We had the good fortune of connecting with Tia Ross and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tia, other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
I never put all my eggs in one basket. I’d always heard it was best to specialize in one thing, but I was never interested in limiting myself like that. Continuously investing in developing new skills and areas of expertise throughout my entire adult life has absolutely proven to be the best decision I’ve made by far. Let me give you an example of why this has been so empowering.
2020 has been so disastrous for the events and travel industries that if I’d made the decision to dedicate all of my energy and focus solely on just my event planning and group travel business, as I considered when I was deciding which of my options to make primary four years ago, I’d have been looking for a job by summer 2020. Instead, I had my editing services business to fully pivot to, and I have truly had a banner year. While many were forced to stay home at the beginning of the year, they got their books written, their businesses launched, websites developed, and courses created—all of which need the eagle eye of a skilled editor and/or proofreader. We’ve been slammed with requests for estimates and sample edits all year; I’ve hired two editors and a beta reader/manuscript analyst and expect to hire two more editors in first quarter 2021. I’ve implemented a client management portal that has helped to streamline our workflows and made project management and client communications with this ongoing influx of new clients much easier to keep up with. I’ve been able to work safely from home with the freedom to work how I want and when I want rather than be forced to go into anybody’s offices and risk exposure to COVID-19. And I’m currently completing a book coaching certification program with plans to offer nonfiction and fiction book coaching in 2021.
Additionally, this year I’ve launched two networks—one for writers (blackwriters.org); the other for editors (blackeditors.net)—along with a separate resource for writers that showcases other qualified freelance editors they might reach out to if they need a different level of editing than is offered through my firm or we don’t have the availability to meet their deadline, which has become the only real problem we’ve had. There’s simply too much demand for our expertise, not nearly enough time.
I have a quote on my main website, tiaross.com, that says “A [wo]man is a success if [s]he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what [s]he wants to do.” God has blessed me to be able to do that while allowing me to help other creative and business professionals. To me that means I am successful beyond measure.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Being successful is nothing if you don’t also contribute to the successes of others along the way. My ability to utilize my skills, know-how, and experience in inspiring, mentoring, and nurturing my peers and others within my networks sits well above anything I could ever do solely for myself or my own businesses. I especially like when my mentees or colleagues come to me for professional or personal development advice. I love being able to lend input or feedback and then watch them nail it. That lifts me higher than my own business achievements. I think that gift—the desire and capability to build up others and to share my resources—is what sets me, personally, apart from others who do what I do. That’s the brand I want transcending each of my entities. It’s the sole purpose for why each exists. The first lesson I learned is that I don’t have to be a civil rights leader or inventor and change the whole world to make an impact. Small acts can positively impact others and make a significant difference in not only their lives but can benefit their communities and beyond as well.
Editing was one of my very first passions. I’ve been editing since 1986 and freelancing through my own business since 1995. It comes as naturally to me as breathing. That part was easy. Early on, I would burn myself out by trying to be too many things at once as a book doctor. I was developmental editor, substantive editor, copyeditor, and proofreader—whatever level of editing someone needed, I did it. I took on projects I didn’t enjoy, rewriting huge chunks of material for the sake of helping their authors. I was doing way too much, and I eventually burned out and ground to a halt. I realized I no longer liked developmental or substantive editing. I preferred coaching at those levels and only going hands-on in copyediting. And that is what now sets me apart as an editor: my practice focuses solely on what I enjoy most, which happens to be what I do best, which is applying the mechanics of editorial style, grammar, and flow to my clients’ projects. I’m the last contributor as their copyeditor (and proofreader). I get to apply the polish, and I L-O-V-E it more than ever.
The lesson I learned there, which I always share with other editors and creative entrepreneurs, is that there is no good reason to try to be a one-stop shop if you don’t thoroughly enjoy the work and cannot effectively excel in performing every aspect of those services. Why even put yourself through that? Many who offer content editing lack the in-depth knowledge of the elements of style that copyediting requires, yet they’re out there adding mistakes to folks’ projects, falsely believing they can do it all. Rather than deliver mediocre performance across the board, master the one or two areas where you truly stand out. You’ll never achieve greatness as a dull knife. Sharpen your focus, your skill, and your results, and shine where you shine.
The third important lesson I learned was reinforced time after time this year, which is to tell people the truth even if it’s not what they want to hear. For example: If their work is poorly developed and needs far more than the copyediting they’re asking for, tell them straight up. It makes no sense for us editors to see problems yet allow a client to tell us what they need. They rarely have a clue if it’s really bad, and how am I helping them by not telling them? I don’t encourage people to not publish something, but I will definitely tell them if it’s not good enough to proceed just yet.
The fourth lesson I want to share is about resiliency. The pathetic handling of the pandemic, the state of the economy, and the closures of over 100,000 small businesses this year have reinforced the reality that it is no longer smart in this era to specialize in one thing. The successful small business owner must keep an ace in his or her back pocket at all times, brandish the ability to switch lanes like a badge of honor, and stop buying into this fallacy that you can only be successful at one thing. Versatility breeds resiliency. Be as multifarious as you want and stretch your reach without apology.
2020 has actually caused me to be proud, for the first time in my life, of being a polymath. Before, I didn’t pay it any mind one way or the other. I just did my thing. But thanks to 2020 I realize how special it actually is. You can’t immediately pivot in another direction when necessary if you haven’t developed other skills to swing with. While which skills or knowledge you choose is certainly another factor, if you never put all your eggs in one basket in the first place, you are less likely to end up stuck out at a dead end.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I don’t have any favorite public spots in Dallas.
Other: tiarosseditor.com, wordwiserink.com, bosseventsandtravel.com, blackwriters.org, blackeditors.net
Eryk Gross, Tia Ross