Author Archives: Sue Browning

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.

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

SfEP conference 2017 – members’ blog posts

This year’s conference at Wyboston Lakes was enjoyed by all those who attended and inspired many of our members to write their own blog posts. So pour yourself a beverage of your choice and relive (or experience vicariously) the highlights.

Wyboston conference centre

A rare moment of peace as a delegate at Wyboston strolls in the courtyard gardens. Photo credit: Sue Browning

Newbies’ fears were unfounded

Many people were attending an SfEP conference for the first time. Although many were anxious at the prospect of putting on proper clothes and shoes and talking to lots of new people, it seems those nerves were quickly dispelled in the face of the friendly welcome and inclusive atmosphere.

Kia Thomas was so inspired she wrote a series of four posts. The first one, Conference ramblings, tells of her general impressions, while Part 1 reflects on Language rules, Part 2 was on Doing stuff better, and Part 3 looks at what she had learned about Selling yourself as an editor.

Another conference newbie was Selena Class, who wrote: ‘Everyone was so welcoming, friendly and non-judgemental, and it was great just to be able to talk about both editing and freelancing issues with other people in similar situations to your own’, which sums up conference perfectly. Read her Losing my conference cherry.

In Linnets, laughter, learning: #SfEP2017 conference highlights, Howard Walwyn wrote warmly about the people, the entertainment and the content, and about how much fun can be had while still learning useful things.

Bev Sykes wrote about Why it’s good to escape from the office and reflected on why spending time networking and learning with other proofreaders and editors sent her back to her home office with renewed enthusiasm.

Poor Sarah Dronfield was not feeling very well at all, but managed to enjoy it in spite of that. Her How to survive a conference when you’re ill gives us some tips on getting the most out of it even when you aren’t feeling your best.

Frances Cooper, another newbie, wrote a piece for our own blog on Impressions of a 2017 conference ‘spotty’.  In her words: ‘l left the conference more informed and with an increased sense of being part of a society of people I respect and like.’ That’s what we like to hear!

Kate Haigh was not only attending her first conference but actually presented a session talking about her nomadic lifestyle. In Reflecting on attending a conference for proofreaders and editors she looks forward to putting her newfound knowledge into proofreading and editing practice, and urges shy or doubting proofreaders or editors to give conference a try.

Renewing friendships and forging new ones

Others had been to conference before, some many times, others only once or twice. It seems they were not disappointed either, with many commenting on the superb organisation and varied programme, as well as the excellent company and friendly atmosphere.

In the first of her two-part series, A-conferencing I will go…Part 1, Katherine Trail notes that just because you’re the one giving a session, it doesn’t mean you don’t learn from it too. Questions and observations from the audience give you a new perspective and open up new possibilities.

In Part 2 Kat looks in more detail at one of the sessions she particularly enjoyed, John Espirian and Louise Harnby’s content marketing workshop. This was much enjoyed by all the participants, and not just because it had sweets!

In fact, John and Louise’s Whacky-Business Workshop showed us How to be silly while learning content marketing – lessons from #SfEP2017, as described by Louise Harnby on her own blog.

Laura Ripper was inspired by the sessions and conversations with brilliant colleagues, and was keen to put the Ten things I learned from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders conference 2017 into practice when she got home.

Sara Donaldson wasn’t intending to write a blog on this year’s conference, but ended up doing so anyway, because ‘an SfEP conference shows just how a conference should be’. In her Musings on the SfEP 2017 conference she talks about the sessions she enjoyed most, and reveals that it doesn’t matter what you wear to the gala dinner (a source of anxiety for many first-timers).

Erin Brenner came all the way from the USA to attend and present two sessions. In her SfEP’s conference provides language lessons, networking time she talks about the fact that there were more sessions on language-related topics than she is used to in US-based conferences, and also the longer between-session breaks meant more time to network and not feeling quite as wiped out at the end of the day.

Some of the Editing Globally team wended their way from distant shores to attend and present sessions. Editing Globally: A-conferencing we go is the first of their blog posts – look out for more!

Might it be you next year?

We shall leave the last word to conference first-timer Eleanor Abraham in Conferencing for the self-conscious. After her very entertaining tour of her conference experience, she asks: ‘Should you be scared of going to a conference?’ And answers: ‘No, especially not this one. Go for it.’

If we’ve missed your SfEP2017 conference blog post, do let us know, and we’ll add it to the above.

 

 

Impressions of a 2017 conference ‘spotty’

Conference first-timer Frances Cooper reflects on her experience.

I know from the forums that some people were a little nervous as well as excited prior to the 2017 SfEP Conference, even if it wasn’t their first. I was looking forward to it, though, as an opportunity to meet in person a lot of people I had ‘met’ on the forums. And to meeting again a few friends already made at the London Book Fair in March, or in my local group. And to gleaning from everyone as much wisdom as I could that will help me to provide a good service and make a living.

The winning team in the 2017 conference pub-style quiz

The winning team in the 2017 conference pub-style quiz. Photo credit: Hazel Reid.

I arrived on Saturday evening just in time to acquire my name badge and a welcome glass of first-timers’ wine, but not in time to meet the directors, before we were called in to dinner. In the queue, I was immediately greeted by a fellow Shropshire-based member (hello Jill) I had not met before, and that was really the tone for the conference. I met a lot of positive, interested and friendly people. Time and again, I struck up conversations with the person next to me and made new friends.

No doubt all those who attended had several professional objectives for being there related to career development, running their business, learning new skills, making a (better) living. But what stood out for me was that many – most? – were taking the opportunity to catch up with friends. All around me on Saturday evening were people spotting each other, waving, hugging, catching up. For all the communications apps and social media available, there is nothing quite like catching up in person with people who understand your world but live in another part of it. So many genuine friendships are formed amongst people encountered as part of the job, but often living far enough apart that the friendship is for the most part conducted remotely. The conference was perhaps the only opportunity in the year or for several years to reconnect with colleague-friends.

Conference first-timers are made to feel welcome

With so many several/many-timers catching up with each other it would have been easy for us first-timers to find ourselves in a corner not liking to interrupt. But no; this was a SfEP conference and skulking in corners was not allowed. Everything was well organised, not least for us first-timers. From the pre-dinner opportunity to meet the directors (even though I missed it), to having a spot on our name badges, effort had been put into ensuring that we would feel included in the SfEP community. Several/many-timers could ‘spot’ us, engage us in conversation or incorporate us into their group; and so they did. Or we could spot each other and share our first-timer ‘spotty’ experiences to break the ice.

The formal parts of the conference: the opening and closing talks, and the workshops and sessions, were all thought-provoking and often entertaining, and I learned a lot. I have been able to put things I learned in the Word Styles session into practice immediately. I learned about charging what I’m worth, and different perspectives on approaches, tools that help and what to consider. I learned that PerfectIt will remain elusive, for me, for a little longer yet. Every session contained some pearls to help me progress.

So much to do, so little time…

There was a lot to pack in to make the most of the time available. But there was still time to look out for and chat with friends, meet new people, discuss experience and plans, hear different ideas and perspectives. I left the conference more informed and with an increased sense of being part of a society of people I respect and like.

I can only think of two regrets: firstly, that I couldn’t have gone to more of the sessions. I think Lightning Talks will be top of the list next time. Secondly, there were several people I didn’t speak to for as long as I would have liked, or at all! Where did the time go?

Attending the conference was a big investment for me, in terms of money and time. But for all I have gained initially, I have a feeling that the investment will be paying off for years to come. And it was fun.

Frances CooperFrances Cooper grew up in Buckinghamshire and attained a BSc in Biological Sciences from Sussex University. A varied career has included retail management, a year of TEFL in Greece and temping before she moved to Scotland to begin a 24-year career in nature conservation, working initially for Scottish Wildlife Trust, then Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, and finally 13 years as Biodiversity Officer with Dartmoor National Park Authority. When a lengthy project ended it was time for a change. Frances joined the SfEP in late 2015 and embarked on SfEP and PTC training to get a sound foundation. Frances is less than a year into her career as a proofreader and still working towards establishing herself. She attends SfEP Three Counties local group meetings and is active on the SfEP forums in order to maximise the benefits of SfEP membership.

Website: www.fcproof.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/frances-cooper/

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

Don’t fear the forums

Hello, my name is Amy and I am a forum lurker [wave].

I’ve been a member of the SfEP for four years and, while I read the forums almost every day, I am more than a little embarrassed to say that my first forum post was to ask people if they wanted to be interviewed for this article. But in doing so I did break my non-posting streak (yay!).

Chameleon

My lack of contribution is not because I think there’s nothing for me to learn or that I never have any questions. Au contraire: I’ve learned (and continue to learn) some brilliant stuff from the forums. They are an excellent source of support and information in what can often be a solitary profession. I also have questions on a daily basis and quite frankly, my office orchid is a horrible conversationalist.

What has, in the past, stopped me from posting is (a) a basic fear of sounding like a dunderhead or (b) there being a typo or grammatical inaccuracy in my question. I’ve lost count of how many posts I have started and deleted as a direct result of these fears.

Forum fears

From the responses I got to my forum post, I believe there is a robust community of lurkers out there. I also believe there is one overwhelming barrier to contributing to the forums: fear.
There appear to be two types of forum-related fear: (a) of making a fool of yourself with a silly question or a mistake and (b) fear of others’ reactions and tactless replies. While the forums are a rich source of support and insight, it appears they are also a source of much angst for us lurkers.

Ally Oakes, for example, told me that she ‘didn’t dare’ ask anything on the forums for months after joining the Society, partly due to fear and partly due to a feeling of not having anything to say.

Claire Langford has posted in the forums a few times in the last eight months, but still feels hesitant. She says that the limiting factor for her is experience: ‘I very rarely post a response to a question, largely because I don’t yet feel I am enough of an authority to give advice to other proofreaders and copy-editors.’ When she does post, she will ‘check, re-check and check again’ any posts due to an ‘agonising fear’ of there being a spelling mistake or grammatical error.

I recognise and empathise with both Ally’s and Claire’s feelings, but wise words from John Espirian, who was fundamental in setting up the forums, help put the fear of forums into perspective:

Even the best editors make mistakes. The forums are a private space away from prying eyes, and the community is supportive enough to overlook these things. So I wouldn’t worry about the odd typo slipping into your text – it happens. Don’t let this fear hold you back from posting questions, as you’ll be missing out on the collective wisdom of hundreds of experienced editorial pros.

This is a sentiment echoed by Claire and Ally, who variously describe the forums as ‘a godsend’ and a source of really useful snippets of information. According to Ally, ‘The fear is natural and isn’t a bad thing; it’s a part of starting something new.’ I too can attest that I have only had very helpful and thoughtful responses to my literal cry for help.

Many members have told me that they feel access to the forums is one of the main perks of SfEP membership. Statistics kindly provided by John show that there are 1,804 forum users, 32% of whom are active, which means they have logged into the forums at least once in the last 30 days. You can then figure out how many fellow lurkers there are when you see that only 231 active users have at least 50 posts. This shows something that we all probably know already, that some users feel more confident posting than others.

Which leads nicely into the second fear – that of replies that may make you feel foolish or upset. Thankfully, these seem to be few and far between, but there are members who have been put off contributing to the forums as a result of an ill-considered response that was perceived to be unhelpful or unkind.

It is worth remembering when replying to a forum post that the contributor may have spent ages writing and rewriting their question or comment, trying to make it perfect. John sums it up nicely: ‘Be kind and clear. Remember that you didn’t always know it all (and you probably don’t even now).’

If you look at the forums you will see questions from people of all membership levels. There are few who believe they have all the answers, and the forums are a space in which to seek advice and information from virtual colleagues. It is an opportunity we should all make the most of.

How can you beat the forum fears?

So how can you beat the forum fear and confidently make your first post? My first piece of advice is not to overthink it. One Advanced Professional Member suggested I ask about the best kind of printer – it doesn’t have to be a complex or high-brow question to get you started.

Secondly, don’t hover over ‘Submit’ for too long. The longer you wait, the more likely you are to press ‘Delete’ instead.

John Espirian also has some tips to help assuage potential first posters’ nerves:

  1. Check out the link at the top of the Newbies page, which gives you a list of hints and tips to get you started.
  2. Make use of the search function before posting. Your topic, or even specific question, may have already been discussed. Even if it’s not exactly the answer you need, it might help you to tailor your question.

Given the calibre of the members of the SfEP, it can be daunting to contribute to a conversation, but my advice is, don’t underestimate the value of what you can add. Even if you are a relative newcomer to the industry, your life experience or unique insight could be really valuable and much appreciated by the community. And a new voice is always welcome. So, when it comes to the forums, in the inimitable words of Dr Susan Jeffers, feel the fear and do it anyway.

Amy ReayAmy Armitage-Reay is an ex-forum lurker and Professional Member of the SfEP. She started her professional life as a reporter and has run Ethos Editing (www.ethosediting.com), which specialises in creating academic content, since 2009.

 

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

Home-working, coworking and me

Gemma Greenhalgh looks at the benefits for the self-employed home-worker of occasionally getting out of the house and using your local coworking space.

Cat asleep on desk

Up until 2008, I had only ever been out to work. By that I mean out of the house and situated elsewhere, mainly in an office. Nine to five. Idle chat around the water cooler. Nipping out for a sandwich at lunchtime. Actual shoes on my feet (instead of slippers). You catch my drift.

That year, 2008, introduced me to my first ‘home-based’ job. I was an Independent Living Adviser for a charity based in Nuneaton – visiting disabled people in their own homes to give advice about employing their own support staff. And I was working from my own home.

‘Get up and get dressed as though you’re going into the office’ one colleague advised. ‘I hate it; I get lonely and depressed’ someone else bemoaned. I was getting mixed messages from my new colleagues but was determined to keep an open mind.

Luckily my partner and I have a spare room so I set up my desk on one side of it. I liked it. Friends and family made constant reference to lie-ins, working in pyjamas and watching daytime TV. I laughed all this off – what a notion!

Fast forward nearly a decade and I am indeed writing this at 8.15 a.m. in my PJs. I do occasionally watch Three in a Bed at lunchtime. I might sleep in if the day before was particularly long or fraught. I have been known to work with a cat or chicken on my knee. I still get the job done. My working day doesn’t suffer.

A constant balancing act

The frontiers between ‘home life at home’ and ‘work life at home’ are a constant blur and balancing act. Family members ask me to run an errand for them because, ‘such and such can’t do it as they’re at work.’ Is this because they’ve heard about the daytime TV and assume my day is ‘informal’ and ‘unstructured’ so a small errand won’t hurt?

My retired neighbour recently knocked on my office window and wanted my opinion about her hand-knitted socks. I was frantically trying to meet a tight deadline and had to shoo her away. I texted her later to apologise. ‘I forget you work from home’ was the response.

How can I avoid or adapt to such things? Should I be more strict with my ‘relaxed’ approach so my nearest and dearest take my vocation more seriously? Can I not just benefit from the advantages of being home based without others taking advantage? Shall I just throw a strop, form a barricade around my office and insist I’m left in peace and quiet (until I want to watch the TV at lunchtime that is)?

Do not disturb sign

My stint as an employed and home-based Independent Living Adviser lasted for three years. So far, I have been a self-employed, home-based proofreader and copywriter for over four years. To help with the questions posed above I have been thinking about alternatives to the ‘office-in-the-spare-room’ scenario.

A break from the norm

I thought about the potential of local cafes and libraries. I then discovered a couple of Nottingham-based coworking spaces and decided to give them a try. What did I have to lose except my dressing gown? A friend who is also self-employed (and gets easily distracted by the washing-up) decided to join me. I’ve since discovered that she gets easily distracted by many things. Whoever thought of putting shops and eateries in the city centre? Anyway, that’s another story…

It turns out that coworking spaces are pretty good! You can do that thing where you actually talk to people. You can escape the cat. Dressing gowns are a thing of the past! Who knew?!

I tried not to think about my slippers getting cold and lonely in the hallway and got on with: chatting to real-life human beings; looking at different walls; gazing out of different windows; having a slightly longer than average lunch break; and not worrying about domestic irritants like a speck of dust on the sideboard. Oh, and I did get some work done too.

There are coworking spaces around the country and they charge around £15–£20 per day/£8–£10 per half day outside London (some charge by the day and others by the month), which generally includes Wi-Fi, drinks and snacks, a work/desk area, toilet facilities and plug points. Some also provide bookable meeting rooms, monitors, quiet zones, printing, business advice and more besides.

I live a good 30 minutes away from Nottingham (longer in rush hour) so it’s not something I want to take advantage of too often. There are libraries and cafes (but no coworking spaces!) much closer that offer a similar break from the norm.

It’s an alien feeling to get stuck in a traffic jam when you’d usually be making your jam on toast in the morning. However, coworking can offer many advantages to the home-worker and it’s worth considering if you’re hankering for a change of scene, human-that-isn’t-family interaction or a feeling of belonging to a self-employed community.

Coworking is flexible and gets you out of the house and meeting people

Dee Miller, owner of Minor Oak Nottingham Coworking, sums it up perfectly: ‘Coworking gets you out of the house, working at an office you choose, in a supportive and diverse community of real-world colleagues.’ Dee has written about the benefits of coworking on the Minor Oak website, and from reading her words you get a real sense of coworking as a saver of sanity, an incentive to get out of the house and a place to meet people and share ideas and experiences.

There are many coworking spaces across the UK, albeit predominantly in urban areas, and it is easy to research the good mix of local coworking opportunities online. It is handy to know about such spaces and make use of them as and when it suits you, your day and your workload.

Like many aspects of self-employment, coworking is flexible. It offers a modern solution to the isolation felt by many self-employed people and seems to bring the home office and the traditional office together in a new way.

Concluding aside:

The issue of the hyphenation or non-hyphenation of the word ‘coworking’ is contentious. Google ‘coworking and the hyphen’ and you’ll see what I mean!

Gemma GreenhalgGemma Greenhalgh has run GG Editorial Services since 2013 and is a professional member of the SfEP. She loves volunteering for numerous charities, including the British Hen Welfare Trust on their ex-commercial hen rescue days. Her favourite part is waving off the ‘spent’ hens, which were destined for slaughter, to their new free-range life. She is a massive fan of the Brontë siblings, particularly Emily. Wuthering Heights is her favourite book and Haworth is her spiritual home.

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

Restorative niches and the SfEP conference

In a follow-up to her popular blog post last year, Abi Saffrey has some ideas for how introverts can find spaces to breathe to help them avoid being overwhelmed at the SfEP conference.

Coffee cup with pause symbol

Last year, I (with substantial assistance from two fellow introverts) put together A survival guide for introverts, in preparation for the 2016 SfEP conference.

I am, ahem, embarrassed to say that I ignored most of that advice and I came away from the conference exhausted and not wishing to speak to anyone at all about anything at all for a week or so. During the conference, I did take a bit of time out for myself – a walk around the Aston campus and a bag of Minstrels in front of rubbish TV – but not as much as I’d planned. I was having a ball! I learnt stuff, I met so many smart and funny people, I saw a mouse in the dining room, I danced till after midnight, and I attended some inspiring sessions. I was getting energy from those around me; perhaps, very slowly, I am becoming an ambivert (calling myself an extrovert would be extreme).

I recently watched a fascinating TEDx talk by Brian R. Little, an extremely introverted university professor specialising in the study of personality and well-being. He talks about how the sensitivity of our neo-cortex is key to whether we display introvert or extrovert tendencies – some of us (introverts) have an optimum level of stimulation way below that of others (extroverts). And often when an introvert and an extrovert meet, they find themselves in a painful impasse where the extrovert tries to raise the level of stimulation and the introvert tries to lower it. As the introvert withdraws, the extrovert talks more, moves more, both of them trying to keep their neo-cortex happy.

One of Professor Little’s key concepts is that of restorative niches, the time out I mentioned above. Everyone needs a restorative niche to bring their neo-cortex back to its optimum level of stimulation: introverts need down time; extroverts may need more interaction and more action. Extroverts may well go from one highly stimulating situation into another – and create one if needs be by turning their music up loud. (I like loud music in my down time, but I’m still not an extrovert.) Introverts are more likely to indulge in meditation, a walk or staring into the middle distance.

Green trees

So, with the 2017 Conference fast approaching, I’m starting to think about the restorative niches I will be able to seek out over those two and a half days. I’m starting the weekend with a visit to the spa at Wyboston Lakes, making the most of the facilities that the conference venue has to offer. This should give me the break I need to transition from day-to-day life to conference mode, and help me cope with the physical tension that does arise when I’m out of my comfort zone.

This will mean that I can’t go to the speed networking session. Extreme introvert part of me is relieved: I’m pretty sure every introvert twitches at those two words. Speed. Networking. Social part of me is sad to miss out on the opportunity to be introduced to peers in a very directed, structured environment. On the SfEP forums, several conference attendees have talked about this session and the personal conflict they have about it – but all have acknowledged that the benefits far outweigh the anxieties. Some have expressed relief that it’s early on in the conference rather than at the end – when their neo-cortex could well be buzzing like ten wasps in a tiny jam jar and they may not be able to do more than nod and perhaps blink.

I’ll also be making the most of the free time in the evenings, and I won’t be rushing down to the bar well ahead of dinner. The accommodation and grounds look lovely, so I’ll probably go for a walk before or after breakfast, and sit in my room and stare at the wall for a while (note to self: pack Minstrels), or put on my headphones and turn up the volume. Or I might just hide in a toilet cubicle for most of a tea break.

All that said, I’m going to take things as they come. Maybe I’ll want to be first at the bar, maybe I’ll even manage a coherent conversation over breakfast. It’s okay to be a pseudo-extrovert for a while, socialising and learning with the tribe. When I get home, I’ll have a couple of days with limited stimulation to help my over-worked neo-cortex to recover, never wanting to talk to anyone ever again. And then I’ll be ready and raring to book my space at next year’s conference.

Abi SaffreyAbi Saffrey is an advanced 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.

 

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