One of the biggest benefits of being a Professional or Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP is free entry in the Society’s Directory of Editorial Services. This online resource lists more than 600 members of the Society – the ideal place for clients to search for editors and proofreaders with a huge array of skills and specialisms.
Since releasing the new version of the SfEP website at the end of 2015, we’ve been busy enhancing the Directory. In this post, I’m going to cover some new features that we think you’ll like.
Directory entries now support the display of a small, square profile photo. These appear to the left of the membership grade badge, at 128×128 pixels. Here are a couple of examples:
You can supply a larger image if that’s more convenient – we’ll handle the scaling for you.
If you want a certain part of your entry to stand out, just ask for it to be your featured section. We’ll apply a separate style to that part of the entry. Featured content is usually best placed at the top of the entry.
You can make your entry stand out by including recommendations from your clients. We now have a new style for displaying testimonials. Just send us the text and the name of the client, and we’ll do the rest.
The Directory now supports videos, so you can display content from YouTube, Vimeo and any other video-sharing service. All we need from you is the iframe embed code.
On YouTube, the iframe code can be found by clicking Share and then Embed.
On Vimeo, the Share button leads directly to the iframe code.
We’re usually able to apply all changes within one working day. Just tell us which changes to make, and we’ll handle the details.
Want to be listed in the Directory?
If you’re a Professional or Advanced Professional Member, you can request a Directory listing via the SfEP Members’ area.
If you’re an Entry-Level or Intermediate Member, take a look at what you need to do to upgrade your membership. Many members listed in the Directory cite it as one of their main sources of income.
If you’re not part of the membership yet, perhaps you’ll consider joining the SfEP.
The future of the Directory
I hope you’ll agree that these new features are a good start. But we want the SfEP Directory to be even better.
We’re working hard behind the scenes so that you can update your own entry directly. We’ll let you know as soon as this feature is ready. But remember: you can request an update to your entry at any time – just email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know.
Over to you
OK, that’s it for now. What do you think of the new-look Directory? Let us know by leaving a comment. We’d love to hear from you.
John Espirian (@espirian) is the SfEP’s internet director and principal forum administrator.
Unsurprisingly, new members of the SfEP often have many questions about how to handle that first proofreading job. What are the tips and tricks to getting started with an initial piece of paid work? Are there any pitfalls to avoid? How much should you charge?
This post sets out 10 tips to help new proofreaders. Follow them and you’ll be much more confident when working for your first client.
Here’s what this post covers. Click a link to take you straight to that section:
Let’s start by creating a scenario for a typical proofreading job.
You’ve been contacted by a prospective client who wants you to proofread an article. It’s a 60,000-word document and you know something about the subject matter, but you’re not an expert. The client hasn’t worked with a proofreader before and would like to know how much the job will cost.
Now, let’s look at 10 tips to help you get through this first job. Ready?
Tip 1: Clarify the brief
The ‘brief’ is what the client has asked you to do – in this case, it’s proofreading their article, but you don’t yet have any further details about what ‘proofreading’ means to the client.
Clarifying the brief means you should ensure that your understanding of ‘proofreading’ matches the client’s, especially if the client isn’t a publishing professional or hasn’t paid for editorial services before.
Working to the brief is really important but even more important is understanding what the brief is in the first place. If your expectations don’t match the client’s, the end result isn’t going to be right. So you need to ensure that the requirements are crystal clear.
Here are a few questions you might want to ask:
Is there a style guide to work from?
Are there any references to deal with?
Is it just text or are there figures, tables and illustrations?
The brief is important because it helps you work out how much time the job is likely to take. This knowledge should help you quote a price that reflects the effort required to complete the work to an acceptable standard.
Let’s see the thoughts of a highly experienced SfEP colleague:
Find out the history of the work, e.g. has it been copy-edited to SfEP standard? Or are you the first professional to get their hands on it? If the client is not happy with previous work, find out what hasn’t worked for them.
Tip 2: Ask for a representative sample of the work
OK, you’ve clarified the brief and now know what the client wants. You might be able to do everything that’s required, but what if the source text needs a lot of work? You won’t know until the job starts, right? Wrong. You need to know what state the text is in before you start the job. But how can you find this out?
The answer is to ask for a representative sample of the work. In this case, you would want to see at least a few thousand words (aim for 5–10% of the total), ideally taken from somewhere in the middle of the content. Why? Because authors will often polish the start and end of their writing, so seeing these parts might not give you a proper flavour of the rest of the work.
Getting hold of a representative sample will give an indication of how much effort is required to do the job. Perhaps you’ll discover that the text isn’t even ready for proofreading. Although you’re understandably eager to get going with your first job, the sample may reveal that this particular piece of work isn’t right for you. Should that be the case, it’s best to tell the client straight away.
Tip 3: Get the quote right
Once you know what the client is expecting and you’ve assessed a sample of the text, it’s time to think about how much to charge. A lot of newbie proofreaders freeze at this point. They have moments of self-doubt, wondering whether they can really charge anything for their services. Perhaps it would be better to do the job for nothing?
Although some established professionals support the idea of early work being done at a very low rate (or even for free), most would advise new proofreaders to charge a normal, respectable figure. So, what is that figure?
We usually advise members to look at the suggested minimum rates published on the SfEP website. These hourly figures give an idea of a good minimum amount to aim for. But that then poses another question: how many hours will the job take?
The time required to do the job should have a bearing on what you charge. The exact amount to charge depends on a few factors. Consider these questions:
How long is the text?
How complex is the subject matter?
What’s the deadline?
The answers to these questions will give you an idea of how much effort is required and therefore how much you should charge.
Now, think again about the scenario involving the 60,000-word article. Imagine that you’ve seen a representative sample. It’s good news: the text is brilliantly written and the subject matter turns out not to be as complex as you first thought. You think you can read and correct the rest of the text pretty quickly. You guess that a pace of 4000 words per hour might be achievable. At that rate, you’d need to work for 15 hours to do the job.
Most proofreaders struggle to put in more than 6 hours of work per day. (Proofreading requires a lot of concentration and can be very tiring.) This means that the job would take the equivalent of 2.5 days. At the current suggested minimum rates for proofreading, this job might cost the client around £350. Remember, this is a minimum suggested figure for a piece of text that you’ve assessed as being in great shape already.
But what if the text is a real mess? Horror of horrors, the client hands over a sample that’s hard to understand and is full of mistakes and inconsistencies. Perhaps you’ll scarcely be able to wade through 1000 words of this per hour. Unlike your dream job above that would take a mere 15 hours, this scenario would have you labouring for close to 60 hours – effectively a full week plus overtime, equating to a quote around the £1300 mark. And yes, that’s a minimum suggested figure.
OK, there are two extremes here, but the point is that not all quotes are going to work out the same way. Assessing a sample of the text will let you produce a quote that is in the right part of the spectrum.
An aside on fighting the temptation of quoting low rates
So, what about the natural temptation to quote low just so you can get the experience of that first job or two? Let’s take a look at some advice from fellow SfEP members:
If the client is potentially going to give you more work, or recommend you to others, I would be wary of setting a low rate.
Quote a reasonable hourly rate, based on the time that would be expected of a more experienced editor, and then work the hours necessary for you to do a good job – yes, it’ll probably take a lot longer and therefore work out at a very poor rate, but that’s not relevant to the client. If you start at a low rate, you may end up working for that rate for a lot longer than you think. Also, quoting low does not necessarily mean you’ll land the job – it may well set off red flags in a client’s mind as to why you are so much lower than other quotes they’ve had.
Tip 4: Agree a reasonable deadline
Experienced editorial professionals are often able to take on rush jobs, and can sometimes charge a premium for doing so. This isn’t recommended for those who are starting out, so you need to be sure that you really will have the time to get through the job. As Tina says above, your time estimate might not be long enough, so pushing out the deadline as much as possible would be helpful.
Once you’ve agreed a deadline, do your best to stick to it. Should you realise that the agreed deadline is not achievable, inform the client as soon as possible.
Tip 5: Check all materials
You can’t start a job until you’ve got everything you need. More wise advice:
Check all files as soon as you receive them. Don’t wait until you want to start work, because by that time any problems, such as corrupted files or failed attachments, will wreck your schedule. And back up your work.
Tip 6: Create a checklist of jobs
Having done all of the above prep, you’re now ready to start the job proper. In all the excitement of taking on that first piece of work, you don’t want to forget any tasks. So, follow some simple steps to build a bit of order into your work:
Make yourself a checklist of jobs to do.
Add to it anything you think of as you’re going along.
Remember to check off against the checklist!
Tip 7: Break up the job
If you try to focus on every aspect of the text at the same time, you’ll almost certainly miss something. It’s far better to break up the job into separate passes, helping you focus on one thing at a time.
Here’s some expert advice on the subject:
One tip is not to try to do everything in one pass, especially if you are dealing with a typographically complex book with lots of illustrations, tables, lists, text boxes, etc. Make a checklist, as Katie suggests, then do some global passes to check items such as
Chapter headings vs contents list
Any numbered or alphabetised lists
Sequence of any numbered headings
Only when you have checked all these off on your list is it time to start reading.
Tip 8: Compile a style guide
As above, asking whether there’s an existing style guide should be something you do when assessing the job. But even if a style guide exists, it probably won’t cover everything you come across as you work on the job. Keep notes about decisions made during the job and then refer back to them. Naturally, this is even more important when there’s no style guide to start with.
Time for more advice from another SfEP member:
Regardless of whether or not the client provides a style guide, compile a style sheet for every single project you do. It will include choices related to spelling, capitalization, italics, etc., and if the client hasn’t provided you with a style guide, then the style sheet will include many more items, e.g. numbers, punctuation, reference styles. Not only will you be helping the client and showing that you’re a professional, you will be helping yourself because there is no way on earth that anyone can remember every spelling decision they make over the course of any project. Also, run PerfectIt (or your choice of macros) before you start. That will help you get your style sheet started before you begin the actual editing. (You can run PerfectIt again at the end, if you have time/want to check consistency.)
Tip 9: Group all queries
If you’ve clarified the brief well enough, you shouldn’t have too many queries at the start of the job. But questions will often crop up once the work gets going. Naturally, you’ll be eager to find out the answers but you should avoid peppering the client with lots of emails.
Yet more advice from another SfEP member:
Don’t be afraid to ask, but try and keep questions to a list in one email rather than panicking and sending them willy-nilly!
Remember that your questions should always be relevant to the current job.
Tip 10: Ask questions on SfEP forums
The SfEP’s online discussion forums, which are available only to members of the Society, are the best place to ask questions and hear the thoughts of other editorial professionals. The forums have hosted more than 100,000 posts since their release in late 2012 – a clear sign of a highly engaged community.
Taking on that first proofreading job can seem scary, but it needn’t be if you follow the tips above. Here’s a recap for new proofreaders:
Clarify the brief – make sure you know what the client wants.
Ask for a representative sample – assess the job by reviewing a chunk of the text.
Think about the complexity of the job – how much time and effort will be needed?
Agree a deadline – set a realistic timescale and do your best to stick to it.
Create a checklist – note all the jobs you need to do and check them off as you go.
Break up the job into separate passes – make sure you don’t miss any tasks.
Keep your own notes – supplement the style guide or create your own if one doesn’t exist.
Ask questions – group queries so that you don’t pepper the client with emails.
Use SfEP forums – ask for help from hundreds of experienced members.
Wow, that’s a lot of advice!
I hope these tips give you enough information to get started with confidence, and I wish you the best of luck with your editorial career. If you have any of your own newbie tips to share, please add a comment below.
John Espirian (@espirian) is the SfEP’s internet director and principal forum administrator.
In March 2016, the SfEP released a new online course, Editing with Word. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person looking forward to this course, especially as I hadn’t had the chance to attend either of the Society’s old onscreen editing workshops. Editing with Word would be ideal, I thought, because it would be full of up-to-date content, and, crucially for me, I’d be able to take the course online. Contributors to the course included Paul Beverley, Daniel Heuman and Paul Sensecall – all well-known names in the editorial community – so this was a course not to miss.
Then I saw that three of the course’s ten chapters would require some sort of access to Windows. And that got me wondering about how suitable the course would be for Mac users.
Like many writers and editors, I’m a big fan of Apple Macs. But there are times when an important piece of software works only on Windows, and that gives Mac users some questions to answer. Should we stick to using only those tools that work natively on our Macs, foregoing Windows software that might have saved our bacon? Should we keep a PC on standby just in case? Are there any other options?
Below are some examples of software that Mac users might find very useful if only they could get access to Windows. The first three of these feature in the SfEP’s Editing with Word course:
So, there are times when having Windows to hand could really be of help to a Mac-using editorial pro. Now we need to consider what that means in practical terms. Let’s look at the options.
Option 1: use a real PC
There are no two ways about it: for the authentic Windows experience, use a real PC. That doesn’t mean you need the full-on desktop ensemble. An old laptop, netbook or PC tablet might do the job, depending on what software you’re trying to run.
Low-cost option if you already have any Windows-compatible hardware on standby.
PC keyboard may be best to use for Windows-specific shortcuts.
Need to use home networking, Dropbox or other sharing methods to move files between Mac and Windows.
More clutter: you may need to make space on your desk for that extra computer, monitor, keyboard and mouse.
It’s a PC. Prepare for hardware wrangles, blue screens of death and more besides. Why did you buy a Mac anyway?
Option 2: use Boot Camp
Boot Camp is Apple’s built-in software that lets you install Windows on part of your hard drive.
Uses native software built in to the Mac, so should stay up to date so long as your Mac does.
No need to install third-party software to run Windows.
Need to restart to switch between Mac and Windows, which significantly slows down workflows and makes it more difficult to share files between operating systems. You’d need to use Dropbox, a USB thumb drive or an external hard disk to shift files between systems. Fun!
Usual home-networking routes won’t work: your Mac will be rendered invisible while Windows is running, and vice versa.
Requires your hard drive to be partitioned, so you need to decide how much space to reserve for Windows (a headache if you need to change your mind later).
Requires installation of a licensed copy of Windows and any other software to be run on the system (e.g. MS Office).
Option 3: use a ‘virtual machine’
A virtual machine is software that allows you to access an entire operating system (such as Windows) and its programs via a single window on your Mac desktop.
Very easy to share files between Mac and Windows.
No need for a second machine, monitor, keyboard or mouse.
Windows runs inside a self-contained app.
Can share the host Mac’s internet connection or can be used in offline mode, providing strong protection against viruses, worms, etc.
Takes up only as much disk space as is required (no need to partition your hard drive).
Can inherit an existing Boot Camp installation of Windows.
Requires a powerful Mac.
Not the cheapest route (see requirements below).
Requires installation of a licensed copy of Windows and any other software to be run on the system (e.g. MS Office).
My recommendation: use a virtual machine
I’ve tried all of the methods above and, for me, the best option has been to use a virtual machine. My old PC took up too much space and was a pain to keep updated and protected. Boot Camp appealed for a while, but losing access to my Mac while Windows was running soon became a no-no. The final option I tried – a virtual machine – is what I’ve stuck with quite happily since around 2010.
There are a couple of big players in the virtual-machine market. In my case, I’ve opted for Parallels. The main alternative is Fusion. Both products do the same job, so, before committing to a purchase, you might want to take advantage of a free trial of each to see which software you prefer. Prices are also almost identical, with each product costing around £65 for a one-off licence. The software is updated every year and there’s a charge for upgrading, but upgrades aren’t mandatory. The latest versions of Parallels and Fusion work well with all modern versions of Windows, so you probably won’t need to upgrade for a few years.
Requirements for running a virtual machine
Here’s what you’ll need in order to run a virtual version of Windows on your Mac:
A powerful Mac: running one operating system inside another requires a powerful machine. If you’re using a mid-range MacBook, your computer might not have enough resources to adequately sustain a virtual machine.
Virtual-machine software: Parallels and Fusion are the main players. Each offers a free trial.
A licensed copy of Windows: even if you already own a PC with a pre-installed version of Windows, you’ll probably need a separate Windows installation disc for your Mac as well as a licence key. If you’ve previously installed Windows via your Mac’s built-in Boot Camp software, you can make Parallels or Fusion use that existing installation rather than having to install Windows again.
CD/DVD drive: you’ll probably be installing Windows from an optical disc, but new Macs no longer come with an internal disc drive. If your Mac doesn’t have a slot for CDs and DVDs, you’ll need something like the Apple USB SuperDrive.
Licensed copies of all software: an Office 365 subscription is a good option if you wish to run Word and the other Office apps on both Mac and Windows. (Office 365 now works quite well on the iPad, too.)
Note that if you want to make a wholesale move from an existing PC to a virtual machine, Parallels can migrate your entire Windows installation, meaning you won’t need a separate Windows licence, installation disc or CD/DVD drive.
Still, the above represents a substantial requirements list. Take a look at what you already have and see whether running a virtual machine is going to be the right choice for you. In some cases, it will work out better to accept the cons of running a cheap, second-hand PC.
A note about anti-virus software
When Mac users think about installing Windows, they often wonder whether they need to install anti-virus software on their virtual copy of Windows. Strictly speaking, the answer is yes: you’ll be running a fully functional version of Windows that will have access to the internet, and therefore it’s possible for it to be infected in just the same way that a real PC might be. However, there are some mitigating circumstances that might change your thinking on this topic:
Your use of the internet inside the virtual machine is likely to be very limited. Do you think you’re likely to use an email program inside Windows, for example, when you already have access to email on your host Mac? Will you be browsing the web inside Windows? Wouldn’t you just use Safari or Chrome on your host Mac, as usual?
Virtual machines don’t always need access to the internet. You could disable internet access inside the virtual machine, leaving Windows offline and therefore protected from almost all threats. Even in this state, you could still share your Mac’s files with your Windows installation and vice versa.
Virtual machines allow you to take snapshots of your system, so any unforeseen problems (e.g. a virus or worm affecting your installation) can easily be rectified by rolling back to a previous snapshot. You can also delete your entire Windows installation without it affecting your Mac, and then reinstall. This is easier to do with a virtual machine than it is with a real PC.
But I just want to use PerfectIt!
All this information might appear complicated and scary if all you want to do is use the PerfectIt add-in for Word on your Mac. If the above methods aren’t for you, there might yet be hope …
Intelligent Editing, the makers of PerfectIt, intend to release a cloud-based version of the software in late 2016. When this happens, PerfectIt will be able to run on any system, including your Mac. No firm release information is available at this time, but I’ll be keeping a keen eye on developments and will update SfEP members when I know more.
A note about Wine
The more technically minded readers, particularly those familiar with Linux, will probably be wondering why I’ve neglected to mention Wine. This software provides another route for Mac users to run Windows software, but I’ve never had a good experience with it and therefore wouldn’t recommend it. Still, it might be worth a go if the other options above aren’t right for you.
What do you think?
If you’re a Mac user who sometimes uses Windows, which method suits you best and why? Post a comment below to let us know.
John Espirian (@espirian) is the SfEP’s internet director and principal forum administrator.
One of the most important decisions you’ll make when starting any new venture is what you should call your new business. Here are seven questions that will help you come up with the perfect name for your editorial business.
1. Should I use my own name?
If you are already well established in your editorial career, it can be helpful to use your own name in your business as it will help potential clients find you, particularly if they have worked with you previously. However, this doesn’t work if you have a more common name. If your moniker is along the lines of John Smith, you may prefer your business name to be a little more original.
2. Should I include details of what I do?
It can be helpful to outline your services as part of your business name, but be careful not to box yourself in. While ‘X Proofreading’ may be a perfect description of your business offering today, next year, after you’ve expanded into copy-editing or developmental editing, you may find that the proofreading part of your business name restricts you.
3. Is my proposed business name easy to pronounce and spell?
Picture the scene: You’ve met a really promising contact and exchanged business cards; a week later your new contact wants to get in touch. Unfortunately, they’ve mislaid your contact details, but that’s not a problem because they remember your business name. A simple internet search should yield your phone number or email address. Except when they type in what they remember as the name of your business, they spell it differently. Or maybe they have seen your business name written down and they are recommending you to a colleague, but they pronounce the name of your business as they remember hearing it, not as it is actually spelt, so they can’t find you. You’ve lost out on potentially valuable business. So keep your business name simple and avoid homonyms or puns that could confuse potential clients when they try to find you. Moreover, slightly odd spellings could be seen as detrimental when you are trading as someone who specialises in catching typos.
4. What is my story?
If you decide not to use your own name, don’t just think about the services you offer, think about your story. Is there a particularly original path you took that brought you to this career? Could your business name hint at your story? An added bonus is that this will give you something to talk about when you first introduce your business to prospective clients.
5. Is geography important to me?
Perhaps you have a local landmark or heritage that you’d like to reference in your name. Or would you rather not tie yourself to a particular region? Remember to think about the future as well as the present. If you are likely to relocate, would this impact on your business if your name is linked to a particular locale?
6. Are there any other businesses already using my proposed name?
You’ve come up with the perfect name; it’s so original no one else could have come up with it — never assume this is the case. Always search on the internet first. Google your ideal name and see what comes up. Then check the common domain name providers to see if the address is available. And don’t forget to search across social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to see if other organisations or individuals are already using your proposed name. The last thing you want is to buy your web address and then discover that someone is already using your business name on Twitter, particularly if they are in a less salubrious line of business!
7. What do friends and family think of my name?
Test out your proposed business name on friends, family, colleagues, or even the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) forums. What does the name say to people? Is there anything about your business name they can spot that you didn’t notice? For example, do the initials spell out an unfortunate acronym?
Are there any hints or tips you would add to this list? How did you come up with your business name?
Nominations for the 2015 Judith Butcher Award are now open. So what is the Judith Butcher Award and why should you think about nominating someone to win it?
As with many organisations, much of the success of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) is down to the tireless work of volunteers behind the scenes. To recognise these efforts, the SfEP established the Judith Butcher Award in 2011 to ensure individuals who make a valuable difference to the SfEP and its membership are rewarded for their contributions.
Named after our serving president, the Judith Butcher Award was first presented at the SfEP 2012 annual general meeting and is awarded annually at our AGM and conference.
As well as being the SfEP’s first honorary president, Judith Butcher is the author of Butcher’s Copy-editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Copy-editors and Proofreaders.
The first winner of the Judith Butcher Award was Lesley Ward who was a member of the SfEP’s founding committee, served as the SfEP’s first treasurer and played a major role in developing its training programme.
Since then, the Judith Butcher Award honoured Helen Stevens in 2013 for ‘doing a huge amount of work to bring the SfEP right up to date on social media platforms, especially through the Facebook page’. Helen has previously served as the SfEP marketing and PR director.
Last year, Averill Buchanan received the Judith Butcher Award for being ‘the driving force behind the Northern Ireland SfEP local group’. She was particularly commended for her efforts in organising training courses in the region and promoting these through social media. Averill also set up the SfEP Twitter account and recruited a team of volunteers to help her manage the account and has volunteered as a moderator on the SfEP forum.
One of the best things about the Judith Butcher Award is that the criteria seek to recognise those who have made important, but less obvious, contributions to the organisation, as well as those who have made more visible differences. So have a think about who you have been in contact with over the past year and how they have impacted on you and your experience of the SfEP.
Nominations for the Judith Butcher Award are open until midday on Monday 20 April 2015 and all you need to do is email your own name and SfEP membership number and up to 150 words supporting your nomination to: email@example.com.
You can nominate anyone within the SfEP except yourself, serving council members, existing honorary members or anyone who was shortlisted for the award last year (so, sadly, that rules out Sarah Patey and John Woodruff).
The nominations are then considered by a Judith Butcher Award sub-committee, which is made up of honorary SfEP members and past winners of the Award, before a shortlist is announced in June and the winner decided in July.
Now it’s over to you to ensure our best asset, our members, are duly recognised and celebrated.
Email your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on Monday 20 April 2015.
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 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.
Although this is the first SfEP and SI joint conference, the two organisations share historical links thanks to an SI conference back in 1988. It was at this event that Norma Whitcombe, the SfEP’s founder, asked for help in setting up an organisation similar to the SI, but aimed at freelance editors and proofreaders. This led to the establishment of the Society of Freelance Editors and Proofreaders (renamed in 2001 as the Society for Editors and Proofreaders to reflect the fact that it is also open to in-house members) later that year.
Since then, the SfEP and the SI have maintained close ties. The two organisations even shared offices and an administrator in the 1990s, and some members who belong to both societies.
So it is apt that the theme of the first joint SfEP and SI conference, which takes place from 5–7 September at Derwent College at the University of York, is ‘Collaborate and innovate’.
Joining forces enables both organisations to offer a rich and varied conference programme including plenty of opportunities to network with other editors, proofreaders and indexers. There will be a wide range of workshops and seminars on a range of topics, including an introduction to Word, book art and its role in developing literacy, indexing for editors, and the challenges and ethics of editing students’ theses and dissertations.
Previous SfEP conference delegates have always commented on the friendliness of colleagues attending the conference and have mentioned that the events offer something for everyone ‘whether seasoned veteran or someone just starting out on a freelance editing career’. Others have even gained new clients!
So, if you’ve not yet booked your conference place, what are you waiting for? There’s an early bird discount if you book your tickets before 17 April 2015.
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s conference?
Joanna Bowery is the SfEP social media manager. As well as looking after the SfEP’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and the SfEP blog, she offers freelance marketing, PR, writing and proofreading services as Cosmic Frog. Jo is an entry-level member of the SfEP and a Chartered Marketer. She is active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.
Good-quality training is an investment, and whether you’re just starting out and trying to figure out how to spend a limited budget, or you’ve been working for a while, it can be hard to know what you need. You might even question whether you need it at all.
Here are some reasons why editorial training is essential, though – whatever stage you are at in your career.
I learnt on the job, and my clients are happy. Why should I bother?
Perhaps you worked in-house before going freelance, or you built your freelance business from scratch with a natural aptitude and a handful of reference books. You may reach a point where you’re producing work that is consistently good enough for a few repeat clients. Everyone’s happy.
But ask yourself honestly – would you have the confidence and the skills to move outside your comfort zone? The chances are there’s plenty you don’t know. (You might not even realise you don’t know it!) Good-quality editorial training will cover a range of material, giving you the knowledge you need to tackle more diverse work.
Even on more familiar ground, sooner or later you will come across a really intractable problem. (If you have not yet done so, you’ve been lucky.) Extra skills will help you define more accurately what the problem is, and that’s a crucial step towards solving it.
I’m not interested in working in academic publishing, so will the training be relevant?
These days, plenty of editors don’t work for traditional publishers. They may work for businesses, charities, government departments, self-publishers, students … and the list goes on. They probably work exclusively on screen. Yet quite a lot of editorial training starts with the skills required to work for publishers – sometimes even on paper. So is this kind of training more widely applicable?
The answer is that it is. You never know when a client will ask you to work on hard copy (so those proofreading marks needn’t be wasted). Another point to consider is that academic publishing probably encompasses more of the conventions of editorial work than any other genre. Even if you don’t use all the principles all the time in your everyday work, you’ll have the tools at your disposal when you do need them.
I’ve got plenty of clients without needing to demonstrate any professional affiliation; will training be a waste of money?
One argument for basic training, or continued professional development (CPD) later on, is that it can help you upgrade your membership of professional associations. For example, to become an Intermediate, Professional or Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), you will need to show evidence of experience and training.
If you’ve got enough work already, you might question the need to go down this route. Your clients know what you can do already, after all. The first rule of freelancing, though, is not to depend on one client for all your work – or even two or three. This is because companies are taken over or go out of business, move their editorial work offshore or change their business model or way of working. The way to build a sustainable business is to have a range of clients – and one way to appeal to them is to show, through your professional credentials, that you are committed to training and CPD. Training may mean a financial outlay now, but look on it as insuring yourself against dry spells in future.
If I need to know something I look it up online, or ask a colleague. Do I still need extra training?
These ways of finding things out are extremely useful (the SfEP forums are considered by many to be one of the main benefits of membership). However, they are best for fixing specific problems. Training gives you a broader grounding, and you’ll know better what questions to ask to improve your practice further.
Remember that technology changes rapidly, too. If the first you hear about this is when your main client sends a form email about ‘improved workflow processes’, you’ll have to scramble to catch up; all of a sudden your hourly rate will plummet. Training can help you see the big picture and stay ahead of the game.
I’m too busy to train. Why should I take time out of paid work to do it?
You’re established, you’re getting plenty of work most of the time, and you can get through it quickly enough to earn what you need. However, you may be surprised at how much efficiency you can introduce to your practice simply by picking up new skills. It could make quite a difference to your hourly rate, for example (or simply save you having to do lots of very repetitive and boring things). You could find you very quickly make up for any time you felt you ‘lost’ to training.
I can keep my skills up to date through my work, so training is unnecessary, isn’t it?
It’s true that learning on the job is a vital part of successful editorial freelancing, and the SfEP believes that this is as important as training, which is why you will also need experience to upgrade your membership.
However, training can fill in the gaps in your knowledge, however long you have been working. Just because one client wants something done a particular way, it doesn’t mean it’s the right way, or the only way. And just because you have your own trusted approaches to various tasks, it doesn’t mean they can’t be improved. Editorial training should be something you return to throughout your career.
You could argue that the London Book Fair (like other international book fairs) is not aimed at freelance editors or proofreaders, and therefore it might seem a waste to take valuable time out of a busy schedule to attend. But here are some really good reasons to give it a go.
If you’re interested in books (and of course not all editorial professionals these days are), it is one of the events on the global publishing calendar. OK, so perhaps you won’t personally be brokering any six-figure deals, but there’s something to be said for at least being in the building while it all goes on. And if you want to be really meta about the whole thing, you can follow it on Twitter while you’re there.
It’s a good opportunity to get in touch with your publishing contacts, see if they’re going to the fair, and arrange to meet. Although most of our business tends to be conducted electronically, there’s nothing like putting a face to a name for cementing a working relationship – and having a few appointments lined up will help to give structure to your day.
As well as potential clients, the book fair can be an opportunity to get together with friends and colleagues. Find some other freelancers to travel with, or meet for coffee. The fair can also seem less daunting if you have someone to walk round with.
Don’t be put off by the fact that much of the business of the fair is about selling rights. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to see the direction different publishers are taking, by looking at their stands. As a freelance, you will be fairly free to nose around, though some areas of the stands will be reserved for meetings. (However, if your badge makes it clear you are affiliated with a particular company, you may get a frosty reception at competitors’ stands)
There are lots of seminars and other scheduled events at the fair, details of which you can find in advance on the website. You won’t be able to see everything, but it’s worth finding a few things to attend that particularly interest you. They’re included in the entry price – and who knows what you’ll find out?
If you are brave, you may be able to make new contacts, which could lead to new work streams. This approach isn’t for everyone, but if you feel up to trying it, go for it! Don’t feel bad if you’re not comfortable doing this, though. There’s plenty more to the book fair.
If you do decide to take the plunge and go this year, here are some tips to help you get the most out of the day:
Don’t try to see everything – there’s simply too much, especially if you’re only going for a day, and some stands and seminars will be more interesting to you than others. It’s worth spending time identifying what you’d most like to see before you dive in.
Wear comfortable shoes. The book fair covers a huge area, and you’ll be doing a lot of walking. For the same reason, try to carry as little as possible. Do you really need that laptop? If not, leave it behind.
If you’re planning to meet someone, make sure you take their mobile number with you, as it’s easy to miss people or get waylaid (or lost) once inside. Also, try to make sure you have some idea what they look like.
Don’t forget that professional and advanced professional SfEP members can get a discounted ticket to the London Book Fair.
Finally, make sure you have plenty of business cards … and enjoy the experience!