Founder Stories: Lenny Bron On Building The Blog Proofreader
In today’s Founder Story we feature Lenny Bron founder of The Blog Proofreader.
Read on for lessons he’s learned from launching and marketing his content proofreading business online.
1) Please introduce your business and share your role.
Hi, my name is Lenny Bron, and I am The Blog Proofreader. I’m the annoying grammar police person you’ve always been tired of hearing from every time you use ellipses incorrectly in a tweet you wrote years ago.
I content edit/copy edit/proofread the work of several clients on a regular basis. Some of this is done as a freelancer for larger companies, some of it is done for startups looking to make sure their content marketing looks clean and presentable, and some of it is done for bloggers or other content creators who want their readers to enjoy the work they put out without stopping to try and process a sentence with a missing word in it.
I’ve been able to build my freelance business from scratch with zero experience in the field, no expenses, and barely any upfront costs.
2) What’s your backstory, what kind of challenges did you face, and how did you come up with your business idea?
My business idea was born in 2016, but the journey really began in 2014. After working for a company for 8 years, I hadn’t really gotten far financially and felt stuck. I decided to find a job with better financial prospects and the possibility of advancement. After 6 months of searching, I was hired by a new employer and I managed to double my salary!
This was obviously exciting, but also came with extra responsibilities. Not only did I have to figure out how to handle my new work life, but I also needed to figure out how to handle the extra money I was making. I’d never been able to save much before that, and now I had to decide what my 401(k) investments would be. This was a bit scary, exciting, and confusing all at the same time.
All of this led me to the task of understanding personal finance and everything else related to the subject. I began reading books and blogs, listening to podcasts, and just generally soaking up as much information as I could find.
This also led me to find the FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) community. Reaching financial independence became my goal, and the math is simple, earn more than you spend, invest the difference, and save 25x on your yearly spending.
There are, of course, more technical details I won’t bore you with. Anyway, the part I knew I could have the most control over was earning more, as my wife and I already optimized our spending. The more I earned the sooner I could reach financial independence and choose what to do with my time.
Now back to 2016. After reading a bunch of personal finance blogs, I kept seeing spelling mistakes, grammar errors, and missing words all over the place. These errors slowed me down and annoyed me while I was reading, and I figured they might be doing the same to other readers. That’s what got me thinking about bloggers not wanting their readers to be frustrated while reading their content, and that they might want a service where I would proofread and copy-edit their content before they published it. This then led to an assortment of possible clients who might need proofreading and copy editing work like large content publishers, digital entrepreneurs, and others.
3) How did you prepare for, and go about your launch?
The main thing I kept reading about starting a business was simple: just start! The details can get figured out later.
This was especially true for my endeavor. I started by doing the simplest thing possible – I sent an email.
I was reading a post from one of my favorite personal finance bloggers and noticed several grammar issues. This would be my first attempt. In the email, I started with who I was, why I liked her content, and then the parts that needed editing followed by my corrections.
Finally, I asked if she might be looking for a Proofreader or Copy Editor for her site. This was more of an idea than a business at the time, so I didn’t expect much from it. However, not long after, she actually wrote back! That was exciting enough, but what she told me was even better. Although she wasn’t looking for somebody to proofread her work, she told me it was a good idea and that I should pursue it further with other blogs. That validation alone made me believe this could be a viable source of income.
I sent out many emails throughout those first few months to blogs who I kept noticing had writing errors. One person, in particular, is basically responsible for the success of this venture. His name is J. Money and he runs a wonderful blog (which I highly recommend!). After contacting him, he told me he didn’t have a budget for my service, but he did run a different site at the time which was an aggregator for all things personal finance. He had a directory of personal finance freelancers on the site and wanted to start a “Proofreaders & Editors” section, and offered to put me in as the first one on the list! I still can’t thank him enough for this!
After a few more months and a few more failed attempts at working with bloggers, I was contacted by a fintech startup that had a blog full of personal finance material which they were continually adding content to. They actually found me through the personal finance freelancer directory! I went from making no money to suddenly working about 10 hours per week with the fintech company.
4) Since launching, what types of marketing campaigns and designs have worked best to attract and retain customers?
I’m not sure if this is considered a marketing campaign or not, but I’m always on the lookout for good opportunities to keep my name out in the public. This includes things like writing possible guest posts, doing interviews (like this one!), going on podcasts, etc. I’ll accept most opportunities to keep my name out there and do so organically by just telling my story or offering whatever advice I may have. My site has a list of my appearances in the “As featured on” section as good examples. This gives the sense that I’m an authority in my field, and even helps occasionally gain clients as well.
On a different note, I also know the big trick to the best marketing out there. But it’s also no secret, and I bet you know it, too. That’s right, word of mouth. There’s no better way to gain/attract clients than having a former or current client recommend you. That’s the real secret to success. Do such a good job that somebody will gladly recommend you to somebody else.
5) What have been the most influential brands for your business? Whose branding and marketing do you aspire to and why?
I don’t necessarily aspire to any particular branding or marketing. I just want to do the things I’ve been doing that are working for me. But here are a few people/businesses doing great things out in the world:
6) Who or what inspires and motivates you?
I’m motivated by freedom. Freedom of my time. I’m working toward that freedom by doing my freelancing and working my full-time job currently. But the goal is to eventually save enough to quit the job, do freelancing from home on my own schedule, and spend a lot more time with my family.
7) What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way that you would share with entrepreneurs hoping to launch or who have just launched?
- Just start
Take the smallest first step you can. Things will snowball from there. This might be the hardest part because your insecurities will begin kicking in. Do not listen to them. Just remember, what’s the worst thing that could happen?
- Add value
No matter what you’re doing, be it a service business or an e-commerce business, you have to add value. How does this “thing” I’m selling help my customer? How can this “service” I’m providing make my customer’s life easier? Ask yourself these questions. And only then can you try to figure out a way to make it worth your while.
- Be upfront, be clear, be honest
Especially when you’re just getting to know a new client or trying to gain new clients. State what you can do or sell them right away. Explain how you will do the service or how good the product is. And then follow through with everything you promised. Saying “no” isn’t a bad thing either. Don’t waste the client’s or your own time if you know it won’t work out.
- Own up to your mistakes
You messed up, so now you have to own it, apologize for it, and most importantly, learn from it. The only way to get better is through experience, so don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, but know you’ll screw up. The thing is, clients understand this. They know mistakes happen because they make them too, which is why they’ll likely forgive you. Remember that you’re the hardest one on yourself, so learn to forgive yourself for mistakes as well (easier said than done, of course!).
8) What do you believe are the qualities of a good entrepreneur? And what makes a team successful?
Qualities of a good entrepreneur:
- Be humble
- Listen to your customer(s)/client(s)
- Always add value
- Understand you can’t do everything yourself (you need a good team or support staff behind you)
What makes a team successful:
- Did I mention communication yet? Clear, concise, and relevant information passed along between team members is the benchmark of a good team.
- Trust that your team members are doing their part while you do yours. Much like being a good entrepreneur, you can’t do everything yourself.
9) Let us know where we can go to learn more!
https://theblogproofreader.com/ (My site, it’s just a landing page, email me for inquiries)
Email: [email protected]