I wanted to write a little about my experience so far of rebranding. I’ll also revisit this in six months or so, to see what measurable effects changing the name and image of my business has had.
I decided to change the name of my business for three reasons. The first was that I felt the business name I had no longer properly reflected who I was as an editor. When I first came up with ‘Liz Jones Editorial Solutions’, around ten years ago, I was happy with it. I had recently changed my own name (I got married), and rather than simply referring to ‘editorial services’, I wanted a name that suggested my proactive approach to working with clients – hence the ‘solutions’ part. I was not merely someone who pointed problems out – I would find ways to solve them, too!
About a week after deciding on Liz Jones Editorial Solutions, it began to dawn on me that the word solutions was not as clever as I had thought. If anything, it made me sound like a logistics company. But I figured that I couldn’t keep chopping and changing, and resolved to stick with it. The name wasn’t the main point, in a way, after all. The main point was – and still is – the particular service I offer. The main point is me, Liz Jones. The rest is just admin.
In the past decade, I’ve done excellent business. I work with a range of good clients in a number of sectors, and I take on new clients all the time. I’ve supported myself and my family. I’ve worked hard to stay informed and involved in the editorial community, and played my part in shaping it, too, as a former director of the SfEP (now CIEP) and a proofreading and copyediting mentor. But all of this I somehow felt was despite my brand, rather than because of it.
The second reason I decided to change the name of my business was that I wanted to move away from using my own name, in case I decide to change it in future (I got divorced). For ten years I’ve had a work Gmail address that included my whole name, and I thought it would make more sense to move to a domain-name email address that just included my first name (which won’t change), plus the new name for my business.
The final reason for the change was Covid. Back in the spring, I really wasn’t sure what effect the pandemic would have on my business. It felt (and still sometimes feels) like the end of the world as we knew it. I assumed my work might dry up. In fact, this hasn’t happened. I have lost some income streams, but have gained others, and although business might have been a little slower than in 2019 – partly because of having to homeschool two children for four months – it hasn’t evaporated, and shows no signs of doing so. However, the shock of the pandemic did focus my mind on the need to stay discoverable, and to make clear to potential new clients what I could offer that was unique to me. There are always more editors, with higher profiles, or lower prices – and in that competitive context it’s absolutely my responsibility to carve out my own space in the market. To do that, I thought, I needed to refresh my brand.
Finding the name
The name ‘Responsive Editing’ came to me as I started to think about exactly what it was that set me apart – my fingerprint as an editor. I’d read an account of being copyedited, in an article in which Elena Ferrante answered questions from readers: ‘I fear suggestions that tend to normalise the text, such as: don’t say it like that, the punctuation is insufficient, this word doesn’t exist, it’s an incorrect formulation, that’s an ugly solution, this way it’s more beautiful. More beautiful? Editing that’s alert to respect for the current aesthetic canon is dangerous. So is editing that encourages anomalies that are compatible with popular taste.’ Although I couldn’t claim ever to have edited anyone quite like Ferrante, I was so taken with her comments. I didn’t find them intimidating, or misguided. They seemed to perfectly express the idea that the editor is not there to impose themselves on an author’s text. They are only there to respond to the text, and to respond to what’s needed by the author and the reader. This idea of responsiveness really sums up everything I’ve learned as an editor since 1998, and so I had my new name.
Bringing in the professionals
Once I had the identity fixed, I was keen to build a website. I bought a couple of relevant domain names, and started experimenting with building my own website using Squarespace, recommended to me by an editorial friend and colleague. Squarespace seemed easy enough to use, and I could have knocked up a perfectly adequate site, but I also soon saw that I simply didn’t have the vision to make a website that would really stand out. At first, what I thought would help was a good logo. This, I reasoned, would draw everything together visually. I have an A level in Art (not to mention a degree in Architecture), so I tried drawing my own, but it looked like I’d drawn it myself in about two minutes. Possibly because I had. It was, frankly, crap, and I didn’t have the time or the energy or the skills to do any better.
I realised that just as I would bridle at the thought of someone not trained and experienced in the art thinking they could do their own editing, so I couldn’t expect a good result by attempting to do my own designing. I would need to pay someone proper to do it for me. I googled ‘logo design Wells’, and one of the top results was Lewis Wallis. I emailed him, and we discussed what I needed, and I filled in his branding questionnaire, and we managed to meet in a café for a chat a week or so later, despite the plague. Lewis also asked if I had considered hiring someone to design a website, and I hadn’t (assuming it would be too expensive), but it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps I should be prepared to pay for that too, to get a more professional-looking result than I could hope to achieve on my own. I asked him to quote for just a logo, and the logo plus website, and ended up commissioning him to design both.
The finished logo
Within a few weeks, Lewis had produced three logo concepts for me to look at, along with a rationale explaining all three. There was one clear winner, which I told him straight away, while taking a little longer to think about and give specific feedback on elements I thought worked, and those that did not. Over the next few weeks he worked on the colours, replacing an original red with the orange in the final logo, and the precise angle and length of the diagonal slash, as well as the weight of the font and the exact spacing of the letters. There are two coloured versions of the final logo (one on an orange background, one on white), plus black and white and a reversed-out black and white. He also produced a business card design, and banners for use on social media. I didn’t see the need for a comp slip design at the moment, or a letter head.
The finished site
The website design reflects and expands on the logo/branding, in a way that I couldn’t possibly have managed myself. We agreed on the basic number of pages, and I wrote the text first for Lewis to design to. When I saw his initial concept for the home page, I was extremely impressed – I felt he’d exactly captured the image I wanted to project. Again, I gave my feedback, which was mostly positive but also quite detailed, and over the course of the next few weeks he worked on the full design, which we then refined until it was ready to launch.
A final detail to sort out was an image of me. Lewis asked if I had something he could use, and I realised that I didn’t, despite my twenty-first-century habit of taking selfies. They were all rather amateurish, and the quality wasn’t great. I tweeted about my predicament, which was that if I asked someone else to take my photo, I usually ended up looking either unbearably smug, or like I was sucking a lemon, neither of which was ideal. In the replies, a couple of colleagues recommended photographers, and so I ended up booking a shoot with Nick Cole. It was a cost I hadn’t budgeted for, but I figured there was no point spending money on a professional website and logo and then ruining it with an inadequate photo. There was also the question of consistency. For years I’ve relied on an array of substandard photos in which I always look a bit different, which isn’t ideal if you’re trying to build a memorable brand or internet presence. Nick and I took a risk and agreed on an outside shoot (in December, in the West Country!), but this meant we stayed Covid-safe and also promised more interesting light. Somehow we got lucky, and it was warm enough that I could take my coat off, and the heavens only opened as we were bumping elbows to say goodbye. I was more than happy with the results, and now have a photo I can use everywhere, that really looks like me, hopefully for some years to come.
Once everything was ready, complete with my first blog post uploaded to the site, I launched. It’s a funny time to launch anything, in a way. It’s the darkest time of the year, we’re deep in the second or third wave of the pandemic (I’ve lost track), and Brexit is sapping all life and hope out of everything, at least from where I’m standing. But perhaps now is also a good time. It’s the start of a new year. Maybe things will begin to get better. Whatever happens, I still need to keep my business going: there are always bills to pay. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned while freelancing, it’s that you have to be able to ride out the storms. There will always be challenges, and there will be better times too – and you have to try, as far as you have any control over this, to make the best of both.