So You Want to Start a Book-Based Business…

Posted 11 October, 2013 by Amanda / 13 Comments


I’ve been noticing the trend of starting book-based businesses. Yeah. I’m included too; though I’ve expanded my services to include services for businesses, I still do work for authors. And after two years in business, this is what I’ve learned.

And authors, all of these apply to you too. You ARE a book-based business.

Brand yourself and learn how to stand out

Your business is probably a dime a dozen. Do you know how many freelance editing businesses are out there? TONS. Like, A LOT. I will never stand out as “Amanda’s Editorial Services.” That’s fucking boring. That’s why I’m The Path of Least Revision and I position myself as someone who helps you fight the frustration of editing. It’s why I took a branding course and spent time and money creating my website and logo.

And for the record, “affordable pricing!” doesn’t make you stand out. It just makes people assume you’re cheap. Never make it about the price—make it about the service. Your service helps people in some way. What is it and why should people care about what you do when they can find the same service elsewhere?

Protect yourself

Start an LLC. Get a separate bank account. Make your clients sign a contract. Doing these mark you as a professional. If you’re starting a business, you’re starting a business. Take it seriously. Even if it’s something you do on the side. People can sue you for doing a shitty job or just because they don’t like you. People can not pay you.

Protect yourself. Don’t be stupid about it. On the flip side, if you’re working with a book-based business, get a contract. Contracts spell out the terms of your arrangement. It prevents miscommunication. It saves your ass. Don’t work without one.

Jenny and I had a contract when she created a cover for my book. Did I think she would flake out on me? Absolutely not. Did she think I would flake out on her? Probably not. But that doesn’t negate the importance of a contract. It’s just good business—and I know that, by sending me a contract, Jenny is serious about doing good business, which makes me trust her more. She spelled out exactly how the process would work and what we each both responsible for.

Know that it’s HARD WORK

Beyond the hard work of you know, doing what you do for clients, you have to market your ass off. I write blog posts, update on social media, craft newsletters, and work on side projects (like my ebooks) to promote my business. It’s not easy.

I’ve spent hours struggling with my website, creating graphics, and doing everything I possibly can to position myself as someone you want to do business with.

Check your ego

You’re not as awesome as you think. Yes, I include myself in this. I’m always learning new things about language and editing and blogging. But I’ve also seen people offer to check the “grammer” of your story and people who help “author’s” with their editing and people who explain their editing services by droning on and not using commas where it was grammatically important to do so.

Liking something—grammar, promoting authors, designing graphics, writing—isn’t a good enough reason to start a business. Make sure you produce something worth people’s time. Always strive to improve and deliver the best product or service you can. Go above and beyond, and assume you can always find a way to keep getting better at what you do.

Charge what you’re worth

When you can deliver quality work, you should get paid for it. When I started my business, I didn’t charge enough for my editing services. Listen. When you value your expertise and charge accordingly, your clients will respect you and your worth too. Cheap is replaceable and easy to abuse.

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13 Responses to “So You Want to Start a Book-Based Business…”

  1. I don’t know if people always remember that they need to protect themselves. Just because you’re online, doesn’t mean you’re safe. In fact, it opens you up to a whole ‘nother set of issues. Setting up an LLC is a great idea!

    • LLCs are super important. And you can certainly protect yourself without assuming that everyone is out to get you; it’s more about those “just in case” situations.

  2. Really fantastic advice Amanda, I couldn’t agree with you more on everything! If you don’t take yourself seriously when you’re starting a business, why would anyone else? I cannot stress enough the importance of contracts, when I first started Seedlings as an LLC I was a little lax on the contracts and they simply weren’t specific enough and I got burned. It was a learning process though, and every time I got burned in a new way, the contract got updated to reflect it and now I have a pretty solid contract that I feel both protects me and makes my clients feel more at ease.

    And a huge YES for charging what you’re worth. So important:)

    • I’ve also learned the importance of setting time limits. I’ve gotten trapped in honoring a much-too-low price because that’s what I’d quoted six months ago. It really is a learning process. Each person has taught me something new—even if it’s something as simple as learning to trust my gut because my instincts are usually right. And contracts. I love them. Business thrives on explicit communication. When each party knows what it’s responsible for, you have fewer chances of shit hitting the fan. It’s just GOOD STUFF.

  3. It’s a constant learning process, but I also think that part is the most fun as well!

    LLC. Yes. Separate business account. Yes.

    I’d also say to set up systems to do work for you–so your task manager and accounting apps. These are popular and exist for very good reasons. Use them instead of 10 spreadsheets like I did at first. Gah.

    Also, research. Know what you’re entitled to when it comes to taxes and expenses. Many towns and cities have free or cheap workshops for small businesses. Use them.

    • Uff. Taxes. Yuck. I don’t want to think about those. But I agree—there are plenty of free or cheap resources. Like that business mentoring at my library… I should do that this month.

  4. That last one is the one I think people fail to really grasp! You must charge what you are worth (in any business). I mentor young women in the IT business to do exactly that. You can’t undervalue yourself because everyone will undervalue you! ;) Great advice!

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