10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Professional Directory Listing

By Madeleine Vasaly

For many professionals, getting a directory listing is one of the big perks of joining an association like the Professional Editors Network. It’s proof of your membership, it’s a way to reach a targeted audience, and it’s a valuable platform for marketing your services—especially if you don’t have your own website.

But how do you stand out from other people in the directory and draw as many client eyes as possible? While there are a potentially infinite number of ways to improve, here are some key tips for optimizing your directory listing.

A person's hands using a laptop
Christin Hume/Unsplash

1. Include an Image

Sighted humans are visual creatures and are naturally drawn to images. Including one in your directory listing—whether it’s a personal headshot or your business logo—will attract a client’s attention better than text alone. “Photos on social media drive engagement, which guided my decision to include my photo in the PEN directory,” says member Linda McDonald, a writer and editor with twenty years of experience.

Make sure your image is clear, professional, and of high quality. For consistency, try to use the same one for your directory listing, LinkedIn profile, website, and other platforms, which makes it easy for visitors to see at a glance that they all belong to the same person. And if a directory includes the option to provide alternative text for your image for screen reader software, be sure to use it so blind and low-vision readers have access to the information it contains.

2. Use Keywords

Many professional directories, including PEN’s, allow prospective clients to filter listings by things like services, specialties, and software proficiencies, but the descriptive text of your profile is your opportunity to get really specific.

If you’re a book editor or writer, for example, what subgenres or topics do you have experience with? You’ve checked the “Science fiction” box, but have you worked heavily with postapocalyptic stories, cyberpunk, or time travel? You’ve edited culinary writing, but do you have experience with Korean cuisine, the paleo diet, or sous vide cooking? The more closely your expertise aligns with a prospective client’s individual needs, the better your chances of that client contacting you, especially since they may get very detailed with their search terms.

Besides genre- and subject-related keywords, get specific about the types of projects you’ve worked on. If you have experience with illustrations, graphs, charts, or other information and design elements, say so. If you’ve worked with particular ebook formats or publishing platforms, name them.

In addition, think not just about people searching within the directory but people using Google and other search engines. For someone who lands on a listing without ever seeing the directory’s own search page, the filters never enter into the equation, and an outside search engine may not look at the information in your profile the same way the directory’s built-in search does. As a result, even if you check that “science fiction” box, you may want to mention the genre in the descriptive text of your profile too, to make it more likely that people who aren’t already on the directory site will find you.

And finally, think about whether there are multiple terms for the same thing. For example, if you provide sensitivity reading, consider whether it would be a good idea to also include “targeted editing” or other terms someone might use to search for that service.

3. Be Complete

If a field exists in a directory, use it unless it really, truly doesn’t apply to you. The more information you provide, the more information there is for prospective clients to find.

In addition, list all the services you offer—don’t leave it to clients to fill in the blanks when it comes to services that typically go hand in hand, and don’t assume all clients will know what’s covered by a specific industry term. For one thing, if someone has never hired an editor before, they may not know whether what they need is called copyediting or proofreading. For another, certain terms, like developmental editing, may not mean the same thing from one publisher to another. When in doubt, spell it out.

4. Focus on the Client

When someone is looking for a professional and lands on your listing, chances are their first priority is figuring out whether you offer the services they’re looking for—your credentials and personal story are secondary. While your bona fides can help you close the deal, be sure you’re prioritizing the information that will confirm for a client that they’re in the right place.

PEN member Molly McCowan, an editorial business coach and self-described lead word nerd at Inkbot Editing, says, “The biggest mistake I see editors make with their client-facing directory profiles, and their websites, is putting their background and experience first. You’re losing clients by doing this. Instead, focus your copy on how you can help your ideal client. Your first sentence should be what you can do for them.”

5. Use Numbers

Words may be your thing, but numbers can help make your case. How many years of experience do you have? How many projects do you work on every year? How many self-publishing clients have you successfully helped to publication? What percentage of your developmental editing or coaching clients have gone on to land an agent or publisher?

Backing up your claims of experience or success with hard numbers can help show that you know what you’re doing—and that you know your own metrics.

6. Add Testimonials

If you provide a service like editing, book coaching, or fact-checking, it can be hard to show prospective clients you’re good at what you do before they take the leap and contact you. Unlike writers, artists, and web developers, editors often can’t provide a public portfolio of work. So how does a stranger know it’s worth spending their hard-earned money on you?

One of the ways to address this is through testimonials from people who have used your services in the past. Testimonials are especially effective if your client agrees to have their name and/or company listed, which can make visitors to your profile more confident the quotes are from real people. Consider asking your most satisfied clients whether they would be willing to write a few words about you—or, if a client has already recommended you on LinkedIn or reviewed your business on Facebook, ask whether you can use those words on your directory profile.

7. Target Your Audience

When creating your listing, consider the type of client you want to appeal to and use the language they’re likely to use themselves. A profile that appeals to a chemistry researcher will likely read differently than one that appeals to a romance novelist (though there are absolutely editors who serve both groups!).

While it’s often good to use plain language and avoid jargon for clear communication, if your target audience frequently uses particular industry lingo or technical terminology, you’d do well to include that alongside your more accessible descriptions. Not only might clients in specialized fields search for those terms (see #2), but if they come across them in your profile, it signals that you know and understand them and likely have the experience the client is looking for.

Also think about the overall message your language is sending about your work. You’ll set different expectations—and draw in a different type of client—depending on how you describe yourself and your services. As Molly McCowan notes, “By using words or phrases like ‘affordable’ or ‘reasonable rates,’ you’re attracting a different subset of clients than if you use ‘high-quality’ or say you’re an expert in the niche.” If you’ve been finding that a lot of people who contact you seem put off by your rates, consider whether something about your profile is leading them to assume you have cut-rate prices.

8. Update Frequently

There are two good reasons to update your listing frequently. The first is probably the most obvious: you want to be sure your information is still correct and that it reflects any recent changes or accomplishments you want to highlight. Be sure to review your listing regularly to make sure it’s still how you want to present yourself.

The second reason is that how recently a page has been created or updated influences how high it shows up in Google search results. The more recently you’ve added to or revised your content, the more likely it is that it will come up when someone searches the web for relevant terms—and, in turn, that the person doing the searching will see and click on your listing.

9. Proofread Meticulously

This should go without saying, but it’s critical to have a profile free of typos and other errors. While this is true for any professional, it’s nonnegotiable for anyone who’s promoting their skills with words. A single mistake could make the difference in whether someone decides to contact you.

Even editors need editors, so see whether a colleague can look over your listing—maybe in exchange for you reviewing theirs. At the very least, let the text sit a while before you go back and self-proofread to make it easier to catch your own mistakes.

10. Share Your Profile

While many of the above suggestions will help guide prospective clients to your directory listing when they’re searching for an editor, it never hurts to drive people there directly. Share the link to your listing on social media, embed it in your email signature, and get it out in any other way that’s appropriate. Just make sure it’s fully polished first.

Implementing even a couple of these tips can make a big difference in the discoverability and success of your professional directory listing—and especially if it’s your full-time business you’re marketing with your profile, it’s worth taking the time to do everything here that applies to you. So go forth and improve your search engine optimization!

Madeleine Vasaly

Madeleine Vasaly is the Professional Editors Network’s marketing and social media liaison and website administrator. She is a freelance editor specializing in trade nonfiction books as well as the senior editor of news and culture website Twin Cities Geek.

If you’re not yet a Professional Editors Network member, join PEN today to get your own directory listing—along with our other member benefits.