Category Archives: Freelance life

Information for freelancers.

Authenticity reading. Part 2: Becoming an authenticity reader

In Part 1 of this two-part series, Crystal Shelley explained what authenticity reading is and isn’t, why it’s important and how editors can help their clients by recommending it when relevant. In Part 2, she shares how professional editors can add authenticity reading to their services.

Here’s what will be discussed in this post:

  • Decisions to sort out first
  • The process of doing the job
  • Where to find clients

Offering authenticity reading as a service

If you’re passionate about assessing writing related to your identities or lived experiences, you may consider adding authenticity reading to your services. After all, many professional editors are in a prime position to do this because working with clients, assessing writing and crafting feedback are all muscles that are flexed daily. Let’s take a look at some of the key aspects to consider when deciding to become an authenticity reader.

Preliminary decisions

Before you dive right into calling yourself an authenticity reader, there are some considerations to work through first.

Topics

One of the first decisions you have to make is what topics you’ll read for. What social identities do you hold that writers might hire you to assess? What unique experiences have you had? Think about the representation you’ve read that’s made you angry because it was inaccurate or harmful based on what you know or have experienced. That might be a topic you can read for.

Training

There’s no formal training that qualifies you to become an authenticity reader. That said, resources exist to provide information on what you need to know to offer this service, such as a recorded webinar and booklet from the Editorial Freelancers Association. Before I started offering authenticity reading, I also scoured the internet for articles and discussions about it, especially from the perspectives of authenticity readers.

Pricing

As with editing, there are no set prices for authenticity reading, so you’ll have to decide what to charge. I’ve seen fees ranging from £0.004 to £0.015 per word. You won’t be making direct interventions to the text but will instead be leaving feedback, so your working pace will likely be faster than it is while editing. At the same time, consider what you’re being asked to do. There is often emotional labour involved in authenticity reading, and you may be reading text that is harmful or even traumatising.

Your limits

Know what you are and are not willing to read. Many of the topics that authenticity readers assess are related to personal identity or lived experience, and there’s a chance that the writing might include representations of hate, bias, microaggressions or past traumas. If there are certain topics you won’t read, screen potential clients for this type of content before you agree to a project. There’s nothing wrong with setting boundaries and taking care of yourself, especially when you’re often being asked to approach writing from a place of vulnerability.

Doing the job

Once you’ve worked through the preliminary decisions, you have to be prepared to do the job. Your task is to use your lived experience or expert knowledge to provide feedback to the client, but what does that actually look like? Every authenticity reader has their own process, but these are the steps I go through for each project:

Set expectations from the get-go

In Part 1 of this series on authenticity reading, I outlined several common misconceptions about authenticity reading. In the proposals I send to potential clients, I dispel these myths right away because I want the client to know what they can and should not expect from authenticity reading.

Clarify what the client wants you to focus on

Some clients will simply say that they want a general read, whereas others have specifics they’re concerned about. I always check if there are certain areas the client wants me to pay attention to, such as terminology, whether an experience is accurate, or if a character is stereotyped.

Read the manuscript

I read the entire manuscript once, and I make notes of what works well and what should be reconsidered.

Leave comments in the manuscript

As I’m reading, I also leave comments in the manuscript, as I would in an edit. I want the client to know my impressions, and I leave feedback on specific elements of the writing. I’ll write a comment if a word gets misused, if a character’s description is problematic, or if I have a positive or negative reaction to something specific.

Write a report summarising feedback

I turn the notes I took while reading through the manuscript into a report. Because I mainly work on fiction, my report is usually broken down into sections on plot, characterisation, dialogue and behaviours, cultural elements and settings, and conscious language. If I have resources to share that will reinforce my feedback, I’ll include those as well.

Answer the client’s questions and concerns

Once I deliver the marked manuscript and report, I’ll answer whatever questions or concerns the client has about my feedback. This is usually done through email, but I also do phone or video calls if requested.

Finding clients

Once you’re ready to do the job, it’s time to find clients. There are many avenues through which to reach potential clients, and these are a few ideas to try:

Business website

Add authenticity reading to your website as an offered service. Be sure to list which topic(s) you read for.

Social media

Talk about authenticity reading on social media so that your followers know that you’re offering the service. I’ve also seen tweets when indie authors or publishers are looking for readers – you never know what’ll pop up. You can also join the Binders Full of Sensitivity Readers group on Facebook. (Please note that this group is for readers of marginalised genders only.)

Directories and databases

If you’re an editor of colour, join the Editors of Color database and sign up for the job list. Add authenticity reading (or sensitivity reading) to your CIEP Directory entry so you’ll pop up when prospective clients do a keyword search.

Publishers

Many book publishers and presses hire authenticity readers and maintain databases of freelancers. Consider contacting publishers to let them know you offer this service and what topics you read for.

Final thoughts

Authenticity reading is an important and rewarding part of publishing that you may want to consider dipping your toe into. Even if editors don’t formally offer it as a separate service, we can still leave feedback for writers based on our identities and lived experiences – to help writers avoid doing unintentional harm, and to help readers see more authentic representations of themselves and their experiences in writing.

Are you interested in becoming an authenticity reader? Let us know in the comments!

 

About Crystal Shelley

Crystal Shelley is a licensed clinical social worker and the owner of Rabbit with a Red Pen, where she provides editing and authenticity reading services to fiction authors. She is the creator of the Conscious Language Toolkit for Editors and serves on the Executive Committee of ACES: The Society for Editing.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: Hours of happiness by Jr Korpa; Read by Ishaq Robin, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Authenticity reading. Part 1: What editors need to know

Authenticity reading, often called sensitivity reading, is a service that all editors should know about, because it plays a valuable role in the publishing process. In the first part of this two-part series, Crystal Shelley explains what authenticity reading is and isn’t, why it’s important and how editors can help their clients by recommending it when relevant.

Here’s what this post will cover:

  • Authenticity reading at a glance
  • Topics that authenticity readers assess
  • Common misconceptions
  • The value of authenticity reading
  • Recommending this service to clients

Authenticity reading at a glance

People want to see themselves, their identities and their experiences reflected accurately in media, but too often the representation on screen or in writing is problematic. One way in which writers can craft stories or text that’s accurate, respectful and validating to those being represented is to hire authenticity readers.

Authenticity readers, commonly called sensitivity readers, evaluate the way an identity or experience is portrayed in writing. They’re usually hired when a writer is writing about topics outside their lived experiences, where it’s easy to get things wrong.

For example, an author may write a story that features a character who has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and if the author does not have OCD, then their portrayal may be inaccurate, stereotyped or harmful. They can work with an authenticity reader who has OCD to evaluate the story and characterisation, similar to how one might consult a subject-matter expert.

Topics that authenticity readers assess

Many people have the impression that authenticity reading is only used for assessing race and cultures, but there are a variety of topics that can be reviewed:

  • Social identities, such as race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, spirituality, disability, body size, socioeconomic status and neurodiversity. Authenticity reading is especially important when evaluating marginalised groups.
  • Experiences that are difficult to capture without having gone through them first-hand, such as being a family caregiver, going through the adoption process or working as a sex worker.
  • Subcultures that often require in-group knowledge to portray convincingly, such as military, gaming or fandom culture.

Common misconceptions

Those unfamiliar with authenticity reading often misunderstand what it is and what its intent is. Here are just a few of the common misconceptions I see:

Misconception #1: Authenticity readers seek to censor writers

This is by far the most widespread and damaging criticism of the service, and it’s also untrue. Authenticity readers provide feedback on representation, which allows writers to make informed decisions on how to proceed. A reader may recommend that the writer seriously reconsider elements of their story – or not tell it at all – but that’s out of concern for the harm that may result from the writing. Ultimately, writers aren’t forced to make a change, no matter how egregious their portrayals may be.

Misconception #2: One reader can represent everyone within a demographic

An authenticity reader can only critique based on their own opinions and experiences, and they do not act as a spokesperson for an entire group.

Misconception #3: Authenticity reading can serve as a shield from criticism

Some writers hire an authenticity reader in the belief that their work will become immune to negative reviews or publicity, which is not how it works. First, as mentioned, an authenticity reader does not represent everyone, so they can’t guarantee that another person won’t take issue with what’s written. Second, the writer doesn’t have to do anything with the authenticity reader’s feedback, so just because an authenticity reader has worked on a project doesn’t mean they approve of its contents. Writers should hire authenticity readers because they want to write respectful, accurate representation – not because they want a pass.

Misconception #4: Authenticity reading is used only for fiction

Authenticity reading can be useful for any type of writing, not just for fiction. Whenever a writer is writing about topics or experiences outside what they know, especially those that should be handled with nuance or sensitivity, an authenticity read may be beneficial. I’ve read textbook passages and non-fiction guides as an authenticity reader.

The value of authenticity reading

Developmental editing, copyediting, proofreading, formatting, indexing – all of these have their place in the publishing process. While they each serve a different function, they all work towards the same goal: giving readers the best experience possible. Authenticity reading also plays its part, and these are only a few reasons why it’s a valuable service:

When writers write outside what they know, there’s room for error

And when those errors result in misrepresenting, stereotyping or erasing the identities and experiences of communities – especially those that are marginalised – harm can result. Authenticity readers can help minimise that harm.

Research can only go so far

Even if writers do their due diligence by seeking resources to help them understand the unfamiliar, they may not be able to capture it accurately or authentically. Authenticity readers can help fill in writers’ knowledge-gaps and strengthen the work.

Harmful representation can lead to damaging consequences for writers

When representation is poor or harmful, readers might leave negative reviews, critics might blast writers on social media or publishers might cancel contracts. These can all lead to financial losses for writers. Authenticity readers can help writers avoid the mistakes that lead to outcry before publishing.

Recommending this service to clients

Editors are educators who talk with clients about various stages in the publishing process, such as developmental editing, proofreading, indexing and book design. Authenticity reading is a service that editors can talk with clients about too.

We are usually among the first people to read a piece of writing, so we’re often asked for our impressions of the text or the story. If we’re working on a project that we think may benefit from an authenticity read, we can check with the client about whether they plan to work with someone who has first-hand experience of the topics being covered.

If you want to recommend that a client hire an authenticity reader, here are a few options you can suggest for their search:

Wrapping up

Authenticity reading has been around for many years, and it’s only now becoming more understood – and used – as editors, writers and publishers witness the harm that can be done by inauthentic or problematic representation. Editors who recognise the value of this service and who know how to talk to clients about it can be part of the process of doing good. In part 2, I share what you need to know to become an authenticity reader.

About Crystal Shelley

Crystal Shelley is a licensed clinical social worker and the owner of Rabbit with a Red Pen, where she provides editing and authenticity reading services to fiction authors. She is the creator of the Conscious Language Toolkit for Editors and serves on the Executive Committee of ACES: The Society for Editing.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: waves by Joshua Oluwagbemiga; book shelves by CHUTTERSNAP, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

When publishing contacts move on, and how to keep moving as a freelance editor

Leena Lane reflects on the importance of career moves and development – for freelance editors and for the people they work with – and focuses on thoughts regarding:

  • career paths
  • choosing freelance or in-house
  • networking
  • benefits of CIEP membership

I often take 15 minutes before starting work, especially on Mondays and Fridays, to scroll the news headlines across both current affairs and updates within the publishing world.

Posts which can make me both joyful and wistful at the same time are the ‘I’ve got news’ tweets. An individual who has been my main contact at a publishing house is making a career move to another company or is going freelance themselves. This has happened twice since COVID-19 hit and is no real surprise as people reflect on their lifestyle and commute, their career path, or just feel the need for change.

Despite working remotely as a freelancer, and having shared the stress of many deadlines and also those punch-the-air moments of success, I often come to regard these clients as ‘colleagues’ of a sort. When they move on, it stirs up conflicting thoughts and feelings.

Sadness

I’ll miss them! They’ve been great to work with and a friendly contact over many years. Sometimes I’ve known them start as the newbie enthusiastic/stressed editorial assistant, move up within the company to assistant editor, commissioning editor, and then move away to be editorial director.

Excitement

I’m genuinely pleased for the individual – their skills, character and contribution have been recognised and rewarded. They’ll be fabulous at their new position.

Trepidation

In the past, losing a personal contact has sometimes meant losing regular work with that company – how can I prevent that happening this time? How can I make contact with their replacement? How can I shine out from the pool or list of freelancers they’ll see on arrival, and how can I cultivate relationships with a wider team at the same company?

Opportunity

New doors to push? As they move on, might they be able to use my services within their new company, or introduce me to someone who will? Time to polish the website, Twitter profile, CIEP Directory entry, LinkedIn profile, etc, and prepare for some self-marketing.

Wistful reflection

After ‘slowing down’, even just for a year, in terms of career-focused work to start a family, it can be challenging to make it back to where you hoped to be. Relatively few publishers offer part-time or job-sharing as a serious option for key editorial roles.

Though many people appear to succeed and ‘do it all’, a long commute, high childcare costs and having no family locally made a full-time in-house position increasingly difficult for me. I started freelancing to bridge this phase of life until I could find the right in-house role again, but it has quietly turned into a more permanent path.

There have been many pros:

  • the rich variety of clients and projects
  • flexibility
  • focus groups in my own house (aka lots of bedtime stories, Middle Grade critiques and YA rejections)
  • focus groups in my community (aka being a primary school governor and seeing what parents, teachers and children are really reading, needing, thinking).

There have also been some negatives:

  • missing that buzz from being part of a regular team
  • lonely moments
  • erratic income at times
  • and a few regrets:
    • Should I have tried to get promoted one more level before having kids?
    • Should I have taken less parental leave?

Constructive reflection

As a freelancer, how have I still tried to progress in my career?

This is where the CIEP has been instrumental in keeping me on track and also in strengthening my resolve that being a freelancer can be just as fulfilling and valid for me as being an in-house editor.

Since joining, and upgrading twice, I’ve come to appreciate this group of editing professionals more each year: some on a similar path juggling career and family; some going freelance to provide variety they perhaps couldn’t find within just one publishing company; others continuing to work in-house − all striving to provide excellent editorial service within the industry.

One fantastic resource to guide career progression is the new CIEP Curriculum for Professional Development which details what editors and proofreaders need to know, and how they can acquire that knowledge.

In lockdown I’ve finally met up with my regional group, albeit on Zoom, and have bounced ideas around and received some really valuable tips and advice from both new and experienced members. The CIEP’s annual conference – online in 2020 and 2021 – is a wonderful opportunity to meet with editorial professionals, to learn and to laugh.

As I turn back from news-scrolling to my current project, I congratulate those moving on and progressing in their career in publishing, especially those who are, only now in 2021, finding chinks of fairer access and representation – there’s still so much more to be done. Within the community of the CIEP, I feel challenged to stay alert and fresh in my own career.

About Leena Lane

Leena Lane is a Professional Member of the CIEP  and is a member of its Berkshire local group and Run On. Leena provides editorial services to publishers and authors, specialising in children’s Middle Grade and Young Adult books. She’s committed to making stories more representative for all young readers.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: signposts by Javier Allegue Barros; doors by Robert Anasch, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Flying solo: Unlocking HMRC

In this post for her Flying Solo column, Sue Littleford highlights useful resources to help UK-based editors understand the country’s tax system.

This post is for people in the UK tax system, where Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (henceforth HMRC) is the government department that deals with collecting taxes and National Insurance. Self-employed editors must evaluate their own tax and National Insurance liabilities (‘self-assessment’) and will find plenty of help and resources on the HMRC website. This article looks at how to access the most relevant information.

Sorry, everyone else, but do explore your own tax authorities’ websites – you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

When you fill out your tax return, you’ll find context-sensitive help all over the form but, usually, the help means even less than you’d already intuited, if you’re anything at all like me. Please don’t be put off and think you can’t possibly deal with your tax return yourself. With all due respect to accountants, who are invaluable if your tax affairs are complicated, we have a self-assessment system that’s (meant to be) designed so that taxpayers can file their tax returns all by themselves.

And so HMRC, despite the terminology you see on the tax return, does a great deal to help you understand what you need to do, what you can and can’t do, when you need to do it by and so on. And as we start the increasingly rapid slide into Making Tax Digital (MTD; live April 2023 for the self-employed with a turnover (takings) of £10,000 pa or more), it’s best to get familiar now with the sources of information, so you can also start readying yourself for the demands of MTD.

I’ll now go through some of the sources of explainer videos and webinars, and guidance notes.

Personal tax account

A good place to start your journey of understanding is with your personal tax account, or PTA. To access this you’ll need to log in to HMRC (via Government Gateway or GOV.UK Verify, or create an account).

Here, you’ll find collected together PAYE and self-assessment tax, National Insurance, pensions, benefits such as tax credits, child benefit and marriage allowance, and your annual tax summary. The information on self-assessment is presented in a slightly more usable way than through your self-assessment account which, when I looked at it when I did my own tax return a few weeks ago, was – and I stress this is my personal opinion – still atrocious.

If HMRC emails you and says there’s a message for you, you can pick it up in the messages tab of your PTA.

Incidentally, these PTAs were introduced in April 2016 as long-lead preparation for MTD. No one can say we weren’t warned!

HMRC customer forum

HMRC has a customer forum or, rather, a list of forums where taxpayers can join the appropriate board to ask questions and read the advice already given or to give advice. Some answers will be given by other forum members, but HMRC Admin pops up from time to time, and will also post links to relevant new information on the main HMRC website.

Each top-level forum subdivides into topics, so it’s worth visiting and scrolling through just to see whether the coverage coincides with what you want to ask about.

HMRC help sheets

There is a whole slew of help sheets for self-assessment for the self-employed, and for all other categories of taxable situations.

HMRC webinars and other help

HMRC runs webinars throughout the year on a variety of topics, usually of an hour or less, and at different times of day to help people to attend. If you can’t attend a live delivery, then recordings are available.

If you’re new to self-assessment and filling out a tax return, start with the introductory webinar and the one on record-keeping, and with the guidance. If you’ve not completed your tax return for 2020/21 yet, then keep on scrolling down the same page for explainer videos on how to do it, and how to pay your tax and National Insurance. You’ll also find videos on allowable business expenses, the simplified expenses system and a host of other topics that may or may not apply to you. It’s a very long page, so do ensure you scroll right to the bottom to be sure of discovering all the help.

I strongly recommend you sign up for the email alerts. That will ensure you’re told about upcoming webinars, as you need to register to attend them, and things like due dates for your tax return and tax payments.

There are frequent live webinars on business expenses (ie which expenditure you can offset against your income to reduce your profits and thus reduce your income tax and National Insurance, and which you can’t). There are occasional webinars on MTD (and I expect they’ll get more frequent as we get closer to April 2023, to make sure people are making the necessary preparations). Live webinars come with downloadable documents with links to the help for that topic.

Although the recordings are great at demystifying the tax system, do attend the live webinars if you can, as via the chat function you can ask questions and get direct answers. They won’t deal with your individual tax record, but they’ll answer questions about the specifics of your situation and either answer directly or link to a place where you can read up on that topic. Some of the more common questions are answered by the presenters during the webinar, but all the time the backroom staff are busy typing away. And you can save the whole chat history, to see other people’s questions, and the answers they got, which can be great if there was something you meant to ask but didn’t. Maybe someone else asked it for you.

After attending a live webinar, you’re emailed a link to the replay and a list of links for the various help sheets.

YouTube channel

HMRC also runs a YouTube channel, with videos organised into playlists, such as self-assessment help and deadlines.

Making Tax Digital

MTD is already live for VAT (since April 2019), so much of the information available is around the VAT element. But there are listings there too for self-assessment folks, with videos and written guidance.

The HMRC business manual

You can also access the HMRC’s internal business manual on taxing income. This will tell you, in quite a formal way, everything you could possibly want to know, and you can’t get more from the horse’s mouth than this.


I’ve kept the resources here limited to self-assessment for the self-employed. For a much wider range of resources, browse ‘Money and Tax’, to find ‘Dealing with HMRC’, ‘Income Tax’, ‘National Insurance’, ‘Self-Assessment’, or ‘VAT’ among other topics, on GOV.UK.

One thing I’ve not been able to find, to my satisfaction, is a reasonable glossary of terms. The ones I’ve turned up are too narrow, too high-level, too old … If you know of one, please pop it in the comments! Thank you!

About Sue Littleford

Sue Littleford is the author of the CIEP guide Going Solo, now in its second edition. She went solo with her own freelance copyediting business, Apt Words, in March 2007 and specialises in scholarly humanities and social sciences.

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: padlock and keyboard by FLY:D 🔶Art Photographer; Pay Your Tax Now Here! by The New York Public Library, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

A week in the life of a corporate editor

Books aren’t the only collections of words that need editing. Corporate editor Louise Marsters shares her experience of communications, brand and business publishing, including the types of projects that need an editorial eye.

People can get very excited when you say you’re an editor. They think: best-selling books! Glossy magazines! Influential newspapers! Their enthusiasm drains when you clarify: ‘corporate stuff – you know, like annual reports and accounts’. ‘Oh, right,’ they say.

Little do they realise the reputation-enhancing effects to a company or brand of a well-told story or clearly communicated strategy – and how visual identity can pull the words together.

Dry but fun

Let me come clean: I wanted to be a dentist. But school physics and chemistry required an application that I couldn’t muster. English, meanwhile, seemed to require no application at all. It just clicked.

A business degree in communications followed, as did junior marketing communications jobs at a couple of corporate law firms. The only aspect of the work that I genuinely loved, though, was the writing and editing: client newsletters, legal manuals, tender responses. Dry stuff – but if I, a non-lawyer, could make sense of the content, the clients stood a chance too.

One of those firms was big enough to have its own publishing team. Writing and editing was all they did – all day. And they needed another member. The dry stuff was supplemented with whizzy brochures, website and intranet content, annual reviews, pro bono reports and, the holiest of grails for me, a new style guide. Getting to grips with design, photography and branding was all part of the deal – and the fun.

Just do the words

Thinking some more study might help my career prospects, I did a master’s degree in communications and media, before packing a (very large) bag and leaving Australia for the UK.

Another law firm job ensued (sigh) but it wasn’t long before the expat bush telegraph in London spread word of a job at a multinational oil and gas company – in corporate reporting.

‘In what?’ I spluttered. ‘The annual report and accounts? But I’m not an accountant.’

‘No, you just do the words,’ they said.

‘Oh, okay. When do we start?’

‘September, for publication in April. About 180 pages. And you have to put together the annual review and the financial and operating information at the same time. And edit the notice of meeting. Then, in the summer, you can research our competitors’ annual reporting suites and project manage a big report about energy economics. Oh, and sort out the style guide.’

Gulp.

Mission control

‘Doing’ corporate reporting meant project managing, working with designers, writers, printers, typesetters, photographers and online gurus, not to mention senior executives, board members, the company secretary’s office, content providers, lawyers and accountants – across the UK and the US.

Everyone ‘in house’ was an author or an approver. And their opinions (down to how the name of a report should appear on its perfect-bound spine) were as varied as the audiences (aka stakeholders) for whom the financial reporting publications were destined: investors, analysts, regulators, auditors, employees, customers, journalists.

I was mission control, scheduling, cajoling, influencing and, alongside those more senior, diplomatically helping the company to agree a single, unified story for the year. Only then could I copyedit the content, collate changes, query, get sign-off and submit for typesetting.

Proofreading – what felt like the purest of the editing work – came for a week or two (or three) before ‘going on press’ for each project. We’d camp out in a meeting room for the duration, bulky A3 proofs methodically arranged across the table and floor, bulldog clips and red pens in plentiful supply. Bliss.

Words before politics

After six ‘seasons’ of corporate reporting, it was time to move countries again: this time Switzerland. Not speaking much of any of its four official languages meant that working in a communications or editing capacity was as likely as my becoming a champion skier. The answer? Freelancing.

The network I’d built up and the lessons I’d learned from 12 years of corporate life meant I had a valuable launch pad.

I worked first for people I knew and who knew how I could help them. Then, as they moved around, they’d seek me out again, or new clients would find me. Being able to focus on words, not politics, was an unexpected upside.

Joining the CIEP was another upside. Training, upgrading, being mentored – plus the famous directory – all helped professionalise me as an individual editor, when I didn’t have a company name or job title to offer instant credibility.

Reputation, reputation

Fundamental to editing for a business or brand is understanding that the quality of what they publish is essential to their reputation.

Clients worth working with can see that editing is a crucial quality-control tool in producing professional communications – communications that enhance credibility and inspire trust. And they needn’t be big companies. Niche consultancies and independent charities, for example, have the same reputational needs.

Now back in the UK, this corporate editor’s work recently took in:

  • proofreading brand and imagery guidelines for a global management consultancy
  • proofreading a review of past financial reporting for a FTSE 100 pharmaceutical company
  • proof-editing the ESG (environmental, sustainability and governance) section of an annual report for a FTSE 100 beverage company
  • proofreading and cross-checking the print and interactive website versions of an annual report for a global engineering and architecture firm
  • developing detailed writing and editorial style guidelines for a large independent charity aiming to professionalise its communications
  • copyediting (and partly copywriting) the content of the same charity’s annual report to create a consistent tone of voice

and even included:

  • proofreading – out loud, in a pair – the financial statements of an annual report for a FTSE 250 food ingredients company
  • filling in every single page number and cross reference of a 152-page annual report for a British fashion brand

… but not all in one week!

Lately I’ve also:

  • attended a webinar about how companies will soon be obliged to report against the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures
  • written a blog piece for the CIEP
  • agreed ongoing work with a niche investment pitch agency to edit business plans for start-up companies
  • cast an editorial eye over friends’ websites, flyers or articles, for respite.

Words in context

I often feel there’s been a perverse logic to my career. Having started in broad marketing communications roles, I’ve managed to narrow work down to the ‘bits’ I really like: words, grammar, tone, style. But it’s that broadness that gives you the context in which those bits sit – and allows you to deliver a meaningful edit. And, yes, I genuinely love that.

About Louise Marsters

Louise Marsters edits communications and business content for corporate clients. Working in-house in corporate and financial communications taught Louise to shift her brand from ‘perfectionist’ to ‘pragmatic perfectionist’. Her colleagues even developed a strapline: Has it been Louise-d? Louise is a Professional Member of the CIEP, and a member of the plain language organisation Clarity.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: Louise’s headshot by Jeremy Mason; report by San Kaÿzn on Unsplash; lighting by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

A week in the life of an arts, culture and lifestyle editor

Meredith Olson is an arts, culture and lifestyle editor who works in both American English and British English. In this article, she shares how she started her editing career and how a typical week can pan out.

When people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I did not know that the dream of ‘getting paid to read’ was even an option. The other thing I had hoped for, ‘getting paid to sleep’, has still not materialised, but we forge onward.

As a dual US/UK citizen, I work in both American English and British English – doing everything from copyediting and proofreading to copywriting and research – for publishers, websites, individuals and arts/heritage organisations.

The topics I encounter range from notorious serial killers to the world’s rarest plants, stopping to consider arts and crafts based on the music and life of Prince or behind-the-scenes military history along the way. I learn a lot, I get to read all day (albeit carefully and slowly) and with each successive project, I become a far more formidable pub-quiz contestant.

Proof of life

‘Everyone needs good copy.’ It was something I used to say to people at parties or networking events, when they asked about the ins and outs of copyediting, copywriting and proofreading. Banks, start-ups, arts institutions, brands, countless personal websites – someone had to create (and edit) that copy. Why shouldn’t it be error-free and well written, with an eye to marketing, search engine optimisation and the brand’s established tone of voice? I know I’m not the only one who, as a potential customer, went off a company once I’d seen their blatant website typos or redundant, unclever messaging. ‘Hire an editor,’ I used to say, emphatically (and will again, when I return to parties and networking).

In a now-overused line, then the pandemic hit. Suddenly, not everyone needed copy, especially not arts-, culture- and lifestyle-focused entities or publications. Gone were the discretionary budgets for improving the blog, checking the concert programmes or revamping the events guide. Many clients were not only not hiring freelancers, but they were also furloughing, laying off or offering voluntary redundancy to their permanent staff, often in shocking numbers.

Though this feels acutely personal to discuss, I know many people have experienced moments, especially during this pandemic, wherein their livelihood seemed out of their control. I suspect for many of us in the CIEP, the fact that our job is often inextricable from our passion and our skilled trade makes this even tougher.

For the first six weeks of the UK’s March 2020 lockdown, my previously scheduled projects went ahead. After that, the work almost entirely evaporated, along with my understanding of my professional purpose – I always knew I wasn’t curing cancer with my red pen and tracked changes, but I had always felt I was doing my bit to shear an author’s argument of clutter and improve people’s reading experiences. I believed I was bringing readers closer to the joy of the arts or history – or even recipes for homemade cleaning products.

In light of all the terrible things this pandemic had already wrought, it felt trite to worry about losing work. But after a month and a half of no real projects to speak of, panic had started to set in when I heard from one of my editors in non-fiction books. The publisher was seeing more demand but now had fewer staff members, so the editor suddenly had twice the amount of books in her care, meaning a steady schedule of manuscripts that needed a copyeditor or proofreader. I gratefully accepted this work, which kept me sane and financially afloat in some of the hardest moments of the pandemic. I’ve missed the challenge of bouncing from a newsletter to a website revamp to a book to a presentation deck, all with their own styles and demands, and look forward to tackling a variety of mediums once again.

A brief brief

When I graduated from university into the ongoing recession in 2009, publishers in New York City were almost all on a hiring freeze. Eventually, I landed at Condé Nast, working in a small team on special-interest publications that covered a wide swath of the company’s brands and content. Rather than only engaging with one type of content, as at a traditional magazine, I was able to work with, and around, fashion, art, cuisine, living, politics and anything else they decided to turn into a collector’s edition ‘bookazine’ (0/10 for this portmanteau, though).

As the only junior member of this newly established team, I pushed the boundaries of my role, learning on the job from editors, designers and writers who were some of the industry’s best, and had worked at every major publisher in NYC. I started lingering by the copy desk with a million questions on style, which were generously fielded by the patient copy chief. I brandished proofs – these had landed on my desk in what was probably just a nice gesture by the team to include me – that I had marked up in my spare time. The thrill of finding an error and ‘saving’ the proof before it went to print matched my burgeoning interest in the contrasting minutiae of house styles.

A few years later, I returned to London, where I was born, to get a master’s degree in Issues in Modern Culture. As my family had suspected I would, I stayed in the UK after my graduation and later decided to continue my freelance career here, but with more of a focus on copyediting.

It’s been … one week

A week’s work can vary wildly, as can the parameters of ‘a week’. I’m strict about work–life balance, but like many freelancers, I sometimes choose to work evenings or part of the weekend in order to be able to accept and deliver certain projects, and then I take other time off. This week+ involved:

  • copyediting three sets of AI-generated video subtitles for a branded media collaboration
  • working a multi-day contract as marketing editor for an arts centre
  • copyediting the first 20,000 words of a non-fiction book on the history of colours in fashion
  • copyediting an academic paper, about Jewish households in Europe in the 1500s and 1600s, by an author who is not fluent in English.

A week can also include:

  • Americanising a UK manuscript (and vice versa)
  • writing or editing copy for a website, with attendant style and tone-of-voice research
  • copyediting business or brand pitches/decks
  • professional development
  • everyone’s favourites: invoices (and subsequent chasing), upcoming contract paperwork, remittance-notice filing, scouting for new work.

Of course, somewhere in that week it’s likely I will wake at least once in the middle of the night, having copyedited in my sleep (for free!?) or having thought of the perfect word to supplant the slightly off one that’s been giving me trouble in a manuscript; I can also be enticed by larger style questions, endless comparisons of British English (BrE) and American English (AmE) and fact-checking wormholes (though I think I’ll cheekily class these as ‘professional development’).

As a freelancer, I get to dip into many worlds that I might not have been privy to otherwise, and it remains a privilege and delight not only to be continuously learning but also to be a guiding hand helping to get a message across clearly and concisely.

About Meredith Olson

Meredith Olson is a freelance editor and writer covering the arts, culture and lifestyle (and beyond). She is a Professional Member of the CIEP, and a dual US/UK citizen specialis(z)ing in gearing copy towards one or both of those audiences. More information, and a selection of her work, can be found at mereditholson.com.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: open book by Jonas Jacobsson; origami colours by Ice Tea, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Putting pensions in perspective for editors

It can be hard to know where to start with pensions, especially if you don’t have an employer to make some of the decisions for you. John Firth takes us through some pension essentials.

Pensions are a fairly simple idea (saving for the future) surrounded by baffling T&Cs. You don’t need to learn the detail so long as you clearly separate:

  • short-term needs and long-term saving
  • risk you can live with and risk to protect against
  • costs and benefits (protection costs but provides a benefit)
  • what advisers can offer and what you must do yourself.

I say a little about growth over time. Finally, when you want to draw on your savings you have options.

Most of this article comes down to ‘what do you want?’, ‘that all depends’ and ‘don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good’: rather like editing.

Saving is Good, and we Ought to Do It, but first, we must put food on the table and then some bills we must pay because, if we don’t, we could lose our home. Not everybody can save.

This article is focused on the UK; pension options and legislation will be different in other countries.

Short term and long term

If you can manage to put money aside, first plan for the short term (today, tomorrow, next week). The best way is to put money aside regularly (out of every invoice paid, say), but a good second-best is to put something aside today, no matter how small. Doing nothing till you can afford to save regularly is a bad idea: rainy days come, whether you’re ready or not.

That money needs to be somewhere easily accessible. Find a bank deposit or building society account paying some interest; some people keep a cushion in such an account, and the rest in vehicles that earn a bit more, but can’t be drawn on so easily: different kinds of ISA, say. How many balls are you happy to juggle at once?

The National Insurance pension gets a lot of undeserved criticism. You would struggle to live on your state pension alone, but it’s the cheapest way to make a real difference to your standard of living in retirement, because

  • it’s guaranteed, no matter what the markets do between now and when you retire, and
  • it’s inflation-proofed.

If there’s a gap in your NI record you can pay voluntary contributions to fill it (check at gov.uk/check-state-pension). I think doing that is more important than making private pension savings.

So, you’ve planned for the short term and made sure you’ll get the full state pension. Now you can start to think about the long term. Pensions offer tax relief on what you put in (the government pays roughly 20% of your contributions to your pension provider, more if you pay higher-rate tax); also, tax breaks on the interest or investment growth you earn. But once you are in a pension, it is difficult and expensive to pull your money out until you retire: so think about whether you can afford to lock money away.

What’s next?

If you can afford a private pension, think about risk. Would it worry you if your pot’s value went down this year? Decide your ‘risk appetite’, on a scale from 1 (‘it would keep me up at night’) to 10 (‘not at all’). What about timing? While you’re younger you might be happy to wait out a slump; however, you probably want to protect your savings if you plan to retire next year, and after you’ve started to live on them. A good adviser will suggest when one investment approach is likely to suit you better than another, and many fund managers offer investment switching options. Some packaged products offer ‘lifestyling’ (higher-risk investments when you’re young; safer ones after 50 or 55): the government’s NEST scheme, for example.

If a slump comes, don’t stop saving! If you think the market’s overvalued, don’t stop saving! The times you bought when investments were cheap will compensate for the times when you had to pay more for them. This ‘pound-cost averaging’ will save you money; moreover, would you be able to spot ‘the right moment to invest’? Consistently, over 20 or 30 years?

Next, when could you retire? If your family all live to be 100, you need to save for as long as possible; if your genes are not so kind, you might want to retire sooner. It all depends …

Hidden and visible costs

Remember risk? Investment guarantees are often provided by ‘smoothing’ returns: the investment manager holds on to some growth in good times, to protect the fund in bad times. You will pay something for this protection, but that cost is hidden.

Index or ‘tracker’ funds aim to ‘track’ a particular investment index, more or less (some funds ‘track’ closely, others within a band above and below the index). These offer some protection – you never get significantly less than the market average – at some cost – you never get significantly more, either.

You could invest ‘actively’, in stocks, shares and other things that can be valued. These go up and down, and your fund manager tries to limit risk by spreading across different types of investment. There are many kinds of specialised fund, including ‘ethical’ funds. Active investment managers usually state costs clearly: often they make separate charges for managing the fund and for new investments, and specialised funds may charge more.

You could do all the investment yourself: many providers market ‘self-investment personal pensions’ (SIPPs).

It’s good to know what you’re paying, but don’t let the tail wag the dog. If ‘active’ investments would keep you awake at night, they probably aren’t right for you; simply accept that you may have to pay a bit more for a safer approach.

Advisers

Advisers charge for their services, some by billing you, some by collecting from your fund’s manager. A good adviser will help you make all the decisions we’ve talked about, tell you whether you’re on track or need to pay more (in an annual report) and help you when you retire. You can expect high costs when everything’s being set up and when you start to draw your benefits, and lower costs in between. Some advisers offer ‘smoothed’ charges, which will probably cost more overall (because they gave you credit during the setting-up, and anticipate costs when you retire).

Most of us should find a good adviser and trust them, but ask lots of questions. The Financial Conduct Authority offers guidance on finding advisers and what to ask (fca.org.uk/consumers/finding-adviser), and a register that you can search for firms qualified to offer advice on pensions (register.fca.org.uk/s/); Unbiased.co.uk is also quite good. Ask friends and colleagues who they trust, and who they don’t – and why.

Doing the maths

Recently, you might have earned 30% in some years, and lost 15% in bad ones. Over time, the good and bad years average out. What matters is outpacing inflation. If your pot grows (on average) by 7% while inflation (on average) is 2%, you’re earning 5% in real terms (7 – 2 = 5). But future charges are probably going to average somewhere between 1% and 2% a year, so your net return may be 3% or 4%. A simple spreadsheet model focusing on the net return is a good way to work out how your savings might grow in real terms.

You should be able to earn a net 4% a year over shortish periods (five or ten years), but there will be bad years and could be bad decades (remember the 1970s?). Over longer periods you’re safer assuming low net returns (2% a year, say). You won’t mind if you do better than budgeted; although, budgeting for 4% and actually getting 2% would mean a big shortfall.

Drawing your savings

Retirement is more flexible than it used to be. You can start to draw benefits from 55 (that will shortly increase to 57), or you can wait: there is no upper age limit. You can even draw some benefits and carry on contributing, but then a tighter ‘annual allowance’ will limit what you can contribute.

Up to one-quarter of your pot can be drawn in cash, tax-free; in stages, if you like (the one-quarter limit applies to whatever is left, so if your pot grows, so will the cash you can draw tax-free).

You can draw the remaining three-quarters in cash, and if your pot is very small, this would be tax-free; however, above this ‘triviality’ limit, HMRC charges a special tax rate to claw back the tax relief you received.

So, most people will use that three-quarters to provide an income, which will be subject to income tax. If you make the necessary arrangements before you retire, you won’t need to buy an annuity with this money: you could leave it invested and ‘draw it down’ (monthly or whenever). Annuities (insurance policies that pay a guaranteed income for a guaranteed period – usually, the rest of your life) don’t deserve their bad reputation. While interest rates are low, and because many of us are living longer, they are expensive in our 60s; but they can be good value when we’re older, or if our health is bad (some insurers offer special rates for particular medical conditions). An option to consider is buying an annuity at (say) 75, to guarantee (say) half the income you want to draw, and continuing to draw down from your remaining pot.

I’ve just described what the law allows. However, your plan’s documents might contain tighter terms than this: ask your financial adviser. Don’t ask me: I’m not FCA-registered.

About John Firth

Long before he became an editor, John Firth worked in pensions. He suggests we need to see savings as different pots for different purposes.

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: Old Man of Storr by Matt Thornhill; calculator by recha oktaviani, both
on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

 

How editors and proofreaders can make more money

Just as important as our ability to edit text to a high standard is our ability to run a successful business. Liz Jones looks at ways to maximise your earnings as a freelance editor.

  • Asking for more
  • Keeping emotions out of financial negotiations
  • Selling extra services
  • Explaining when a budget is insufficient
  • Fee structures
  • Charging for extras
  • Charging what you’re worth

The point of running an editorial business, apart from getting to read all day, is to make money. There’s no shame in this, but money can still be strangely difficult for editors to talk about. Perhaps because, by and large, we’re quite nice. Perhaps because, secretly, we can’t quite believe we deserve to be paid well for doing something so civilised.

We’ve all heard of editing gigs that pay less than minimum wage. Many of us have probably been offered them. But this is not the norm, and it’s not necessary to support it. It’s perfectly possible to earn a good living as an editor, working reasonable hours for pay that reflects our experience, skill and level of professionalism.

That doesn’t take away from the fact that it can be hard to be hard-nosed about money. Even after 13 years of hustling, I still sometimes have to psych myself up to charge what I know I’m worth, without apology or qualification. But it can be done. Here are seven tips for making more money from your editorial business, while keeping your clients happy, and without selling your soul.

1. Ask for more

I’m not going into whether you or your client should be setting the rate, here. I suspect that for many editors, a combination of approaches works for them. Sometimes you’ll be asked to quote for a job; sometimes the client will suggest a rate or fee. It’s the latter option I’m interested in here, and ‘suggest’ is the key word. The client is suggesting what they can pay you, not telling you. There’s always room to ask for more if you think the job warrants it. It’s quite likely that if you do ask for more, there will turn out to be some wiggle room in the budget to accommodate that.

2. Break the emotional link

When talking money with clients, be ice cold. (You can still be polite, don’t worry!) Remember that the price is simply about the work you can do for them, not your worth as a person. It’s also nothing more than a transaction: the client needs something doing, for which they will have to pay. It doesn’t matter how lovely they are to work with, or how amazing the project is, or if you feel you should help in some way. It’s business, pure and simple. Anything on top of that transaction is a bonus, but a bonus that is entirely separate from your need to be paid properly and on time for work completed in good faith.

3. Offer more yourself

Sometimes a client says they want a proofread, but you know a project really needs more development work. If you can show the client how they will benefit from commissioning you to do a larger job, even with the increased cost, this can be good for everyone. You’ll earn more, and the client will get a better result. A crucial part of successful freelancing is selling yourself – and not just making clients aware of your presence, but ensuring they fully understand the value you can bring to a project.

4. Say no and say why – because this can lead to yes

I sometimes see freelancers discussing ‘how to say no’ as if it were a dark art. It’s not, it’s just a word. I’m a nice person, and I care what people think about me too, sometimes too much, but still I have no trouble with saying a blunt no. If someone offers me work for a rate that is very far below what I find acceptable, I don’t want to waste either of our time. I’ll say a brief but polite no, but I’ll also say why. Not ‘I’m fully booked’, or ‘I don’t think I’m the right fit for this job’, but ‘I can’t do this because I would charge at least double what you’re offering’. Mostly, I never hear from the prospective client again. But sometimes, they genuinely didn’t realise how far off the mark their offer was – and they revise it accordingly. Then it becomes something I can consider – and we’ve both benefited.

5. Find a different way of charging, acceptable to both sides

Sometimes I’m offered an hourly rate for work that is far below the CIEP suggested minimum rate. However, if I ask to see the job in its entirety and provide the client with a fixed fee for what they need doing, it might be that I can provide a quote that is within their budget but that also results in a fee (and an hourly rate) that I’m happy with.

6. Don’t give work away for free

Here, I’m not talking about proofreading a whole book for ‘exposure’, which is obviously not a favourable proposition, but rather about the little extra aspects of a job that can seem insignificant, but which we should be charging for. Do I charge for meetings? Hell yes, and particularly if they involve preparation or travel. Even a friendly Zoom call has associated costs for the freelancer. You may choose to include these kinds of extras in the overall fee for a job, which is fine, but make sure you take them into account one way or another.

7. Be bold

This circles back to tip 1. Quite simply, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Sometimes it pays to work out what you think you should charge, and then charge more. You will read advice that tells you to try doubling your rates. (I’ve never attempted this myself; perhaps one day I will. I recommend reading Cash Money Freelancing by Tom Albrighton for lots more ideas like this – you can follow @CashFreelancing on Twitter for regular tips.) But I have often worked out a good rate for something and then added a bit extra to my quote. Not just for contingency related to the project. But because of all the things we have to pay for ourselves as freelancers: time off, sick leave, pension and so on, as well as quality of life. In this instance, the worst anyone can say is no, and even then, all is not lost – you can still negotiate. The point is, no one is just going to hand you money for doing this wonderful job. You’re going to have to stand out, you’re going to have to earn it, and you’re going to have to ask for it. And that’s fine.

Summing up

This article has looked at ways to maximise your earnings, while providing an excellent service and, crucially, keeping your clients happy. It can be done – and it leads to better outcomes for everyone. For more information about pricing work, I recommend the CIEP guide Pricing a Project, by Melanie Thompson. It’s also worth checking the current CIEP suggested minimum rates, and directing clients there if they are offering less.

About Liz Jones

Liz Jones has been an editor since 1998, and freelance since 2008. She works on non-fiction projects of all kinds, for publishers, businesses and independent authors. She’s
also one of the commissioning editors on the CIEP information team.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: currency by Jason Leung; Nope by Daniel Herron, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

 

What editors think about planning financially for the future

Last month, Liz Jones asked in the CIEP forums for editors’ thoughts on preparing for the future, from a financial point of view. Liz mentioned pensions specifically, but it became clear from the responses that the picture is more complicated than that.

Some people described how they were able to save a good chunk of their earnings each month or year. For many others, especially when working freelance, earnings can fluctuate, so it can be difficult to save a fixed amount per month, or to save as much as we think we should be saving! This article considers the different approaches editors have, and also provides a list of useful links recommended by members.

  • Starting to save
  • Dividing up earnings
  • Pensions
  • ISAs
  • Other investments
  • State pension (in the UK)
  • Financial advice
  • Not stopping
  • Summing up – there’s no one size fits all, but make a start!
  • Useful links

Starting to save

One point that came up again and again was that it was more important to make a start with saving for the future – any kind of start – than it was to be able to implement the perfect retirement plan right away. It turned out I wasn’t the only editor who, until recently, had been burying their head in the sand, hoping the future wouldn’t apply to them. Obviously, there are ideal levels of savings to aspire to, which might keep us in the style to which we’ve become accustomed. But if that isn’t achievable right now, because of fluctuating earnings and other financial commitments, it’s still better to start saving something than nothing at all, and then build things up over time.

A tip I heard was to frequently (say, every six months) raise your pension contributions by £5–10 or so. You won’t feel it, but it all starts to add up.
– Sophie Playle

Dividing up earnings

Various editors who responded said that they saved 30% or even 50% of every single invoice, putting aside this money to cover tax, National Insurance, pension(s) and other savings. However, this is clearly not possible for everyone to achieve, and a lot depends on levels of earnings, stability and regularity of earnings, other sources of household income and other financial commitments. A clear theme was that everyone’s circumstances are different, and no advice can apply equally to everyone. Others explained that they set aside fixed amounts each month to pay into pots to cover tax and savings. Any surplus left over in the business account in good months could then be invested in one-off payments to pensions or to buy business equipment.

Pensions

Most of the editors who responded were thinking in terms of pensions as the main way to save for their future. Obviously this is a huge and complex subject, and off-putting to many, and John Firth has written a useful introduction to this topic here. Many editors reported that they had small pension pots (sometimes several) from past employers, and some had decided to consolidate these to make them easier to manage. Several people shared useful links to advisory services (see the ‘Useful links’ section, below).

The key was to stop thinking, ‘Well, I haven’t got enough time left to accumulate a sensible pension’, and start thinking, ‘Where is the money I am able to spare likely to grow best?’ From this point of view the label ‘pension’ is incidental (although obviously the attached rules and regulations still have to make sense for the individual’s position).
– Kersti Wagstaff

ISAs

The other main type of savings account people mentioned, apart from pensions, was the Individual Savings Account, or ISA, which is relevant to savers based in the UK. Some people had ISAs as well as pensions, while others were saving only into an ISA. This is an example of where taking professional financial advice can be crucial.

I followed the advice of a financial adviser about 11 years ago, and set up an ethical stocks and shares ISA … I pay into it every month, and it has performed very well indeed during that time … I’m really glad that I got the advice at that point.
– Hester Higton

Other investments

Aside from pensions and ISAs, people also mentioned factoring the value of property they owned into retirement plans. Other suggestions included investing in businesses via crowdfunding appeals, and even investing in art.

State pension (in the UK)

Editors based in the UK mentioned the state pension as forming an important part of their retirement plans, even if they did not expect to be able to live on it on its own. The benefit of the state pension is that it is protected from inflation. However, receiving the full state pension does depend on a record of National Insurance payments. Several editors mentioned that because they had lived outside the UK for periods earlier in their lives, their state pension had been impacted. You can check your UK state pension entitlement here.

Financial advice

Another common theme was the importance of taking professional financial advice. Many members commented on how pleased they were that they’d consulted a financial adviser over retirement planning (even if that wasn’t what they’d originally approached the adviser for). Others wondered if they had enough to approach a financial adviser to talk about. The general feeling was that retirement planning was such a big and important subject – with such far-reaching significance for most of us – that it was well worth consulting a professional. Just as we would advise people considering editing their own books or getting their mates to do it …

Anyone who is considering moving overseas would be well advised to do their research. I had a small personal pension and planned to move the money to an Australian fund but was caught out by a change in UK law after I moved here. It prevents me from moving the money until I turn 55.
– Kerrie-Anne Love

Not stopping

Not all members who responded were counting on retirement, or expecting to stop editing completely. Some members wrote that they positively wanted to continue working because they enjoyed it, while also managing to save more now they were older.

Summing up – there’s no one size fits all, but make a start!

In summary, it’s clear that planning financially for the future is a very individual decision, and there’s not going to be a solution that suits everyone, or indeed is possible for everyone. But the most important message seemed to be that it was better to get something in place to help manage your finances and support yourself in the future than nothing at all – and that it was never too late to do this.

Useful links

Thanks to the following contributors

Louise Bolotin, Catherine Booth, Margaret Christie, Hannah Close, Louise Duckling, Catherine Dunn, Kate Haigh, Jane Hammett, Kay Hawkins, Hester Higton, Gerard M-F Hill, Andrew Hodges, Margaret Hunter, Sue Littleford, Christopher Long, Kerri-Anne Love, Sarah Lustig, Kathleen Lyle, Hetty Marx, Christina Petrides, Sophie Playle, Abi Saffrey, Cory Stade, Melanie Thompson, Kersti Wagstaff, Anna Williams.

About Liz Jones

Liz Jones has been an editor since 1998, and freelance since 2008. She works on non-fiction projects of all kinds, for publishers, businesses and independent authors. She’s
also one of the commissioning editors on the CIEP information team.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: hazy mountains by Simon Berger; growth by Micheile Henderson, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

 

Planning for your financial future: top ten areas to consider

Self-employment brings with it many benefits, but not often financial predictability. Some months, it’s all about bringing enough income in to pay the bills. Paul Hammett looks at where to start if you’re looking towards your financial future.

I’ve been a financial advisor for 30 years, and have talked to a lot of clients about how they can plan for the future and make the most of their money. This article lists the top ten areas to consider.

1. Do you need life insurance?

The vast majority of people with children should consider life insurance cover. When did you last look at your life insurance arrangements? Is your life insurance up to date, appropriate, and held in trust? If you or your partner has company benefits, make sure you complete a nomination form to ensure the money passes to who you want it to.

2. Do you need income protection?

This is an area that many people overlook. Have you considered protecting your income in case you are unable to work? Income protection plans can be expensive, but what would happen if you were unable to work for a time due to an accident or illness? How would you pay your mortgage and bills?

3. Get a forecast of your state pension

If you’re in the UK, visit gov.uk/browse/working/state-pension to obtain accurate, up-to-date information about your state pension: this website will tell you how much you will receive and when it will be paid. In future, you will actually have to apply for a state pension instead of your pension automatically starting when you reach retirement age. This will give you an idea of how much you will have to live on in retirement, and you can start to consider personal pensions to top up your state pension. If you’re based elsewhere, check your state pension provider for similar.

4. Check your previous pensions

If you have paid into any pensions, when did you last review their value? You may have a pot of money: is it in the right fund for the level of risk you’re happy with? How has your fund performed? Have you completed a beneficiary nomination form so that, if you die, the money will go to your partner or children? This is a complex area so it’s often best to seek expert advice from a financial advisor who specialises in pensions.

5. Make a will

Have you made a will? If so, when did you last review it? Is it still relevant? Are the executors still the people you would choose, or are they old friends who have since moved away and you’re no longer in contact? This is important: the people you choose will have to administer your will and carry out your wishes, so you must be able to trust them.

6. Safe as houses: is your mortgage the best one for you?

A house is the biggest purchase most of us will ever make, yet many people stay with the same mortgage provider for years and don’t review their mortgage. Many of these are interest-only mortgages with no form of repayment vehicle. Make sure this is not you! Mortgage companies in the UK are now writing to homeowners to check that they have a repayment vehicle in place. An ISA is the most common repayment vehicle today, but you may have an endowment if you took out your mortgage some time ago. If you want to restructure your mortgage, most lenders will insist it is done on a repayment basis (so your mortgage is repaid by the end of the mortgage term). Ask your mortgage lender for advice, or see a mortgage advisor.

7. If you can, overpay your mortgage

If you’re happy with your current mortgage deal, I strongly recommend that you take advantage of the current low interest rates and think about making monthly overpayments, however small. You will be amazed at the difference this makes to reduce the term of your mortgage. If you can afford to overpay now and get used to paying the higher rate each month, when interest rates start to go up, as they probably will, this gives you a buffer against your monthly mortgage increase. For example, imagine your mortgage is £500 per month but interest rates go up and you have to pay £600 per month. If you’re already overpaying your mortgage and paying £600 per month, you won’t notice this increase.

8. Review your income and expenditure

Once a year, make a coffee – or a pour a glass of wine – then sit down with whoever shares your financial decisions and list all your income and outgoings, to find out where all your money goes and to see whether you can make any savings anywhere. Be honest with yourself: if money is tight, is paying for Sky Sports or having a takeaway latte every day more important than paying for life insurance to protect your children should the worst happen? I advise clients to do this exercise separately then come together to compare their lists – they may look quite different!

9. Carry out an annual business review

When you’ve finished talking about your personal income and outgoings, do the same for your business. Do you know all your running costs? Without doing this, how can you quote for any work or know what you need to charge to cover your costs?

There’s more advice on this in Going Solo: Creating your freelance editorial business by Sue Littleford.

10. Shop around to get a better deal

Rather than clicking on ‘renew’ when an insurance renewal notice drops into your inbox, why not look at price comparison websites to see if you can get a better deal? Try moneysupermarket.com, comparethemarket.com or confused.com. A lot of companies give introductory discounts, so changing insurer means that you save money. The same goes for gas and electricity: check out moneysavingexpert.com/utilities/you-switch-gas-electricity/

Putting the pieces together

Financial planning is like a jigsaw. You may not have all the pieces, but the more you can collect and put in place, the prettier the picture you will make – and the better your financial future will look.

Don’t be put off if you can’t take action on all of these suggestions. Prioritise the list for your circumstances, then review it every year to see if anything has changed.

About Paul Hammett

Paul Hammett specialises in giving advice on investment and pensions, providing an all-round financial planning service to help clients meet their financial goals. He enjoys advising clients and their families over the long term, and has worked with many clients for over 20 years.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

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Photo credits: coins by Nick Fewings; house by Tierra Mallorca, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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