Welcome to another interesting Small Business Chat update, this time with Harry Bingham from The Writers’ Workshop. Harry’s original interview was published in April last, year, and when asked where he wanted to be in a year’s time, Harry replied, “Overall, it feels like we have a good, coherent package of services. I think we’ll focus now on expanding our reach and less on adding new services. The real trick will be to go on developing our web presence: something that just takes huge amounts of patience and work.” So – did this happen? Let’s find out …
Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
Hmm, well you me reminded that I’d said, “I think we’ll focus now on expanding our reach and less on adding new services”. Shows how much I know, huh? It’s true we have put some time and effort into boosting our web presence … but we also decided it would be fun to revolutionise the way that writers searched for literary agents in the UK. So we built Agent Hunter, a site that holds details on every literary agent in Britain, and provides data that is richer and more searchable than anything which has gone before. We’ve only just launched it and still have a LOT of work to do, but early indications are wonderfully promising.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
The biggest change is the launch of Agent Hunter. What stays the same is the need to keep on looking at how we attract clients. Viewing ourselves through their eyes – and doing all we can to deliver amazing editing services to make sure that every manuscript leaves our hands better than it arrived. And our clients, of course, always want to be hooked up with literary agents, so we’ve done more and more to deepen our connections with that community.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
The big thing would be that when it comes to these big database projects (like Agent Hunter) you can’t do too much thinking and specification in advance. I can easily see why major government IT projects go over budget. We did OK, but we were learning fast on the job.
Any more hints and tips for people?
Yes! Have fun. Be open to the new. This time a year ago, we were fully open to working hard on our editorial services and writing courses … and leaving it at that. But (when walking back from the pub one day) it occurred to us that we could create something like Agent Hunter and we just thought, why not? A few phone calls later and we were committed.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
The centre of our business will always be our manuscript editing services. That’s not just the biggest revenue earner for us, it’s also the company’s spiritual core. But if we see great things we can add on to what we already do, I think we’ll go for it. At the moment, I don’t see anything like that on the horizon, but we’ll never say no to a good idea.
So, a bit of a surprise new addition to the business there, that certainly wasn’t in the air a year ago – but it all sounds very exciting and we wish the new Agent Hunter initiative lots of success in the coming year. I wonder what Harry will have come up with by this time next year … be sure to watch this space!
Update from Harry in May 2014: “I’ve stepped back from the business quite a lot: I now spend pretty much all my time on writing fiction. It’s been lovely doing these features with you, but I think it’s probably time to hang up my boots on this one. And the business is still running – going from strength to strength – just without me in charge of it!” We of course wish Harry and the business all the best for the future.
The Writers’ Workshop can be found online at www.writersworkshop.co.uk
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