Tag Archives: freelance

Kick-start your freelancing business in 2017

Every year is the year you are going to be your best. Each and every January you vow to make amends and to take your business to new heights. This year, 2017, will be different. Below we have listed 8 ways that you can make it happen this year. With things you can do from the sofa to ways you can expand your current business pipeline – this handy list from BookMachine is all you need.

1. Social media

Successful business owners are not on social media all day long. However, they do know how to use it to their benefit. Allocate a set amount each day to interact with your followers. Share relevant news, and be interested as well as interesting. Set up lists of your key prospects and contacts and head directly to these lists each time you log on, rather than losing hours with mindless online chatter with everyone on Twitter.

2. Re-assess your rate card

If you have been freelance for a while, chances are you have a fixed rate you have been working to for some time. A new year is the perfect time to re-assess this. Are you earning as much as you would like? Could you charge a higher hourly rate? If this isn’t possible, think about your payment terms or your charges for late delivery and payment – there are many ways you can turn your business up a notch whilst working with an existing client base.

3. Contact everyone you have ever known

Perhaps you are happy with your hourly rate and your terms but want to increase your customer base. The new year is the perfect excuse to get in touch with everyone you have ever known! Wish them a happy new year and remind them about your services and let them know how happy last year’s clients were. Don’t leave this until you aren’t busy. As you know, it can take months for a project to come to fruition, and there’s no harm in getting the wheels turning right away.

4. Befriend your competition

As a freelancer, your competition can actually enhance your business. If you work in tandem with someone who has similar skills to you, then you can pass over work to each other and essentially grow as a business – perhaps even co-branded. Similarly, someone who you perceive to be a competitor might actually have different strengths, meaning that a partnership whereby each of you takes on a different role (one copy-editor and one content editor, for example) might actually help you to expand.

5. Sort out your website

Your website is your shop window. Even if you mainly work on print projects, your prospective customers will judge you by your site. Do you have a brand? Is it modern enough? Can you find examples of client projects and is it easy to contact you? All of these things are basic and can be achieved much more cheaply than you might expect. Experiment with templates until you are happy with your design, or hire a professional to make sure you are set to impress.

6. Meet people in person

The benefit of freelancing is that you can work from the comfort of your own home. However, meeting people in the flesh can really boost your business by helping you to promote yourself and your business and by keeping you abreast of what’s happening in the industry. BookMachine events are a good starting point. [As are SfEP local groups – Ed.]

7. Join an organisation

If you join an organisation and commit to attending events and participating in forums, you have the added impetus to do so. As co-founder of BookMachine, my interest here is in letting you know that as an SfEP member, you get £10 off an annual ‘Promoted BookMachine Membership’ (see the BookMachine page in the Members’ area of the SfEP website for details). This gives you free access to all BookMachine events and most book fairs too. Conversely, as a BookMachine member, you would get a waiver of the SfEP’s member admin fee, saving you £32 on your first year’s membership. Please drop us a line to take up either offer.

8. Learn to say no

Finally, if you are in the habit of taking whatever work you can get, then stop it. It makes sense in year 1, when you are establishing your credentials and building a list of testimonials. After that, if a job doesn’t pay enough or you don’t find it interesting, then just turn it down. Your time is your most precious commodity so don’t settle for less, and make 2017 the year you get what you are worth.

Laura Summers is co-founder of BookMachine – the community for people who make publishing happen. As well as organising events for the industry, BookMachine manage an online network of professionals sharing advice and knowledge. Laura and her team are also available to manage events, business development and marketing projects for small and mid-sized publishers.

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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

SfEP wise owls: how to take (guilt-free) time off at Christmas

At the time of publication, there are only 48 days until Christmas. While everyone else is concerned with buying presents, spending time with relatives they don’t like, and how to avoid getting food poisoning from an undercooked turkey, freelancers also have to organise taking time off during the holidays. As an early Christmas present, the SfEP parliament has wrapped up their advice on how to take guilt-free time off over the Christmas period.

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Sue BrowningSue Browning

My advice? Banish the guilt! Isn’t freedom to work when we choose one of the reasons we go freelance? Why then do we burden ourselves with guilt when we do just that? The only thing we should worry about is making sure we do what we have promised to do by the time we promised to do it. Give yourself permission to reject a job if it will mean working when you don’t want to.

So, unless you actively choose to work over Christmas (and there are plenty of good reasons you might wish to do so), block the time off in your schedule and resolutely say no to taking on a project that would mean working over your holiday period. Close your office door, switch off your phone, and go and enjoy your family and friends, your food and wine, your Christmas walk (just me?), and your rest. Return to your work when you choose to, knowing you’ll be all the better at it for having relaxed and refreshed yourself. And banish that guilt!

Liz JonesLiz Jones

Remember that your time is as valuable as anyone else’s, and you have a right to take holidays. You can’t do your best work if you’re over-tired and feeling put-upon, so give yourself a break. Plan definite work-free time in advance – block it out as you would any other project, on your calendar or in your diary. Tell all the people you need to tell that you’re taking this time off, and stick to it as you would any other professional commitment. Christmas is easier than some other holiday periods because most offices either shut down completely or are very nearly empty, with little sense of urgency. If you waver in your resolve, just remember that most clients won’t expect you to be working flat out at this time anyway, and email traffic is likely to reduce. For a total break it can be wonderful to stay offline completely for a few days (no email, no social media) … if you have the self-control!

Abi SaffreyAbi Saffrey

Try to decide a few months in advance which days you are taking off work. Write HOLIDAY in your calendar in big letters so it takes thought and effort to cross it out. If you can, fit a few more projects, or better paying ones, into the months leading up to your break so you’re not worrying about earning when you should be taking time out. Tell your clients when you’ll be ‘away’ and that you won’t be responding to emails during that time. When your holiday finally comes around, don’t check your email, steer clear of social media, and if you think of something work related that needs doing, make a list, tuck it under your keyboard and walk away.

Taking a whole week or two off a couple of times a year is really important – especially in the dark winter months. You’ll come back refreshed and enthusiastic, keen to get back to your routine, and you’ll be more productive.

John EspirianJohn Espirian 

Plan the calendar well ahead. If you book up your work time in, say, two-week blocks, then book your Christmas time off three or more weeks ahead. That way, you won’t let work dominate the holidays. A general life lesson is to plan the fun stuff first and then the work to fit around it. That’s why most of us are freelancers, after all – freedom.

I always know I’m going to be doing the cooking, so can be sure that I won’t be working when I’m spending time in the kitchen. But I actually love that. If there are young kids around, plan to get them involved with the prep so that the whole thing doesn’t feel like a chore.

Send clients Christmas cards with a reminder of when you’ll be back at work. Could lead to more business! Always be top of mind.

Turn off phone notifications and even turn off delivery of emails.

Margaret HunterMargaret Hunter

Decide on something nice / creative / challenging you want to do during your time off. Get out that sewing project that’s been on hold; sort out your photo albums; plan an overnight long hike. Anything that’s going to make you feel good and less guilty about not working.

Hazel BirdHazel Bird

Theoretically, taking time off at Christmas is easy if you plan it in advance and tell those contacts who need to know. But, in practice, existing work can end up spilling into our well-earned down-time, or lucrative offers can tempt us back to our desks. To prevent work spilling over, consider taking on slightly less work just prior to your break so you can be sure you’ll get it done in time, even if it takes a bit longer than expected. As to being tempted to take on new work, plan in advance what you’d say if you received an offer and what rates you would charge to justify giving up your planned break. Maybe there’s no fee that would make it worth it – but even coming to that conclusion could help to fortify you against tempting offers.

Melanie ThompsonMelanie Thompson

Never, ever feel guilty about taking planned time off.

There are laws to protect the holiday rights of employees, but no equivalent for freelancers. That means you have to police yourself. Everyone needs a break. Plan yours well in advance; tell your clients you’ll be ‘out of the office from x to y’. (They don’t need to know why unless you want to tell them.)

The number one benefit of being a freelancer is the freedom to decide what is right for you.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

Downtime is essential for your health and well-being. No guilt required. To ensure you take time off, you need to commit, and commit early. Mark the time off in your planner. When offered a job with a due date on the far side of your break, double-check that the timescale is feasible. One client’s software regurgitates a due date based on word count, ignoring all bank holidays, so I get the date extended. Reject any job that has a due date during your planned break so you don’t try to squeeze it in and finish it early – if you fail, you end up working, stressed and resentful.

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

 

 

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Why would anyone join a local SfEP group?

Why indeed? I am a freelance editor (and researcher) involved in the SfEP Edinburgh Group, and these are some of the reasons I came up with.

Do you want to meet new people and make new friends? Your local SfEP group could be just the thing. The Edinburgh group draws its members largely from Edinburgh and the surrounding area, but we’re not an exclusive bunch and have welcomed people from as far afield as Germany to our recent meetings. The group includes well-established, highly experienced editors and proofreaders, although the balance is probably towards those who are relatively new to this type of work. Several of us have come to editorial work from other careers – a surprising number of us have, like me, worked as civil servants and local government officials. We meet on a roughly monthly basis with breaks over summer and Christmas, and have a varied programme of meetings and events. And it’s true, you probably already have friends. But do any of them want to talk – or even care – about punctuation and the difference between ‘that’ and ‘which’?

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Do you want to get out more? Over the last year, our group has organised a range of social activities. These have included walks (with and without dogs and cake), lunch meetings, and a Christmas outing. There was even a jazz outing. You can dip in and out of activities and meetings, and you don’t need to go to anything, but being part of a local group means you have access to like-minded people who probably have a similar working life to your own and might just be keen (and available) to leave the house and talk to someone once in a while.

Do you want to improve your editorial skills? We have had peer-led sessions on topics such as tackling complex briefs, editing theses, and the costing of jobs. Experienced editors in the group have been incredibly generous in sharing their knowledge and experience with those who are just starting out. We’ve also been able to demonstrate enough demand to lure tutors north to run SfEP courses here in Edinburgh – being part of a local group means that we have been able to encourage fellow members to register their interest in courses and reach that critical mass of six students. And, of course, training can be quite a commitment in terms of time and money, so being able to ask other people about the courses they have attended can take some of the risk out of signing up.

Do you want to get work? Well, who doesn’t? But it’s not always easy, especially for those of us who are new to editorial work or freelancing (or both). We all work as individual freelancers, and all need to look after our own interests, but we can all recognise a win–win situation when we see one. Within our local group, we share information about work opportunities and advertise jobs to our local colleagues when we are lucky enough to have too much work to take on a new assignment or can see a commission is outside our area of expertise. We’ve even set up our own Edinburgh Editors website promoting our group and our services (thank you, Lewis!). This is all especially helpful to the newbies amongst us.

Do you want to make freelancing work for you? I used to work in a large organisation with a personnel team, a welfare team, and an IT department, all of which disappeared when I decided to go it alone, but a local group can provide some of that business ‘infrastructure’. Over the past couple of years, the Edinburgh group has organised sessions on tax and finance, client liaison, marketing, and using social media. One of our best-attended – and most entertaining – sessions was our occupational health session run by Glasgow-based editor Denise Cowle, who previously worked as a physiotherapist. At a more informal level we have shared tips on timesheets, software packages, hot-desking opportunities, and billing overseas clients. This isn’t about being a good editor or proofreader, but it is about allowing us to work more effectively and sustain and build our businesses.

Or maybe you just want to ask a daft question?  We all know the SfEP forums are great for seeking advice from fellow editors. But sometimes it’s nice – and maybe a bit less daunting – to be able to ask people you know. Being part of a local group means you have access to a pool of people who can be relied on to give you a helpful response, however daft your question is.

If any of this strikes a chord, I would encourage you to check out your local group (you could even set one up if there isn’t one). For me, having access to a local group is one of the main benefits of being a member of SfEP, and I know I am not alone in this. Fellow Edinburgh editor Marie said: ‘As a newcomer to the world of editing and proofreading, belonging to a local group has been a lifeline for me. Through it, I’ve made good friends, useful contacts and discovered a wealth of support and inspiration.’ I couldn’t have said it better!

alison-plattsAlison Platts is an Edinburgh-based freelance editor and researcher. She is the author (or co-author) of a wide range of research reports, and she edits/proofreads academic articles, student theses, conference reports, research papers and reports, websites, and corporate publications of all types.

 

Image courtesy of Lewis Packwood

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

Proofread by SfEP Professional Member Tom Hawking.

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

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SfEP wise owls: one piece of getting started advice

Beginning a new career can be daunting, and ‘newbie’ editors may make numerous mistakes while they learn their new trade. Thankfully, the SfEP forums provide a great opportunity for new members to ask more experienced editors for their guidance on a wide range of issues which they have faced previously during their careers in proofreading and copy-editing. But if asked, what would be the one piece of advice that these editorial wise owls think new members need to know? To answer this question, a number of SfEP Professional and Advanced Professional members have been asked to provide the one piece of advice they would share with new proofreaders and copy-editors, which will be published in a series of wise owl blog posts over the coming months.

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photo 2016 croppedLiz Jones (Liz Jones Editorial Services)

Learn to manage your time realistically. When you’re starting out, it is tempting to say yes to everything, and to some extent you have to be prepared to do this. It’s so exciting when the freelance work starts coming in! However, do be careful not to overcommit. It is much, much better to say ‘no’ to a client, however counter-intuitive it might seem, than to agree to take on work that you will not be able to complete within schedule to a high standard. Taking on too much work and doing a shoddy job (or worse, failing to complete the job at all) is a sure-fire way to lose a client for good, and potentially do wider damage to your reputation. In the long run it is also not good for your morale to overwork yourself on a regular basis.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford (Apt Words)

Get a brief from your client and make sure you understand it. Go back for clarification if things are omitted or ambiguous, but don’t fire off lots of individual queries. Your client or project manager will be grateful if you organise yourself and group queries together. Use email if at all possible, as then the answers are recorded for later reference, but if you must discuss things over the phone, send an email very soon afterwards, summarising the decisions made. It gives your client a chance to rectify any misunderstandings and you have a record of what was agreed should there be difficulties later.

(Sue has written the SfEP guide Going Solo: Creating your freelance editorial business which is now available to purchase on the SfEP website.)

John EspirianJohn Espirian (espirian)

Don’t undersell the value of your time and the benefit you can bring to a piece of work. If your work improves a piece of text by say 5%, what effect could that have on the success of the writing in terms of its commercial success or its influence? How much might that be worth to the author?

Also see John’s blog post 10 tips for handling your first proofreading job.

Hazel BirdHazel Bird (Wordstitch Editorial Services)

Many new editors and proofreaders start out thinking that their role involves hunting down errors and making ‘wrong’ things ‘right’. This is true to an extent, but what is ‘wrong’ is always dependent on the context. Something that appears ‘wrong’ may actually be fine, or even a desired quirk of the project. Sensitivity to context comes with experience, but it’s wise to start out (and go on) asking questions whenever you’re unsure what your client wants, and assessing the big picture rather than diving in to correct each ‘error’ as soon as you spot it.

Collated and posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Christine Layzell.

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

‘No’ your way to a better business: SfEP conference session preview

By Laura Poole

As I write this, I’m nearly deluged in paid work. I said ‘yes!’ to clients about three times more than I should have. My bank account will be very happy in about six weeks, but in the meantime I’m getting up early, squeezing in work everywhere, skipping exercise, deferring personal appointments, and drinking extra coffee.

In the 20 years I have been freelancing, I have noticed that it is very hard to say no. I’ve noticed it with colleagues, too, and my theory is this: as freelancers, we train ourselves to say yes because yes = paycheck. When we started out, we probably said yes to everything because we were desperate for work, eager to expand our client base, excited to learn new things, and appreciative of the income. Publishing seems to be a woman-dominated field (at least in editorial), and women often tend to be people pleasers, which can lead to a yes when a no would be better.

hand-no
When we say yes a lot, it can feel good! Gratification: we made someone happy. Security: work is coming in, money will be earned. Pride: look how much I got done! Too many yeses lead to a feast of work, with concomitant stress. Our bodies, our schedules, our families, and even our friends suffer when we do nothing but work. A feast portion is all too often followed by a famine portion. We’re briefly grateful for a break, a rest, some recovery, but then we start to panic about lack of work… so we start drumming up more business, saying yes to lots more things, and then we’re back in the feast portion again.

The problem is, these vicious circles of stress and panic are not healthy, and they are not sustainable in the long run. For full-time freelancers, this is almost certainly not the lifestyle you envisioned.

There are many steps, tools, and techniques for reclaiming your life and business. In this post, I offer a key one: start saying no. It may seem counterintuitive, and it may feel almost physically uncomfortable to get the words out, but it’s the simplest thing you can do.

Check your instinct to immediately say yes to everything and everyone (and that includes personal requests, like tea with friends or dinner out). Give each request – appointment, social event, client project – some careful thought. Is it coming at a time when you already have plenty of work? Are you already overloaded, or will the schedule free up? Is it work that you truly want to do, or something that’s not quite in your core skills and interests (e.g. proofreading when you really do developmental editing). Think about what you truly want in your life – are you missing time for hobbies, time with family, or even just relaxing? Haven’t taken a vacation in a long time? Reclaim your sanity by saying no as needed.

The tough part is saying no without feeling guilty, without softening it with a lengthy apology or explanation. Remember: ‘No’ is a complete sentence. Loyal clients will know they can come back to you and may even ask when you are available.

When you say no to the things that don’t serve you – that overload your schedule, that aren’t in your core business, that are just a chore and not an opportunity – you will free up time and energy for the things that do serve you. That alone can shape your business in exciting new ways, opening more doors than you ever thought possible.

Start now: what can you start saying no to?

My session at the SfEP conference is ‘Taking charge of your freelance life’ (Monday 9–11am).

laurapoole resized Laura Poole (Twitter: @lepoole) started her full-time freelance business in 1997. She edits exclusively for scholarly university presses. She started training editors in 2009 with privately run workshops. In 2015, she joined with Erin Brenner to become the co-owner of Copyediting, for which she is also the Director of Training. She loves Jelly Babies.

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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

Pricing editorial work – SfEP conference session preview

By Liz Jones

Booking for our 2016 conference, ‘Let’s Talk About Text’, closes on Friday 8 July. At the time of writing there are only a handful of non-resident places left, so if you don’t want to miss out, book now!

I’ve been invited to present in a ‘Speed start-up: what newbies need to know’ session at the SfEP conference in September on the subject of pricing work, alongside Sue Littleford (Numbers for word people) and Louise Harnby (Banishing the marketing heebie-jeebies). Here’s a taster of my section of the session.

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Pricing editorial work comes up time and again in discussion between editors. In the session I’m going to look at the basic process of quoting for work, which can be applied across a range of situations. The same principles can also be used to work out if a fixed fee offered by a client is fair.

  1. Assess the information provided about the work

The client should provide you with the project parameters, including extent or word count, schedule, level of editing required, and so on. They might suggest a price, or they might ask you to quote.

  1. Ask for more information if you need it

You can’t accurately price work without adequate information and a sample of the text. If the client will not provide the information you need to price the work, proceed with caution!

  1. Work out what your work is worth

To work out a price for the work, you can take the hourly rate you need/want to earn, multiply it by the length of time you estimate the job will take, and add on contingency to arrive at a total fee. Alternatively you can quote what you think the work is worth to the client. Other factors can influence the figure, such as the particular market, or the time frame allowed for the work.

  1. Use data from previous projects/colleagues to help you

To enable you to estimate how long a job will take, it is essential to keep records of work you do. If you are asked to quote for work unlike anything you have done, you can ask colleagues for advice – for example, in the SfEP forums.

  1. Prepare a quote, making clear what it covers

When you provide a price, you should also indicate what this price includes. For many publishers, this will be fairly straightforward, as they are likely to be commissioning you for a commonly understood part of the process such as copy-editing or proofreading. For a non-publisher, you will need to ensure they know precisely what they are getting for their money, and importantly what is not included.

  1. Prepare to negotiate

If your client suggests a price, don’t be afraid to ask for more if you think the work warrants it; equally, if you suggest a price, be prepared for the client trying to negotiate down.

  1. Agree terms with the client, and start work

Make sure you have the agreed price and the scope of work in writing before you start work. If anything changes that might affect the price, raise this with your client as soon as possible.

In the session I’ll be looking in more detail at each of the stages – with particular focus on working out what the job is worth – and taking questions. There will also be a handout with further information and links to resources to help you at each stage of the process.

Sue, Louise and I will be presenting on Monday, 12 September 2016, between 1.30 and 2.30 p.m. I hope to see you there!

Liz Jones Liz Jones has been an editor since 1998, and full-time freelance since 2008; she is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP. She specialises in trade non-fiction, fiction and educational publishing, but also works with a range of business clients and individuals. When not editing she writes fiction, and also blogs about editing and freelancing at Eat Sleep Edit Repeat.

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

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

How I got started – Abi Saffrey

SfEP logoOne 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 professional member Abi Saffrey shares her story in this regular blog feature, which explores the many different career paths taken by SfEP members.

I’m not an unlikely editor: I’ve always had a passion and aptitude for language, adore the feel and smell of a book, and love to organise.

Achievements in French and English at school led to a degree in Languages and Linguistics. As a new graduate, I got an admin job at Dillons the Bookstore, which in many ways was heaven: organising money and paperwork for 30 per cent of my day; unpacking and sorting books for the other 70 per cent.

I left that job for a better-paid admin job elsewhere, but the books kept calling so I applied for graduate editing jobs, and I was offered an editorial assistant job with a small business-to-business publisher. The process wasn’t a standard book publishing one, and we certainly didn’t use BSI marks, but I learnt about various types of content quality control and enjoyed editing colleagues’ writing.

After taking a ‘career break’ (i.e. three months travelling the world), I landed a desk editor job at Continuum in London. I was thrown into the deep end, managing books from manuscript submission to final proofs.

I then went to a large US corporation’s UK office to edit the work of ten in-house economic analysts, and that’s where my subject specialism started to develop. I studied for an ‘A’ level in Economics, read the Economist every week, and attended seminars on shipping routes and trade terms. I managed a monthly publication (with contributions from 15 economists), and edited reports that were revised annually. I became responsible for improving the economists’ writing skills – they came from all over the globe, so I learnt a lot about the challenges that non-native English speakers face when trying to express complicated concepts in their second (third, fourth) language.

From there, I headed to Glasgow to work as a publishing project manager for an education quango. The production processes were very paper-based, so I introduced an electronic workflow and encouraged the use of freelances to lessen the load on in-house staff. My role developed into quality control manager, so by the time I left I was responsible for ensuring a 60,000-page website (and around 100 printed publications every year) met specific quality standards.

I was moving further and further away from the words I love, so in January 2009 I stepped off the precipice and joined the freelance community. I had joined the SfEP Glasgow group in 2007 and received advice, support and encouragement, and I had already done a couple of freelance projects alongside my full-time job, so I felt informed about, and prepared for, my leap.

I sent a lot of emails, and my first few jobs were for previous employers. In that first year a conversation with a friend (a university lecturer) evolved into working with a journalist to create a database of English writing examples and questions, to help university students (both native and non-native English speakers) improve their writing skills.

I kept emailing potential clients, and by the end of my first year I had worked with 11 different organisations (four of which I still work with). The variety is key for me: last year, I did a five-month stint editing an economics journal (with its editorial board based in Hamburg); this year, I’m attending the PTC’s Editorial Project Management course, in preparation for offering another service to my clients.

I’m always on the lookout for new opportunities – I carry a notebook with me so I can jot down the names of organisations I would like to work with. Then, every few months, I do a bit of online research and approach those organisations. On my current list are publishers included in the reference list of an article I’ve edited, a think-tank that featured in a TV documentary, and a research institute that someone mentioned at a birthday party.

Abi SaffreyAbi Saffrey is a professional member of the SfEP. She specialises in copy-editing and proofreading economics and social policy content, and anything within the wider social sciences realm. Abi is a social introvert with two young children, and slight addictions to bootcamps and tea.

Proofread by SfEP entry-level member Susan Walton.

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

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.

Working with self-publishing authors – Part 2: expectations and implementation

Self-Publishing

Photo credit: kodomut

In Part 1: An industry of opportunity, SfEP ordinary member Sophie Playle explored who self-publishes, why and how self-publishing has developed over the years, and what this means for editorial freelances. In this post, she’ll be looking at the more practical elements of working with self-publishing authors.

Note: This post has been written with editorial professionals in mind. As with any type of client, it goes without saying that it’s important your skills are fit for purpose. This post doesn’t go into the foundations of training and finding clients, but instead looks at what an editor might consider when working directly with self-publishing authors.

1. Assessing the project for the right service

The number one thing to remember about self-publishing authors is that most of them do not know much about the editing industry. Their main job is to write, after all. They’re often aware that they need editorial help to self-publish professionally, but are not sure exactly what this entails.

Many writers will think they just need a quick proofread to catch any typos when the reality is that most would benefit from a development edit and a copy-edit first. These terms are often unfamiliar to writers, and since there are so many editors offering slightly different variations of the same service (which is also often called something slightly different), a little confusion can only be expected.

Communication is key with self-publishing clients. (Well, all clients, really!)

Ask what the client wants to achieve, and what they expect from your service. Take a look at a sample of the work – this is crucially important. Remember: there are no gatekeepers here, so the quality of work will vary greatly.

If you believe the client’s expectations don’t quite match what the project needs, open a discussion on why you think this, and how you can help.

Alternatively, if you can’t help – for example, if the client really needs a development edit but you specialise in proofreading – decline the work and point them in the right direction, whether that’s to an editorial friend who offers a different service, or to the SfEP directory of editorial services, or some other resource.

2. Assessing the project for compatibility of style

This might be most relevant to fiction writers, but in my experience many self-publishing authors are looking for an editor who ‘gets them’. They want to feel that the project that they’ve poured their heart and soul into, possibly over the course of several years, is in safe hands and that the editor isn’t going to mess it up.

An independent author doesn’t have the assurance of a publishing house that you’re going to do the best job. They only have their own assessment of you and your editing skills – based on recommendations and what they’ve gleaned from your public professional presence. They want to know they’ve made the right choice.

In fact, the client’s freedom to choose a compatible editor with whom to work is a benefit traditionally published authors often don’t get.

It’s in the editorial professional’s best interest, too, to work with compatible clients. For development editors, this might mean working with an author in your genre of interest. For a copy-editor, this might mean working with an author whose style you understand. There’s nothing more horrifying to a writer than to receive an edited manuscript in which the editor has stripped out all nuances of their voice.

Working with compatible clients means you can do your best work, and your client will feel they are in good hands.

How do you assess for compatibility? You might want to offer a sample edit – paid or free, that’s up to you. You might want to get to know your client and find out more details about their project through email or phone conversation before you commit to working with them.

There are lots of ways to go about this. The result should be that both you and your client feel confident that you understand each other.

3. Setting boundaries and looking after your client’s emotional needs

Self-publishing authors often require a little more reassurance and communication from their editors. They usually don’t have an agent or a publisher to answer their questions – they rely on you for your professional knowledge of the industry.

You’re often their main professional contact, and this means they have one burning question they want to ask you: ‘Is my work any good?’

I’ve heard varying opinions from freelance editorial professionals on whether or not we should pass judgement on a self-publisher’s work. Do we refuse projects if we think they are of unpublishable quality? Or should we simply do the job we’re being paid to do?

On the one hand, we are not gatekeepers. And whatever we say in response to this question would be purely opinion. (If I’d been asked whether 50 Shades of Grey would have been a success, I’m confident I would have said no!) We’re being paid to conduct a service, and so that’s what we should do. The rest is out of our control.

On the other hand, if a self-publisher asks for our thoughts or hires us for our professional skills, don’t we have an obligation to pass on our professional opinion? Isn’t that what they’re paying for? (Or should they only expect this if they’re paying for a critique?)

It’s a conundrum. There’s no right answer. My one tip? Make sure you communicate with your author. Don’t offer unwanted criticism (or unwanted mollycoddling), and let your author know your stance on the issue before you begin working together.

Be clear on your professional boundaries from the outset. You’ll be working directly with the creator, and this person will be emotionally invested in the project and possibly not have much experience of navigating the publishing world as a professional business owner (a hat self-publishers must decide to wear if they want to be successful). Clear terms and conditions are key. Look after yourself, as well as your client.

In summary, self-publishing clients have slightly different needs to other kinds of clients, and these should be taken into consideration. The main things to think about are whether they are commissioning the best service for their project, whether your editing style is best matched to their writing needs, and the emotional and professional boundaries you will address in the working relationship.

When it comes down to it, these are all issues of consideration and communication. I hope these pointers will help you and your self-publishing clients get the most out of your work together.

Sophie Playle profile photographSophie Playle, of Playle Editorial Services, is a freelance editor who specialises in fiction and often works directly with writers. For brownie points, connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn. (Please note: No real brownies or points will be awarded.)

Proofread by SfEP ordinary member Samantha Stalion.

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