By Carl Rosenberg
On Saturday, January 28, Editors BC will present Heidi Turner, who will give two related half-day seminars for editors and writers. The two seminars, Business Planning Your Way to Success and Finding and Managing Good Clients, will offer practical advice and tools for freelancing from two different angles: using a business plan, and building and maintaining a client base.
Heidi is a freelance writer and editor with over 10 years’ experience. She has given courses as part of SFU’s editing program and regularly presents workshops and one-day courses for people in the writing industry. She has served as the BC regional director for the Professional Writers Association of Canada and founded its Fraser Valley chapter.
Carl Rosenberg, a volunteer on Editors BC’s communications and social media committee, spoke to Heidi about her advice for editors and writers on business planning and finding and managing good clients.
Hello, Heidi! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with our readers. Please tell us what led you to your career in writing and editing.
Hi Carl! Thanks for inviting me to do this. I was in my mid-20s and unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. I had taken the LSATs and was starting to apply for law school, but it didn’t feel right. Then I saw an ad for the Douglas College Print Futures writing program and it clicked for me. I went to the information session, was accepted to the program, and discovered during my time in the program that I wanted to work as a freelancer.
Why is it important for freelancers to have a business plan? Are there different considerations for writers and editors?
I think it’s really important for writers and editors to make decisions about their career from an informed and empowered place. Too often, especially at the beginning of their career, freelancers take whatever comes their way with no thought to an overall plan. They make decisions based on fear—of not paying the bills, of not finding other clients—all of which are valid but can stop them from moving forward with their business (for example, never increasing their rates). Having a business plan isn’t just about having a plan for the future—though that’s a big part of it. It’s also about sitting down and asking yourself why you have a business, what you want from your business, and how you can get there. When you have answers to those questions, you get a better sense of which jobs or contracts would be good to take and which might hold you back. Then you can make informed business decisions.
There are some different considerations for writers and editors, but overall I think it’s good for both groups to think about what they want their business to be, rather than making decisions as they come and leaving things to chance.
In your seminar outline, you mention creating a business vision. Tell us about your own vision.
I’m actually in the process of revising my business vision—I do this regularly. It’s difficult to go into in a short answer, but my business vision looks at the type of work I do (freelance writing, editing, and instructing) the types of clients I work with (legal, medical, and technology), and what my short- and long-term goals are.
Your second seminar deals with finding and managing good clients. How does this fit into an overall business plan?
Your business plan should include a consideration of who your ideal clients are and how they treat you. This information will also tell you where to find these clients, which makes marketing yourself easier. It also helps you determine when some clients just aren’t worth the headache so you can cut those clients loose.
Activities you undertake to manage clients help with other parts of your business, such as cash flow. For example, requiring a deposit be paid up front shows good clients you’re professional, weeds out bad clients (if they won’t pay the deposit, they’re likely to be problematic in the long run), protects you in case the client decides not to pay at the end of the contract (and we’ve all had clients like this), and helps provide stable cash flow over time, rather than going for months without pay and then getting a ton of money all at once.
On a more casual note, what are a few of your favourite books or publications, business related or otherwise?
For business, I always recommend people look into Paul Lima’s books on freelance writing, including Everything you wanted to know about freelance writing, and Cameron Foote’s book The business side of creativity. For fun, I love reading mysteries.
Heidi, thank you very much for sharing your expertise and insights! We’re looking forward to your seminars on January 28.
Carl Rosenberg edited “Outlook: Canada’s Progressive Jewish Magazine” from 1998 to 2016. He has a diploma in Latin American studies from Vancouver Community College and a bachelor of arts in Spanish language and literature from UBC. He has recently begun volunteering with the communications and social media and committee of Editors BC.
Photo provided by Heidi Turner.