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An interview with Hillary Beth Koenig, editor at HBK Editing

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In our search to connect with and highlight entrepreneurs who have succeeded and thrived over the last few years, even amidst the challenges Covid has brought, we recently interviewed an entrepreneur who has had her own editing and writing business for several years.

With a total of 17 years of experience editing between a college side gig, weekly volunteer work with teenage writers, and work through freelance websites, she now has launched her website where she’s serving her own clients. We connected with her on a freelancing website and decided to ask her to tell us about her journey so far.

Give us a little background about yourself:

My name is Hillary Beth Koenig and I’ve got a Bachelor’s degree from USC Upstate, where I actually majored in Information Management Systems and minored in “media,” one of the tracks offered with this major, which basically came down to journalism. My original career goals involved becoming some sort of consultant within the IT industry, but my path was never clear and certain as to how I’d get there.

How did you decide to start your company?

Due to a family military move in 2013, I no longer worked for the small IT company I had started out with in my career. While I’d gained both skills and confidence, I wasn’t sure what my next step would be. In the process of searching for something similar, I looked into freelancing. My cousin had always said there was amazing potential in freelancing but breaking in seemed overwhelming. Sometimes the entry tests would seem too daunting for me.

“Sometimes I really didn’t know if anything I had previously edited or written was worth putting in a portfolio, or if it would be eye-catching enough. Over time, I realized that the fees associated with most freelancing sites were quite high, so I started seeking clients to work with me on my own terms. Eventually, I created my own website,”

Getting repeat clients was my main goal, and I began to build relationships that achieved this. I wanted to be able to contribute something to my little family without a big commute, conflicting hours, or a specific location that I wouldn’t be able to stay at long-term.

What is your favorite part of your workday?

I really enjoy starting a new project. I love the first few minutes of opening the document, seeing the potential of the writer for the first time, and knowing that my work would only make their work shine more. On a daily basis, I spend some of my time talking with new clients, some of my time tracking projects and tasks, and some of my time actually doing the work — but I love the excitement of a fresh project the most.

How have your priorities or routines changed since you started?

When I first started, I was a bit frustrated by the time difference issues with many clients. Not only were many freelancing websites used by clients all over the world, but they also wanted immediate responses no matter what time of day or night it was in your part of the world. Some websites set out to remedy this later on in their existence by showing everyone’s “local time” on their thumbnail profile snapshots.

Meanwhile, I spent a lot of time answering things overnight because of insomnia during pregnancy, insomnia during my spouse’s deployments, and even just because I’d glimpse a message in the middle of the night after nursing a baby. I felt very pressured to answer everything immediately and be available 24/7, in fear of losing a potential opportunity.

Instead of being a slave to the ticking 24 hour incremented freelance clocks, now I often tell clients that I absolutely reserve Sundays, that I try to preserve most of my Saturdays for family time, and that my hours, while unconventional, are more steadily afternoon until dinner time, and then evening hours. My priorities need to balance work with my children and community obligations. I do work some mornings, as well, in order to accommodate specific deadlines, but I’m constantly working toward more predictable timeframes for work to be done.

As for routines, I have also been working to allow more time and opportunity for revisions, as I know that sometimes a client will want something added that was not in the original agreement, but if my mind is already on the next project and the deadlines set for other things, it’s harder for me to negotiate what needs to be done to wrap up the current one. That was a learning curve for me.

What tools do you use on a regular basis that you would recommend?

When it comes to professional content, I have been using Grammarly and do recommend it as a backup spellcheck system. As an editor, I can move on to the work that AI cannot do more easily if someone has run a spellcheck or automated service to catch most of the simple and repetitive errors throughout a document. It saves everyone time in the end, even if it can’t determine specific quirks of the English language.

When it comes to other services, I have really gotten to know Asana, which tracks tasks and can be used for multiple clients and projects all in one place; Later, which allows scheduling to social media in advance; and Google Keep, for capturing ideas and sharing them on the go. What I never knew how to do myself was better marketing, though.

Knowing what you do now, what would you have done differently starting out?

I would have put more boundaries up, in order to prevent burnout and stress. I also would have been more willing to invest in some tools in order to bring in more clients early on and be more productive. For example, I was terrified of advertising when I first started out; I really didn’t understand the process.

Intrelligent would have looked just as appealing to me then as it is today, being able to provide real-time interaction, and automate initial messages to allow clients to feel like they’ve begun the conversation about what they are looking for and how I can serve them.

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