This week Vivid Minds Vivid Futures interviews Joanna Dolan, the principal of Righting Writing. A professional editor, Joanna’s main focus is on academic editing, particularly for non-native English speakers. Joanna is a co-founder of Vivid Minds Vivid Futures.
How did you get involved in Vivid Minds Vivid Futures?
When I got back from the UK in early 2020, just prior to the borders closing, I was talking to my colleague, Ingrid, who suggested we needed to do a monthly column on local businesses. Ingrid had previously been a guest columnist for a monthly print publication that had decided to close its doors due to the pandemic. I suggested if we were going to go online, we would have to do it weekly.
And there you have it! From there, we involved Laurence and here we are now, coming up to our first anniversary. Along the way, we have completed around 50 stories about local business people and community leaders.
When I suggested we should publish weekly, I was thinking of traction. That quickly became quite a task and led us to inviting other local writers to join as contributing columnists.
What do you enjoy most about writing for Vivid Minds Vivid Futures?
I think it goes back to learning about the different businesses and organisations around the region and the opportunity to look at them in a bit more depth. And from them, I can learn other ways to ‘do’ my own business. Everyone has a fantastic story and I just love getting to know them.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Scotland, and I’m proud of my heritage. I am equally proud to be Australian. I came over to Australia as a child and was raised and educated in Armidale. This part of the world is the best place to be, especially at the moment. Professionally, I’ve had at least 20 different jobs in my lifetime, but I think editing is my home.
What does Righting Writing do?
I provide a professional editing service with a focus on academic editing, particularly for non-native English speakers. Academic editors specifically check grammar and spelling and ensure the writing is more readable and engaging – all while maintaining the writer’s voice. I also do other types of editing, such as copy editing the monthly National Collision Repairer magazine, edit short blog pieces by various writers, run my eye over newsletters – I’m quite versatile and I’m lucky to have a wide variety of clients.
When did you start your business?
I started this business – having moved out of the taxi world – in 2014, so seven years now. I was sitting in my cab (which I owned and operated in Armidale) reading a newspaper, and I realised that editing was something that was required in all facets of life. I had previously done editing jobs for friends and I love to read, but I get driven nuts by self-published things that bypass or pay lip service to the editing process. I don’t expect writing to be perfect, but I do expect it to make sense and, of course, it should clearly demonstrate the difference between words like your, you’re and yore. Every writer needs an editor! I saw the opportunity for a career change – getting into an area that I’ve always enjoyed and allowing me to indulge in my hermit-like tendencies.
What have been some of your challenges in starting a business?
My hermit-like tendencies! And that has been demonstrated in the past six or so months where my withdrawal has been nothing to do with the pandemic. When I started, I foresaw that it could prove to be a problem given the nature of editing, and serendipitously, a chapter of BNI – a business networking organisation – was forming just as I was starting my business. I felt it would allow for human contact and at the same time I could educate myself on running the business, learning tips and tricks from other business owners.
While I joined BNI All Seasons for the networking and not specifically to grow my business, it is now an integral part of my business building.
Finding clients and not getting scammed is also a challenge. As about 90% of my work is internet-based, the possibility of being scammed is fairly high. In fact, I thought I was being scammed when I first connected with Scribbr, a Dutch-based company that offers academic editing services to clients all around the world. Not only was it NOT a scam, it has turned out to be a great organisation to work for.
What do you like most about running your own business?
Being a hermit, most of the time. I like my own company, so running my business is part of that. It gives me more control over when, where and how I work. And with clients and colleagues all over the world, it’s always interesting.
I also like doing things on my terms, taking charge of the direction I take and having the ability to take up or reject opportunities as suits where my business is going and what I have on at the time. I also love to learn, and reading such a wide variety of academic papers really feeds into that. Sometimes the writing is just plain sailing, sometimes it’s sad, and sometimes it’s accidentally funny.
What advice would you give a business just starting out?
Trust your gut is the first thing. It’s going to be tough, and a lot of hard work needs to go into it. Every business has an aspect you don’t enjoy – sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do for the sake of your business success. Get help with those things. Get a good accountant who can keep you on the straight and narrow – having said that, don’t be afraid to bill your clients!
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by the opportunity to learn every time I take on a new job. There is always something to learn. And that applies to every aspect of my life. I suppose I’m inspired by curious people.
What is your secret for success?
Believing I can, and when I discover I can’t, asking for help. That’s easier said than done when my default mode is hermiting, of course, but being able to recognise that I can’t do some things on my own and then going out to get the help is definitely the key.
What’s next for Righting Writing?
A greater focus on academic editing, while also developing another part of my business: listening to and recording people’s stories. Everyone has a fantastic story and I love to hear them!