Stealth marketing

Sometimes we all feel the lure of the shadows …

Most editorial business owners need to do some sort of marketing to keep things going. Even those who claim mainly to rely on word of mouth to bring work in (I count myself among them) sometimes find they need to elicit work in the short term, or seek out new clients in the longer term.

This can be a problem, though. Many editors are modest souls, often self-identifying as introverts. Added to this, you need to forsake a certain amount of ego to be a good editor, but this tendency doesn’t always serve us well when we’re jostling to get noticed in a crowded marketplace. Simply put, we don’t always feel like presenting ourselves to the world, not all of us are confident bloggers, or vloggers, and sometimes we’re simply too busy to market our businesses. With this in mind, I came up with a list of ‘stealth marketing’ tactics – for when you feel like flying under the radar, but you know you need to stay visible.

1. Start small. If you need work now – just ask for it. Try your favourite contacts first. The ones who pay well or quickly (or both!). The ones you like working with. The ones whose projects excite you. Just drop them an email highlighting your availability, or to tell them if you’ve got a new skill or specialism. This is the simplest form of marketing, and often the most effective.

2. Remember that marketing doesn’t always look like marketing. It’s about being noticeable in some way, for positive reasons – not about indiscriminately selling. Stand out by being helpful. Make personal, meaningful connections. Become known for being kind and generous. Be prepared to share your knowledge without wondering what you’ll get in return.

3. Also, networking doesn’t have to look like networking. It’s called making friends (in person and online)! You get more from networking than work leads. You’ll find yourself part of a supportive community, and the work leads might follow – but only if you contribute to the community as well as taking what it has to offer.

4. Target your efforts. If you’re anything like me, you’ve only got a certain amount of time and energy to devote to marketing. For a start, there’s paid work to do (hopefully). And there are probably various other commitments vying for your attention. Don’t spend your time trying to reach everyone. Focus on reaching the people you want to work with most. Use the social media channels that you feel most comfortable with, and use them in a way that suits you. Not great on camera? Fine, stick to blogging. Not comfortable blogging? Then participate in professional forums. You make the rules. And don’t be afraid to be yourself, either. When computers take over, the thing that will set us apart is our individuality, our personality, our specific way of doing things … our human touch.

5. Be comfortable with your own needs and aspirations. Marketing is about putting yourself out there, sure. But you don’t have to be top of Google to be good at it – which is just as well, because not everyone can be. You might decide that all you need is to keep a steady stream of work coming, of the type that interests you and pays you what you want or need to earn – and that’s enough. There’s nothing wrong with that. Don’t feel bad because you haven’t got the resources to devote to a bigger marketing effort. Attracting more work than you can handle is good, in that it enables you to pick and choose what you do, and increase the amount you charge – and refer work on to colleagues. But there is a limit to how much surplus you really need, and this will be different for everyone.

6. Build in a little marketing every day, or every week. If you want to fit more marketing in, because you’ve identified that your business needs it, you might consider setting aside ten or fifteen minutes a day to spend on this. There’s a lot you can do in that time. Here are some ideas for bite-sized, (relatively) pain-free marketing activities:

  • Update directory listings – and check out the competition for ideas
  • Update your website – again, experiment with key words, see what others do
  • Contact clients – elicit immediate work, send relevant greetings cards, tell them about new services, get feedback, ask for testimonials
  • Make contact with colleagues or clients on social media, share others’ content
  • Keep a diary – see what you’ve done, what difference it’s making, what there is still to do, generate new ideas
  • Track progress – you need to know where you’re at to know what you want to achieve in future
  • Organise your contacts, see which are still current and also where you might have gaps
  • Look at what other editors are doing – how could you apply their ideas to your own business?

Finally, remember that we are all different. There are probably as many ways to market an editorial business as there are editors.

Liz Jones has worked as an editor in the publishing industry since 1998, and has been freelance since 2008. She works with a range of publishing and non-publishing clients. Like many editors she knows, she can be a reluctant marketer.


  1. Liz thank you for another typically insightful and on-the-button blog. Spot on, in my view. It is interesting how different perspectives can be on this. I have been trying to further warm up some already-warm leads with a view to getting higher-value work, using a combination of the techniques in your blog; and to me that terminology (“warming leads”) is entirely understandable and apt, but some people I talked to about what I was doing found it either hilarious or totally inapt and cynical. Also it is interesting that the thing at the centre of my whole marketing strategy – writing a book and teaching – is a kind of crystallised stealth marketing approach. Which is squeezing out almost all my other marketing efforts. Yet I now find I will have to revive those if I am ever to get the book published or sold! Go figure…


    1. I can’t wait to read the book, Howard! I think the main thing with marketing (and everything else about running a business) is to focus on what feels right for you …


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