Terri Grote’s Academic Expressions is addressing a niche and helping academics achieve their potential
Tell me about your business and why you started it?
Academic Expressions empowers people with their own writing specialising in people who speak English as their second or third language. Within universities, many academics and higher degree students do not speak English as their first language and this becomes even more difficult when they have to write English. There are very few if any services that assist academics with their written English as most services at university focus on students. There is the perception that academics can write English well because they are experts in their field but this is not always so.
I know how difficult writing and publishing can be and how integral this is to life within academia. While writing my PhD, I really wanted to find someone who understood the world of academia and how this kind of writing is different, but also someone who could proofread and edit my work. The options were limited as those who could read it were too busy or had to deal with thousands of other students, and understandably so, wouldn’t read an entire 80,000 word thesis. From this experience of mine I started Academic Expressions and have now been in business for 4 years and currently growing.
What has been the hardest thing about starting your business?
Initially the hardest thing was realising this was something I really wanted to do but then combining this with my other job at the time that was paying the bills and financing the start up costs of Academic Expressions. The long hours were also difficult. There were some days where I left home to go to work, but then left work to work at home. It was difficult at the time but it was a time of transition that became exciting especially when clients started telling me how much I had assisted them, or their journal paper was published or their PhD was successful.
What are your two marketing tips that helped your business grow?
These are two very basic tips that worked for me. Something big, flashy and colourful doesn’t always relate to sales. Often the cheapest but most strategically placed or positioned marketing can be more effective. In my very early days I thought that paid print advertising would have related to more clients so I took out an advertisement in a publication distributed amongst those I wanted to target. But there was very little return on investment. On the other hand, I printed flyers on coloured paper and stuck them on poster poles at particular universities. This was very effective as a number of my people found me this way and I am still working with some of them to this day.
Secondly, treat every interaction to do with your business as marketing. What I mean by this is not to pitch or sell your business at absolutely every opportunity but simple courtesy and communicating with people about their work is important. For example, sometimes my workload has been heavy and so I have let clients know I will be longer than usual returning their document to them. Every action like this adds to the whole experience which clients’ reflect on after I have returned their document. If a client’s experience is positive, they are more likely and willing to talk about me and my business. I still find this to be the best and most effective marketing.
What is your vision for your business?My vision for Academic Expressions is to be a great source for academics who speak English as their second language and for most of my business to come from word of mouth. To me this shows the quality of my work and that my services are valued. I would also like to grow the mentoring side of my business to work with people who would like to write a book but don’t really know where to start. I also have other ideas that I hope to implement soon but if there is one thing I have learnt about my business is that slow but steady always works best.
Find out more on the Academic Expressions website.