Tag Archives: professional development

Volunteering can be a good way to get experience

By Tracey Roberts

Although I have been doing editing and proofreading tasks for my company for a while, I knew I needed proper training plus experience of working in different settings to make sure my skills were up to scratch. I’m sure many new editors and proofreaders face the same dilemma – how do you get that vital work experience to show that you know what you are doing?

Not every proofreader and copy-editor begins their freelance career with a ready-made portfolio of relevant experience to offer potential clients. Some editors start their freelance careers after working in-house for several years and therefore begin with a wealth of experience and industry contacts, while others begin from scratch following a career change or a desire to achieve a flexible work–life balance. Many new editors begin by undertaking training, including the range of excellent courses offered by the SfEP. But what can new editors do next to consolidate their newly acquired skills and develop their résumé?

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While it’s tempting to offer your services for a reduced price or even for free so that you can build up a client list, there are a number of important questions to consider before volunteering your valuable time:

Who should you volunteer with?

An obvious (and possibly rewarding) option is to help a charity or non-profit organisation. Smaller charities may lack the funds to hire a professional editor to assist with a newsletter or website and would welcome your help. But don’t assume so – many charities have healthy budgets for such things and can afford to pay. Many regions in the UK have volunteer centres that help local charities, and you can find your local centre on Do-it.

Or you could help an organisation you are personally interested in, for example a poetry newsletter or the SfEP. This blog relies on a team of volunteer proofreaders who check posts prior to publication and others proofread our web pages, training materials etc.

What will you get out of it?

This is important. If the person or organisation you are volunteering for doesn’t know what’s required of a good editor or proofreader, how valuable will their testimonial really be? Will you actually get any constructive feedback? Working for a client (or especially a friend) who doesn’t understand the process (and while you are still learning yourself) could turn into a tricky or negative experience.

Volunteering might allow you to network and build useful contacts, so factor in who you want to work with in the future to your decision about which organisations to approach. Spending a few hours helping the right person could provide a valuable reference for marketing material and possibly lead to other organisations in the same field hiring you in the future.

What skills do you want to practise?

While any experience gained could be beneficial, it’s important to try to match your efforts with your overall career goals. If you want to copy-edit for biomedical journals you may get more benefit from editing a friend’s science PhD thesis than a website publishing short stories, for example.

How much time are you happy to provide?

In the early stages of your freelance career you will be busy building your new business and need time to develop your marketing strategy, website etc. All of these tasks take priority over volunteering. Any time spent volunteering must fit around the creation of your new freelance business, and other important personal commitments, to ensure a healthy work–life balance is maintained. There will come a time when you are too busy with paid work to volunteer and must decline future opportunities (see Laura Poole’s recent blog How to say ‘no’ for advice).

Remember too that if you work for a client for free, or even a reduced rate, it will be very difficult to start charging at full rate when asked to take on future projects.

Mentoring – a good option?

One opportunity that will provide useful practice and good feedback is the mentoring programme offered by the SfEP. All mentors are experienced SfEP Advanced Professional members who share examples from their paid work for mentees to proofread or copy-edit. Mentees have the opportunity to work on real-world projects and receive feedback based on the mentor’s experience.

If you would prefer to develop your skills in a less formal manner, check out Liz Jones’ recent blog post Practice makes (closer to) perfect.

I was fortunate to be invited to coordinate the SfEP blog, and I have gained valuable experience in this voluntary role. I have worked with the editors who regularly contribute to this blog and learned so much – exactly what the right volunteering role should provide. I hope the advice provided helps you find the ideal opportunity to get some quality experience and achieve your goals.

If you are interested in joining the SfEP team of volunteer proofreaders, please email blog@sfep.org.uk

TraceyTracey Roberts is an Entry-Level member of the SfEP. She currently works for the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group based in Nottingham and is the SfEP blog coordinator.

 

 

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Sarah Dronfield.

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

Editorial project management: what, who, how?

By Hazel Bird

project managementAn editorial project manager (PM) can have a lot of control over how a book turns out. As such, project management can be a rewarding and enjoyable way for experienced copy-editors and proofreaders to expand their editorial horizons. For less experienced copy-editors and proofreaders, it can be beneficial to have an understanding of everything that PMs juggle when working on a project. But what does project management involve, who does it, and how does a copy-editor or proofreader get started on the path towards working as a PM?

What is project management?

In publishing, project management refers to the tasks involved in overseeing the journey of a manuscript from the end of the writing process to printing and/or electronic publication. However, within that broad definition, there is great variety in what a PM might be asked to do. Tasks may include some or all of the following.

Dealing with freelancers and other suppliers:

  • arranging for a manuscript to be designed, copy-edited, typeset, proofread, indexed, and converted to electronic outputs
  • creating briefs for each person carrying out the above tasks
  • maintaining a list of freelancers and suppliers
  • giving feedback
  • approving invoices and making other financial arrangements.

Dealing with authors and other stakeholders:

  • keeping everybody and everything on schedule
  • attending project meetings
  • keeping stakeholders updated
  • negotiating solutions when problems arise
  • sourcing and checking permissions.

Taking overall responsibility for quality and consistency:

  • sourcing or chasing missing content
  • collating corrections, arbitrating where necessary
  • checking that corrections are made and managing any knock-on effects
  • maintaining a project-specific style sheet and/or ensuring a house style guide has been consistently applied
  • checking artwork
  • problem solving – both by anticipating issues and fixing unexpected blips.

Who does these tasks?

Traditionally, project management was almost entirely carried out in house. However, changes in the publishing industry mean these tasks are now sometimes sent out to freelancers and other entities. Other changes have led to entirely new roles being carved out.

  • In-house person: Some publishers still keep all project management tasks in house. Others might keep certain aspects (e.g. creating a typespec or design; sourcing permissions) in-house and engage an external PM to manage copy-editing, typesetting, proofreading, and indexing.
  • Freelance project manager: A freelance PM may be briefed by an in-house editor to do some or all of the tasks above. The PM may work with a high degree of independence or may work closely with the in-house contact, who may be managing other aspects of the project simultaneously (see previous point). A freelance PM may also be the copy-editor, proofreader, or typesetter of a project.
  • Packager: Often a typesetting company, a packager usually manages large numbers of titles for publishers, often fairly independently after an initial workflow has been agreed.
  • Copy-editors and proofreaders: Increasingly, copy-editors and proofreaders who work with self-publishers are finding themselves doing – or deliberately setting out to do – tasks reserved to PMs in more traditional publishing workflows, even if they’re not providing a full project management service. For example, they may do the copy-editing themselves and then arrange for proofreading. Alternatively, independent authors often want an editor who can provide a whole package of services, right up to uploading the final files and helping with details such as Amazon author pages.

How do I get started?

Becoming a PM requires a lot of experience and knowledge, and excellent organisational skills. While publishers who hire PMs will almost certainly have their own comprehensive workflow documents for you to follow, it’s still important to have sufficiently broad experience and training to enable you to properly plan a project and manage issues as they arise; as the above list of tasks implies, project management is a lot more than following a checklist.

Butcher’s Copy-Editing (UK-oriented) and the Chicago Manual of Style (US-oriented) both contain a great deal of general information on readying a manuscript for publication. In terms of training, the Publishing Training Centre (PTC) runs courses on digital project management and editorial project management, and these can help to boost confidence in one’s skills. You can also get training in Agile and PRINCE2 qualifications (not specific to editorial work but recommended by editorial PMs Emily Gibson and Zoe Smith).

There is no single way to find project management work, just as there is no single way to find copy-editing or proofreading work. Advertising in the SfEP Directory or another professional directory may lead to clients finding you, though many PMs seem to enter the field via a chance encounter or incrementally through offering additional services to existing clients. Experience in house isn’t essential, but it does seem to be common.

Project management work can be rewarding in terms of the breadth and depth of involvement it allows. And, even if you don’t aim to offer a full project management service, it’s still beneficial to be aware of what it involves.

Hazel BirdHazel Bird is a project manager and copy-editor who handles over 5 million words per year, mainly in the academic humanities and social sciences. She started out managing encyclopaedias at Elsevier and went freelance in 2009. When she’s not editing, she is generally roaming the Mendips or poring over genealogical documents.

She blogs at Editing Mechanics and tweets as @WordstitchEdit. Find her at sfep.org.uk/directory/hazel-bird and wordstitch.co.uk

Posted by Margaret Hunter, SfEP marketing and PR director

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

If ELT editing is your special interest …

By Lyn Strutt

I taught English language for 14 years, both in the UK and overseas, so I knew about IATEFL (the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language). However, I did not actually join until I became an ELT editor. I started to attend the annual conference – to network with old colleagues from teaching, new colleagues in publishing and prospective clients (ELT publishers).

However, as the number of years spent as an editor (and out of the classroom) grew, I began to feel less engaged with some of the conference topics; they were for people who could take the ideas back to their classrooms and try them out. It was interesting to see new materials and hear about new approaches, especially since they might be appearing in the materials I was editing. But there was nothing that had a significant impact on my day-to-day work as an ELT editor.

IATEFL has a number of volunteer-run SIGs (Special Interest Groups), some of which also have their own conferences and events. One SIG is included in your membership and it was natural for me to join BESIG, as Business English is my specialism. Then, about three years ago, some of my associates decided to set up a new SIG: the IATEFL Materials Writing Special Interest Group (MaWSIG). I was naturally interested and applied for a post on the committee, which led to me becoming Publications Editor, as well as acting as Deputy Publications Coordinator.

MaWSIG was set up to bring together people who are involved in materials writing for ELT. That includes professional authors, digital content providers, teachers who want to write material for their own classes, publishers, designers – and, of course, editors. We have over 300 members in 50 countries and, in addition to face-to-face events including conferences and less formal Meetups in the UK and overseas, we provide online webinars and we’re active on Facebook and Twitter. We also have a website where we publish members’ blog posts; we’ve already published our first ebook.

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Writers and editors stretching themselves at the recent MaWSIG Conference

To give you an example of what’s on offer, the MaWSIG conference in February 2016 (which I mentioned in a post on the new ELT forum), was titled ‘New ways of working for new ways of learning’ and covered a broad range of topics from avoiding mental overload and physical discomfort at the desk, to how the digital materials we work on are being used in classrooms and how we can better collaborate as virtual teams.

 

At the IATEFL Conference in Birmingham last week, MaWSIG offered a one-day Pre-Conference Event titled ‘Print vs. digital: Is it really a competition?’ where we explored the skills and techniques that writers and editors need to create professional, engaging, and relevant materials for a range of different teaching contexts, both print and digital. You can attend these events without being a member of IATEFL or MaWSIG, but membership gives you the benefit of discounts for these events.

The editorial work I do for the committee brings me into contact with both key ELT professionals and novice writers and it’s great to work with them on their submissions to the blog. As a member of the SIG, I get to hear interesting speakers (at conferences and online) and to engage in discussion with writers, editors, designers and publishers about the materials we produce, the challenges facing the industry and the exciting potential that new technology brings. IATEFL keeps me connected with the world of ELT, but MaWSIG keeps me connected with the world of ELT publishing – something I consider vital to my professional development.

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Lyn Strutt (@conciselyn) is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP and holds the City & Guilds Licentiateship in Editorial Skills. She is based in London and works as a freelance content editor, copy-editor and proofreader of print and digital ELT materials, specialising in business and professional English, ESP and adult general English. Find out more at http://www.sfep.org.uk/directory/lyn-strutt.

 Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

Proofread by SfEP Professional Member Louise Lubke Cuss.

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