Category Archives: Training

How I got started – Samantha Stalion

Samantha Stalion working outsideOne of the most common questions asked at Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) local groups and by those interested in pursuing a career in editing or proofreading is: ‘How did you get started?’.

SfEP ordinary member Samantha Stalion shares her story in this regular blog feature, which explores the many different career paths taken by SfEP members.

As I sit here in the sunshine, with my laptop and ergonomic mouse on the table in front of me, I cannot help but ponder my life. How did I end up here? I guess it’s taken me a while to realise what it is I want to do with my life. I mainly have my husband to thank for my long-awaited eureka moment just over two years ago. But not least I should mention my editor-in-chief father, who has remained supportive and encouraging over the years, and who – although I only recently realised this – has continuously looked over me, exuding his own unrivalled determination and proficiency in the publishing profession. Perhaps it was my adoration for my father and the entrepreneurial mindset of my ambitious husband that have somehow combined to spur me on to reach my own goals and continue to develop professionally.

I don’t think I was ever particularly academically gifted – I was merely an average student – but a certain degree of maturity and curiosity to learn more about the world we live in has enabled me to use my skills to master my profession and steadily move forward, making a living along the way. As an editorial fledgling, I was lucky enough to have some great role models and mentors over the years, and my fluency in various languages and broadened horizons have certainly added to my competency in this profession.

In any case, going back to how I got here … I have a lot to say for my (or indeed anyone’s) multicultural and multilingual upbringing. English, German and Dutch all played an integral role in my early years, and later (at degree level) Spanish was added to these language skills. Not only were the languages a part of my upbringing, so too were the cultures behind these languages and the countries in general. As languages remained very much a part of my everyday life, I began to explore these skills and integrate them into my professional career, choosing jobs that required them. I ventured into translation and successfully completed a postgraduate translation course run by City University London. Having realised that there is much more to translation than generally assumed, I became intrigued by other professions that depended on language skills.

Owing to my father’s connections (and, in a way, I guess my own connections), I was able to land a gig translating articles on religions for an encyclopedia, for a reputable academic publisher in the Netherlands. I worked on this project for a couple of years, on a part-time basis, before being asked to work on other encyclopedia projects – not as a translator, but as a copy-editor. With next to no copy-editing experience, I was given on-the-job training and, four years and a few pay rises later, I am still copy-editing for the same publishing firm on a couple of different projects – I must be doing something right.

In the last couple of years, in addition to dabbling in freelance work alongside my full-time job in the printing industry, I decided to consolidate my editorial skills with some additional training and qualifications. I passed the ‘Basic proofreading by distance learning’ course provided by the Publishing Training Centre with merit and completed the ‘Brush up your grammar‘ course offered by the SfEP. After learning the proper use of BSI proofreading marks, and with some helpful tips and advice on how to get started as an editorial freelance, I gained the confidence necessary to jump into the full-time freelance whirlpool. Additionally, I successfully upgraded my SfEP membership status to ordinary member.

Local SfEP group meetings have been a source of encouragement and invaluable advice, and the forum discussion boards on the SfEP website remain a daily source of inspiration and guidance.

Unfortunately, with an imminent move to the States (the price you pay for being married to an American), gaining work and new clients has been slow going. However, I imagine with some extra determination and hard work I will get to where I want to be professionally before too long. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

My advice to other freelance newbies just starting up their own business: draw on ALL the contacts you have and GO FOR IT!

Samantha Stalion profile shotSamantha Stalion was brought up in a multicultural family. She completed her high-school diploma in the Netherlands, studied Dance and Spanish at Chester University and completed a postgraduate translation course at City University London. Recently, she completed the ‘Basic proofreading by distance learning’ (PTC) and ‘Brush up your grammar’ (SfEP) courses and she is currently enrolled on the PTC’s ‘Copy-editing by distance learning’ course. Samantha is an ordinary member of the SfEP and recently launched her freelance business Samantix et al, offering editorial and translation services to academics and businesses.

Proofread by SfEP associate Sandra Rawlin.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.

Top quality editorial training for 2015

SfEP logoMake 2015 the year you start your editorial training, or commit to continuing professional development (CPD). The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) offers a range of classroom courses on aspects of editorial practice at centres around the UK, run by our highly experienced and knowledgeable trainers.

Why train in the classroom?

We believe that our classroom-based courses offer unique benefits:

  • Networking and social opportunities – meet like-minded course delegates, and discuss your interests and concerns with your tutor.
  • Answers in real time – get instant feedback on exercises, and see how others tackle things.
  • Make a day of it – it’s easy, as a freelance, to get stuck behind your desk. Enjoy your time away!

Courses for beginners

Copy-editing 1 (Introduction)
Cambridge, 4 March 2015
Proofreading 1 (Introduction)
Edinburgh, 20 February 2015
London, 6 March 2015
These basic courses are perfect if you need to copy-edit or proofread as part of your job but have had little formal training.

Getting work with non-publishers
Bristol, 23 May 2015
This course helps you reflect on how you can promote your business to non-publishers, and fine-tune your networking activities to get more – and better paid – work.

Going freelance and staying there
York, 17 February 2015
This course provides essential information on the business and organisational aspects of setting up as a freelance.

Courses for improvers

Copy-editing 2 (Progress)
London, 12 March 2015
Proofreading 2 (Progress)
London, 18 February 2015
These courses are suited to those wishing to update, refresh or check their skills in these areas.

Brush up your copy-editing
London, 19 February 2015
This workshop aims to consolidate and extend skills evolved through trial and error, and put editorial tasks in the context of the whole publishing process.

Brush up your grammar
London, 5 March 2015
This course is suitable for anyone working with text and hoping to gain confidence that they are making good decisions in what they write.

On-screen editing 1
London, 2 March 2015
This course is designed to introduce techniques to increase efficiency and improve working practices for those who do a lot of on-screen editing. (It can also be taken with On-screen editing 2, below.)

Introduction to web editorial skills
Edinburgh, 16 March 2015
This workshop is designed for those who want to adapt their editorial skills for a digital medium, or who are responsible for web content but have no editorial skills.

Professional copy-editing
Oxford, 21 April 2015
Designed for those who have taken introductory courses and done some copy-editing work, this workshop teaches crucial skills that will help you offer your clients the kind of service they’ll want again and again.

Advanced courses

On-screen editing 2
London, 3 March 2015
This course is designed to introduce more advanced techniques for improved efficiency for those already experienced in on-screen editing. (It can follow on from On-screen editing 1, above.)

Proofreading for accreditation
London, 1 April 2015
This advanced course aims to help delegates decide whether they’re ready to take the SfEP accreditation test in proofreading.

Find out more

For more about the content of the courses, and to book, visit the Training section of our website.

How I got started

One of the most commonly asked questions among those considering a career in proofreading or editing is: ‘How did you get started?’ Here, Richard Hutchinson starts a regular feature on the blog where members of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) share stories of how they did just that.

Computer + Code

What possible connection could there be between writing software for a computer and editing learned texts on the writings of Late Antiquity? I’m going to suggest that there’s quite a bit of overlap there. But I’ll start with some background.

Before I started proofreading

Back at the dawn of civilisation (we’re talking the 1980s here) I managed to get a degree in mathematics. Having discovered early on that I wasn’t really a mathematician after all, I decided to go into a career in modelling. That probably gives you the wrong impression about the way I look – I mean computer modelling, initially in the defence field. From there I moved into more general software engineering, and then spent the next 25 years or so trying to keep up with the rapid developments in computers and technology.

The job came to involve more and more document development and review, and less of the more interesting stuff. So I decided I needed a change. I hit upon proofreading (I’ll come to why in a moment) and my research led me to the SfEP Introduction to proofreading course. This convinced me that I was on the right track, and I went on to complete the Publishing Training Centre’s (PTC) Basic proofreading by distance learning course. I was lucky that I was able to do this while working part-time at the old job, and this continued to be the case as I took my first faltering steps into freelancing.

I decided to focus on publishers rather than businesses or individuals, mainly because networking, marketing and so on aren’t among my strengths. I also decided to play to my technical background and target subjects like maths, physics and computing. So the first book I worked on was about … English Renaissance literature. This break had come through a friend who worked at a local publisher. More work came after I answered a plea for journal copy-editors that was broadcast on the SfEPAnnounce mailing list, and I slowly built up enough experience to be able to upgrade to ordinary membership and take out an SfEP Directory entry. This has turned out to be the single most useful piece of marketing I’ve done – almost all my work comes via my Directory entry.

Eventually, just over a year ago, I summoned up the courage to take the leap into full-time freelancing. I haven’t looked back since.

A change? Or more of the same?

So why do I think that writing software and editing/proofreading are not so far apart? Most computer languages have a strict syntax you need to follow if you’re going to persuade the computer to obey your instructions. That means paying attention to what’s been written at a character-by-character level. You also have to understand the language at a semantic level – while the characters you write may make some sense to the computer, it may not take them to mean what you intended. And when you’re reviewing other people’s code, you also need to pay attention to the overall structure, and its suitability for a place in the system in which it’s to be deployed. An overriding requirement for a software engineer is, or should be, attention to detail. Replace ‘code’ with ‘text’, and I think you get the picture.

And if you were to suggest that the similarities might also include staring at pages of incomprehensible jargon, wondering what on earth they might mean, who am I to argue?

Go further

To find out more about how Richard and two other members of the SfEP (John Firth and Gale Winskill) embarked on freelance careers in editing and proofreading, book the ‘How we got started’ session at our annual conference. The seminar covers what they did, why they did it and things they wish they’d known beforehand.

If you’d like to share the story of how you got started, do get in touch.

Richard Hutchinson

Richard Hutchinson

Richard Hutchinson still can’t quite believe that people will pay him money to read books, and are (mostly) happy to have their mistakes pointed out. An advanced member of the SfEP, he works as a freelance copy-editor and proofreader on books and journals in maths, science and a variety of other subjects – see www.richardhutchinson.me.uk for details.

 

This article was proofread by SfEP associate Emma Wilkin.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.