Small Business Showcase: Annie Deakins!

Annie responded to my request for small business owners to showcase themselves and their businesses on my blog to provide insight, advice and inspiration for others who are starting up/thinking of starting up their own small businesses – including me!
The idea originally formed because I was fascinated by people’s stories and reasons for setting up their own businesses and I wanted to learn as much as I could in order to educate myself for the benefit of my own business.
I wanted to find a way to ask the questions I wanted the answers to but I realised that if I was interested surely others were interested in the answers too! In addition, I wanted the businesses willing to share their stories to get something in return so I devised the ‘Small Business Showcase’ blog series which will give each small business featured promotion across social media. Win-win for everyone!
The same 10 questions were posed to all small businesses via questionnaire – here are Annie’s replies:
1) How would you summarise the service(s)/product(s) your business offers?
I am a freelance proofreader known as ‘Proofnow Proofreader’ with my website providing proofreading services to educational publishers, businesses and students.
2) How long have you been a small business owner?
Since January 2017. I joined the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), built my website, started a SfEP Proofreading Course, had some business cards printed for local networking, and joined my SfEP local group.
I began proofreading theses and dissertations for students but, to increase income, I am now targeting non-publishers and educational publishing. My husband has always been self-employed, so he was able to give me HMRC advice.
3) What inspired you to set up your business?
Having taught in Primary schools for 30 years, I developed stress and heart problems. Referral to cardiology followed by various hospital appointments meant a 3-month period of sick leave. I became very depressed about returning to teaching, but I had supported the family as the main wage earner. In addition, I couldn’t access my Teacher Pension until the minimum retirement age (at that point three years away). So my husband and I had a deep conversation about what could happen next… A silver lining was that all four of our parents had died in previous years, so we had savings and fewer bills to worry about.
I started a correspondence proofreading course to keep my mind active, and loved it. After 6 months of rest, recuperation and claiming Job Seekers Allowance, I decided that I wanted to become self-employed. I applied for the New Enterprise Allowance at my local Job Centre where they approved my new proofreading business – also advice with self-assessment, NI and a business plan. This was January 2017.
One section of the business plan  was headed ‘Competition/Threats’ so I googled proofreaders. I found the SfEP and joined immediately. On the contrary, I found them, especially Louise Harnby and John Espirian, to be great supports to me and the whole community. I completed the SfEP Proofreading Courses and Reference Course, then went to my first SfEP Conference in September 2017.
The first year of my business was all about learning the skills of a proofreader and training, as well as branding and trying to get work. Now over halfway through my second year, I have been improving my website to target and build a variety of clients. I am now much more aware of content branding and marketing.
4) What platforms/strategies do you use to promote your business?
LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Freelance Heroes, and Louise Harnby’s Training Facebook Page.
Local networking with other freelancers, including SfEP local groups.
The Register of Proofreaders for students with the University of Essex (Colchester).
Find-A-Proofreader website.
Now cold-emailing local businesses and project managers with educational publishers to advertise my proofreading services.
5) What do you consider your greatest business achievement so far?
As a newbie, I advertised to students and felt I had to charge a lower rate until I had gained experience with all the admin: emails, writing/tweaking T&Cs and invoices. My confidence in this area has greatly increased. So imagine my pleasure when, for the first time, I could charge my full rates for a client. And that was only in May this year!

6) What do you consider your greatest business challenges?
1. Promoting myself, social media, blogging, and getting enough work (I appreciate the irony of this). So I tutor Primary children in the afternoons to help pay the bills.
2. Getting a work/life balance: I thought the number of hours I worked when I was teaching were ridiculous. But working in my dining room means I need to exert self-control over my office hours. Switching off all devices by 9pm, for example… In addition, I still find myself working at weekends for student work. The plus side is that if this happens, I book to take Monday off!
7) What resources/training have been most beneficial to your business so far?
Many! But in particular: The SfEP Courses: Proofreading; References Course; SfEP Conference.
Louise Harnby’s website is a treasure trove of ideas for freelance editors and proofreaders.
John Espirian – LinkedIn expert! Plus anyone John recommends e.g. Atomic, Gill Andrews, Jammy Digital and Ahmed Khalifa (who audited my website).
8) What advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting their own business?
1. Go for it! A book which influenced me to ‘make the jump’ early on was Face the fear and do it anyway’ by Susan Jeffers. There is also a lot of virtual support for those working for themselves.
2. It will be terrifying when you find you haven’t got work booked in for a month, but you will not be the only one. Use the time to your advantage with CPD, marketing, cold-emailing etc.
9) What are your future plans for your business?
To proofread textbooks and e-learning materials for educational publishers. To get into copy-editing. One of my ‘side’ jobs is editing a 40 page A5 magazine for a local charity, so I want to learn how to do it properly.
10) Are there any other small businesses you would like to give a shout out to who have been an inspiration/support to you?
Howard Walwyn and the other members of my SfEP Herts & Essex local group.
Howard and I met in early 2017. We were both making a huge jump to something new after decades in our previous careers. Although we cover completely different subjects, in our group we can discuss issues and have a good laugh. He seems to have boundless energy, like someone else I know!
My ‘Small Business Showcase’ blog series will be published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday – previous showcases can be read herehere,  hereherehere and here and here.
If you would like to feature your small business too, please email me at

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