In the first part of this series, we talked about the kinds of advisors an editor needs on her board. Now let’s help you find them.
Look for roughly three advisors to start, more than seven gets unwieldy.
Where to Find Advisors
Advisors can be paid consultants, coworkers, service suppliers, friends and family. They might be a supervisor, or they might be the long-term employee. They could be a mentor or teacher you had previously, or even the HR person. They can also be your contact at the accounting firm. They can come from any direction, if you keep your eyes open for them.
You can ask for leads on advisors, search for them online, at the bank, local IT firm, school, or law society, or find them in your existing professional networks. While you might think it’s best to have advisors who understand publishing, it can be tremendously professional to get a different perspective. (When they give advice that seems a bad fit, think “how can I adapt that to my niche.”) For best results, look for advisors who understand creatives (designers, artists, writers, and such); they will understand issues related to creating and delivering an intangible product.
How to Ask Advisors
The relationships can be organic and informal. Some advisors don’t even realize that they have an advisory role—if you keep demands light or if their advice comes in the form of columns like those on this site.
Another option is simply to ask if you can ask them questions. In a big business setting, you’d ask them to sit on the board of your company, and pay them. Paying for advice is a legitimate option too. Sometimes that gives you access to the most in-demand advisors and it respects the time this role takes away from working on their own business. Copyediting’s mentor program is one example of this.
A third option is to make a formal agreement. Ask them if they’d be an advisor. Tell them what you’re hoping to get out of it and how long it will take. Include a single-page description of your business with goals and financial history so they know where you’re coming from.
Where to Start
Make a list of the aspects of your work and business that cause the most pain; start there. Also think of gaps in your systems: Do you not use contracts? Legal advice might figure high on your list.
Don’t start small. Reach as high as you can. Be audacious and start by asking the best people you can think of.
What Advisors Get Out of It
Some advisors simply like to give back; everyone likes to feel valued, after all. Some are scouting for subcontractors, or like to have a roster of editors to recommend to clients when they can’t take a job. The best advisors like to see others succeed, and they champion those who are working hard to do so.
When advisors are paid, one guideline is to give them 0.25–0.5% of revenue* for up to 8 hours of their time a month. You can also hire a coach or a mentor. (Some coaches and mentors are paid, most advisory boards aren’t compensated, according to a Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) study. It depends on their choice; they set their fees.)
You’ll Stand Out from the Crowd
Building an advisory board will give you a serious leg up over your competitors. Only 6% of small and medium sized businesses build such a support network, according to the BDC study. One can imagine that solo-preneurs are even less likely to have a board.
Those who did build an advisory board saw an average of 67% growth in the following the year.
*That means their hourly pay is your annual pretax income × 0.0025 ÷ 96 hours. (Or multiply by 0.005 for the high end.)