Marketing Your Freelance Indexing Services

Marketing Your Freelance Indexing Services

Freelance indexers marketing their services need the book Marketing Your Indexing Services, 3rd ed., edited by Anne Leach and published by the American Society for Indexing (ASI) through Information Today. It is jam-packed with information specific to indexers and indexing.

I’ve been an ASI member for years and recently presented to the Heartland Chapter a workshop on marketing for indexers. Grab a copy of the handout and follow along as I give a thumbnail of the presentation.

I called the workshop Playing the Marketing Game because marketing isn’t much fun, but playing a game is fun. So if we make marketing a game, we can change our perception of it. Perception will keep popping up, so let me explain what I mean by it.

I was disappointed with the dictionary definition of perception. So I turn to art:

What do you see?What do you see?

If I may be my usual nit-picky self, you see circles and lines, but you perceive a cat. Perception is the brain’s addition of meaning.

You get a taste of this if you look up subjective in the dictionary: “Belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind.”

Hey you Newbie Indexers out there, look at this another way: The circles and lines you see are a newbie indexer with no indexes on his resume. The cat you perceive is an indexing expert who knows how to help people improve their books with well-written indexes.

It’s all about perception.

In Marketing Your Indexing Services, 3rd ed., mentioned above, Anne Leach (p.31) relates a story about the role of perception in marketing. A shy accountant learned that her firm was launching a contest to increase billable work. She was stricken at the thought of participating, until she learned the rules: The person who collected the most No’s in the week won that week’s contest. When the shy accountant realized that the inevitable rejections wouldn’t be held against her, she thought that asking clients if they’d be interested in hearing about other services wouldn’t be so bad.

The first week, she collected one No. The next week, she got two No’s. Then she got four No’s and won that week’s No! Getter award. She only got two No’s the next week, but she also got a Yes.

Be a No! Getter.


Let’s start with branding; it’s a big buzzword that applies even to indexers. In Marketing Your Indexing Services, current ASI President Ina Gravitz (pp. 12-13) gives a wonderful overview of marketing for indexers, beginning with branding:

Our product is intangible: It cannot be examined prior to being sold. Therefore, we have to establish brand recognition to help endow our project with tangibility.

Ina continues by saying that a photo in online materials helps increase tangibility: on your website or in your ASI Indexer Locator listing. Ina recommends defining a target market, saying that niche marketing brings the greatest return, provided the niche isn’t too narrow.

Your brand is more than a domain name; it’s your promise to your customers. It tells them what they can expect from you and your products. It’s what your customers perceive about you and how you make them feel.

Marketing is about selling benefits and solutions to problems. Determine what your ultimate benefit is.

Enid Zafran, in Marketing Your Indexing Services, 3rd ed., said (p.76) that she attended a panel discussion where a group of editors offered comments and feedback to indexers. They said their first consideration was to “make the deadline.” Their second was “make the deadline.” Their third was “make the deadline.” Quality was fourth on the list.

What is our ultimate benefit as professional indexers?

  • We make the deadline.

Marketing is both self-marketing and the marketing of indexes.

Hey all you Newbie Indexers out there: Market your expertise by marketing indexes and professional indexing. If you teach others about indexing then you are perceived as an indexing expert.

Anne Leach has a good quote for us in Marketing Your Indexing Services, 3rd ed., on page 2:

PR-minded indexers believe that attitudes of the public (i.e., readers, writers, publishers) toward indexing and indexers is frequently uninformed and dismissive; that if they knew better they would insist on better indexes; that if they did so, we would have more and better-paid work.

What are good ways to market indexes and professional indexing?

  • Write an article.
    Post it online or in a print publication.
    I live near a college town and want to market to the faculty. I’m preparing an article for the town newspaper.
    Publications abound and editors are always looking for well-written content.
  • Talk at an organization conference or organize a panel discussion.
  • Blog or guest blog.

This marketing of indexes has an additional benefit for you, as the Alternate Marketing blog writer stated:

 When you begin to get convinced about the benefits your business renders to its clients, you start talking about it more passionately. You start writing, acting, and even thinking about it with more enthusiasm and energy.

Every communication is marketing.

  • Check the From field of your email.
  • Use the email signature.

Where’s the marketing in receiving job pages? It’s in the acknowledgment that you received them.

When you receive pages, unzip the file, check the pagination, and look for additional instructions. Then your acknowledgment can be (should be) more than “Got ’em.” Instead you will report that the file unzipped fine, the pagination looks good, you see the extra instructions, and you will have this job back by xx/xx/xxxx.

You have just given the client peace of mind. Your obvious attention to detail lets that person know that the job was put in capable hands.

Branding: It’s what your customers perceive about you and how you make them feel.

Where’s the marketing in delivering a job? Do you know about metadata? The second page of the handout shows how to bring up the metadata window for various versions of Word.

Check to be sure your metadata says what you want it to say.

Where’s the marketing in backing up files? Because if a file goes corrupt, you won’t have much of a delay of work and you won’t miss the deadline.

Back up your job files often. I like to email mine off to a gmail account. That way I have every version available to me.

If you back up onto a USB drive, keep multiple copies on that drive. If you don’t realize that a file is corrupt and you back it up by copying over your only backup on the USB drive, you’ll have two copies of a corrupt file and no good version to go back to.

Where’s the marketing in continuing education? Besides helping you to produce a high-quality product, you can build press releases around conferences and courses.

In any text on marketing two platitudes emerge:

  1. Sell benefits, not features.
  2. Press releases are free publicity.

The challenge of press releases is identifying the publications and editors to send them to.

Hey all you Newbie Indexers out there: Publicity builds your credibility. A journalist wants to share your information with the public. That kind of independent validation can’t be bought.

Make yourself newsworthy. News is anything that other people are interested in.

Presenting at a professional conference is worthy of a press release. That’s the sort of news that leads to free publicity, if you are articulate and can present yourself as serving that professional community rather than seeking a profit.

Submit articles and press releases: Be a No! Getter.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

I listed managing editors and production editors, but add authors to this list!

The organizations listed on page 4 of the handout all need to know the value of well-written indexes.

Larry Bonura in the 2nd edition of Marketing Your Indexing Services (p.1) says that every ASI member is an unofficial ASI ambassador.

One way to live up to our Ambassadorships is to be the very best indexers we can be, but of course we all do that anyway. Another is to approach organizations such as these listed here with articles, papers, presentations, or whatever on indexing.

Hey all you Newbie Indexers out there: Demonstrate your knowledge of indexes and indexing: Provide these organizations with articles or presentations. Be seen as an expert.

It’s all about perception.

Marketing is both self-marketing and the marketing of indexes.

Assembling your press list:

  • If you want coverage, you have to be the one to court the publication.
  • Identify the specialty areas that you are comfortable indexing.
    Include hobbies if you feel confidently knowledgeable.
  • From the list on page 4 of the handout, write down the associations, publishers, and presses associated with your specialty areas.
  • Research this list to identify those with indexable publications: This is your target audience.
  • Don’t hesitate to offer an article to a small organization if its members produce indexable publications. Your publicity will be more effective there than somewhere with fewer ties to indexing.

Literary Market Place (LMP) is available at libraries online and in print copies. In the online version, notice that there is a Publishers tab and a Trade Services tab. You can search for publishers by specialty. Use the Trade Services tab to find book production companies using the search strings “prepress” or “book produc*” (don’t include the quote marks).

My piggyback business is proofreading. I mine the references for the names of publishers, sometimes finding smaller presses that aren’t approached as often by other indexers.

Hey all you Newbie Indexers out there: Try to approach smaller niche presses. Remember what Ina Gravitz said about niche marketing.

What about a contact database? I use Cindex to track my marketing.

Are Ya Gonna Call?

The marketing literature all recommends making cold calls. Phone calls are supposed to be helpful in building relationships.

I should make cold calls. I’ve made all of two. On the first, the guy yelled at me for five minutes about how no one reads books any more. The second greeted me with “How did you find us?” and became one of my best clients.

But I was a packager for all of nine months before I ran screaming from the building. Email was my workflow. A phone call meant trouble.

The article Breaking Freelance Rule #1: You Must Make Cold Calls agrees with me that cold calls are intrusive; asynchronous communication (i.e., email) is more effective.

How Virtual a Network?

The ASI website is a treasure trove of articles and resources on indexes and indexing.

Okay, you’ve put a website up. Is anyone looking at it? Google Analytics can tell you.

  • You need a Google account. Plan on using this same account for accessing Google Webmaster tools that display analytics results.
  • You need to be able to add a snippet of code (that they supply) right before the </head> tag of the HTML code of each page of your website.

Then join Google Webmasters.

  • It requires verification of ownership of the website, which is most easily handled if this Google login is the administrator of the analytics and the analytics code is already installed on the site.

How do you submit a website to search engines?

  • Create a site map XML file. You can google for an online site map creation site or use the link on page 6 of the handout.
  • Put that file into the same location on your website where your home page file is.
  • Submit this XML file to the Google and Bing Webmasters programs by giving them the path to where you put the site map file on your website.

Submitting a site map to Bing also submits it to Yahoo!

Website Metadata

The description meta tag is displayed on search engine results pages.

QR Codes

a QR codeA QR code

QR codes allow a mobile device to connect to a website by simply “looking at” this code. The embedded URL can be used to track QR code “clicks.”

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