Sharing experience and wisdom: a new local group is born

SfEP local groups are much valued by members as a place to share wisdom and experience in a friendly and supportive atmosphere. But what if there isn’t one near you? Why not start one yourself? Anna Nolan tells us how she did just that.

circle of different-coloured figures holding hands

Particularly tired and weary on Mondays from an alarm that goes off too early, schlepping 40 minutes up the M11 for a monthly Cambridge SfEP group meeting was just something I didn’t want to commit to regularly. My alternatives were the Essex group – again, 40-odd minutes away, or the Hertfordshire group around 50 minutes away. Surely there must be more members closer to me? Could I start a new group? I had already been meeting up over a few years with a handful of well-established SfEP editors – quite irregularly though – and the idea of adding to us to meet locally really appealed. After making contact with various people close by according to the members’ map and putting the feelers out, our first meeting was planned.

I live in Stansted Mountfitchet (yep, close to the airport – but not beneath the flight path, thank God!), close to the Hertfordshire/Essex border. There’s a Herts & Essex hospital not far away, a Herts & Essex High School (my daughter goes there) and now a Herts & Essex SfEP group that’s been running for just over a year. Our meetings alternate between Bishop’s Stortford (Herts) and Saffron Walden (Essex) every two months. There’s nothing formal – mainly it’s a chance for a bunch of us to share experiences and impart wisdom, and an opportunity for people thinking about following this career path to meet us and decide whether indeed it’s something they’d like to pursue. We’ve had some educational meets: last May, Abi Saffrey hosted a practical macro-themed gathering followed by a fabulous bring-and-share lunch. One of our meetings will be hosting the endlessly enthusiastic Janet MacMillan, who will talk to us about style sheets.

The initial mailing list of 12 has now grown to a staggering 37, and generally, we have between 8 and 12 attending. Our group comprises the whole spectrum of membership, as well as a few non-members umming and aahing about becoming editors and/or joining. I use Doodle for arranging dates and times (thanks, Forums!).

Venue-wise, we have found a lovely pub in Bishop’s Stortford, the choice of which has nothing at all to do with the menu gastronomique. In Saffron Walden we meet in quaint cafés – after all, Saffron Walden is nothing if not quaint.

Our Christmas party started with a brief presentation and was followed by a delicious Christmas-themed bring-and-share lunch. Actually, when it comes to bring-and-share lunches, ours rock (I know the group members will testify to that)! And we enjoy each other’s company so much, we’re travelling together to conference this year!

Editors, by the nature of our work, are at high risk of isolation. There are plenty of members not getting to local groups, not meeting editorial colleagues having similar highs and lows, as groups are located just too sparsely. If your local group isn’t ideal, I’d urge you to consider the viability of a new group: take a look at the membership map. Or join the Skype Club (soon to become the Cloud Club). Running a group isn’t as draining as you might imagine! If you’d like to come along to one of the Herts & Essex meetings, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me here.

Anna NolanAnna is part-time freelance copy-editor and part-time paediatric dietician. She is one of the SfEP social media team volunteers and has been busy running the Herts & Essex SfEP local group since it started in early 2017.

 

 

 

 

If you think you might like to start a group in your area, contact the community director.

The strange (and slightly tipsy) history of ‘training’

Susie Dent's Wonderful Words

The word ‘train’ has led a complicated life, one that has taken in tractors, cloaks, grapevines and royal processions. It all began, like so much else in English, with the Romans, whose Latin trahere meant to ‘pull’ or ‘draw’. The past participle of the same verb was tractus, which hides behind both the ‘pulling’ vehicles that are tractors and the tracts of land they cover, as well as contracts (which draw together arrangements), and extracts (in which something is ‘drawn out’). In sartorial matters, that same, highly versatile Latin word also gave us ‘train’: the trailing part of a skirt, gown or cloak that was dragged across the ground as the wearer moved. From this sense of something being pulled along came the idea of a series or procession of things – a royal retinue perhaps, or a locomotive and the cars coupled to it, or even a figurative train of thought.

It takes some leap of the imagination to go from this sense of ‘dragging’ to the modern training we experience today (even if, on occasions, time can seem to slow down a little). There is a link, however – in the 14th century, to ‘train’ a vine was to draw it out and manipulate it into a desired form – we talk of ‘training’ our roses to this day. This idea of ‘shaping’ something eventually gave rise to our modern business use of training, which aims to mould our minds and equip us for a particular task.

Good training, of course, may require a mentor – a word we inherited from the ancient Greeks, for whom Mentor was an adviser to the young Telemachus in Homer’s epic Odyssey. An effective mentor will always monitor progress, but monitoring wasn’t always so benevolent – it comes from the Latin monere, to ‘warn’, and its siblings include ‘admonish’ and ‘monster’.

All of which might lead you to seek cover in a ‘symposium’, a formal discussion or conference. Or at least, to seek out its earliest incarnation, for in ancient Greece symposia were convivial discussions held after a banquet, and involved copious amounts of wine. Which explains why the word ‘symposium’ is from the Greek sumposion, ‘drinking party’. Now, if we’re looking for ideas, that kind of training might be an even bigger pull.

Susie Dent, honorary vice-president of the Society for Editors and ProofreadersWonderful Words is a regular feature by Susie Dent, honorary vice-president of the SfEP. Susie is a writer and broadcaster on language. She is perhaps best known as the resident word expert on C4’s Countdown.

Editorial CPD: new courses to skill up in project management, web editing, copyright and more

SfEP courses cater for the whole range of experience, from beginners to established editors who would like to update and extend their existing skills. Our proofreading and copy-editing suites give a sound basic training to anyone, no matter what their background.

We also offer courses in specific types of editing and proofreading.

Our newly launched online course Proofreading Theses and Dissertations is a good example. The work required may be the same as for any other proofread – checking for errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar and consistency – but the thesis or dissertation must be the student’s own work, so there are ethical issues around what you can change or, indeed, what you can point out to the student.

Are you looking to widen the scope of the work you undertake? Our online course Editorial Project Management may be what you are looking for. The course is aimed at experienced editorial and other publishing professionals. It explains what project management is, without using jargon. It aims to give you the skills to undertake the tasks involved and to equip you with the understanding to manage a project and yourself skilfully. Throughout the course, you will work on two (fictitious) projects in 35 self-assessed exercises.

Courses under development

We are constantly working on improving our courses. A revamp of the look and feel of the online courses is currently in progress – watch this space for developments!

New courses scheduled to come onstream in 2018/19 include:

Editing Digital Content – a complementary course to Web Editing, this course will look at the special considerations involved in editing digital materials such as interactive content (where the user interacts with material on a computer screen) and other non-interactive content, such as video clips, spreadsheets, PDF files, which may or may not be downloadable. The course will be especially useful to anyone working in the fields of education and training.

Copyright for Editorial Professionals – this course will help you to understand what copyright is, what types of material are copyrighted and the process by which you can gain permission to reuse material.

Jane Moody, training director

SfEP mentoring: taking your training to the next level

Basic editorial training gives you… well, the basics. Here Howard Walwyn takes it to the next level and tells us how SfEP mentoring really prepares you for professional work – in all its glory.

When, like I did, you branch into a new freelance career writing, editing and proofreading – after what seemed like an eternity slogging through the corporate career mudbath – you need all the help you can muster.

I set out in my first year of freelance work to make training a centrepiece of that help-need, to do as much as I could. The SfEP turned out to play a big part in that strategy, although oddly enough not the first part: more on that later.

Mentoring was the culmination of it, and the highlight. By the time I finished my proofreading mentoring I felt ready. I felt confident. I felt – if not ‘qualified’ – that I could legitimately describe myself as a professional proofreader without demur and without being drummed out of the SfEP offices. Such was the level, intensity and value of the mentoring programme. It really prepared me, technically, practically and in a business sense, for life as a professional. And I formed what I consider an unassailable bond with my mentor, whom I have never met in person nor even spoken to! How can these things happen?

A bit of a bruising

Let’s look at the technical side first. I felt reasonably well prepared by my training – essentially the SfEP intros to proofreading and copy-editing and the not-at-all-euphemistically named ‘proofreading progress’ – at that point still one course rather than two and the necessary condition for moving on to mentoring. But I was surprised by the step-up to doing real proofreading assignments in all their glorious idiosyncrasy. I came face to face with the real life of biography entries, marketing leaflets, course brochures and travel guides, with their weird formats, blatant inconsistencies, limited space to work with, and in some cases horrible, interminable detail. What a good testing ground for applying the British Standard marks in a challenging, realistic environment. After one submission I admitted to my mentor that I had found it frustrating and quite bruising, and that was the right word – although met with slight surprise.

Invisible to the naked eye

The practical side was best demonstrated in two ways. (1) The mentoring was structured so you had to do assignments in a range of formats including complex (A3) hard copy as well as other non-standard page formats in pdf. It was good practice, though fiddly in places. (2) You started to really get that there is not always a clear answer to every conundrum: judgement is called for as well as precision and thoroughness, but as long as you can demonstrate you had a reasonable basis for most decisions, your mentor would buy it. Mine still went through every piece in incredible detail, each item of feedback a learning point, but delivered with constructive kindness and understanding. Some of the pieces were just – hard! And they involved things like inadequate briefs, cultural sensitivity, non-standard English and really tough differentials that were invisible without a looking glass. I exaggerate, but I think the pieces are deliberately calibrated to stretch, to show the boundaries of how bad things can get. So don’t judge just on the marks – which in one case were pretty low – judge more on the feedback points, and recognise that all mentees struggle with some of the pieces.

Minutes not hours

Finally, business-wise: perhaps the most telling advice from my mentor came right at the start, with an indication of how long an SfEP APM would expect to take to do so-and-so pieces. I was shocked at how small those numbers were, mere minutes where I was taking hours. But they gave me a target, and have proved utterly realistic and valuable. A year down the line, I am still using those parameters to guide my price quotations and my internal scheduling. In other words, they have helped me get work and manage my business.

So that is what mentoring does. It prepares you for proper professional work, and properly professionalises your work.

Preparing to feast again

I said earlier that I did not actually start with the SfEP when I launched my training plan. My first look at proofreading and editing was a five-day seminar with a publishing house provider, not necessarily the best or most professional, but an insight at least. There are other ways of doing things, and an alternative way can have value. But it did not take me long to latch on to the SfEP programme as a far more professional, integrated, intensive and flexible way of training. And proofreading mentoring was the pinnacle of that process. I still bother my mentor with daft email questions and social media observations. They don’t mind. It is a true, professional and much-appreciated relationship.

The proof (sorry) is in the eating, and I am planning a further feast – copy-editing mentoring – when I can make time in my ridiculous schedule to get through the preparatory courses. Maybe paths will cross once again with my proofreading mentor. Secretly I hope so. If not, hey! The SfEP is brimful of similar stars and whoever I get I know it will be another fantastic experience. I can’t wait.

Howard WalwynHoward Walwyn is a freelance writer, editor and trainer, who helps people to write clear business English and bridge the worlds of language and finance. Howard set up his company Prism-Clarity two years ago, after a 30-year career working in financial risk and regulation at banks including the Bank of England and J.P. Morgan, and he still works with mainly financial sector clients, including regulators, investment banks, wealth and investment managers, consultancy firms, a risk management institute and a digital marketing agency. He is also a visiting lecturer in Writing for Business at City, University of London. Howard recently completed his first academic book edit, and is slowly working his way through the SfEP training, mentoring and certification levels. Earlier he gained degrees in English Language & Literature (Newcastle) and Economics (London). He lives and works in Hertfordshire. Find him on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Find out more about the SfEP mentoring scheme.

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

The SfEP conference – career development for all editorial professionals

The 29th SfEP conference is being held at Lancaster University from 8–10 September 2018. The conference is always an excellent opportunity to develop professional editorial knowledge, find out about developments in the publishing industry, and network and socialise with like-minded colleagues.

The theme of the 2018 conference is Education, education, education, and the emphasis will be on continuing professional development and its value to editorial professionals. The programme will feature hands-on workshops, stimulating and relevant speakers, and opportunities to explore areas of editorial work that may be new to you.

Every year, there are enthusiastic articles and blog posts written by delegates, many of whom are freelance editors and proofreaders. But the conference is attended by in-house staff too, and a few have shared their thoughts here on how useful it has been for them in their work.

Marissa d’Auvergne of the IFRS Foundation attended the conference in 2017 for the first time. She decided to attend for CPD, having attended an in-house training course at another workplace led by a tutor from the SfEP. When her new manager suggested the conference, she ‘leapt at the chance to attend’. She was impressed by the variety of sessions available, and enjoyed the chance to meet colleagues from other editorial disciplines, and editors with many more years of experience. As she put it, ‘I was exposed to so many new things and learned so much.’ She commented on specific points of learning that have helped in her work:

We started to use PerfectIt, which has increased our speed and efficiency. I learned about corpora, and have since been able to find more authoritative answers to questions about collocation. I also learned skills that made some personal writing projects run a lot more smoothly.

It was also the first time for Hedi Burza from the European Parliament. She ‘saw the conference as a learning as well as a networking opportunity’, and was also curious to see how others working in the same profession do their jobs outside the EU institutions. She felt it improved her attitude towards and perception of her editorial practice, and also wished for ‘a similar organisation [to the SfEP] in Hungary and/or an international one in the EU’.

Finally, Michele Staple of The Stationery Office has attended the SfEP conference many times, for ‘networking opportunities’ and ‘keeping abreast of changes in the industry’. She uses it to find new contacts to try for freelance work she needs to outsource. Commenting on last year’s conference, she felt it improved her editorial practice, saying that ‘it was stimulating, and encouraged me to try things I’d put off doing’. She said that she’s ‘always made to feel very welcome’. Finally, she added that ‘It’s the only time I actually get to meet the people who have so often helped me out with my last-minute requests.’

photo 2016 croppedLiz Jones worked in-house between 1998 and 2008. When not editing she writes fiction, and also blogs about editing and freelancing at Eat Sleep Edit Repeat.

 

 

Places for the 2018 conference are selling well, so don’t delay – book your place now! The early-bird rate is available until 20 April.

Alphabetti spaghetti

Recently in our forums, Ally Oakes started a thread called Alphabetti Spaghetti, in which she began an alphabetical list of all the things we get from the forums. Others were quick to take up the challenge.

Why do we love the SfEP forums? Let us list the ways:

Advice, Answers and Anchorage

Buddies Bending over Backwards and Bringing things to our notice before we know we need them

Conference and Colleagueship, Cheese and Chocolate (not exactly provided by the forums, but our Collective Cravings make them all the more delicious)

Detective-work and some Dastardly Discussions

Encyclopaedic Expertise from Experienced practitioners

Friendship, Finding true gems, Functioning/ality and Furthering Freelancing

Graciousness, Gratefulness and Getting over ourselves when we’re bothered about something

Honesty, Humour and Helpfulness

Intriguing questions, Informed answers and occasional Impertinent suggestions

Jokes and Jocular observations

Knowledge (limitless) and Know-it-allness (occasional)

Love for our fellow-editors and Links to relevant topics

Mentors, Moral support, Management skills and Macro solutions to Minor problems

Nurturing and Networks for Nervous Newbies

Openness and Organisation, support of and helping with

Practical exPlanations, Proving the Pudding and Patient aPpraisal

Quick replies to Queries and Questions

Rapid Reassurance, Reinforcement and Real-life problems and solutions

Solidarity and Straightforward Support

Teamwork, Team spirit and Tangential Trains of Thought

Unstinting Über-Unselfishness

Valuable Validation and Varying Voluminousness

Wisdom, Wildcards and Wonderful Words

X-ray vision, eXplanations and all-round eXcellence

Yakkedy-yak-yak-yak (occasional) and Youthful enthusiasm shared with old-timers

Zip-files or oZalids, Ziggurats or Zoology – whatever your query, there’ll be an expert in the field.

And so, with zeal, zest and zing we continue to read and contribute to the forums. Thanks all!

Especial thanks to fellow-contributors – in first name reverse alphabetical order for a change (one of whom was ‘just crossing the Atlantic’ while contributing):

Sue Browning, Sabine Citron, Ruth Lewis, Priscilla Balkwill, Philippa Tomlinson, Michelle Bullock, Margaret Aherne, Lucy Metzger, John Firth, Guy Manners, Beth Hamer, Ayesha Chari, Anna Nolan and Alison Shakspeare

Ally OakesAlly Oakes

Precision, punctuality and a passion for clients’ words. These are all in the pot that is Oak Proofreading. Add many spoonfuls of focus, a large tub of knowledge from training and experience, and an overflowing ladle of SfEP wisdom-sharing. Season generously with great client-communication – and there’s a pot of Ally’s proofreading curry.

 

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

Round-up of blogs published by SfEP members

Many SfEP members share valuable professional advice in their personal blogs. We have collated our favourite recent blog posts below, covering a range of topics, including setting business goals for the new year, and advice on self-publishing, writing and social media.

If you currently publish a blog on your business website and would like to contribute to a future round-up, please contact our blog coordinator, Tracey Roberts.

The long haul by Liz Jones

A year in review and looking ahead by Katherine Trail

End of year reflections of an editor and writer by Sara Donaldson

2017: an end of year review by Liz Brown

Forget the resolutions – 5 New Year practices for proofreaders and copy editors to help the working day go with a swing by Alexa Tewkesbury

Why editors are like actors by Melanie Thompson

What should I write in my first blog post? By Liz Dexter

Consistency matters in business writing: developing an individual style guide by Howard Walwyn

On the basics: so you want to be a blogger? By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (An American Editor)

Process flow for a manuscript by Kate Haigh

LinkedIn: how to improve engagement in 2018 by John Espirian

Preparing for self-publishing: how to get started by Catherine Dunn

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

Upgrading your SfEP membership: Advanced Professional

If upgrading your SfEP membership is a career goal for 2018, it can be daunting to begin the application procedure. But members who have successfully upgraded their membership can be a source of valuable advice on how to prepare your application.

To help, the blog team will be publishing a series of posts on applying to upgrade your membership, beginning with advice on achieving Advanced Professional Membership.

Toby Selwyn

My overriding impression of the upgrade process was how incredibly easy it was. In part this was because I had upgraded to Professional Membership around eighteen months before; since the information I provided for that application was transferred directly to this one, there was no need to resupply it. The online system is easy to use, mostly very intuitive, and inputting the new information took less than an hour.

The one unintuitive element of the process was how to indicate that my Professional application needed to be carried forward, as there is no obvious place to include its reference number as requested. An email to the office resolved that quickly, but it would be useful if it could be made clearer within the system itself.

In terms of building up the upgrade requirements, my only concern was the 100 hours of work that need to have been completed with a client for them to be allowed as a referee. As a fiction editor, I work primarily with independent authors, usually on one-off projects; within the last two years, I have only gained 100 hours’ work with one author. Fortunately, I did have enough experience with my few publisher clients to make up for it, but this requirement could be problematic for editors who specialise in working with indies.

Overall, the process was straightforward, and the office staff were very quick to help when needed. I would strongly advise anyone considering upgrading to go for it.

Catherine Hanley

To be honest, I’d always thought of Advanced Professional Membership as some kind of semi-mythical grade that wasn’t for the likes of me. But, I thought, have I reached the stage where I could at least check the requirements?

I’m glad I did: now I knew exactly what I needed to do, and that I wasn’t as far off as I’d feared. And I was reminded that perhaps I hadn’t been quite as assiduous as I could have been in keeping my CPD up to date and in logging all the hours I’d spent on each job. Sure, I’d done some training courses, but how many of them were recent? And yes, of course I’d been sending out invoices, but had I kept a separate record of the hours worked? Ah.

I went back through every filed invoice and every job I’d done professionally, dividing them into ‘work for publishers’ and ‘work for non-publishers’, then started a spreadsheet to log the invoice date, the client and the hours worked. Bingo: I knew I’d done a lot of work over the years, and it turned out I had enough experience. I was then able to email contacts at regular clients with exact figures on the work I’d done for them over the years – would they mind being a referee? They agreed.

Next, training. Not enough in the last three years, but now I knew where the gaps in my work experience were, I could find a relevant course. Living as I do in the middle of nowhere, the variety of online choices was a godsend. I confess I started off with upgrade points in mind, but the course I chose was one I should have done anyway, so I’m glad I had the incentive – and I picked up a number of tips and techniques that have been very helpful in subsequent work.

Finally, after several months, the online SfEP upgrade form. There it was. But it was laid out very logically, and with the correct information to hand, it was easier than I expected to fill in. I was delighted when I was informed that my upgrade had been successful. Tea and new business cards to celebrate!

If I had any tips, they would be: organise your record keeping as you go along, so you don’t have to spend time checking back through everything. Oh, and keep your training up to date, whether you’re applying for an upgrade or not!

Michelle McFadden

I did it. Finally. And it only took me about ten years.

I had been an Entry-Level Member (previously an Associate) of SfEP since the late noughties and my incomplete PTC Basic Proofreading course had been around for almost as long. I would start work on it and then other things would intrude: good things like parenting, holidays and work. I have interspersed freelance work with challenging in-house positions that provided training, structure and collegial feedback. The motivation to finish the course diminished as time went on.

In-house work and freelance editorial project management provided me with all of the hours of experience that I needed to upgrade. The truth is that my in-house training may have been enough for my upgrade application, but I’m too stubborn to have even investigated that possibility.

With the encouragement of my edibuddy accountability group, I finally completed the PTC course to give me those all-important training points. I procrastinated when it came to completing my upgrade application form, but I shouldn’t have; it was easy and straightforward and took a surprisingly short amount of time.

So now I have the assurance that my years of experience are now complemented by SfEP Advanced Professional status (which can only improve my position when pitching to clients). As the organisation moves towards chartership, I believe that will become increasingly important. I haven’t had my directory entry long enough to have experienced an increase in client approaches, but I do have a deep sense of satisfaction that something that has been on my to-do list for a very long time has now been achieved. And that feels good.

Hugh Jackson

Over my two and a half years as a member of the SfEP, I’ve now done the full circuit of the four main membership grades, and thus done the upgrade procedure three times. My latest upgrade was in June 2017 to Advanced Professional Membership, giving me a shiny gold badge on my directory entry and an @sfep.net email address.

Upgrading is so much easier with careful record-keeping. Right from the start I’ve kept a spreadsheet of everything I edit, even the tiniest project. As well as being invaluable for performance reviews and marketing, this record made the process much easier. My records told me to the minute how much relevant experience I had for each membership grade, along with the dates and lengths of each project and whether they were copy-editing or proofreading, all things that are necessary for the experience section of the upgrade form. Because it was all there, I simply deleted unnecessary columns and uploaded the spreadsheet with my upgrade form.

I also had PDF copies of CPD certificates saved on my computer that I could upload for the training requirement, and I asked my favourite clients whether they’d be able to give a reference (as one referee was a non-publisher, I also had to do the Basic Editorial Test).

The process is really straightforward and far quicker than expected: mine took just three days from application to approval. When I had a question (whether a reference from a previous update could be used for this one – it can), the office staff were quick and helpful as always. Remember, if you’ve upgraded in the past, you’ll have been emailed a copy of your last upgrade application, so you can copy bits from that.

John Espirian

I suspect most people who are asked about upgrading to Advanced Professional Membership will say the same thing:

“I wish I’d done it sooner.”

“The process was much easier than I thought it would be.”

“Don’t delay.”

All of the above are true for me. I delayed my upgrade attempt for well over a year, always putting it off with thoughts about not having enough upgrade points or not having enough time to get through pages and pages of the application process.

Eventually, I decided to sit down one afternoon to draw together all of the sources that would contribute to my upgrade application and then to make a start on the upgrade form. I thought if I could put in a couple of hours, that would at least break the ice and I’d be more likely to get the whole thing done sooner or later.

Needless to say, I was kicking myself when after a couple of hours I’d done all the data gathering AND completed the upgrade form in its entirety. It was all so quick that I had to double-check that I hadn’t missed something major. Why hadn’t I done it earlier?

I was impressed at how efficient the office were in processing my application, and the good news about my APM status was confirmed within three weeks.

I’d encourage anyone on the fence about upgrading to set aside a few hours and get it done. It’s really not as scary as you might think.

A word about anonymity

To ensure complete fairness, all upgrades are completely anonymous. After being processed by the staff in the office to remove all identifying information, they are passed to the Admissions Panel, whose identities are also secret – not known even to Council members. In order to maintain this anonymity,  we ask you not to discuss your upgrade application in places where members of the Panel might see it. In practice this means on the forums, in local groups and on social media. We are of course always delighted to see members taking their professional development seriously, so by all means celebrate your success in those channels once it has been confirmed. We share your excitement and sense of achievement.

Wise owls: freelance business goals for 2018

This month, the SfEP wise owls share their tips for setting realistic goals that match your individual ambitions, and consider how small changes can have a big impact on your career in 2018.

Being motivated to set goals to boost your career in the new year can be difficult. Many feel compelled to set over-ambitious resolutions to make this THE year they achieve a high-flying freelance career, regardless of their personal circumstances or goals. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the expectation of planning for the new year, don’t worry, the SfEP parliament is here to help.

Sue Browning

Sue Browning

Around the turn of any new year there’s always a plethora of advice on reviewing the year just past and setting goals for a brave new you in the year to come. And it’s always good to take stock and review what worked for you and what didn’t, what you enjoyed and would like to do more of, and what you never want to do again. It’s also good to review your fees, check out software and other tools, and look over your processes and see if they can be streamlined.

I’m going to say something heretical now. I’m not much of a one for setting goals and, with a few exceptions (CPD, holidays), I don’t make hard plans. Instead I try to make incremental changes in my behaviour that work towards increasing my overall efficiency and enjoyment of my job and life as a whole. The thing with incremental changes is that they are achievable and sustainable; the ambitious goals one tends to set under the influence of inspirational advice quite often turn out to be neither of these.

So why not resolve to learn some (more) keyboard short cuts – not just for Word, but for Windows/OS, your email client, Acrobat/PDF-XChange. Start with maybe one or two of the commands you use most frequently, learn or make short cuts and use them until they become second nature, then learn another one or two. Do the same with Find & Replace commands and maybe macros. Start simple and work up. If you do this regularly, you will soon accumulate a good arsenal of tools and techniques, you’ll be more efficient and your mouse-clicking finger will thank you.

Many of us will have just paid our tax bill, so it’s also a good time to start planning for the next one. If you can, consider setting a percentage of your earnings aside every month so next January (or July, if you’re in that bracket) isn’t such a worry. Put it in a high-interest account and try to forget about it. If you can afford it, also put some money aside longer term, to help tide you over those times when you are ill, or even as something for your retirement.

Hazel Bird

Hazel Bird

My suggestion for setting New Year business goals is to make this an opportunity to really focus on the one, two or perhaps three things you want to do with your business this year, or maybe improve on from last year. It’s all too tempting to look at all the interesting courses, self-development and business development ideas out there and want to do all of them. However, by spending some time thinking about what you want your business to look like by Christmas 2018, drilling down to find the key actions that are most likely to get you there, and then making sure you actually have time to carry out those actions, you’ll be more likely to see some real results from your efforts.

 

 Abi Saffrey

Abi Saffrey

Setting goals when you run your own business can be harder than doing it as an employee – there isn’t anyone else looking at the bigger picture for you. You’re the strategist, the business development manager, the marketing master, the holder of the purse strings and the person who has to make the results happen.

Whatever goals you set, consider how you are going to achieve them, by when and, just as importantly, why you want to achieve them. The hardest goals to meet will be the ones that are there just for the sake of having goals.

Break goals down into what you need to do to achieve them: your income won’t rise, your costs won’t fall, your skills won’t stay relevant, you won’t have a new service to market if you sit around waiting for some magical, mystical external force to make it happen.

Whatever goals and actions you decide on, there should be some training or CPD in there – it might be to learn a new skill, refresh or improve an existing one, or deepen relevant knowledge. You don’t know what you don’t know, and even training that revisits what you already know will keep you and your business on track.

Review your progress against your goals regularly – put reminders in your diary – and it’s okay to revise them, add to them or get rid of them if you realise they aren’t working for you or your priorities change. Keep records on progress or changes so that you can monitor your actions and decisions – and it’ll help you to keep the things out of your next set of goals that, it turned out, gave you nightmares.

Sue Littleford

Sue Littleford

Starting the year with a blank sheet of paper for your business new-year resolutions can be a bit daunting, but don’t overwhelm yourself with an impossible wishlist, or the feeling that this year you Must Be Perfect. Who needs that stress? Just aim to be better in some areas.

Review your financial records and decide on a training and development budget and an income goal, and think about what training you want to undertake. What do you need to upgrade? What do you need to fill in gaps in your knowledge or to consolidate what you already know and boost your confidence? What do you need to keep abreast of new developments in publishing or to add a new service to your offering? Must it be paid-for training with a certificate at the end, or are there YouTube tutorials you can do? Can you afford it this year, or can you at least save some money towards it, and do the training in 2019?

Think carefully about timing for best results. If you’re looking to expand your client base and one of your selling points is that you’re available throughout the summer, start cold-calling/writing two or three months before the main holiday period when many clients are wondering how they’re going to cope with their freelances taking time off.

Are there any clients you need to fire, who pay too little, or are more trouble than they’re worth? Make time to find and work for new, better clients.

Do you want to engage more fully with the SfEP? Do you have the capacity to volunteer? Or do you want to go to your local group meetings consistently? Perhaps your resolution will be to read all the SfEP emails and see what the Society is hoping its members will help with.

Maybe you have a hitlist of little niggles – procedures you want to nail down, documentation and templates you want to develop, a Word hack you want to find. Log them and tackle them.

Scatter your resolutions through the year – don’t try to start everything at once. And put review points in your diary when you’ll evaluate how much you’ve already achieved and decide the next steps. Resolutions are for life, not just for January.

John Espirian

For those new to the editorial profession, the best place to start is by taking good quality training. Without this, most people will lack the skill and confidence to do a good job for their clients. Thorough training should be a minimum requirement – so put that top of your agenda if you’re just starting out.

My goals for business success in 2018 are based on improving my marketing so that I can be better known in my space. That means continuing to post relevant and helpful content on my blog and looking for opportunities to enhance my profile via other streams.

One method I like is to appear as a guest on podcasts, as this is a quick and easy way to introduce yourself to new audiences. I’m aiming to make it on to 10 podcasts this year.

I’ve also decided to dedicate a little more time to in-person networking, so will be attending three conferences in 2018, including the SfEP’s annual conference at Lancaster University in September.

Liz Jones

I find it helps to have a clear understanding of where I’m at to see where I want to take things in the future. It’s worth spending some time analysing your business to find the answers to questions like ‘where does my income come from?’ (by client and by sector), ‘which clients pay best?’ (and worst) and ‘what do I spend most of my time doing?’. I did this last year, and the answers were illuminating – and in some cases quite surprising. Finding out what was really happening in my business enabled me to make some big decisions about who I wanted to keep working with, who I didn’t, and the type of work I wanted to spend most of my time doing. As a result I’ve streamlined the types of work I take on, but increased my income, and have also found time for creative pursuits on the side. Without taking the time to understand at a very detailed level what was happening in my business, I might not have felt able to make such changes for the better.

 

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

Wise owls on editing non-fiction

Non-fiction covers a vast array of topics, including music, psychology, architecture, science, and memoirs, and new editors may find learning and following the conventions of non-fiction daunting. Editors will be asked to work with authors who are experts in their chosen field, and you will need to (tactfully!) help them bring structure to their work as they share their extensive knowledge with their audience.

This month, the SfEP parliament of wise owls share their experience of editing non-fiction, including tips on references and style guides, and working efficiently to meet clients’ needs for consistency within an often limited budget.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

Learn to love references, in all their multifarious glory. I get great satisfaction from making a clean and orderly references list from the dog’s breakfast I was handed. I edit a lot of academic tomes in HSS (humanities and social sciences) and have long realised that there are almost as many variations of Harvard as there are authors.

This is why it’s important to get a clear brief from your client. The publishers I work for vary greatly in how closely they want references to adhere to house style. Indeed, some are becoming more relaxed about it over time, often settling for ‘apply author’s style consistently’. If you are to avoid wasting a lot of time, do talk to your client about how much of your effort they want spent on changing the style of references.

One trick I’ve recently adopted is to make my own sample list of references for each of the variants in the job in hand (such as book, chapter, article, website, grey literature and archive – and some of those will have print and online variants, too). This is particularly helpful if I’m working with the short-title system, where a reference will look a little different in the note and in the bibliography, so my own note of the same reference in both presentations is an efficient way of checking I’m applying the correct version of the style in the right place – far easier than flipping through the pages of a style guide.

Liz Jones

It can seem that editing non-fiction is more bound by conventions, formats and rules than fiction. Whether you think that makes the task easier or harder is all down to personal preference! Often a non-fiction client will supply a style sheet, and even if they don’t they might indicate an established style guide that they’d like you to follow. In this way it can be quite different from editing a piece of fiction, which is much more likely to follow its own internal logic. Remember that the author’s voice can be just as distinctive and important to a piece of non-fiction – they’re still telling a story, even if it’s rooted in fact – so there’s a need to be sensitive and to think hard about what to retain as well as what to change. You might require a certain amount of tact to negotiate changes with the author to help their work conform to the required style, without applying rules slavishly and arbitrarily. Finally, non-fiction is often quite clearly structured, and this can be really helpful to the editor. Tweaking text to better fit the structural patterns that run through it can be immensely satisfying, and might make all the difference to a piece of writing – transforming it into a polished and coherent document that’s ready to be sent out into the world.

Abi SaffreyAbi Saffrey

Whenever I tell someone what I do, pretty much the first question they go on to ask is ‘What do you edit? Fiction?’ When I say that I work in non-fiction – generally economics and social policy – there is slight dismay in their faces. Fiction is the glamorous face of publishing, and non-fiction is seen as its frumpy but reliable best friend.

It’s fulfilling when my knowledge overlaps with the content I’m editing, and I can ask informed questions and add substantial value. When it’s a subject area I haven’t worked in before, I’m exhilarated by learning new things and I’m often prompted to go and read something related for pleasure.

Just as with fiction, it is critical to keep the author’s voice (or brand voice) intact and use a delicate touch to enhance the content rather than interfere with a heavy hand. Non-fiction brings with it tables, charts, diagrams and the mighty references list – they may appear intimidating at first sight but all they need is to be handled gently but authoritatively.

Non-fiction has been my bread and butter for over 17 years and I still get excited when a new project pops into my inbox – who knows what joys (and possibly terrors) those documents hold?

Sue BrowningSue Browning

In my experience, non-fiction publishers rarely have generous budgets, so one of the arts of making a decent living out of it is to master the various tools that can make you more efficient. These include the features available in Word, in particular keyboard shortcuts, wildcard Find & Replace and macros. Many of mine are home-grown, but I also plunder Paul Beverley’s magnificent and generous Macros for Editors. It’s also worth exploring the various add-ins you can get. I regard PerfectIt as an essential, and I also have Reference Checker (sadly no longer supported), both of which save a lot of time and help you produce a more consistent result – something that non-fiction publishers tend to be especially concerned about.

So once the mechanical style aspects have been tidied up and the references thrashed into submission, I can get down to the fun part – engaging with the content and the author. Here I particularly love the challenge of phrasing queries collaboratively (‘Perhaps we could…’, ‘Do you think x would be clearer?’) and sometimes catching the odd boo-boo, usually to the author’s heartfelt gratitude. But oh, the angst of querying a missing ‘not’ – have I completely misunderstood? will the author think I’m dumb?

Editing non-fiction can sometimes be challenging and frustrating, but it also brings the pleasure of working with subject experts and contributing to the spread of knowledge in a small but, I would argue, essential way.

 

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