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The middle years - Nick Jones

Posted on 29th June 2016

What are you doing now?

My main focus is still the bread-and-butter stuff – proofreading, editing and occasionally copywriting – but having gone limited in April 2013, I'm now outsourcing lots of work, which gives me more time with my kids and enables me to develop other projects. For example, when we last spoke I had recently taken over the niched directory site, Find a Proofreader, which has gone from strength to strength and now has over 200 advertisers, which is great! I bought a second directory last December, Freelancers in the UK, and it relaunched in April after a big redesign. The feedback has been positive and many new freelancers have joined up already, so I'm really pleased about that.

Do you think the industry has changed in the last few years and if so, how?

The big change I've noticed has been the self-publishing phenomenon. This Amazon-led revolution of indie authors has changed the landscape of publishing dramatically, and in many ways this is exciting and positive, I think. Many books that would never have seen the light of day before are now readily available thanks to self-publishing, and this in turn means more business for freelance editors and proofreaders. Unfortunately, however, many self-publishing authors undervalue the importance of professional editors and proofreaders and instead just get a friend to check it or get fans to spot errors for them during the 'beta read' stage. Such corner-cutting choices are never going to lead to optimum results, and sadly there are many terrible self-published books out there, but there are also many fantastic indie authors who do invest properly in the editing stage, and on balance I think self-publishing is a good thing for the industry.

Has your approach to your work changed?

Not really, although I did purchase a garden office in 2014! This has helped me to separate home life and work life more effectively. Not completely, of course, because the office is only a few yards from the house (talk about a short commute), but I'm far less inclined to work in the evenings now, especially in winter, because psychologically it's too much hassle. It has therefore forced me to be more disciplined when I am at my desk. I would wholeheartedly recommend a garden office to any freelancer who has the space for one. You won't regret it!

What CPD have you done, if any, to stay up to date?

I received some excellent social media training from Nick Lewis at nicklewiscommunications.com last year. Highly recommended.

What do you think has been important in helping you maintain/build your business?

From a marketing point of view, word of mouth, online reviews, SEO and AdWords are the big factors that have helped me build my business over the years. From a practical point of view, having excellent subcontractors is invaluable. If you ever decide to take the plunge and start outsourcing work, be very selective with your freelancers because it's your reputation that's on the line!

Do you have any advice for people who have been in the industry a while who might be feeling flat/stagnating?

Try your hand at something else. If you feel unfulfilled or bored in your editorial career, then perhaps it's time to add a new string to your bow or take a new direction altogether. The internet has made it so much easier for freelancers to diversify. In 2014, I decided to write a joke book. I'm not a comedian and have no desire to become one, but I've always loved puns and after reading The Biggest Ever Tim Vine Joke Book, I felt that it was something I wanted to try. It was never meant to be a new direction exactly, just a creative outlet. Fortunately, I soon discovered that writing jokes is like any other skill – the more you practise it, the better you get (although my wife would probably disagree in my case!). Within six months I'd written enough jokes for a book, which I self-published through Amazon. I then wrote another one last year, and I'm close to finishing the third. It's never going to make me rich, but I do make some money from it and, more importantly, it has stopped me from stagnating!

Do you have any specific plans for where you see yourself/your business going in future?

I would love to just keep doing what I'm doing now, which is spend most of my time proofreading and running my two directories while continuing to scratch my creative itch by writing books in my spare time. I'm writing a couple of children's books at the moment and may do a children's joke book at some point, too.

Do you have any regrets about how the last X years of your business have gone?

I don't have any regrets as such, but I have made mistakes during my 11 years. For example, my proofreading site, Full Proof, used to have high Google rankings for most major keywords relating to proofreading, but in 2013 Google updated their search algorithm and my rankings tanked. This was presumably because I had gained lots of backlinks from low-quality or irrelevant sites over the years – a tactic that was encouraged back in the day when I was starting out. Google's update, dubbed Penguin, affected thousands of businesses like mine, and it was genuinely scary at the time because I assumed I'd just stop getting enquiries overnight. But while there was a definite drop in business in the short term, it turned out to be a positive development as it forced me to stop relying on high Google positions and start using other marketing methods such as Google AdWords and networking, plus it was the main motivation behind my purchase of Find a Proofreader which has proven to be a worthwhile investment. I suppose I could regret the five years I spent in the wilderness (a sales career that I fell into after graduating from university) before I 'found myself' and became a proofreader. If I'd just pursued proofreading straight after university, I could have avoided those miserable years of dreading going into work every day. But the truth is that if I hadn't hated sales with such a passion, I wouldn't have taken the drastic plunge into proofreading when I did, and while I didn't know it at the time, the numerous sales jobs I endured did teach me a thing or two about marketing, so perhaps it gave me a competitive edge that I would have lacked otherwise.

Kate's views on the past three years in the proofreading/copy-editing industry.

Louise's views on the past three years in the proofreading/copy-editing industry.

Richard's views on the past three years in the proofreading/copy-editing industry.

Nick's views on the past three years in the proofreading/copy-editing industry.

Charlie's views on the past three years in the proofreading/copy-editing industry.

Written by Kate Haigh.