Today marks three years since I went self-employed! And I’m still alive. (I do have over seven years of editing experience – but only three of them as a sole trader.) I can’t resist this opportunity to geek out over my stats – and use them as a learning experience.
Over the last year, I’ve edited fewer words and done fewer jobs than in either of the previous two years – ‘only’ just over two million words and 44 jobs. Was this down to choice or chance? Realistically, probably a combination of the two. Everyone has been tightening their belts this year, particularly in winter, but on the flip side I embarked on a major gardening project earlier in the year, so I had to carve out some time for that.
In fact, over the course of the year I worked fewer hours in total than I did the previous year, so the drop in word count and job count makes perfect sense. As you might expect from that, my turnover and profit were both also down from my Year 2 figures but still up compared to Year 1.
While it might seem disheartening at first for me to see those figures drop, I actually found it quite encouraging. I was hoping I’d get some useful information from this exercise that I could use to help me do better next year. It appears that I could increase my income relatively easily by the simple method of doing more work! Considering that I love my job, that doesn’t sound like a bad plan at all!
Also … I survived! So even though there might be a modicum of disappointment in my heart on looking at the paperwork … I made it. I’m here standing in front of next year. So, while I might not be about to impress anyone with my bank balance, I did enough. Enough to keep body and soul together. Enough to still love my job and have my mental health.
It’s true that the last few months haven’t been so easy when it comes to finding customers – I can’t say I blame anyone for deciding that paying the gas bill is more important than getting their book edited – but my number of clients has stayed pretty stable. At 24 in total, it’s down 4 on Year 2 but the same as Year 1. Out of those 24, 12 were repeat clients, so I’m super happy that people like my work enough to come back!
Like my first year in business, 19 of my clients were individuals this year (down from 24 in Year 2), but the number of agencies I work with has doubled from 2 to 4. This is good news for me, because these agencies typically supply a number of projects every year. My new contacts have been a delight to work with, and so have their authors!
One of my most dramatic stats is the increase in the proportion of my income from developmental editing. Between Year 1 and Year 2 this rose slightly from 4% to 9%, but last year it took a massive jump to 25%. I love dev editing, so this makes total sense, but it’s still good to see that my training is starting to pay off and my CPD in the meantime hasn’t been wasted!
I’ve also added no fewer than five new strings to my bow. Alongside the Big Four of dev editing, copyediting, proofreading, and critiques/manuscript assessments, I’ve also added columns for sample checking (ad hoc work for a specific agency), line editing (which I already did before but listed under the copyediting umbrella), beta reading, writing, and … artwork! (I’ve only waited twenty years after graduation to start earning money from artwork …)
None of these new services are huge earners yet, but I’m happy to diversify and bring my skills with words (and pen/brush) to bear on a wider range of projects for people on all kinds of budgets.
Although my total time spent working was down, the proportion of it spent on actual editing or proofreading (or manuscript assessing or beta reading, etc.) – as opposed to doing admin, finances, marketing, networking, CPD, and so on – was up from 77% in Year 2 to 81% this year, which I think is pretty good. It’s my favourite part of the job, after all!
Doing this exercise has been totally nerdy and spreadsheety, but I love it. I definitely feel energised for the year ahead! I started the year thinking that perhaps taking my foot off the gas slightly might be good for my mental health, but now I’m not so sure. I’m excited by the prospect of working more and harder and, hopefully, better. I get a real feeling of satisfaction from completing a project or securing a new client. So here’s to 2023 and my fourth independent year in business!