Welcome to Saturday Business chat. It’s time for another new chat today, and we’re meeting Sally Evans-Darby from Write Sense Media, a very new business, which has only been going for a few months. Sally’s had some very nice things to say about this interview series: when asked if it’s OK to contact her in a year for a catch up, she said, “Absolutely – and thanks so much for this one! Great way to encourage people to reflect on their own businesses, but more importantly, to build up an information database of lots of different people’s experiences. It’s always so useful to read about others’ experiences in something you are thinking of trying out” – which is great for me to hear.
I do meet people who read all of these interviews and find them useful – if you’re one of them, do post to let me know! In the meantime, let’s find out what Sally has learned so far …
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
Write Sense Media – launched in February 2012. The name was a suggestion from my other half and it just stuck. Write Sense Media offers proofreading, editing and writing services.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I’ve worked both in-house and freelance as a proofreader and writer, but mostly in-house (read: full-time, 9-5 day job with ‘living for the weekend’ mentality and everything else that lifestyle comes with!). I had thought about being purely freelance before but just didn’t think I would be able to sustain it as a living. Then came a brainwave in the early part of this year where I realised that working freelance was exactly what I needed to be doing. Looking at my life and my career as a whole, I just couldn’t see myself always working in an office for an employer. There would have to come a time where I did the work I love (i.e. editing, proofing, writing) but for myself and with my own values/strategy rather than the views of my employer. So I thought, why not now? Life is short; I decided to just go for it.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
I’ve always been into words, whether that’s word-play, crosswords, finding out new words, learning about language. Plus, I’ve always been a mean speller! In primary school I remember the class being asked to look at what the difference was between an old map listing a village as ‘Bishop’s Lydeard’ and a new one as ‘Bishops Lydeard’. I was the only one who noticed the missing apostrophe in the new version. I guess you could say I’ve always had a knack for looking at words, the way they’re presented, and picking them apart.
I love words. As a lot of logophiles will say, I’m terrible with numbers – figures don’t make sense to my brain, but letters do.
I should mention too that I hadn’t realised until this year that there was a genuine career path budding editors/proofreaders can take. The internet is a wonderful resource in this respect. Browsing other proofreaders’ websites, including yours, Liz, made me realise there was a whole world out there of people who read, edit and write for a living – and I wanted to be part of it.
Had you run your own business before?
No – the idea of ‘running my own business’ has always been something I’m slightly sceptical about. I don’t see myself as the particularly entrepreneurial type and I worried about practical things like sustaining this in the long-term. But making the leap and deciding to have my own business was completely the right thing for me. I just had to realise that.
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 still had a full-time job when I started up Write Sense Media, because I knew it was going to take time to build things up: create and add content to a website, start a blog, start networking, start making contacts with clients. I see my business as a huge round object that started off stationary, and which took a lot of effort and work to get rolling. Once it was rolling, however, its own momentum keeps it rolling. It’s just that initial struggle into being that every business must go through that means you have to keep a job at first, unless you’ve had the foresight to build up a nest egg beforehand.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
That it would take some time but I just had to hang in there and things would work out.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
To devote every spare hour I could to Write Sense Media. That I was on the right track and I just had to keep going.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
I wish I’d been able to devote more time to it and of course it would have been a luxury to not have to work full time at the same time.
What are you glad you did?
I’m glad I made my website one of my top priorities, and that I went to my brother, Scott Darby (http://scottdarby.com/), for his invaluable help with this. I’m not the most technical person, so him helping me with this was essential! I’m proud of the result and feel it represents me and my business well, so I’m glad I took the time to make this happen.
What’s your top business tip?
Be yourself. Don’t try to be someone you’re not – whether you’re using your ‘voice’ on the internet, phone, in person, always just be yourself. People respond to people who are human. Also never act desperate, even if you are!
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
So far, in the short time since I started Write Sense Media, my overall ‘vision’ has pretty much stayed the same. I expect things to change though in the future and am open to change. I’m ready to roll with the punches, and keep my business current and alive.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
I truly hope to see my business flourishing and for me to feel much more in control of my life! I hope to have a diverse client base and to have built up lots of long-lasting relationships. I hope to have been to a few SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) events and to have met other people working in the same field.
I do like “never act desperate, even if you are!” and I’m glad to have been something of an inspiration. It can indeed be frustrating starting up part time and not having all the time you want to devote to your new business, but it’s also a safer way to do it for those of us who are maybe not the traditional type of entrepreneur. Good luck, Sally, and I’ll look forward to seeing how you’re getting on in a year’s time!
Oh, and for anyone who is curious about why I feature people you could see as competitors in this series; I’d rather see them as colleagues! And it’s worth remembering that much of the interest I get in my own blogs and website is generated by so-called competitors, something I talked about a few weeks ago.
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more freelancer chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.