Last week I finally wrapped up a project that began back in December -- an online course designed to teach students everything they need to establish and manage a successful estate sale business. In conjunction with creating the course, my client also established the National Association of Estate Liquidators, an organization designed to support, mentor, and educate estate sale agents, and to help establish standards of professionalism in the industry. The course and organization have been a long-time dream of Donna's, and I am pleased to have been part of bringing her vision to the web.
Although you can't see the course we developed together (which was 95% of this project), you can take a look at the website (I helped with the content).
What I did. When I originally met with Donna, we discussed her project, and I left the meeting with a stack of typed pages, her notes on the sections of the course she had already drafted. There were several additional section planned, which she sent to me over the course of the next few months, along with photos, videos, and web links. This is what I did with it.
- Rewrote all written material.When it comes to estate sales, Donna knows her business. She needed to partner up with someone whose business is writing. During our initial meeting we decided together on her Ideal Customer Avatar (ICA), then I took her rough notes and put the content into appropriate language.
- Organized the material. Everything needed to be grouped into units, with several sections within each unit, and put in a logical sequence. We wanted the student to be walked step-by-step through the process of starting their business, developing and running their business, and learning many of the tricks and trade secrets that lead to a successful business.
- Dropped in graphics and videos. We decided that each page of the course should have it's own photo or graphic, so I went through files Donna sent me, as well as an online resource, and decided which graphics should go where.
- Transferred course content onto the platform. This isn't really in my job description, but Donna needed someone to do it (I classified this as administrative work). The site was a “cut-and-paste” template, so little tech skill was needed.
- Set up a beta test. We wanted to have someone run through the course to let us know 1) whether there were any bugs with the program, 2) whether the content was logically ordered and clear, and 3) if at the end of the course they felt they had everything they needed to start and run an estate sale business. I located a candidate and drew up a simple questionnaire for feedback.
- Developed and edited website content. Donna already had some content worked out, which I tightened up. Other pages needed to be written, which I did based on the course material we had already developed. She also needed a Code of Ethics, which I pulled together after reviewing several samples. And I edited her first blog post, something which will probably be a recurring assignment.
What I learned. Although I hope to learn something new from each project, this one was particularly beneficial as a learning experience. Here's what I took away from it.
- Don't start until you have everything. And, I mean everything. Particularly rewriting a project this large, it is much more efficient to wait until everything is sitting on your desk (or on your hard drive) before you dig in. Neither Donna nor I had a clear idea how large this project would get when we first met, and it evolved as we worked on it together. In the future, I'll ask my clients to have all of their ducks in a row before we start crossing the street.
- Be flexible in your communication. Being new to the business, I had some pretty clear (and naïve) ideas about how client communication works. Client emails document to me. I edit/proof document and send back to client with a list of questions/comments/concerns. Client emails answers and comments on edits. I make final changes and email to client with my bill. But Donna was much more comfortable communicating by phone. It took several weeks for us to settle into a groove, but eventually we figured it out and our communication was much clearer and more efficient.
- Rewriting is a whole lot different than editing. My rewriting process ended up going something like this. Read the client's draft. Think about it. Highlight crucial information and keywords. Think about it. Decide on logical progression of ideas and information. Think about it. Sketch out language using crucial information and keywords. Think about it. Write first draft "in client's voice." Think about it. Set it aside and work on something else. Edit it. Send it to client as “first draft.” When it comes back with comments, start the editing process.
- I catch certain types of errors more quickly on a printed page. I realize this make me less efficient than many editors, but getting it done right is more important to me than getting it done fast. I know I'll eventually be able to edit and proof strictly on screen, but for now, my last pass will be on a printed page, because my clients deserve the absolute best I can give them.
What my Client said. Here is the glowing recommendation from Donna.
"I’m so happy I was able to find Monique to help me write my online estate sale courses. It has been a long time dream of mine to start a national organization of estate sale agents and offer ongoing training and education. Monique was able to take my years of experience in the business and my rough notes and turn them into exactly the quality of training course I’d hoped for. And her help developing content for my website was invaluable. No matter what your project is if it involves expressing yourself in words Mo can make it better." - Donna Davis, Founder, National Association of Estate Liquidators (NAOEL)
What's next. I'm already neck-deep in the line edit of a novel. I met Anna through a LinkedIn group when I offered to beta read her novel. She was so impressed with my feedback, she hired me to do the editing. I am very excited about this project -- the first book in a planned trilogy -- and Anna has already proven to be a joy to work with.