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Don’t Panic! Learn to Market Yourself.

So I had an okay 2013. Didn’t do worse than 2012, but that’s not exactly an inspiring achievement. Plus, the end of the year was pretty slow. Scary slow. So it gave me plenty of time to think about what I am doing and how I am doing it.

The majority of my clients are academic researchers and institutions. So I wondered if the slowdown in my workload is a sign that the drop in federal research funding has finally trickled down to me? Or is this just a typical down period in the cycle and there’s no need to panic? Not sure.

Either way, I think I have to come to terms with the fact that I need to market myself more actively and find new clients. For too long, I’ve been relying on passive marketing through my website, blog, LinkedIn, and listings on sites like AMWA and EFA. And I think it’s given me a false sense of security.

So I started with my current clients. I designed and sent a New Year’s card, just as a subtle reminder that I’m out here, if they need me. Still pretty passive though. But it is what it is.

I plowed through Rich Adin’s (An American Editor) The Business of Editing and I bought and devoured Elizabeth Fricke’s excellent book A Freelancer’s Guide to Business Success in Any Economy. I considered the possibility of trying to join existing editorial groups, rather than continuing as a solopreneur. I considered the possibility of branching out into copyediting. I joined the Professional Editors Network (PEN), the American Copy Editors Society (ACES), and to access their resources and network.  I set up coffee dates with local colleagues to discuss my options.

I also spent some quality time on LinkedIn, updating my profile, reaching out to potential new contacts, soliciting recommendations, and asking more pointed questions about possible opportunities. I searched through job postings just to get a feel for places that might use the services of a medical writer/editor.

Probably most importantly, I revisited my business plan for a long overdue update, particularly the marketing portion. This year, my marketing plan will include getting more involved as a volunteer and investing in a trip to the AMWA annual conference in October.

What am I NOT going to do? Dwell on the low points of last year. Take things personally. Panic. Not going to do any of that. Or at least try not to do any of that.


Learning to write

It’s terrible to admit: I didn’t learn to write until I was in college. My freshman year at a liberal arts school was brutal – but by the end of four years, this science major managed to catch up. (Look at me now, Ma!) The difficult memories of writing tutors and tears resurfaced when I read an article in The Atlantic on teaching analytical writing in high school. Oh, how I wish I had been taught to write in high school!! All I remember is stacks of note cards I was supposed to assemble into paragraphs for English class essays. Despite my embarrassing beginnings, though, I decided to become a professional writer/editor.

Today, even though I consider myself somewhat experienced, I constantly seek out professional development opportunities–taking seminars, reading the literature, going to professional meetings–not only to stay current on the issues within my field, but also to make me a better writer. I recently took an online science writing course from Stanford that was offered through Coursera (along with many of my medical writing and editing peers). It would be an understatement to say it was a great experience.  I consider the notes I took during the class to be priceless, and I am amazed at how often I go back and refer to them in my everyday work. It reminded me of how important it is to return to the basics, even when I consider myself to be a veteran writer. I would recommend the first few weeks of the class to anyone who writes – not just those who write in the sciences.

Wow. I missed a whole month.

Hi there, folks. I believe I have bitten off more than I can chew and still write regular blog posts. I’m hoping soon that the insanity will resolve itself and I will be able to sit down and write something inspiring. Right now, I’m just downright tired, with no end in sight. I see now that my life will revolve around NIH grant deadlines. June 5th mocks me – but I will prevail. See you on the other side, I promise!

Inspirational words – from my newest AMWA “idol”

Marianne Mallia, ELS, winner of the 2010 AMWA Swanberg Distinguished Service Award gave an inspiring acceptance speech tonight. She shared the favorite poem of Dr. Denton Cooley from the Texas Heart Institute; the poem is engraved at the entrance of the building.

“Bag of Tools” by R.L. Sharpe

Isn’t it strange

that princes and kings

and clowns that caper

in sawdust rings

and common people

like you and me

are builders for eternity?

Each is given

a bag of tools

a shapeless mass

a book of rules;

and each must make

ere life has flown

a stumbling block

or a stepping stone.