Category Archives: Marketing

Different types of editing – do the labels matter?

pigeonholes

Sometimes what we do fits neatly into a category of editing … and sometimes it’s less clear.

Recently I’ve seen (and participated in) a few discussions about different types of editing – what they involve, how rates of pay work out for each, and the level of skill or knowledge required to undertake them.

In terms of ‘editing’ (from the perspective of many members of the SfEP), there are several commonly understood types or levels of editing:

  • structural or development editing
  • copy-editing
  • proofreading

The SfEP provides useful descriptions of what is meant by ‘copy-editing’ and ‘proofreading’ – tasks that occupy many of its members for much of their working time.

Then there is also a hybrid we sometimes talk about: proof-editing. This often seems to refer to a job described and commissioned by the client as a proofread, but that actually involves a greater degree of intervention than we might strictly expect of a proofread. There can be various reasons for this, not least of which is the possibility that only one editorial professional has ever laid eyes on the material about to be published – you.

Dialogue with clients

In terms of talking to each other, and to publisher clients, these labels (especially the first three) can be highly relevant and useful – they provide a kind of shorthand to help us understand the parameters of a particular job. Proofreading involves making essential corrections only; copy-editing involves a higher level of stylistic decisions but is still constrained by the client’s requirements and the need to respect the author’s voice, and so on. By using such labels, we have a good idea of what the client wants, and the client in turn knows what they are paying for, and what they should expect to get back from us.

However, being too fixated on these labels can cause problems when we work with people who are not familiar with the traditional book publishing process, which might include a huge range of clients: from self-publishing authors, to students wanting their theses proofread, to business clients, to government departments and various international organisations.

Labels as barriers

How do you deal with editorial work that resists categorisation? Should you try to make it conform by rigidly carrying out the tasks that you would associate with the level of work ostensibly being asked for? Should you reject it on the grounds that you have only been trained to proofread, but it actually looks more like a copy-edit? Or should you adapt to fit the needs of the client? It’s possible that by clinging on to very rigid notions of the prescribed nature of proofreading, or copy-editing, we will fail to provide the service that a client actually requires … and both sides can lose out.

A business client might, for instance, ask you to ‘proofread’ a document. However, it may not mean much to this client if you return the ‘proofread’ document marked up with perfectly executed BS 5261C: 2005, having made only very minimal interventions. It’s highly likely they were actually expecting you to perform major editorial surgery, and provide them with changes clearly set out in such a way that a layperson (not another editor or a typesetter) could understand.

This is where communication with the client is paramount; this applies whatever kind of client you are working for, but is especially important when it comes to assessing the type of work that is required for a ‘non-publishing’ client – you need to understand what they want you to do, and how far they want you to go … and they need to understand the service that you will be providing. As Kate Haigh said when she discussed working for business clients on this blog: ‘business clients want to know that you understand their needs and their material’.

Labels versus rates

The SfEP also suggests on its website minimum rates for the different types of editing, with proofreading seen as commanding a lower hourly rate than copy-editing, and development editing tending to be paid at a higher rate than copy-editing. Project management (which may or may not involve hands-on editing) is expected to command the highest rates. How these rates actually work out in practice is often the subject of hot debate. And many editors will choose to take the line that their time is their time, and should be paid for accordingly, no matter what specific editorial task is being performed.

In short, labels for the types of work we do can be helpful when we talk to other editorial professionals, when we communicate with publisher clients (although all publishers are different, and the exact requirements of a ‘proofread’, say, can vary), and when we assess for ourselves the level of work a job requires. Where the labels can be less helpful, or perhaps where we need to be prepared to be flexible, is when it comes to selling our services to a diverse range of clients, and when it comes to adapting our working methods to fit a client’s requirements – such important parts of winning business, and securing repeat commissions.

Photo on 28-05-2015 at 13.51 #2Posted by Liz Jones, SfEP marketing and PR director.

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Christine Layzell.

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

Ten tips for successful conference networking

meetingBy Mary McCauley

By this time last year I had already booked my flight to my first ever SfEP conference. I had been invited to present a seminar and I was absolutely petrified. I lay awake at night worrying; not only was I going to a conference in another country, I was also going to have to get up and speak in front of a room full of strangers. I knew just one other person attending … and I had only met her once before. What on earth had I let myself in for?

I needn’t have worried. I went to the 2014 conference, met lots of lovely people, made some fantastic new friends, learned an incredible amount (and not all of it during the workshops and seminars) and I thoroughly enjoyed and gained from the entire experience.

Networking, according to our friends in the Oxford English Dictionary, is to ‘interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts’. That’s the formal way of looking at it: I think of it as getting away from my desk, hanging out with my tribe, meeting and learning from interesting colleagues, making new likeminded friends and having fun. So whether you’re a conference regular or a nervous newbie (as I was), here are my ten tips for making the conference networking experience a more fruitful and enjoyable one.

Network online before you go

Joining pre-conference online discussions will make it easier to join real-life conversations come September! You can find out who’s going to the SfEP conference and get lots of advice and tips on all things conference related by joining the pre-conference chats on the SfEP forums. If you have a Facebook account make sure to join any relevant groups in which members are discussing the conference. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow the #sisfep15 tweets – better still, if you use the likes of Hootsuite or TweetDeck, you can set up a dedicated #sisfep15 stream.

If you’re normally a social media lurker rather than an active participant, then perhaps make a special effort to comment more in discussions. If you don’t already have a social media account, then I recommend you join Facebook as a starting point. It seems to be the social media hangout of choice for many editors internationally, and it’s a fantastic tool for meeting editorial colleagues and learning from others.

Use a recent photo of yourself in your social media profile

Many people have genuine concerns about identity theft and privacy when it comes to using an actual photo of themselves rather than a substitute/default image in online profiles. However, it makes it easier to approach colleagues at the conference if you recognise each other’s photos from social media. Try and use a photo that was taken in the past five years – one that reflects the way you look now. It’s easier to make conversation with a new colleague if they’re not completely distracted by the differences between the social media you and the real you!

Make a wish list

Before you head off to the conference (or, following onsite registration, when you get a list of the attendees) make a note of all the people you’d like to meet in person during the conference. This can include both speakers and attendees. Perhaps you’d like to meet an industry expert, training supplier or publisher’s representative; or it may be a colleague whose blog posts or social media comments you admire; or a member of the SfEP council or admin staff (don’t forget to put faces to the names of all the hard-working SfEP office team!). If there’s a helpful colleague whom you haven’t met in person, but who has referred clients to you or helped you in any way, it would be nice to meet them in person to thank them.

Feel the fear and … smile!

So you’ve come out of social media lurking mode and taken part in online discussions; you’ve bitten the bullet and posted a lovely recent photo of yourself on Facebook; and you’re walking in the door for registration on day one of the conference … but all you want to do is find a nice dark corner in which to hide. Just remember that even the most confident person in the room is probably feeling a bit apprehensive – it’s normal, but don’t let it hold you back from having a productive and enjoyable conference. Often what we project is reflected back to us, so a smile goes a long way. The knots in your stomach may not be conducive to smiling, but the more you do it the more you’ll relax, and the more approachable you’ll be.

Arrange to meet up

Adjusting to your surroundings in the first few hours of the conference, particularly if it’s your first, can make networking difficult. If possible, pre-arrange to meet up with a friend, or an online or local group colleague, before registration. Attending registration and the AGM with someone you know will ease you into networking mode – it’s easier to approach other people when you’re with someone. This is especially true if you wish to approach one of the more well-known presenters, guest speakers or panellists!

Be interested

How does one actually network? Well, for a start, try not to think of it as ‘networking’: approach it as mere friendly chatting with likeminded people with whom you share a love of words. Don’t be afraid to use small talk to get you started – where would we be without that wonderful fail-safe topic of conversation that is the weather? You could also comment on your surroundings, ask colleagues about their journey to the conference, where they travelled from, which sessions they’re most looking forward to, which type of editorial work they do, etc. – be interested in them and listen to what they have to say. You’ll find that most people will turn the tables and ask the same questions of you (‘And what about yourself?’), so think through in advance what you’d like to say about the type of work you do.

Help others

I attended non-editorial business conferences in my previous career and I’m amazed at the cultural differences between those and editorial conferences. Editorial folk are a naturally friendly and helpful bunch, happy to reach out to others. That wasn’t always my experience at business conferences! When you meet new people at the conference, be open to helping them – share your knowledge or experience, offer advice if you think it’ll be welcomed, or refer them to other resources or people you think may help them. People will do the same for you, and it’s in this sharing of experiences and knowledge that understanding is formed and connections are made.

Having been the billy-no-mates person at business conferences on a couple of occasions, I know what a dreadful feeling it is. So if you see someone walk in to the conference canteen alone with no obvious group to sit with, or standing alone during the coffee break, why not smile and invite them to join your group. Likewise, if you’re the one alone, don’t be afraid to approach a friendly looking group and simply say, ‘I’m by myself – do you mind if I join you?’

Don’t skip meals and coffee breaks

There may be times when you’ll feel like running back to your room for a quiet lie-down or to catch up on your emails, instead of facing the canteen or coffee stand. Try to fight that feeling and battle through! It’s not a long conference, and you can catch up when you get home (though I do recognise that for some of the more introverted, those quiet times alone are what get them through the entire conference).

In my experience, a lot of the nuts and bolts of networking happens during the meal and coffee breaks, drinks receptions, etc. It’s often during these that new friendships are formed, some of the most valuable discussions take place and ideas are shared – so mingle, mingle, mingle!

Carry business cards with you

While some people feel business cards are becoming obsolete, I believe they’re still a valuable networking tool. When you meet someone at the conference whom you find interesting and friendly, someone you’d like to connect with professionally or socially, then ask for their business card and offer yours in return. Try not to stick the card in your pocket or folder immediately; take a moment to look at the details on it and ask any questions you might have about the person’s work, etc. It may feel really awkward at first, but the more you offer your business card and ask for one, the easier it gets.

Follow up when you get home

There will probably be colleagues and speakers whom you would like to stay in contact with after the conference. When you get home dig out their business cards, or find their details on the lists in your conference pack, wait a day or two and then connect with them online through social media. LinkedIn is a good medium for the more professional-level connections, Facebook for the more friendly and sociable connections, while Twitter is a good catch-all tool. If the person in question doesn’t have a social media account, you could send a ‘lovely-to-meet-you-and-let’s-stay-in-touch’ email instead.

When sending a LinkedIn connection request, personalise the message and refer to your interaction at the conference. If you think you can be of help to the person, mention this in your message. During the conference, perhaps you’ll promise a colleague you’ll share something with them – a contract template, for example, or a link to a helpful blog post. If you do, ensure you follow up after the conference and send the promised item. Likewise, if someone promises you something similar but forgets to send it, don’t be afraid to connect online and follow up.

I found my editorial tribe online; meeting so many of them in person at the conference last year felt like returning home. The conference is a wonderful experience, and while networking online is great, networking in person is even better. Best of luck to all my colleagues heading to editorial conferences in the coming months. Unfortunately, I can’t attend this year but I’ll be with you in spirit (and via the conference Twitter hashtags)!

MaryBased in Wexford, Ireland, Mary McCauley is a freelance proofreader and copy-editor working with publishers, corporate clients and independent fiction authors. She is a professional member of the SfEP and a member of the Association of Freelance Editors, Proofreaders and Indexers (AFEPI) in Ireland. She helps run the AFEPI Twitter account and also blogs sporadically at Letters from an Irish Editor. Connect with Mary on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

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

Practical changes to increase your rates

photo (1)The subject of rates is often fraught with difficulty. We work in a competitive field, and there can be tremendous pressure on budgets. However, if you’d like to increase your average hourly rate, there are some small changes – which you don’t have to make all at once – that can add up to a big difference in your earnings over time.

Be strict with yourself

Know how long you can spend on any project in order to achieve your preferred rate, and stick to that. I’m not suggesting that you cut corners or leave bits out in order to achieve this, but don’t get sidetracked, and don’t spend time on anything unnecessary. Monitor your progress as you go. If you realise that the budget really doesn’t cover the work, you can say so (many clients will be understanding if they have underestimated the amount of work involved), but you really need to raise this early on.

Learn to be decisive

Editors seem to love to discuss the details … Should there be a comma, or not? Perhaps a semicolon? And what’s the correct spelling of that word? How should this work be referenced? Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do, and the longer you look at something, the harder it becomes. It’s good to have colleagues to ask, and you’ll be amazed at how helpful people can be and what you might learn – but don’t get sucked into the trap of deliberating over every editorial decision. Use the house style (if there is one) to guide you, use your common sense and the relevant reference tools – and move on as quickly as you can.

Build efficiency into everything you do

I’m not just talking about keyboard shortcuts, find-and-replace routines or macros. All these things, used in a way that suits you and the type of work you do, can speed things up and improve your earnings. Think too about everything you do that surrounds a project. Can you find things quickly on your computer? Are there emails you send regularly that don’t need to be written from scratch each time? How long does it take you to send an invoice when you’re done? The next time you receive a similar project, will you be prepared for it? Each and every task you perform repetitively has the potential to be made more efficient – and the less time you spend doing things you can’t bill for, the more time there is to spend on things you can.

Try asking for more

This sounds simple, but it might be the hardest to do. However, if you don’t ask, you won’t know. The worst that can happen is that the client won’t budge. Surprisingly often, though, they will.

Don’t give discounts for large jobs

It can be tempting to accept a large project at a lower rate than you would usually work for. There is something comforting about having a lot of work booked in, after all. But logically, this means you will be tying up a lot of your time working for less money than you’d like, when you could be looking for other work that pays better. Only you can decide what is acceptable, but don’t feel that you have to do the work for less just because a client is supplying you with a lot of it.

Share information

It can be hard to discuss rates – it’s a potentially emotive topic – and it can be upsetting if you find out that a colleague is being paid more to do the same work. However, making yourself aware of the rates others are getting for similar work puts you in a stronger position to negotiate. You may be able to share this information anonymously through your editorial society (for example, the SfEP provides a ‘Rate for the job’ service for members), and you may find that online discussions shed light on the subject. Or, bring up the topic in person with a few trusted friends. Try not to see it as comparing yourself with others, but rather as arming yourself with information that could help you all.

Keep track

Finally, one of the best ways I have found of keeping my rates moving in the right direction is simply to keep track of what I earn per hour for any given project; I can then look at how this averages out across multiple projects for the same client. In this way I know which of my clients pay best, and which pay worst. If a project dips below what I consider to be an acceptable minimum, I can then figure out if there’s a way I could do the same work faster, if I need to ask for a bigger budget next time, or if it’s simply time to move on.

Liz Jones SfEP marketing and PR director

 

Liz Jones is the SfEP’s marketing and PR director, and has been an editor since 1998, specialising in general non-fiction and educational publishing.

Proofread by SfEP provisional intermediate member Gary Blogg.

 

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

Specialist Q&A – working for business clients

Specialist Q&A graphicOur editorial industry is made up of people carrying out a huge range of tasks across many different sectors. Although we are bound by common aims – to make text consistent, accurate and clear – our chosen areas of work can differ in fascinating ways.

Kate Haigh (Kateproof) is a freelance proofreader and copy-editor. She has answered some questions on one of her specialisms: working for business clients.

1. Briefly, what’s your work background?

My CV is pretty varied but I have in-house editing and proofreading experience at a magazine publishing company (Govnet) and also for Datamonitor. I have also managed a team for a multinational corporate bank and have worked for the public sector.

2. How long have you specialised in this particular kind of editorial work, and how did you get started?

The first freelance client I got was almost five years ago and was pure serendipity: I went on a web writing course and got offered a lift home by a woman who worked for a local business. She took my card and passed it to her marketing department and the rest is history…

3. What specific knowledge, experience or qualifications do you need?

I find this is where working for business clients differs from working for publishers as I don’t think you need formal training, though confidence is key and I don’t know how confident I would feel if I didn’t have the training under my belt. Experience possibly counts for more as many business clients want to know that you understand their needs and their material. I work on a lot of annual reports, for example, and my experience in banking helps because I understand a lot of the terminology and the common elements that most reports include. One of my USPs is that I studied German at university so though I don’t offer translation services, I work for quite a few German companies as I understand some of the common issues German speakers encounter when writing in English.

4. How do you go about finding work in this area?

Nowadays, people find me through word of mouth and my website. However, when I was first starting out, I went to local networks and met lots of other local businesspeople from various industries. Clients and leads didn’t appear overnight but after about 6 months’ networking at various groups, I started to reap the rewards and continue to do so now even though I don’t currently attend any groups.

5. What do you most enjoy about the work and what are the particular challenges?

Not all business clients are the same. Working for design agencies or marketing teams within big companies often means I liaise with someone who understands the role of proofreading or editing and what I need to do, but lots of companies don’t have this and therefore need me to help them work through the process of getting the work proofread/edited and how best to deal with those changes. With design agencies, I find the work goes backwards and forwards through various iterations of the file as the client, the designers and I all make changes, and this can get quite complex.

Though some people may find the lack of a style guide or formal process less appealing, I like the fact I can influence the work and help a company achieve efficiencies.

Finally, I also have a lot of last-minute, urgent work requests and it can be quite tricky either finding time to fit them in or letting regular clients down. However, on the plus side, if I’m staring down the barrel of a workless week, that very rarely actually happens as something comes in and I go from twiddling thumbs to being very busy.

6. What’s the worst job you’ve had – and/or the best?

That’s really difficult to say purely because I’ve worked on such varied projects. I can’t deny that some of the reports have been very dry but I wouldn’t want to name and shame here. I also had one instance of bad scope creep and that definitely wasn’t enjoyable.

7. What tips would you give to someone wanting to work in this field?

Be confident! Many business clients don’t understand what the editing/proofreading job entails so you need to have the confidence to explain what you’re doing (and sometimes why) and also the confidence to make it clear if something isn’t in your remit.

8. What is the pay like – and are there any other perks?

I find the pay is better than what publishers pay but, for me, more importantly, I set my rates and can vary them depending on the client’s preference: hourly, day rate (common for agencies) or set fee.

9. What other opportunities do you think editorial work in this area might lead to?

I’ve been offered in-house work, and though I wouldn’t choose to return to that permanently, it can be enjoyable as a brief change of scene.

kate2

 

Answers written by Kate Haigh, a freelancer since 2010 working on a variety of projects for publishers, business clients, authors and academics.

 

Proofread by SfEP professional member Louise Lubke Cuss.

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

26 reasons to go to the 26th SfEP conference

If you still need convincing to go to this year’s SfEP/SI conference (with the theme ‘Collaborate and Innovate’), here are 26 reasons to book your place right now.

  1. Quite simply, it’s the SfEP’s biggest professional and social event of the year.
  2. It’s the first-ever joint conference to be held with the Society of Indexers, which means new faces and more networking opportunities.
  3. It’s taking place in the tranquil surroundings of Derwent College at the University of York.

    Derwent college

    Derwent College, University of York

  4. If you’d like to see more of this beautiful and historic city, you can take a pre-conference literary tour of York. (Requires separate booking.)
  5. Attending the conference is an unrivalled CPD opportunity. There are over 30 sessions to choose from, covering a diverse range of subjects and interests, from editing academic journals to understanding the self-publishing process, and from the ethics of proofreading dissertations and theses to financial planning and honing your presentation skills.
  6. You can attend one of the pre-conference workshops on Cindex, Macrex, PerfectIt or Edifix. (Requires separate booking.)
  7. The AGM, at the start of the conference, is a valuable chance to find out more about how the Society is run, and have your say.
  8. There is a range of international speakers booked, from the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Australia as well as all over the UK.
  9. You’ll meet up with old friends, or people you’ve only met previously online – or make completely new acquaintances.
  10. For freelancers, it’s a great time to network with colleagues and potential clients; for corporate subscribers, it’s a chance to find freelance talent.
  11. There’s the chance to get dressed up (if you like) at the Gala Dinner. When else do freelancers get to wear posh frocks and suits?
  12. For that matter, for some of us it might be a chance simply to get dressed, if our popular image is to be believed …
  13. David Crystal (honorary vice-president of the SfEP) is giving the after-dinner speech, which is sure to be a treat.
  14. You don’t have to do the cooking or washing up for a few days!
  15. Experience the joy of finding yourself in the company of so many other people who understand the importance (and use) of the semicolon. This is truly a rare thing.
  16. Expect a fascinating Whitcombe Lecture from John Thompson (a founder of Polity Press, Professor of Sociology at the University of Cambridge and author), who will consider how the publishing industry is adapting to change.
  17. Earn points towards upgrading your membership of the SfEP.
  18. If you’re a first-timer, take the chance to grill meet the current SfEP council over drinks on the first night.
  19. Breakout events such as the Tweetup and the exhibitors’ fair provide a range of things to do between sessions.
  20. On the last afternoon, attend the ‘Crystal ball’ panel session, and put your questions to six publishing experts: Alison Baverstock, Allyson Latta, Sam Leith, Peter McKay, Kate Mertes and Lynn West.
  21. The closing lecture, by Eben Muse (Researcher in Digital Media at Bangor University), promises an intriguing look at how readers are adapting to change, and the future of reading itself.
  22. Make the most of your time away and attend the SfEP’s pre-conference course, Introduction to fiction editing. (Requires separate booking.)
  23. As well as your fellow editors, you can meet the lovely staff from our offices in Putney, who keep the SfEP running smoothly all year round.
  24. Try your luck in the raffle, with a range of fantastic prizes on offer, including a handmade book by session leader Paul Johnson.
  25. Be amazed at how revived and enthused you feel after a few days away from your desk. There’s nothing like it for rekindling your love of editing!
  26. Finally, there’s still time to make the most of the early-bird discount if you book now – until Friday 24 April.

We hope to see you there!

Liz Jones SfEP marketing and PR director

 

Liz Jones is the SfEP’s PR and marketing director.

 

 

Elevator pitches for editors

Spring daffodils

Time for a bit of spring cleaning – tidy that desk and dust down your elevator pitch.

It’s that time of the year – at least in the UK – when the spring flowers are out, the birds are singing, there’s a fleeting glimmer of sunshine … and it’s the end of a tax year (or the start of a new one, depending on how you choose to look at it). Perhaps it’s time to tidy the desk, chuck out a few reams of paper and dust down the elevator pitch.

There’s much to recommend being able to tell people what you do in a way they can understand. Let’s face it – it can be an uphill struggle when it comes to justifying our existence. No, we don’t just check for spelling mistakes. And no, Word’s spellcheck function is definitely no substitute for the real thing. Yes, we might love words, but passion doesn’t pay the bills. Sure, an edit is not usually a life-or-death situation, although ‘mere’ typos can do serious damage to reputations and lives – and the work medical editors do, for example, carries a particular weight of responsibility. Good communication in any sector is vital, so there is genuine importance attached to our job, and it takes skill and experience to do it well.

An elevator pitch is typically a short and simple summary of your business offering, using language that anyone can understand. It says who you are, what you do and what you can offer a potential client. A good example will tell a story in miniature, rather than comprise a blurted-out list of bullet points. You need to captivate your listener – and you haven’t got long to do it; perhaps 30 seconds. (The tallest lift in my town only goes up one floor, so I’d have to be especially concise.)

If you’re trying to communicate your worth to so-called non-publishers, you might need to strip things right back to the basics; you could even use an analogy. About a year ago I wrote a description on my website likening the work of an editor to the craft of a sash window renovator. (It only occurred to me afterwards that I should have struck some kind of reciprocal deal with the window restorers, asking them to compare their work to that of a professional editor.) The point is, it can help to explain what we do if we make it more tangible.

Publishers may be easier – they already understand the difference between copy-editing and proofreading, for instance, and they know why they need us. But all publishers are different, and you may still need a very focused approach to make that particular publisher understand why they should hire you, and not the other twenty editors who have also cold-called them that month. What areas do you specialise in? What specific skills and qualifications do you have?

To write your elevator pitch, try putting everything down on paper (or screen) first – everything that differentiates you and your business. Stick to the positives – describe what you can do, not what you can’t. Then, when you have your description, do what you do best – edit it. Cut out all the extraneous material until you’re left with the pure message that you want to convey. Take your time. Tell that story. Nail it.

Now you have your perfect pitch, what can you do with it? One thing you could do is learn it by heart, and then take yourself off to some local networking events (or even an SfEP local group meeting) and actually use it. You might discover that you enjoy the process, and you could even pick up a new client or two. (Remember, contacts you make may not lead to immediate work; it’s often about the long game.)

However, the real beauty of this is that you don’t have to actually deliver the elevator pitch for it to be of real benefit. You’ve just spent quality time focusing on the positives of who you are and what you do. See how you’ve distilled the essence of your business so you understand exactly what you offer and why it’s worth something to others? Now you can use this knowledge of what makes your business brilliant (what I like to think of as your secret elevator pitch) to inform the way you sell it to others, in whatever way you choose.

Do you have an elevator pitch? Has it helped you market your business?

Liz Jones SfEP marketing and PR director

 

Liz Jones is the SfEP’s marketing and PR director.

 

Proofread by SfEP provisional intermediate member Gary Blogg.

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

Round-up of the ten most popular SfEP social media posts in March

SfEP logoSocial media moves very quickly, and the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds are no different. So, to ensure you don’t miss out, here’s a summary of our ten most popular posts in March:

  1. 7 grammar myths you learned in school. OxfordWords blog. (Posted on Twitter and Facebook 23 March.) The Oxford Dictionaries OxfordWords blog suggests that some of the grammar rules we learn in school should be described more as helpful guides, while others are simply ‘inventions’.
  1. 10 British words that baffle Americans. BBC America. (Posted on Facebook and Twitter 19 March.) The reference to ‘craic’ as British raised some eyebrows among our Facebook fans.
  1. Friday Funny: Acyrologia. (Posted on Facebook 20 March.) Several of our Facebook fans had their own suggestions for words that sound similar but have a completely different meaning.
  1. The 50 books every child should read. i100 Independent. (Posted on Facebook and Twitter 5 March.) To mark World Book Day, we shared a list compiled by Sainsbury’s of books every child should read before they turn 16. Our Facebook fans added their own suggestions and argued that children should be allowed to discover their own favourites and that any book that gets children reading is good.
  1. 32 of the most beautiful words in the English language. Buzzfeed. (Posted on Facebook 11 March and Twitter 12 March.) Our Facebook fans were keen to add their own favourites, although it was noted that a reference to the source of the words would have been a bonus.
  1. Feeling the freelance squeeze. Northern Editorial blog. (Posted on Twitter 16 March.) A blog post by SfEP professional member Sara Donaldson explores the often difficult subject for freelances of talking prices and money.
  1. Are these the best book-to-film adaptations? The Guardian. (Posted on Twitter 9 March.) A survey by BT TV, coinciding with World Book Day in the UK, the nation’s top ten book-to-film adaptations. One of our Twitter followers said she’d enjoyed Sense and Sensibility as a book much better after seeing the Emma Thompson/Kate Winslet film version.
  1. Sweden adds gender-neutral pronoun to dictionary. The Guardian. (Posted on Twitter 26 March.) The official dictionary of the Swedish language is adding a gender-neutral pronoun, hen, to enable reference to a person without revealing their gender. One of our Twitter followers suggested this would be a solution to the dreaded singular ‘they’.
  1. Semicolons: how to use them, and why you should. Huffington Post Books. (Posted on Twitter 23 March.) The author of this article suggests a big part of the semicolon’s problem is its mysterious nature and seeks to clarify its usage.
  1. There is no ‘proper English’. Wall Street Journal. (Posted on Twitter 17 March.) The author of this article argues that grammatical rules are merely stylistic conventions and that it is time to consign grammar pedantry to the history books.

Joanna BoweryJoanna 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+.

Proofread by SfEP entry-level member Karen Pickavance.

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

Keeping things going

If you know where you want to take your business, you can decide how to get there.

Here on this blog we’ve recently had some interesting examples of how colleagues – from a range of backgrounds, and with different levels of editorial experience – got started. Next is to consider ways to keep the momentum going through the first few years, and take your business to the next level. As with getting started, there are as many different ways of building sustainability into an editorial business as there are editors, but here are some general tips.

Building a solid client base

When you start freelancing you may gradually build up your business with a handful of clients, and it can be all too easy to start depending on one or two favourite contacts who supply you with a stream of work. But this is a big mistake: no matter how valued you feel, or how well you get on with them, as a freelance you will never be anything other than expendable. The only way to counter this fact is to have a range of clients that you continue to add to over time, and this means ongoing attention to networking and marketing.

Many editors don’t like the thought of either, but they don’t have to mean delivering elevator pitches to rooms full of strangers, or blogging (if you don’t want to). The important thing is to find your own ways of keeping up with existing contacts and finding new ones, using the approaches and platforms that feel most natural to you.

Support networks and feedback

For some of us, one of the hardest aspects of long-term freelancing is the lack of contact with work colleagues. It’s not just about sharing water-cooler banter; it’s also about having people around to bounce ideas off, and to offer support when we suffer setbacks. It can be utterly galling to give a project your all, send it off into the ether and never hear anything about it again. In this situation, how do you know if you’re doing it right? How do you cope with the resounding silence?

You might ask your clients for feedback, but there’s no guarantee they’ll have the time to give it. Don’t despair – various editorial organisations (including the SfEP, of course) offer ways to interact with other editors in person at local group meetings, or online in the forums. And plenty of editors also use Facebook to link up with an international community of editors. You don’t need to feel alone.

Two traps to avoid, when you do make contact with other freelancers, are moaning about particular clients online (you never quite know who’ll end up reading what you write), and comparing yourself to others. Remember that every freelance business is unique.

Staying on message

Uniqueness is important. There are lots of editors out there, and more are appearing all the time. Although this tends to be a very supportive industry, you also need to be realistic about the fact that the only person who can keep your business going is you. To do this effectively, you need to be very clear about what you can offer clients that no one else can.

Now’s the time to develop your specialisms. Perhaps a particular interest (for example in biochemistry, or education, or erotic fiction, or step-by-step craft books) got you started. If you’ve proofread or edited a lot of material in a particular area (and you’d like to do more), you need to say so. The more you do, the more specific experience you will have and the better fit you will be for particular projects.

Think about finding your voice, too. As editors we are often invisible in our work (and that’s as it should be), but when we interact with colleagues or clients, our personality does count. Yes, if you do a good job, you are likely to get hired again. But the way we conduct ourselves in all sorts of other ways matters too. Does your website communicate what makes you the editor you are? Find a way to tell the clients you want to work for what you in particular can offer them.

Maintaining awareness

You need to look at the bigger picture as you progress, and track the projects you’re working on – not just so you can schedule them in and get them finished on time, but so you can analyse other aspects of the work you’re doing. Do you know which of your clients pays the best hourly rate, for example? Do you know which pays you most each year? And do you know who pays you quickest? All these things are easy to keep track of using various free or paid-for apps, or Excel. Find what works for you, and use it.

It’s not just about how the numbers stack up, either. Once your business is up and running you can start to focus on trying to secure more of the work you do want, and scaling back on anything that grinds you down.

Constant improvement

Keeping things going long term depends on a series of constant small improvements. Did something take you a long time to do on one project? Find a way to do it quicker next time; ask for advice if you need it. Are you unhappy with your average hourly rate? Use increased efficiency to improve things as far as you can, and seek out clients who pay better. Not good at negotiating? Take tips from those who are and give it a go – you have nothing to lose (and perhaps much to gain).

You may reach the point where everything’s come together and you’re drowning in work (yes, really). But be careful! Now’s the time to concentrate on working smarter, not harder. Stay organised, don’t feel you have to say yes to everything (whether individual projects or specific demands from clients), and try to develop a sense for the projects that will reward you creatively and financially, and the ones that will sap all your energy.

Keep abreast of industry trends, and don’t neglect your training. Try to make every job you do better than the last.

Planning for the future

This is not about retiring to your villa in the sun … though it’s obviously sensible to consider the more distant future. But an important part of staying motivated is maintaining your own interest in what you’re doing. Do you want to keep proofreading the same kind of material for the next twenty years? If you do, that’s fine (although bear in mind that particular clients may come and go, and work methods will evolve).

However, if you’d like to shake things up a bit, it helps to think about what you see yourself doing a few months or years from now. This links to the earlier advice about maintaining awareness, and using it to help you consider where to go next. Could you develop new skills? Might you be able to train or mentor new editors? Would you like to write about aspects of editorial practice? Perhaps you’d like to get more involved with your national editorial organisation? Maybe work for a different set of clients in a certain field? Or simply earn more and work less?

Once you know where you want to take your business, you can decide how to get there.

What tips do you have for keeping an editorial business thriving beyond the first few years?

Liz Jones SfEP marketing and PR director

 

Liz Jones is the SfEP’s marketing and PR director. She has also worked as an editor for 17 years, and has been freelance since 2008.

 

Proofread by SfEP entry-level member Anna Black.

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

Keeping it real

SfEP ordinary member Dr Rosalind Davies explores what editors and proofreaders, who operate in a largely virtual space, can learn from businesses that function in a more ‘real’ physical environment.

The Chamber of Commerce in Rochester, Michigan, recently welcomed a writing and editing service to the local business community. The new company, So It Is Written, was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4 p.m. on 12 September 2014.

I smiled as I imagined a similar ceremony in my home office – local business leaders making their way up the stairs to my spare room and crowding in the doorway to watch the unveiling of the computer, telephone, photocopier and coffee mug. Although I found it easy to laugh at what seemed to be an over-formal rigmarole, I quickly had second thoughts. Doesn’t the ribbon-cutting ceremony in Rochester symbolise a new way of looking at the business of editing and writing – at my business?

So It Is Written is an editing business that has laid claim to the same presence and credibility as any other business – a restaurant, art gallery or meat production plant. I stopped laughing about the ribbon-cutting when I realised that this opening ceremony represented a grounding of editorial skills, calling them down from the clouds and marking out a physical space for them.

The Good Copy

The same principle is expressed in another new start-up, The Good Copy, which occupies a large building on a street in Melbourne, Australia. ‘Episode 1’ of the promotional video on The Good Copy’s homepage begins in the dust and debris of the building’s conversion into a ‘newsagent for writers’. We watch as builders drink from polystyrene cups and hammer nails into shelves.

Like the Rochester editing business, The Good Copy’s mission is to bring editors, writers and publishers together and to give them real retail space in which to interact. What is usually, for most editorial freelances, an electronic exchange between supplier and client here takes on flesh and blood in the Melbourne suburb. The Good Copy also aims to populate my own empty-looking work space with a tool kit – what it calls ‘hardcore resources’ – trade magazines, notebooks, style guides and dictionaries, and it believes that my skills could be part of a face-to-face market exchange that takes place as I drink coffee with people who are looking for someone to ‘write stuff for them’.

For some in our profession, the act of editing and writing is beginning to take up real space and retail space, and I, for one, love the idea that I could create a tangible presence for work that is mostly solitary and electronic. Even if this is too ambitious, even if the mechanisms for the way I work do not change, there are things that I can do – new attitudes to adopt – that will make a difference to the way I talk about my work and the way that other people perceive it. The business/communal mindset evidenced by the ribbon-cutting in Rochester and the shopfront in Melbourne should help me to revamp my PR skills and fuel my determination to say ‘I’m doing something here. I’m making something. This is the place I do it in.’

It’s a challenge for the editorial professional to communicate real-world skills and the value that they will add to the presentation, effectiveness and clarity of online or printed content. While we celebrate the connectedness and speed of our access to a global market and its clients, it’s a mistake to forget the reality of the local business community. We must find our way into it, to explore new sources of work, to enjoy a sense of belonging and to make space for the real products that are words and messages.

Ros DaviesRosalind Davies is a copy-editor, writer and communications consultant and the coordinator of the Devon SfEP group. You can find out more about projects she is involved in on her Facebook page. You can also follow her on Twitter. She is available, free of charge, for ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

Proofread by SfEP associate Susan Walton.

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

Ten ideas to help you find work as a proofreader

Image credit: An Eastbourne Website Designer

Whether you’re just starting out and wondering how to secure that first paying job, or you’re more established and looking to fill a hole in your diary or further develop your business, here are ten ideas to help you find proofreading work.

1. Mine your existing contacts. Let them know what you’re doing and what sort of work you’re looking for. Ask them to share your details with anyone who might be interested in your services.

2. Write a speculative letter or email. Get in touch with potential clients and let them know what you can offer them. It goes without saying that you should check that your correspondence is going to the correct person in the organisation.

3. Go to a local SfEP group meeting. The SfEP has 38 local groups and you can find your nearest meeting on the SfEP website. Talk with your local colleagues about what projects you’re working on and what sort of projects might be of interest in the future. Although this may not yield immediate gains, a colleague may remember that you have a particular expertise and refer potential clients on to you if they are unable to take on a project.

4. Network at other local business groups. Go to local business events and find out who might be looking for a proofreader. Prepare a simple sentence that describes what you do and why you could be useful. Don’t forget to take your business cards.

5. Add your details to the SfEP Associates Available list. Associates of the SfEP can add a listing to the list of Associates Available for work, which is updated every fortnight. Any member of the SfEP can access the list and contact associates if they have surplus work and want to subcontract it out.

6. Add an entry to the SfEP Directory of Editorial Services. If you’re an ordinary or advanced member of the SfEP you can add your details to the SfEP Directory of Editorial Services. This is a searchable database available to anyone looking for a professional editor, proofreader or editorial project manager.

7. Keep an eye out for jobs on the SfEPAnnounce mailer. Vacancies are often posted on the SfEPAnnounce email. The vacancies can also be found on the SfEPAnnounce forum page.

8. Check out the SfEP Marketplace online forum. SfEP members can also post and respond to job offers and other requests for help on specific projects via the SfEP Marketplace forum.

9. Sign up to directories. Some proofreaders have found work after signing up to websites such as findaproofreader.com.

10. Check out freelance job boards. There is a wealth of freelance job boards, such as peopleperhour.com, where you can either list your services or search for anyone looking for a proofreader. Some people find it useful to plug a gap in their schedule or to build up experience or a client base. But it’s probably not the best bet for a sustainable work flow and rates can vary hugely.

For more information about finding work as a freelance proofreader, visit our website and look at our FAQs.

We also sell some useful guides in our online shop, including:

Starting Out: Setting up a small business, by Valerie Rice

Marketing Yourself: Strategies to promote your editorial business, by Sara Hulse

If you have any suggestions for other ways to find work, feel free to add a comment below.

Joanna Bowery

Joanna Bowery

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 operating as Cosmic Frog. Jo is an associate of the SfEP and a Chartered Marketer. She is active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

 

This article was proofread by SfEP associate Anna Black.

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