Welcome to Saturday Business/Freelancer Chat. And it’s with … well, me! I realised that I should have interviewed myself, plus this will be published on Christmas Eve and it didn’t seem fair to give anyone else a slot when not many people were looking at the internet; this way there will be 50 interviewees, plus me, plus a rest on New Year’s Eve! I run a company called Libro through which I do proofreading, copyediting, writing, transcriptions and localisation for companies and individuals around the world. I have some great regular customers and then do one-off jobs for people too. I’ve launched my business the way that felt comfortable to me as I went along – a “soft launch” which involved me still being supported financially while building the business. Now it’s a whole new chapter for Libro, which is very exciting!
So, I’ve been running Libro for a couple of years now, I went full-time with the business recently, and I’m enjoying that (and writing a blog about it). Here are my answers to my own questions …
What is your business called? When did you set it up?
My business is called Libro. I set it up in August 2009 when a colleague at the library where I worked at the time mentioned he had some students who needed help with dissertation proofreading. It’s blossomed from there!
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I had done writing and editing work in a lot of my previous job roles, and done (unpaid) proofreading and editing for novels and journals in the past. When I discovered a need for my services, and close at hand, I decided to go for it and register my business with the Inland Revenue, etc.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
I knew I was good at the work and could provide a good service. As I’ve gone along, I’ve added more services to my portfolio, mainly in response to demand, but knowing they were skills I could cover. I started off working with students, as I used to type up dissertations for people back in my own student days, and I had access to the client base via colleagues, many of whom were post-graduate students who could put up posters for me in their departments or recommend me to their friends.
Had you run your own business before?
No! And anyone who knew me before I launched would be very surprised – I am an unlikely entrepreneur! Just because I’ve always been in the background, doing admin, setting up systems and helping people, rather than being out at the front promoting myself! I have done a lot of different jobs in several different companies, and those have come in handy.
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?
I worked full-time at my library job from when I launched in August 2009. I went to 4 days a week at the library in January 2011, 3 days a week in May, and officially leave the library completely at the end of December 2011, although holiday owed to me and university general holidays mean that I’ve actually been full-time since December 12.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
That I could do it, and that I should have faith in myself.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
Go part-time – or more part-time, earlier! Enjoy the process and start a blog!
What do you wish you’d done differently?
I do wish that I’d taken the opportunity to go more part-time earlier. I could have dropped two days at the library from January 2011 but I lost my nerve at the last moment. I then had a very hectic time of it as Libro expanded to fill the space!
What are you glad you did?
Went on the HMRC “becoming self-employed” course. Started my blog – hits on my website increased hugely when I started blogging, and I really enjoy it, too! I listed Libro on a few free ads sites and joined a professional translators’ website which has brought in lots of jobs and a great return on investment. I’m also glad I’ve done it, full stop: I’m really quite proud of what I’ve achieved!
What’s your top business tip?
Trust your gut instinct. Put good systems in place including strong terms and conditions. Treat every mistake and mishap as a learning experience – you’ll get a blog post out of it, at least! And give something back, too. Sharing advice and doing bits and pieces for people I’ve met at the Entrepreneur Meetup and helping out at the Social Media Surgery has helped me stay true to who I am. Oh – and be honest – with your clients, setting expectations – and with your peers. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and seek support from those you can trust.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
I’ve grown and diversified as I went along. I started off proofreading student dissertations, then was asked to write something; well, I’ve written plenty of procedures and newsletters so went for that. Transcription – well, it’s just audio typing! And being on the translators’ site has brought me localisation work where I can bring my experience working for a US company to bear on helping “translate” text from US to UK English. I’ve basically done anything to do with words, even copy typing. I think it’s important to have a range of services to offer. And I have clients all over the UK and in America, Canada, across Europe, India and China!
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
Well, I’ll have been full-time with Libro for a year. Hopefully I’ll be earning enough to support myself, I’ll have taken a holiday or two, and have a good solid roster of regular clients to keep me going.
Exciting times, then, for me, and a good, if different, year ahead! Where was I in a year’s time? Here!