It’s safe to say that all proofreaders and copy-editors did something before they started out. Here are a few of the things I learned that I still use every single day.
Brownies and Guides
I was a Sixer and a Patrol Leader, so early on I was learning about teams, about working together for a common goal within my own team and in conjunction with others, yet not afraid to stick my neck out and do things off my own bat.
Thou shalt have thy homework in on time! Show your workings. Quality output pleases people. I ended up a prefect, so more acceptance of additional responsibility.
(Four years in a pet shop.) Be nice to people and they’ll come back. Businesses are built on returning customers. Watch your wastage. The backroom parts of the job are important, too. Regular heavy lifting builds muscle – if it seems hard at first, it will get easier with practice.
Make sure you understand the brief, can carry it out independently and to a high standard. Look things up if you’re not sure, or even if you think you are – avoid dumb mistakes. Self-discipline and time management. The importance of research. The art of procrastination (sad, but true).
Psychology experiment subject
(Earning a bit of cash to help while studying.) Check your understanding of what’s required. Test your equipment. Concentrate.
Postgrad course choice
You can survive the most horrendous mistakes.
(I joined the civil service as a direct entrant junior manager and took it from there for the next *cough, cough* years in central government, then outsourced to the private sector.) The value of precision work. Negotiation. Vigilance. Effective communication with customers of all kinds and temperaments. Running a budget. It’s easier to save a pound than earn a pound. Cash flow is king. Know where you and the work you do fit into the overall process. Under-promise and over-deliver, but don’t go crazy on either.
Look ahead and anticipate problems. Calculate task dependencies. Prioritise and plan. Keep people informed. Be realistic. If things look like going pear-shaped, take early action and warn people as soon as possible. Put yourself in your client’s shoes and act accordingly. Be reliable. Be flexible, but don’t be a doormat or a yes-man – it does no one any good and will quite often bite you on the bum. Seek out training. “We’ve always done it that way” is the wrong answer. When estimating, give yourself contingency time. Don’t work at 100% capacity as routine – if there’s a crisis, you’ve nothing else to give.
After every project think about what worked, what didn’t, what needs tweaking and what needs investigating further with a view to bigger changes – then act before the next project. Don’t get so wrapped up with the work in front of you on your desk that you don’t see what’s going on around you. Keep an eye on industry innovation.
Sue Littleford was a career civil servant before being forcibly outsourced. That was such fun she changed tack altogether and has now been a freelance copy-editor for eight years, working mostly on postgraduate textbooks plus the occasional horseracing thriller. She is on Facebook and Twitter.
Proofread by SfEP member www.proofeditwrite.com.
The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.