Welcome to an update with the lovely Sophie Playle from Liminal Pages, a fellow editor who has carved out a niche business in an interesting area of fiction and is also constantly invigorating her business with new ideas and directions. We first met Sophie in December 2013, at which point she’d only been going for eight months, and the relative youth of her business is certainly reflected in her energy and her seeking for new avenues – I found things settled down for me very much after about four years. Sophie’s January 2015 update saw her with big plans: “Ah, the million dollar question. (Hmm, with a million dollars – or pounds – in the bank wouldn’t be a bad start.) But seriously. I have big plans for 2015. Unfortunately, the #VATMOSS mess has put a major spanner in the works. I’d hoped to branch out into offering products and courses for writers, and I still plan to do this, but I’m going to wait and let the dust settle on this #VATMESS thing for the time being, then figure out my next move from there. I may also set up a separate copywriting side-business. In short, though, I want to make sure I have enough diversity to keep me motivated, and I’m determined to reach a certain income goal, too. (Probably not a million dollars.)” Did she achieve those goals? Let’s find out. Oh, and I love Sophie’s bonus question – are you brave enough to answer it?
Hello again, Sophie! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
I didn’t reach my income goal, though I still earned more than I had the previous year, despite also facing the difficulties of running my business on the road while I travelled through Europe for nine months (read about Sophie’s adventures in this post on her blog).
And though I launched an online course, it took a lot more time and effort than I had anticipated and didn’t yield the big results I’d hoped for! I learned a few valuable lessons through that venture, though – mostly the value of patience and realistic expectations.
A year ago, I’d also been toying with the idea of creating a separate copywriting business, but I decided against that in the end. Dividing my attention didn’t seem like a sensible option, and it wasn’t really wanted I wanted to do.
However, I still feel I made big leaps forward in my business last year – just ones I perhaps didn’t foresee a year ago!
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
I’ve had a BIG change this year in that I completely rebranded and renamed my business! I went from Playle Editorial Services to Liminal Pages.
I’m much happier with the new brand and feel it reflects both my niche of speculative fiction and my personality a bit more.
The services I offer – editing and manuscript critique – have stayed the same, but I now also offer a novel-writing course called Conquer Your Novel, which I’m planning to run again in the autumn. It’s an 8-week course with weekly feedback designed to help self-taught writers understand the theory behind writing a good novel and finish their books to a high standard.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
I’ve learned that if you want to offer online courses, you need to nurture a very different client base.
When you offer a service that requires a lot of time – such as editing a manuscript – you only need a single client to fill up several weeks’ of work. But when you run a course, your marketing efforts need to reach a lot more people, which is one reason I’m focusing more on developing my newsletter list.
But the biggest lesson I’ve learned this year is that it’s really not helpful – in fact, it can be psychologically detrimental – to surround myself with advice from a hundred different business advice gurus. It’s overwhelming. And no piece of advice will work for everyone.
Our businesses, our personalities and our needs are all different. It’s much more useful to listen to your instincts.
Any more hints and tips for people?
Look after yourself. Running a small business is hard, emotional work. Your health is the foundation of your success, so it’s worth being kind to yourself.
BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?
I’d like to know what one thing they’ve done that has had the biggest impact on their everyday workday – whether it’s a strategy they employ or a piece of software they use. Those things always interest me.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
I’ve decided that I’d like to expand the Liminal Pages team.
Ideally, I’d love to work with a few excellent editors who share a similar work ethic. And while others take on more of the editorial work, I’ll be able to fully immerse myself in marketing and growing my business while also developing and running more courses.
For the first time ever, I feel very clear about the direction I want to take my business. Knowing me, though, this time next year I’ll have done something completely different!
I love Sophie’s top tip and I’m also excited by her bonus question – I’m going to be answering that myself in a comment, because we can always learn and refine what we do, even if we’ve been going for ages. It’s interesting to see that Sophie’s reached that point at which you diversify, specialise and/or expand, and I’ll look forward to seeing how she gets on with working with some more editors. I resolved this issue myself by developing a group of people to recommend on to (including Sophie) and forging a relationship with someone who does the same mix of work as I do to provide holiday and emergency cover. I’ll be very interested to hear about this different approach. But maybe it’ll all be going in a different direction again this time next year!
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.