Having a passion for a business is not enough to launch a successful career. It takes careful planning and some strategy, as author and editor Katie Morford Phillips found out for herself. Taking time to strategize and “pick a lane,” however, is paying off. Here’s how Katie is making her business work.
Tell us about your business. What do you do, when did you start your own business, and why?
I’m an author, freelance fiction editor, and writing coach. I specialize in content edits of soft speculative fiction and helping women authors tell their stories with clarity and confidence.
I started my writing and editing career in journalism, working for a newspaper before serving as a communications manager, writer, and editor for a global non-profit. A little over four years ago, myself and three other women launched Crosshair Press, an indie publisher of fiction adventure stories that ask life’s tough questions. I edited nearly all of the Crosshair Press titles and started taking on other side projects as well.
In July 2016, I launched my own freelance editing business. I wanted the freedom to simultaneously help other women writers, while making a living working remotely. Looking to the future, I wanted a career opportunity that would let me pursue my passion and help out my family financially, while still staying at home with kids.
What has been your biggest struggle in launching your business/career?
I think my biggest struggle is two-fold, yet related. Like any other entrepreneur, my biggest challenge has been gaining visibility and connecting with the right clients. To overcome this challenge, I needed to identify 1) What makes me/my services unique? And 2) Who is my ideal client.
Finding the answers to those questions proved more of a struggle than I anticipated. It forced me to narrow my vision, get very specific about what I like (and don’t like) to do, embrace my giftings, identify the type of person I want to work with, and let go of areas I felt I should enjoy, but don’t.
For example, most editors (in the colloquial sense) are line and copy editors. They love grammar, get giddy over their copy of the Chicago Manual of Style, and obsess over comma placement. For a long time, I felt insecure as an editor because that wasn’t me. At all. Yet, when an author has a knotty character problem, a messy middle to their story, or flat worldbuilding, I’m their woman. Many editors don’t like to interact with clients on a personal level. I love to chat with my clients and help them through every stage of the process, from the initial consult and coaching sessions, to final edits and revisions.
Embracing who I am as an editor—and who I’m not—was the first step to finding my niche and identifying the right clients.
How did/are you overcoming it?
I think the problem of visibility and connecting with the right clients will probably continue to be a struggle. But researching business models, and getting to know my preferences, strengths, and weaknesses, has gone a long way to give me clarity about who am I as an editor and what I can offer my client.
What’s surprised you the most about working for yourself?
How much I love it. I’ve discovered my passion, and there’s no going back. It’s hard, don’t get me wrong. I’ve shed many of tear of frustration and discouragement. Yet, there’s nothing like pursuing your passion, seeing a plan come together, and hearing your clients say, “This is what you were born to do.”
What’s your favorite part of this kind of work?
The moment when a concept clicks for a client; when I can listen to their struggles, offer a practical solution, and see hope and inspiration light up in their eyes. I love helping authors move past their own roadblocks and tell the stories they were meant to tell, whether that’s through writing and branding coaching sessions, or an in-depth content edit. There’s nothing quite so fulfilling as seeing a fellow writer’s passion for their story and characters return to their eyes after a frustrating, discouraging stretch of trying to figure it out on their own.
Is there any one event/moment that helped you move from starting your own business to making a living with your business?
Early this year, I offered a special of majorly-discounted manuscript consults in hopes of gaining my first few clients. It’s a gamble that’s definitely paid off in the long run. I soon discovered that if I could get authors to take a chance on me, and give me the opportunity to help them, those initial connections would become great future clients. I actually just signed a manuscript content edit agreement with my very first manuscript consult client.
If you could give new freelance workers/entrepreneurs one piece of advice, what would it be?
Know yourself, and know your business. There are so many fabulous free resources on branding and business. Educate yourself about your chosen field and ask people in that field about their greatest felt needs. Pare down your various interests and “pick a lane” to focus on, at least until you establish your business. It’s easier to become known as the expert or go-to person in one particular area. A successful business is where your passion meets your clients’ needs.
If you could do one thing differently in your career, what would it be?
More organization, and less overwhelm. Greater clarity and focus on where my passions and income streams intersect, and less running around like a chicken with its head cut off. The paperwork and admin side of business is not my strong point, and it’s a constant struggle to keep the wheels turning properly.
What’s your favorite kind of work? Why?
I love my writing and branding coaching sessions. It gives me the opportunity to connect personally with authors, hear their stories, and help set them on a path to success.
What does your work space/office look like?
It alternates between my tiny studio apartment and the most convenient local coffee shop. Someday I will have my own office with bookshelves, a window seat, and a view.
What’s your go-to snack when you need one?
In the past, my editing snack was Starbursts. Currently, I’m obsessed with anything dark chocolate salted caramel.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The life of a creative entrepreneur is not an easy road, and it’s certainly not for everyone. Some people just want to enjoy their passion without the limitations of business. Others are interested in making money working remotely, but lack the passion to sustain them through the lean times. But for the determined few, the life of a creative entrepreneur can be a personally and financially rewarding journey.