business grows and you develop as an editor or proofreader, do ask yourself whether your ideal client has also changed. If so, work out a new avatar and then review all your content with that paragon at the forefront of your mind.

If you are getting more firmly established in a niche, you may want to trim your offer to reflect that, and stop targeting the type of client who is no longer a good fit for where you’re taking your business.

If you are adding services – maybe you’re a proofreader who now also copyedits, or now offers manuscript evaluation or developmental editing – then you have a new ideal client. Or one ideal client per service. Again, keep your text under review with that or those ideal clients front and centre of your thinking.


Buy a print copy or download the second edition of Going Solo: Creating your freelance editorial business from here.

About Sue Littleford

Sue Littleford is the author of the CIEP guide Going Solo, now in its second edition. She went solo with her own freelance copyediting business, Apt Words, in March 2007 and specialises in scholarly humanities and social sciences.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: header image by JESHOOTS.com, person on a computer by Andrea Piacquadio, both on Pexels, screenshots from Google.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Make your website earn its keep with just a few tweaks

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 2 to 4 November. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Phillip Scott reviewed Editor website foundations, presented by Louise Harnby.

Delegates at the 2019 SfEP conference.

When I was asked to review Louise Harnby’s conference session – Editor website foundations – the obvious preparatory step was to visit her site: louiseharnbyproofreader.com. After exploring the site’s every nook and cranny, which prompted a visit from the self-esteem monster, I was sorely tempted to resign my commission. (With only a single course under my belt, I am brand new to this world, and to the CIEP: baby-steps status.) The information team, however, quickly assuaged my self-doubt: ‘Just tell us what you thought of the session.’

Even for a newbie like me, the session could not have been more useful. Louise gave us Ten ways to make your website work harder for you, clearly laid out with the sections organised as follows:

  • What do you need to know?
  • What do you need to do?
  • An Effort and Outcome sidebar
  • Examples

The clarity of structure allowed us to concentrate on the practical content. Louise placed emphasis on keeping a beady eye on results: ‘Do this to keep the visitor engaged.’ ‘Is this feature about the potential client or is it about you?’ Primus inter pares: ‘Will this feature drive sales?’

Let’s consider the second section in a little detail: ‘Put testimonials everywhere.’ Who knew? Thinking back on websites near and far, whatever testimonials there may be are nearly always randomly tucked away somewhere, with little or no connection to products and services on offer. Not on Louise’s site. On her home page, there is a scannable (technical term for search engines can find it) encomium: ‘I’m a better writer because you edited my book’ … next to a sketch of the author’s book. Click on the Services tab and there are two more, boxed in for emphasis. On the Books tab, one finds a trio of testimonials from fans of three of her books, a few centimetres higher on the page, with front covers duly on display.

In good but challenging ways, Louise’s 50 minutes flew by and, given the amount of content in the session, the challenge to keep up was at times intense. If I may offer some advice to less-experienced editors, whether or not you already have a website: you would be unwise to address the demands of all ten steps at once.

My priorities will likely be … Step 1: Websites don’t rank (pages do)! Step 3: Make the page readable; Step 5: Tell visitors what to do; and Step 6: Mind your pronouns. The others are at least as important as these four, but I will need time to do the work which will generate testimonials, to create the valuable ‘useful stuff’ to offer free of charge in due course, and to learn the technical side of ‘meaningful metrics’. (First, I will have to learn the meaning of metrics.)

Once I have completed my next several hundred baby steps, I will turn my mind to creating a website of my own. It will not have the magisterial heft or functional virtuosity of the site of our illustrious colleague, but principles are principles, and I will apply what I’ve learned from Louise with alacrity and confidence.

Phillip Scott has enjoyed a wide-ranging career in music education and, once they emerge from lockdown in the spring, he will be pleased to pick up the reins of two of London’s youth orchestras, which he has conducted for the last few years. After basic training in copyediting and proofreading, he is looking forward to this new direction in his life.

 

10 tips for building a freelance business website

Build your online presenceIf 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?

Margaret Hunter

Posted by Margaret Hunter, SfEP marketing and PR director.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.

7 questions to consider when naming your editorial business

photo (2)One of the most important decisions you’ll make when starting any new venture is what you should call your new business. Here are seven questions that will help you come up with the perfect name for your editorial business.

1. Should I use my own name?

If you are already well established in your editorial career, it can be helpful to use your own name in your business as it will help potential clients find you, particularly if they have worked with you previously. However, this doesn’t work if you have a more common name. If your moniker is along the lines of John Smith, you may prefer your business name to be a little more original.

2. Should I include details of what I do?

It can be helpful to outline your services as part of your business name, but be careful not to box yourself in. While ‘X Proofreading’ may be a perfect description of your business offering today, next year, after you’ve expanded into copy-editing or developmental editing, you may find that the proofreading part of your business name restricts you.

3. Is my proposed business name easy to pronounce and spell?

Picture the scene: You’ve met a really promising contact and exchanged business cards; a week later your new contact wants to get in touch. Unfortunately, they’ve mislaid your contact details, but that’s not a problem because they remember your business name. A simple internet search should yield your phone number or email address. Except when they type in what they remember as the name of your business, they spell it differently. Or maybe they have seen your business name written down and they are recommending you to a colleague, but they pronounce the name of your business as they remember hearing it, not as it is actually spelt, so they can’t find you. You’ve lost out on potentially valuable business. So keep your business name simple and avoid homonyms or puns that could confuse potential clients when they try to find you. Moreover, slightly odd spellings could be seen as detrimental when you are trading as someone who specialises in catching typos.

4. What is my story?

If you decide not to use your own name, don’t just think about the services you offer, think about your story. Is there a particularly original path you took that brought you to this career? Could your business name hint at your story? An added bonus is that this will give you something to talk about when you first introduce your business to prospective clients.

5. Is geography important to me?

Perhaps you have a local landmark or heritage that you’d like to reference in your name. Or would you rather not tie yourself to a particular region? Remember to think about the future as well as the present. If you are likely to relocate, would this impact on your business if your name is linked to a particular locale?

6. Are there any other businesses already using my proposed name?

You’ve come up with the perfect name; it’s so original no one else could have come up with it — never assume this is the case. Always search on the internet first. Google your ideal name and see what comes up. Then check the common domain name providers to see if the address is available. And don’t forget to search across social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to see if other organisations or individuals are already using your proposed name. The last thing you want is to buy your web address and then discover that someone is already using your business name on Twitter, particularly if they are in a less salubrious line of business!

7. What do friends and family think of my name?

Test out your proposed business name on friends, family, colleagues, or even the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) forums. What does the name say to people? Is there anything about your business name they can spot that you didn’t notice? For example, do the initials spell out an unfortunate acronym?

Are there any hints or tips you would add to this list? How did you come up with your business name?

Joanna BoweryJoanna Bowery is the SfEP social media manager. As well as looking after the SfEP’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and the SfEP blog, she offers freelance marketing, PR, writing and proofreading services as Cosmic Frog. Jo is an entry-level member of the SfEP and a Chartered Marketer. She is active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Proofread by SfEP entry-level member Alex Matthews.

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the SfEP.