Collaborate and innovate

Every year, the SfEP conference has a theme – a title intended to give a flavour of the programme that delegates can look forward to, and perhaps even capture something of the editorial zeitgeist.

It may not be iSfEPSIswirlmmediately obvious how freelance editorial professionals collaborate. We are often seen as a disparate collection of solitary workers, tapping away in front of our screens with only the cat or dog for company … ‘collaboration’ might not be the first word that comes to mind. But no editor is an island: we choose to form networks of friendly colleagues, both informally and through more structured local group meetings; we belong to professional associations such as the SfEP; we interact online, in forums and via social media. And when it comes to our work, even if we meet clients and colleagues relatively rarely, we are usually an intrinsic part of a much larger team of individuals with different areas of expertise bringing each project to fruition together.

In this spirit of collaboration, 2015 marks the first joint conference of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and the Society of Indexers. We are two societies with much in common, and indeed some membership overlap. Our members are all concerned with organising text. However, perhaps it will turn out to be the differences between the work we do as editors and indexers that prove most interesting. It’ll be fun finding out!

Christine Vaughan, the SfEP’s conference director, and Ann Kingdom, the SI chair, had this to say about what collaboration means in the context of the 2015 conference programme:

This year’s conference programme offers a number of opportunities to reflect on your collaboration with others, from understanding how indexing fits into the editorial process to exploring how to build your client base and maintain good client relationships. For example, in ‘Both sides of the self-publishing coin’, Clare Christian and Hattie Holden Edmonds will explore, amongst other things, the idea of ‘collaboration not competition’ as a means of enabling the independent author to find the right people to work with.

Sessions looking at the technological changes affecting journal publishing, how the production process can be adapted to take into new working practices and product formats, and how the roles of the editor and indexer are likely to develop in the future will, we hope, mean you leave the conference enthused and informed about the future of publishing. Or you could come away inspired to diversify on a more personal level, by getting to grips with social media marketing, becoming an SfEP mentor or using digital tools to streamline your working practice.

 But in with the new needn’t mean out with the old – we have several sessions on perennial topics, such as ‘Finance for freelances’ and a workshop on Word, while Paul Johnson will give a presentation on ‘The magic of the movable book’, proving that you can still make something new and different from paper.

Meanwhile innovation – introducing something new; making changes or alterations – comes from a base of solid knowledge and depends on an environment in which new ideas can germinate and grow. The conference represents a CPD injection of the kind that is simply not available to us for the rest of the year, with the chance to listen to a range of expert speakers, and take part in different workshops and seminars each day, as well as other activities and events such as the gala dinner. Past delegates have testified to the intense learning experience that takes place over the course of two and a half days:

What I didn’t perhaps expect was the openness and warmth which greeted me … continuing right the way through the conference. I learned a lot from the seminars and workshops, but so much more from my new colleagues, who were without fail willing to share their experience and make suggestions that I might like to follow up to boost my business.

Think of it as worth several days of training courses, useful tips galore, a confidence boost, dozens of useful contacts and probably several new firm friends.

The conference is also an unmatched opportunity simply to talk to colleagues. New entrants to the profession can pick the brains of veterans, and the other way round. Although we are in competition for work, in so many ways building relationships with other professionals can make us stronger and improve our chances of staying the course.

Recent conference themes have looked at the idea of change, and response to that change: A new publishing landscape (2013); Editing: fit for purpose (2014). All industries change over time, and ours is no different. We’ve seen a huge rise in self-publishing, a sector rich with opportunities for editors keen to work closely with independent authors; open access has altered the landscape of journal publishing; our clients continue to ask us to grapple with new software, mark-up languages and workflow tools; the outsourcing and offshoring of a range of editorial tasks continues to shape the market. Perhaps how we respond to these changes, and others, is one of the most important factors in determining our success and professional longevity.

So if last year’s conference was about responding to the contemporary climate, this year’s is about looking forward, and effectively stealing the march on what may come to challenge us professionally. In a marketplace in which we may feel at the mercy of time pressures, economic forces and client demands, it is empowering to consider how we can take back control and help our businesses thrive.

We look forward to seeing you there!

The 2015 SI/SfEP conference, Collaborate and innovate, takes place from 5–7 September at Derwent College in York.

For more information, and to book, see the SfEP website.

Posted by Liz Jones, SfEP marketing and PR director.

Proofread by SfEP entry-level member Karen Pickavance.

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