Scribendi: Helping you Write the Right Words Right

An interview with Chandra Clarke, founder of Scribendi, an editing company that recently started a plug-in editing program on WordPress.

It’s not just what you have to say but how you say it that matters. Even in this age of fast communication, incorrect grammar or typos still damage your credibility. Husband and wife team Chandra K. Clarke and Terence W. Johnson started Scribendi to help writers get it right, and their blogger’s services are now available as a plug-in on WordPress. We talked with Chandra recently about the business and their approach to entrepreneurship.

Blogtrepreneur:  It’s a bit of a leap from an MSc in space exploration studies to an editing and proofreading company. How did that happen and do you still look through a telescope occasionally?

Chandra: It does seem like a strange combination, doesn’t it? I’ve had a long-standing interest in space exploration, in general, with a particular interest in science communication. The question my thesis addressed was how to get the public more engaged with and supportive of space exploration activities. I definitely look through the ‘scope regularly and have recently started a blog about citizen science.

Blogtrepreneur:  What gave you the idea for Scribendi?

Chandra: My BA is in English and my background is in newspapers. Before I started Scribendi, I was the managing editor of a local newspaper; I saw an awful lot of badly written press releases during my time there. This gave me a feel for what the market for editing services might be like. When I left the paper to strike out on my own, I soon found that I had more editing work than I could handle. I combined my love of all things technical with the job, designed the first version of the Scribendi website, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Blogtrepreneur:  When did you decide to include blog proofing/editing in your service mix?

Chandra: We’ve had the service for about a year and the WordPress plugin was launched in late 2011.

Blogtrepreneur:  How much of your business is that work currently?

Chandra: It’s been very well received and is now our most popular personal editing service.

Blogtrepreneur:  How much do you anticipate it will become?

Chandra: We’re projecting that it will become about 10% of our business by volume. This might sound small, but given that blog posts are typically short (~800 words), and we work on everything from academic articles (~3000 words) to novels (~50,000 words), it’s significant.

Blogtrepreneur:  Your co-founder for Scribendi is also your husband. Based on your experience, would you recommend taking that direction to others?

Chandra: We wouldn’t have it any other way, but we are fortunate in that we work very, very well with each other. We know some couples who have solid relationships, but have such very different approaches and working styles that they couldn’t redecorate a room together without getting into a minor tiff over how to hold the paint brush. Obviously, you should see how well you work together before getting into anything big.

Blogtrepreneur:  What kind of challenges has that partnership created?

Chandra: Because we’re both involved in the business, we can sometimes get too wrapped up in it and forget to step back and take a breather. We’re getting better at recognizing when we need to take time off and clear our heads.

Blogtrepreneur:  What are the advantages of the partnership?

Chandra: We bring different strengths and skillsets to the table, and these complement each other. This has been great for problem solving and in advancing different aspects of the business in tandem.

Blogtrepreneur:  Some people seem more willing to have their Internet communication be flawed – do you think that’s related to changes in our culture or do you think that people have a double-standard on writing for print and writing for the Internet?

Chandra: I think it depends on the channel. People definitely tolerate abbreviations and bad grammar in text messages and real-time chat rooms; the emphasis there is on speed over correctness. There’s less tolerance for it in forums and comment threads, and less still in emails.

Blogtrepreneur:  How important do you think correct grammar and spelling is for bloggers?

Chandra: It’s incredibly important. Bloggers write blog posts because they have something to say—they want to be noticed. If a post is filled with grammar and spelling issues, nearly all the comments will be about these issues, rather than on the message itself. And this assumes that anyone takes you seriously enough to read and comment at all, and not simply dismiss you out of hand.

Blogtrepreneur:  Although you have editors on staff, you also have a number of independent contractors on your team. How is that working for you?

Chandra: We find it works really well, as it allows us to source from a global talent pool of native English speakers.

Blogtrepreneur:  Why did you choose that direction?

Chandra: It allows us to offer our clients 24/7 service in a cost-effective manner, and it allows us to provide steady work to top-notch editors, no matter where they live in the world.

Blogtrepreneur:  Do you have any advice for people who work with independents?

Chandra: Regular communication is critical. Fortunately, the Internet makes this easy.

Blogtrepreneur:  You and your husband have a thriving business and are raising three boys – what’s your secret to survival?

Chandra: Coffee! And, again, good communication. Our boys are young (seven, five, and three), but we still make sure they’re aware of what’s going on, and why it’s going on, at all times, so there’s less resistance when we ask them to do things.

Blogtrepreneur:  Why should bloggers use Scribendi services?

Chandra: If you look at any of the top bloggers, the ones that have subscribers and page views in the thousands, you’ll notice they have well-crafted and error-free posts. These two things are related. You can try all the traffic tactics and SEO tricks you want, but unless you have good, professional content, no one is going to read you.


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