Small Business Chat Saturday is back! After having a bit of a break from blogging, I’ve been in touch with all my interviewees from last year and I’ll be continuing to feature a good number of them. There’s a chance to join the roster at the bottom of this post. So we welcome back Tammy Ditmore, owner of the perfectly named eDITMORE Editorial Services! We first met Tammy in June 2012, and had update chats in June 2013, August 2014, September 2015, November 2016 and January 2018. Editors are always interesting for me to talk to, of course, and I felt for Tammy, who was worried about work coming in regularly at the time, with her resolution for the next year being, “If things stay slow in the new year, I will be making some concentrated efforts to contact past clients, and some new publishers, businesses, etc. I’m not panicking (yet) because I have some good ideas about which bushes to start shaking. In fact, I’m not too sad about having a little extra time to catch my breath during the holiday season–I just don’t want this slower work pace to last for too long!” Unfortunately, Tammy had no idea of the terribly stressful events that were just around the corner. Read her story now – and thank you, Tammy, for sharing this difficult time with us.
Hello again, Tammy. Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
Yes, mostly. When we touched base last year, I was coming off a down year and was not quite sure what to expect. But 2018 turned around with some long-term projects coming from unexpected places.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
I continue to work for a wide mix of clients, but last year I worked with two clients on some large projects, which filled my schedule in unexpected ways. That enabled me to reduce my workload significantly for a couple of months in the summer when I was able to live in Florence, Italy, where my husband was teaching with his university program. I did very little work during that time so that I could enjoy our amazing experience. Unfortunately, the big projects that carried me through last year will be winding down in the next few weeks — I have work scheduled for the next couple of months, but it I will need to start lining up others beyond that.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
The main lessons I learned this year were ones I never wanted to learn about dealing with trauma and stress and how much that can affect my ability to focus, which is an absolute essential in the work that I do. In November, a gunman walked into a nightclub a few miles from my house and murdered twelve people, including a police officer and a young woman who was a student at the university where my husband teaches and our 21-year-old son goes to school. Less than 24 hours later, wildfires ripped through both sides of our community; my husband and I were evacuated from our house at 3 a.m., and our son spent a long day and night helping to run an emergency shelter at the university as fires burned to the edge of campus on every side. The fires and the weather conditions that make them so dangerous and unpredictable lasted for about five days in our area. Although our neighborhood and the university ultimately were spared from major damage, three people died and hundreds in our community lost their homes. At almost the same time, scores of people died and thousands lost homes in a wildfire a few hundred miles north of us.
It’s difficult to describe just how much impact these events had on our lives and our community. My son knew two of the people who died in the shooting and several others who were in the club that night, and everyone we know has been grieving the senseless loss of so many beautiful lives from our community. We also know people who lost homes and see evidence every day of the damage and destruction caused by the fires. Although I and my family were physically safe, I was not able to do any real work for several weeks. I simply could not concentrate enough to edit or write for any length of time. Fortunately, my clients were completely understanding — coincidentally, the two clients I had to delay the longest were authors writing about traumatic events in their lives. One of those writers actually provided me some very practical tips that helped me deal with my own stress.
Eventually, I was able to focus and work again, but it took me much longer than I had expected, and I am still trying to catch up. Ultimately, I learned that I cannot force concentration in times of stress and that berating myself for my lack of productivity only makes things worse. I had to give time and attention to myself, my family, and my immediate community before I could find any attention span for work. I know these kinds of events do not affect everyone the same way, so I can’t compare myself to how someone else reacts–I simply have to respect my own feelings and start from there.
Any more hints and tips for people?
I continue to find that word-of-mouth and repeat business are my best ways to find clients. A lot of people actually find out about me from a friend or colleague. Many of the people who recommend me have never actually worked with me, but they know what I do and are ready to recommend me when they find out someone needs an editor. So my tip is to make sure that everyone you know is aware of what you do and is aware that you need clients.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
I hope I’ll be in about the same spot as I am now: working steadily with a variety of clients and projects. My husband will have a yearlong sabbatical from his university job starting in August, and my goal is to be able to do some traveling with him while continuing to work.
First of all I want to say how honoured I was that Tammy chose to share her story with us. When you’re self-employed, it’s easy to think you live in a little bubble, and it can be so traumatic when events outside our office but close at hand intrude (I’ve been very concerned about Brexit because I’m not sure how it will affect how I work with my EU clients, with very little information available as I write this, for example). The other points Tammy makes are equally pertinent: all of my work pretty well comes from word of mouth and recommendations, as well as regular clients, and it’s worth reminding people of what they do. I wish Tammy an uneventful year of solid work and a lovely sabbatical.
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 (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). 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.