Welcome to an update with Sophie Playle from Liminal Pages, We first met Sophie in December 2013, at which point she’d only been going for eight months, Sophie updated us on how she was getting on in January 2015 and again in March 2016, where this was her plan: “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!” So, did she do what she hoped to do, or change her mind as she thought she’d do? Read on to find out …
Hello again, Sophie! So, the big question: Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
As I predicted in last year’s chat, I changed my mind about where I wanted to take my business – which was to build a team of editors so I could take on fewer projects myself. I don’t feel bad about this, though. Having the flexibility to change my mind is one of the best things about running my own business.
I thought long and hard about whether I really wanted to start building a team, and it was an idea I kept at the forefront of my mind while I attended the Society for Editors and Proofreaders’ conference in September – I chose sessions that were all about expanding and developing your business.
After the conference, I felt I better understood the logistics of managing an editorial team – but then I crunched the numbers. And I realised that I wasn’t currently getting the volume of enquiries I would need to make it work for me financially. I would need at least ten times the number of clients for my percentage to add up to a reasonable salary, and that just wasn’t going to happen. I was getting too ahead of myself.
Not only that, but I realised I relish the personal connection I make with my clients. If I were going to have editors representing my brand, they would need to provide the highest quality work and match my values. I’m not going to rush into this. I need to be patient and let this branch of my business grow organically.
Other than expanding my team, my other goal was to create and run more courses – and this is something I’ve achieved. Back when we last spoke, I had one available course – Conquer Your Novel, which is all about novel writing, funnily enough. That’s been on the back burner for a while, though – it wasn’t where I wanted it to be, so I’ve been letting it lie while I focus on other projects. I plan to revive it soon, though, now I have a better idea of what it should look like.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
Last year, I created a new course in collaboration with my good friend and talented business owner Karen Marston. It’s called Start Fiction Editing and teaches editors how to set up and run a fiction editing business. I ran it twice last year and both times it sold out.
The idea for the course came about when I was talking to Karen about adding editors to my team. I complained that though there were lots of copy-editing training courses out there, there wasn’t a single one that taught all the specific lessons I wanted a new editor to learn – such as how to edit fiction while respecting the author’s voice, how to use Track Changes and query using comments in Word, how to use time tracking to set rates that work for the individual … Karen suggested I create the course, and so I did. Together, we expanded the premise so it would help new editors set up their businesses (rather than just teach editors how to work for me!), making it useful to a wider audience.
Aaaand I’m currently in the middle of creating a new course called Developmental Editing: Fiction Theory. I’ve realised that I love talking about the mechanics and business of editing perhaps more than I like editing itself – so I’m dipping my toes in editorial training, and I’m enjoying it.
In terms of what’s stayed the same, I’m still editing novels, though slightly fewer than before since I’ve started building and running online courses.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
This is an interesting question to ponder because one thing I’ve learned over the years is that we have to go through our own experiences to learn our own lessons. I’m not sure if present-me could travel back in time and give past-me a piece of advice that would be helpful – because I wouldn’t have gone through the process of learning the value of that advice. And that’s what matters most.
Perhaps, then, what I’ve learned is that I can read business books and blog posts and listen to others give me advice until my ears fall off, but that can only take me so far. Advice can be incredibly valuable, but it can also become overwhelming, which is something I touched on in last year’s post. However, it’s only through experiencing the particular challenges of our own businesses – through the prism of our own personalities – that we can learn the most valuable lessons.
Any more hints and tips for people?
I think it’s easy to get caught up in the comparison game. I’ve found myself looking at other people’s businesses and then creating an amalgamation of them in my mind that becomes this grand idea of what a successful editorial business ‘should’ look like – then I measure my business against it and either feel like a failure or feel anxious about branching out in a way that doesn’t fit the mould.
Obviously, this is absurd. It leads back to what I was saying at the start of this post: as business owners, we have the power to be flexible. Just like a blank page can seem paralysing to a writer, this idea – that we can build our businesses however we want – can be scary, and so we play it safe and follow convention. But we don’t have to. It’s not even about taking risks – it’s just about thinking outside the box a little, and not comparing our businesses to others that aren’t directly comparable anyway.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
This time around, I’m not going to make any grand statements or plans. I’m going to get my head down and continue doing what I’m doing – providing editorial services to authors and online training to editors – and see where it gets me. I share my most personal thoughts on being an editorial business owner in my Liminal Letters, which I send out roughly every fortnight, so if anyone wants to keep up with my journey, feel free to subscribe!
Sophie’s a good and generous colleague to have – she contributed a guest post to this blog back in January, sharing her experience and support on how to move into fiction editing if you want to do it and she’s one of my recommended editors for fiction work. I love how she really thinks about what she’s doing and, indeed, the answers to my questions, and can’t wait to see what she gets up to this 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.