Category Archives: Freelance life

Information for freelancers.

Making time for marketing and CPD

One of those age-old questions for freelance editors and proofreaders is how to find time for marketing and continuing professional development (CPD) when other work keeps getting in the way. In this post, Philippa Lewis brings together some approaches that have helped her and other CIEP members.

When I started freelancing, I had no idea how much extra work would be involved on top of actual editing work. Words are my love and joy, and I’m more than happy to spend hours deliberating over every tiny aspect of punctuation, but I found myself completely unprepared for how much time marketing and CPD would take up.

Marketing in particular has been a challenge for me; I find the thought of promoting myself very uncomfortable, and marketing takes up time which I could be spending editing. And I would much, much rather be editing. It’s easy to convince myself that marketing is a waste of time when I could be spending that time completing paid work instead, so most of my attempts at marketing have been squeezed in out of slight desperation when I haven’t had any work booked in.

At the recent CIEP conference, Kia Thomas did an excellent talk about marketing. I really appreciated how matter-of-fact she was about it: as a freelancer, you have no choice but to market your business, so you might as well get on with it. Whether or not you enjoy doing marketing isn’t really relevant, because you still have to do it.

This was a bit of a wake-up call for me, and since then I’ve tried to come up with a system for regularly building marketing and CPD into my working week.

Find what works for you

Editors often talk about setting aside one morning or day a week for CPD and marketing. Having a specific slot for these tasks sounds like an excellent approach, but I always find that when I reach the time I’ve set aside, my latest editing deadline inevitably feels like a higher priority.

I’ve finally realised that a more flexible approach works better for me. I start my week by identifying the CPD and marketing tasks that I want to accomplish. These get written on a post-it and stuck onto my computer monitor; keeping them visible means I can’t forget to do them. I try to identify a mix of quick jobs (like sending a CV to a publisher) and longer ones (like drafting a blog post) for each week. I try to break tasks into smaller units where needed: ‘check pricing page on website’ feels more manageable than ‘re-do website’.

These tasks then got slotted in throughout the week. I find it useful to do them whenever I need a break from editing – often at the end of a work day, or before lunch. I might not have the mental capacity to edit another paragraph, but I can still manage to do a marketing task or read a blog post. Cycling through tasks like this means I’m more productive, as I’m ticking something off my list despite not feeling up to completing work for a client.

At the moment, this approach is working really well and allowing me to consistently complete CPD and marketing goals. But it’s freeing to remember that this might not be a strategy that works for me long term – I’ve found it really helpful to keep an open mind rather than trying to stick to a set routine that doesn’t feel like it’s working any more. We all work in different ways; don’t be afraid to try different approaches until you find a method that works for you.

Prioritise

Marketing and CPD both sometimes feel overwhelming: the list of things I could be doing can feel endless, and when the list is so long, sometimes it’s difficult to get started on working through it.

I’ve now got a list of CPD and marketing tasks that I want to complete, with the more pressing ones near the top, and I use this list to help me identify my tasks for each week.

CIEP member Eleanor Bolton has found it helpful to think about her long-term goals, then select CPD options that relate to this. She says ‘I had quite a long list of courses that all sounded interesting and potentially useful, but there was no way I could fit them all in. Over the summer I spent some time thinking about who my preferred clients were and ended up niching quite considerably. As a result, quite a few of those courses were no longer relevant.’

Be flexible

I’m currently doing a developmental editing course, and it wouldn’t be possible to complete the assignments for this in short bursts of time, or at the end of a day when I’m already tired. Likewise, if I’ve got a complex edit booked in, sometimes setting aside a chunk of time for CPD and marketing is more effective than trying to slot in extra tasks each day. On a different week with a different workload, a different approach might work better. It’s important to stay flexible, and to work with whatever your current circumstances are.

Anything is better than nothing

I’m aware that I could improve my editing speed if I improved my knowledge of using Word. I don’t have time to do a full course on it at the moment, so instead I’ve bought a book on the subject and I’m taking ten minutes every couple of days to work through a few pages. I’m not learning as much (or as quickly) as I would on a course, but I’m still learning something. Each tip I pick up is improving my editing speed.

Maybe you don’t have time to do a course at the moment, but could you listen to a podcast while doing the washing up or when you’re in the car? Again, this comes down to taking a step back and being willing to be flexible: what would be achievable with how your working week looks right now?

I regularly have to remind myself that anything is better than nothing. It’s really easy to get caught up in thinking all your marketing materials have to be perfect, which can lead to never finishing anything – but an imperfect website will reach more clients than a non-existent one.

Get something finished and sent off or published, even if you’re not completely happy with it: send a CV out to publishers even if you’re still completing a training course that you wanted to add to it; publish that blog post even though you’re not completely happy with one paragraph in it.

Reflect

And finally, set a moment aside to think about whether your current approach is working for you.

CIEP member Anna Baildon finds monthly reflections helpful to keep her CPD and marketing on track: ‘Each month I think about what’s gone well, what’s been more challenging and what I’ve learned. A brief look through my diary and my Trello board is usually enough to prompt my thoughts and form some analysis. It’s surprising how much insight this simple task provides. It’s like having a monthly meeting with my boss to bring clarity and focus to my work.’

There’s no ‘right’ way to tackle CPD and marketing; it’s just about finding an approach that works for you, sticking to it when you’re able to, and taking small but consistent steps forward.

About Philippa LewisHeadshot of Philippa Lewis

Philippa Lewis is a freelance developmental editor, copyeditor and proofreader. She works on a mix of speculative fiction and outdoors literature, and lives in North Wales.

 

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: unfocused lights and coffee both by Pixabay on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

A week in the life of a puzzle editor

Sudokus, crosswords, wordsearches … they all need editing. In this post, Vanessa Souris describes a typical week in her work as a puzzle editor.

I work part-time for Puzzler. I am the editor of six puzzle magazines, proofread three of my colleagues’ titles, and am also currently working on a one-off British-themed puzzle magazine that will be released next year.

My background as a puzzle editor

Although I am British, I went to university in Australia and lived there for six years, followed by 13 years in Abu Dhabi in the UAE. Moving back to England in 2020 was a real culture shock for me and my children, who were both born in the Middle East.

I used to teach English as a second language to university level, but never really went back to it after my children were born as the hours just didn’t work for me and my young family. I fell into editing when a former teaching colleague asked if I would be interested in copyediting textbooks, as the publishing company he worked for required editors with Middle Eastern teaching experience. I completed training with the CIEP, and have worked part-time as an ELT copyeditor, proofreader and assessment item writer ever since.

I applied for the role with Puzzler last year, and when they found out I had lived in Australia, I was recruited to edit primarily Australian titles.

The database

The majority of the puzzles I work on are generated on a special program and then edited individually. We produce crosswords, arrowords, code words, kriss krosses, wordsearches, logic puzzles, sudokus – you name it, we edit it!

We have a huge database made up of tens of thousands of clues, but the computer doesn’t always select the best one for the job. We have different readerships for different magazines, and we have to take them into consideration when editing puzzles. For example, one magazine might be very celebrity-focused, whereas another might take itself a bit more seriously.

A lot of the editing work I do is on the database itself, where we can tag clues as being suitable for British audiences, Australian or both. Because I work on Australian titles, I have to remove clues that Australian readers won’t recognise and add Australian clues and cultural references. Some recent examples have been removing PLIMSOLL (the shoe) from the Australian database as this word is simply not used in Australia, and adding DROP BEAR as an Australian clue (that carnivorous native animal that preys on unsuspecting tourists).

The database is a constant work in progress, and we are always trying to make sure the content is relevant and interesting. It has been compiled over the last 40 years, so some of the clues and words can be outdated or occasionally considered offensive today, and I am part of the Diversity and Inclusion team that identifies and amends clues on an ongoing basis.

A crossword being filled in

The puzzles

Throughout, I have to consider what makes a good puzzle. For example, the computer may generate a crossword which contains seven words ending in -ed or -ing, so I will change most of the words in the software to add variation. We also have to be aware of rude words that may be inadvertently spelt out; for example, if I input REDRUTH in a list of words for a wordsearch about Cornwall, the program will alert me that the word TURD will show up in the grid!

I really enjoy setting the starter letters on a code word puzzle. After I have edited the words on the grid itself, I have to play around to find the best combination of letters that will provide a route for the reader to solve the puzzle. It’s a tricky balance to give enough clues to make it solvable, but not so that it gives away all of the remaining words without a challenge. And the readers will write in and let me know if I get that balance wrong!

After I have compiled an issue, I edit our magazine template including the editorial page and competition details in InDesign, and the puzzle files are sent off to the designers. They return a flatplan of the magazine, where I proofread any text, then go through and make sure the grids, clues and solutions all match up, and that there are no anomalies in the design. I also proofread three other titles for my colleagues in this way.

An ideal job for a word nerd

I really enjoy the work with Puzzler. It’s varied, fun and interesting, and I am part of a super-supportive team. Earlier this year it also led to a really enjoyable side project, where I edited a 10,000-question pub quiz book (you know who to call if you’re ever looking for a quiz teammate!).

I think my ELT experience comes in really useful, as a lot of language teaching is about guiding people towards working things out for themselves. And of course, a basic love of and interest in words and language runs through all of ELT, editing and puzzles.

About Vanessa Souris

Vanessa is a copyeditor and proofreader who spends half her week editing for Puzzler magazines, and the other half editing and writing ELT materials. She has recently moved back to the UK after 20 years living in Australia and the UAE, and specialises in editing teaching materials for Middle Eastern markets. She is an Intermediate Member of the CIEP and can be found on LinkedIn.

 

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: sudoku by blende12, crossword by stevepb, both from Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Definite articles: Working with websites

Welcome to ‘Definite articles’, a column devoted to the CIEP’s top internet picks, most of which are definitely articles. This time, our theme is working with websites – for clients and for yourself. The CIEP has recently published its own articles on working in digital formats, in ‘Flying solo: Focusing your website on your ideal client’, and ‘Talking tech: Web editors – WYSIWIG or code?’ If you’re a CIEP forum user, you can access our website-related forum wisdom in ‘Forum matters: Creating and editing web content’.

In this issue:

  • Client websites: Learn from the experts
  • Planning and creating your own website
  • Refreshing your site
  • Other platforms
  • If it all goes wrong

Client websites: Learn from the experts

Marketing tips

Websites act as shop windows. So when you’re editing what is essentially marketing copy, it’s worth learning from people who know about marketing. Copywriter Karri Stover, in ‘11 steps to effective website copywriting’, reminds us of the importance of plain language, understanding the reader, including essential information, and readability. On that last point, Stover links to a useful 2013 article by Carrie Cousins at Design Shack, ‘The importance of designing for readability’, which talks about design elements, from subheads (which should be simple, direct and frequent) to how hyphens can break readers’ concentration.

Understanding accessibility and SEO

If you’re working with websites, you should always have at least one tab open at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). This advises on web accessibility and is recommended as a resource on the CIEP’s Editing Digital Content course. Get started with ‘Easy checks – a first review of web accessibility’ and ‘Introduction to web accessibility’.

It’s also essential to have an understanding of SEO (search engine optimisation). Michelle Bourbonniere gives a useful overview of what it is and how to do it. Marieke van de Rakt of Yoast has also written a long blog about the importance of content in SEO. Trickery with links is long gone as a way to improve rankings. These days, SEO is firmly about quality content, as Marieke testifies.

Planning and creating your own website

Every website needs to be planned, and Malini Devadas’s podcast episode ‘How to create a client-focused business’ is a good start in working out how the elements of your offering, including your website, fit together. John Espirian adds to this by taking the long view with a 30-month mindset.

Whether you create your own website or outsource that process is a big decision. A blog by Startups explores the options. If you’re keen on doing it yourself, John Espirian discusses setting up your own website in an article from the archives that includes plenty of useful tips and links. However, as Michelle Waltzman suggests in ‘Stressed about your to-do list? 5 times you should outsource tasks’, if you keep putting it off, you don’t know where to start, or you’ve tried it and it’s gone very wrong, it might be worth considering asking someone else to help you.

Even if you outsource the creation of your website, you’ll have to write it. Apply the same marketing, accessibility and SEO principles that we covered in the ‘Client websites’ section above. You might also commission some photography. Sophie Playle describes how she did this in ‘Branding my editorial business: Working with a photographer’. If you’re working with images that are already created, take a look at Chicago Shop Talk’s article ‘Crediting images at an author website’ for principles and tips.

Once you’ve covered the broad brushwork of development, content and images, make sure the little things also look great, including any URLs.

Refreshing your site

If you created your website some time ago, it’s important to interrogate it every so often to ensure it’s working as hard as it can. Luckily, if we forget, ACES, the society for editing in America, keeps us on our toes with articles like ‘Is your website referral-worthy?’ by Molly McCowan and ‘When was the last time you updated your website?’ by Nate Hoffelder. Nate also wrote the helpful ‘18 questions to ask when refreshing your editor website’. If 18 questions are too many, Annie Deakins suggests six website features you should check.

One editor, Letitia Henville, recently went beyond checking and fixing to supplementing her current site with a digital tool for academics, which received 4,000 views in its first three days. Not everyone has the time or resources to do this, but Letitia includes a list of less ambitious alternatives: ‘blog post, webinar, infographic, video, app, tin-can phone or whatever other medium may reach your client population’. As tempting as the tin-can phone is, many editors find that their digital resource of choice is the humble blog, and if yours is ailing Louise Harnby has four ideas to fix it. Recently on Twitter, Lynne Murphy (@lynneguist) recommended a piece about how to keep online readers engaged in long articles. If your blogs are on the lengthy side, take a look.

Other platforms

Don’t forget Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok and Facebook as part of a digital content strategy. You can see Instagram at its best in ‘The 15 most Instagrammed bookstores in the world’. TikTok has recently been credited with changing the publishing industry as high-profile book lovers share their favourite reads with users. But if all these options make you feel dizzy, Mel Edits has some sage words about timelessness in ‘5 rules of content that will never change’.

If it all goes wrong

Finally, Chicago Shop Talk has helpfully published an article on how to ‘take back’ an online error that could be useful if you’re working with websites or on other digital platforms. One advantage of the internet is that amendment can be instant. In certain circumstances, though, amendments have to be acknowledged and explained, for example if a vital word like ‘not’ has been omitted in a prominent place in the original text, giving entirely the wrong impression and alarming people.

We’ll leave you to think up your own examples.

Thank you for reading. Why not follow the CIEP on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for more useful content for editors and proofreaders?

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: header by Sigmund, person with mobile phone by by Jonas Leupe, both on Unsplash

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Wise owls: how do you save time when editing?

We asked our parliament of wise owls, all Advanced Professional Members, to share some of the things that have helped them to become faster, more efficient editors over the years. Answers ranged from macros, checklists and templates to a healthier work–life balance and the confidence gained from experience.

Sue Browning

My main tip for speedy editing is to slow down and take a breath before you dive in. I find it helpful to approach large projects in phases, doing basic analysis (headings/structure/style), clean-up and formatting first, followed by my main text editing pass, then a final consistency check and spellcheck. This is all driven by checklists (and sub-checklists). While trundling through the initial, somewhat mechanical, stages may feel like delaying the core task of editing, I find it settles me into each project in a series of familiar steps so that even a new or challenging job feels more under control by the time I start looking at the text.

Another more obvious timesaver is my stylesheet template with combo boxes that contain the most common alternatives for each style point, making setting up my initial sheet very quick. Thanks to Hazel Bird and her helpful blog post for bringing this useful technique to my attention.

Next is keyboard shortcuts, both for frequent operations, like switching between windows and desktops, all the usual Word commands, and for my many macros. I have a lot of keyboard shortcuts, but I learned them slowly, converting the often-used ones to muscle memory, making room in my brain for the next batch.

But probably my biggest practical timesaver is PhraseExpress, a text expander, which I use for emails, author queries/explanations, and any bits of text that I find myself typing repeatedly, including things that I frequently mistype, like my email sign-off. PhraseExpress’s web look-up function also saves me ages when checking references.

Finally, there is the confidence that comes with experience. I know my major clients’ style preferences pretty well (and have PerfectIt stylesheets to help), my grammar and punctuation are pretty sound, and I no longer angst over every comma (just some of them 😉).

Liz Dalby

I’d say that three things in particular have made me a more efficient copyeditor.

  1. Learning to do the language editing late in the process. When I started freelancing, my instinct was to sit down at the text and work through it from beginning to end, reading every word and working on everything that needed doing all at once, as I encountered it. Over the years I have learned – by trial and error, and also by discussing best practice with other editors – to work in a series of passes. Broadly speaking, I start by styling the headings, which gives me an overview of the structure. Then I focus on some of the basic cleaning up I can do, and applying global style decisions based on my own observations of the text, plus the brief and the house style (if there is one). Once the text is in better shape, only then do I start to read it from beginning to end, smoothing out the language as I go, and continuing to add to the style sheet. The language editing isn’t the final pass, because after that there will be a series of checks (depending on the brief and the budget). But it’s nowhere near the beginning! This has made my process massively more efficient – and accurate.
  1. Working within my limitations. Like (probably) all freelancers, my initial instinct was to work ALL the hours in order to establish my business and make a good living. Now I know that I do my best work when I only do about four or five hours of pure editing per day, and take breaks at weekends. I hate working in the evening, so I hardly ever do it. This all keeps me fresh, and able to work quickly. It took me a long time to figure this out. I should have listened harder to advice from more seasoned freelancers! But it is hard to put this into practice until you have built up a steady stream of well-paid work.
  1. I’m passionate about this last one: I approach a text asking myself what can stay the same, rather than what I can change. This can save unnecessary work, and it can also help to build a better relationship with the author, who can see that you’re not making change for change’s sake. However – it’s still important to recognise when fundamental changes are required, and do all of the work that’s needed. Judging this takes experience, and even then it’s possible to get it wrong.

Sue Littleford

Chatting with other editors, I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one who’s slowed down a bit over the years! We think it’s because we know better what we’re doing, where our weak spots are, and we don’t skip things because of inexperience. But, of course, I’ve had to fund that time by finding efficiency savings.

I’m wedded to checklists. They save time by making sure I cover all the steps I need for onboarding or handover and can tick off each requirement as I’ve done it. I also have checklists where I’m required to nudge the English one way or the other (US to UK, for instance), for handling collected volumes and, indeed, for any repeated sequence of tasks.

As anyone who has done the CIEP Efficient Editing course will know, another key is to do things only once, and in the right order – checklists are your friend for this.

A second go-to is PerfectIt – I always, always run it at the end of the job (making it a game between me and it), but I also run its Summary of Possible Errors report at the start, a quick way to give me a good view of the condition of the manuscript, and start thinking about style decisions without making premature changes (discount for CIEP members – you’ll need to be logged in). PerfectIt works best on PCs, but a limited functionality version is available for Macs. I have style sheets for each repeat client.

Finally, I use templates (for my checklists, my style sheets, my word lists and so on, tailored for each repeat client, and a generic version for new clients, which then becomes the tailored template), and a text expander for frequent emails (handover, for example) or author queries text. No reinventing the wheel for me!

Michael FaulknerMichael Faulkner

These are my top tips for speeding up the mechanics of the editing/proofreading process:

  • Buy the biggest monitor, with the highest resolution, you can manage. When I moved from a 27″ to a 32″ monitor, my work rate greatly accelerated.
  • Download two amazing free utilities: AquaSnap and TidyTabs. Using them in combination, you can access and organise all open programs/documents with no clutter. I keep the largest part of screen real estate for the document(s) I’m working on but have everything else off to the side, tabbed and ever ready.
  • Download a (free) text expander to add frequently used words or even large blocks of text with a couple of strokes. I use FastKeys. You can also use it to build macros.
  • Create a Word template for every kind of project you work on (I have half a dozen fiction templates and eight templates for different types of legal publication); populate each template with a Word style for every conceivable character or paragraph element you’re likely to need for that particular type of project; and add a keyboard shortcut for every style you might want to invoke more than a couple of times. Using styles in this way I can tame a 15K-word chapter, which contains only direct formatting and is full of displayed quotes, different heading styles, lots of levels of numbered subheads and the like, in 15 minutes.
  • This one is a question of do as I say, not as I do 😊. Use macros. I’m scared of macros because they have caused unwanted (and unnoticed) wholesale changes in the past that have got me in trouble – but when you master them they’re incredibly powerful.

Hazel Bird

When it comes to speeding up the editing process, one thing I’ve found indispensable is master documents. This is a feature of Microsoft Word that allows you to combine many documents together and work on them as if they were a single document. Master documents have a reputation as being tricky to handle and unpredictable, but in my experience only the first of those characterisations is true. If you ever need to work on multiple related documents at once (such as multiple chapters in a book), it’s worth taking a course on master documents or reading up on how they work. Once you’ve learned their quirks (the ‘tricky to handle’ bit), the seeming unpredictability mostly becomes clear and they open up a paradise of efficiency. It was a revelation to me when I first realised that I could do a PerfectIt run or fix a problematic phrase on five, ten or even a hundred related documents all at once. I’ve found master documents most powerful in my encyclopedia work, where they have allowed me to seamlessly edit and check millions of words at a time. And, of course, this can lead to quality improvements too, as it makes implementing consistency easier.

It’s worth saying that this way of working doesn’t suit everybody and there are other methods (such as Paul Beverley’s FREdit macro) of tackling repeated issues across multiple documents. Also, if you want to use master documents on very large numbers of files, you may find your computer limits what you can achieve. However, if like me you feel most comfortable in your editing when you have everything visible all in one place, then master documents are worth a look.

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: owl by Hoover Tung  on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Core business documentation for freelance proofreaders and editors

In this post, Hazel Bird takes a look at the documentation that can help freelance proofreaders and editors to keep on top of the business side of things – from scheduling and accounting to thinking about CPD and business strategy.

Your style sheets are slicker than a greased exclamation mark and your handover notes template is perfectly balanced between conciseness and comprehensiveness. Your macros are practically doing the editing for you (well, not quite …) and you have shortcuts set up with author queries to handle just about anything a client can throw at you.

In other words, you’ve got this editing thing down pretty well. But what about your wider business? What strategic and administrative documentation have you set up and how well is it working for you? Does it enable you to understand what’s going on in your business now, what happened in the past and how to achieve your future goals?

This post looks at some of the core non-editorial documentation you might want to consider setting up. The list is based on the lessons I’ve learned over 13 years as a full-time freelancer – simply put, this is a list of the documentation I wish I’d established and used from the get-go.

It’s important to note from the start that these ‘documents’ don’t necessarily have to be separate – it’s perfectly OK to address two, three or more of the functions below in a single document if that’s what works best for you.

1 Scheduling and workload

Let’s start with the absolute basics. You’ll need somewhere to write down all the work you have booked in, any prospective work beyond that, and all the key dates. You might also want to estimate how many hours each block of work will take you. From this basic information, you can then plan long term (so you know when you’re free for additional work) and short term (so you can see in detail how you’ll meet your immediate commitments).

There are endless options for scheduling, from a humble spreadsheet (such as Google Sheets) to project management software (such as Trello) to business management tools (such as 17hats). I record my schedules and key tasks in a database and then pull the information out into a spreadsheet that shows me week by week, in a highly visual way, how much work I have booked in over the next year (long-term planning). I also use this data to draw up a handwritten plan every two weeks showing exactly when I will complete what I’ve got coming up (short-term planning).

This is a simplified mock-up of one of my two-week plans. On the left is a list of all the projects that will have some sort of activity over the next two weeks. Brackets signal projects that are in the background and very unlikely to require active work; ticks mean I have inputted all work for the project into the grid on the right. In the grid, the circled numbers are days of the week and an exclamation mark means I have holiday or some other potentially disrupting commitment on that day. Non-paid work and general admin are not scheduled as my project scheduling deliberately leaves time free for those tasks over the course of the week. I do, however, note down specific events, such as the client calls and webinar. ‘X’ is an important one – it means ‘answer emails and do any other bits and pieces that need to be done today’. As I complete projects and work, I cross them off (the cross-outs in this mock-up are as if I were halfway through day 2 of week 1).

2 Word counts, fees and time

This is where you get into the nitty-gritty of your day-to-day work. How quickly can you edit? Does it vary by client, type of work or subject matter? Are you happy that the amount you’re being paid fairly compensates you for the amount of work you’re putting in? Can you make a reasonable estimate of how long a potential project might take?

Recording word counts, fees and the time you take will enable you to answer these questions and many more. The answers will feed into your reporting (see below) and also help you to control your workload (and hence take care of your mental wellbeing).

Whatever system you choose for your scheduling will likely have the ability to record these details, or you might want to set up a specific spreadsheet for this purpose (or, if you’re a CIEP member, you can use the Going Solo toolkit ‘work record’ spreadsheet). For time tracking, some people use tools such as Toggl, which can integrate with other software.

3 Finances

You’ll need some sort of way of tracking invoices raised, whether they’ve been paid and any expenses. Obviously this should be in a format that enables you to meet the tax reporting requirements in your region. Beyond that, the level of detail and the format are up to you. You might find specialist software helpful, but a spreadsheet (perhaps with some conditional formatting to flag when an invoice is overdue) can be more than enough. You might even just add a couple more columns to your scheduling spreadsheet to record when a project has been invoiced and paid. If you’re a CIEP member in the UK, you could try the Going Solo toolkit ‘accounts’ spreadsheet.

A hard-earned tip is to actively track your cashflow too. By this I mean forecasting when you expect future payments to arrive (for all upcoming projects – not just the ones you’ve already invoiced) and your anticipated expenses (including the ‘salary’ you pay yourself). Although this can take a bit of time, it can really help your mental wellbeing as it avoids surprises. Susie Jackson has a lot of great tips on clear financial thinking for freelancers.

4 Leads, enquiries and quotes

This is all about tracking who’s contacted you and why, the outcomes, the status of any ongoing discussions (eg if you’ve sent out a quote and are waiting for feedback) and the details of any organisations you’re interested in approaching in the future.

The scale and format of this document will vary hugely from freelancer to freelancer, depending on the nature of their business and what they’re trying to achieve. You might want a complex CRM-type system that enables easy day-to-day tracking and communication with clients, or a simple spreadsheet might equally serve you very well. Just make sure your chosen tool has the capacity to record everything you’ll want to report on (see ‘Strategy and reporting’ below).

5 Marketing

I’m very much not a marketing expert, so I like to keep this as simple as possible. However, if this is an activity that you enjoy or that is particularly important to you at the moment (eg if you’re pivoting your business in a new direction), you might want to give this more space within your business. Louise Harnby’s posts are a perennial favourite in the editing community on the topic of marketing.

My major marketing activities are my website, my blog and my CIEP directory entry. For my website and directory entry, I keep an ongoing list of tweaks plus, if I’m building up to a major update, a more substantial document where I rewrite my content. For my blog, I used to have a separate spreadsheet but I now track my posts in WordPress’s native interface, which I’ve found has saved a huge amount of time.

All of my marketing activities are heavily influenced by my strategy document (see below).

6 Log of positive feedback and lessons learned

As advocated by Erin Brenner and many others, the ‘win jar’ is a hugely important morale booster, especially for freelancers who spend much of their time working in isolation. Whether you choose an actual jar, yet another spreadsheet or an A1-size poster of your greatest hits to hang on the wall, it’s wise to remind yourself of all the positive comments you’ve received. After all, if you don’t keep in mind what your clients appreciate, it’s harder to deliver on their needs.

At the same time, though, a modest log of lessons learned can be a really valuable tool. I always make sure to briefly write down when something doesn’t go to plan – for example, if I take on a project with red flags and then regret it, or if it turns out partway through a process that a client wasn’t fully clear on some aspect of my service. I then make sure to plug the gaps by taking action to avoid the same thing happening in the future – for example, by updating my checklist of ‘things to consider’ when evaluating a potential new project or by updating my quote package so future clients hopefully won’t experience the same misunderstanding in the future.

7 CPD log and planning

It can be helpful to keep a list of the continuing professional development (CPD) activities you’d like to do. Otherwise it can be easy for months or even years to slip by in which you’ve completed an awful lot of projects but not furthered (or even maintained) your skillset at all. It can be particularly helpful to use this document to plan the time and financing needed for any ‘big’ courses, such as learning a brand new skill. But it’s also good to jot down books, podcasts, websites and the like that you can use to help you keep up to date with whatever developments are relevant to your field. Again, CIEP members could use the Going Solo toolkit ‘training and CPD’ spreadsheet for this.

8 Terms and conditions

If you’re working with non-publisher clients then you’ll probably want a document you can share with them that lets them know the legal and practical implications of doing business with you. I think of my T&Cs as a document that evolves with my business and I update it at least annually.

9 Strategy and reporting

Not everyone starts their business with a fancy formal business plan. But at some point you’ll probably find it helpful to write down all those ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybe I coulds’ and ‘I think I’d like tos’ in a single place to keep track of them. The purpose of this document is to set out what you want your business to do for you and how you plan to achieve that.

Your goals can be as grand or as simple as you like. For example, you might want to write a detailed financial and marketing plan to help you completely change your client base over the next three years. Or you might prefer to keep things roughly as they are but achieve a modest hourly rate increase each year.

Where this becomes really powerful is when you pair it with reporting on how your business has performed in the past. I’ve written about how and why I write an annual report for my business here and here. Once you understand your past performance, you’re better able to set realistic future goals and make wiser decisions about what you want your business to achieve for you.

I do my strategy and reporting in Google Docs and use this information to populate to-do lists in Trello with the actions I’ve chosen to keep me on track. Your reporting data will come from all the sources above – you’ll just be viewing it in the rear-view mirror.


In choosing how to address each of the areas above, keep in mind that your documentation should be flexible, manageable and focused on outcomes rather than tracking for its own sake. It should also be capable of evolving – after all, who knows what you will want your business to be doing in five, ten or even twenty years’ time?

Resources

The Going Solo toolkit, which is free to all CIEP members, includes a collection of Excel spreadsheets that are set up to record most of the information covered in this post.

The Editor’s Affairs (TEA) is another series of Excel spreadsheets designed specifically for editors to keep track of their business data.

The short book The Paper It’s Written On: Defining your relationship with an editing client, by Karin Cather and Dick Margulis, is helpful for crafting your own T&Cs.

About Hazel Bird

Hazel Bird is a freelance editor and editorial project manager who works with businesses, charities, public sector organisations, publishers and authors around the world to deliver some of their most prestigious publications. She tries to see the detail and the big picture all at once – the wood and the trees – and has learned over the years how important good documentation is in achieving that!

 

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: notebook by Jessica Lewis Creative on Pexels, two-week plan by Hazel Bird, laptop and notebook by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Dealing with the death of a client

In this post, Vanessa Wells reflects on what happened when one of her repeat indie clients died unexpectedly. The CIEP information team also give some practical tips for dealing with the death of a client.

Vanessa’s experience

I’ve been editing for a decade and last week had my first experience of the death of a client.

This fellow was a repeat client. He’d been nominated and shortlisted for awards for his excellent books. He was the type who paid literally within five minutes of receiving my invoice. He was thoughtful and appreciative of the editing process. In short, he was the ideal client.

I was going to edit his next novel shortly; he just wanted a few more weeks to tweak the manuscript. Meanwhile, I’d come down with Covid, and when I saw online the news of his death, I was gutted – perhaps made more emotional by feeling physically depleted but also because it was yet another good person gone: I’d lost a dear friend early on in the pandemic and a former student died by suicide this year. Aside from no longer having this great writer to work with, I started to wonder why his death hit me as it did.

The author–editor relationship

The longer I edit, the more I appreciate writers’ craft. I really am impressed with their abilities and, in those with perhaps less skill, their tenacity and courage. I don’t take lightly the idea that we are here to collaborate with authors, rather than rewrite their work as we see fit. What they produce deserves to be treated with respect, and how we interact with them and their text should be a safe space. Sometimes the vulnerability they reveal is shocking. There are projects where we are the first person to read what they have written. David Shannon wrote Howul while his wife thought he was watching footy every night in his den. So there can be a creative and intellectual intimacy with an editor that a writer doesn’t have with others. The more vulnerable the author, the more they are opening their heart to someone whose metaphorical red pen they fear. The trust they are placing in us to provide constructive suggestions can be immense.

Conversely, we might be the first person to validate their efforts. Perhaps their labour of love has been denigrated by others as just a hobby. We may be coaching someone who’s kept their desire to write a secret or an untried exercise for decades. The analogy to writers birthing their babies may be a bit hackneyed, but I’m very conscious of the midwifery role I play.

As a sensitive person, I know what it feels like to be corrected. I bear that in mind in the wording of my comments and suggested edits, regardless of whether my feedback is gently critical or laudatory (and usually it’s a delicate balance of the two). I often feel like I learned the dynamics of this from my twenty years of teaching, also moulded by my own student experience of both kind and mean teachers. We have the power to inspire or wound (be it as editors or just in everyday life), and sometimes we can discern something of our clients’ personalities from their first emails to us. A tentative little dance underlies their questions, which can make us feel sympathetic and perhaps already a little protective of them in the process they’re about to take on.

I think this special type of relationship is not common to many professions, and the resulting connection that is lost upon a client’s death can leave us feeling gutted.

Financial considerations and the future

A friend commented that my author’s death must have come as a financial blow, too – which it did. I hadn’t asked him for a non-refundable deposit as I knew how reliable and accommodating he was. (And, in fact, fate unexpectedly dropped a new indie client in my lap the same day.) But even if I had been more proactive about using my usual contractual practices with him, I certainly would never have kept the deposit. Perhaps if there were different circumstances with, say, a single author and an executor, I might consider pursuing my balance owing if I had (almost) finished an edit. But as an editor, I believe my business is as much about the writer as the text, and I would not be comfortable pursuing payment no holds barred.

I hope that one day my client’s wife will look me up in his email and offer to let me read his sequel. I appreciated him for his work, not the income. From what I’ve seen in social media posts about him since his death, he was widely admired for his character as much as his skill. I’m sorry to have lost him as a client, but I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to work on such excellent writing. Another loss during this difficult period, but another blessing to recognise in my career as an editor.

Blue skies, sir!

Pink blossom being blown from a tree in front of a blue sky

Practicalities: What to do if your client dies

If you are aware that your client has a terminal illness (you might, for example, be working on their memoirs), you should agree in writing the steps to take in the event of their death. This may cover who will contact you with news of their death, the proportion of the fee to be paid, and what to do with the manuscript.

You may, in fact, find it helpful to include such information in your contracts as a matter of course – and to include similar information for the client in the event of your own death or incapacity while you are working with them.

Be sensitive to the feelings of your client’s family and/or colleagues – and allow time for yourself to grieve, if necessary. Similarly, if you have only just found out that your client has died after chasing a response or asking for a new draft, try not to feel guilty if you think your approach seemed insensitive. You couldn’t be expected to know what had happened.

If you have completed the work and wish to be paid, you will need to be proactive. Again, try not to feel guilty – if you have completed the work and fulfilled your part of the contract, you have the right to be paid as part of the business transaction.

Corporate clients and publishers are likely to have accounts departments, which will be independent of your contact and have their own email address. Write to them, explaining the situation. They will use their internal processes to find out the status of your payment. For example, if your contact died before raising a purchase order, the accounts department should identify an appropriate colleague who can verify your work and raise the PO retrospectively.

For individual clients, such as self-publishing writers, the executor of their will is responsible for ensuring their debts are paid but this might take months or even years. You might feel it’s not worth pursuing and that it’s more prudent to write it off.

If you send out email newsletters or other forms of marketing, remove your client’s name from the mailing list immediately.

If your contact was a corporate or publishing client, and you wish to keep working for the organisation, find out who is covering their work or replacing them and politely introduce yourself. Outline some of the projects you’ve worked on for your client and the benefits your work brought. This is the same approach you might take if your contact had simply left the company.

About Vanessa Wells

Vanessa Wells is a fiction editor and an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. She lives in London.

 

 

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: clocks by Giallo, blossom by Recal Media, both on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

How to network better

Laura Summers of BookMachine explores networking benefits, tips and more.

From small beginnings in 2010, starting as a group of colleagues coming together to talk about the book publishing industry, the BookMachine community has grown to become a global organisation. During this time I’ve met hundreds of editors and proofreaders. I remember some of them really well because they’ve stood out against the crowd by their ability to network.

Instead of simply telling me or anyone they’re networking with about themselves and leaving it at that, these professionals show their ‘interest’. They do this by asking insightful questions and aim to be the ‘interested’ person in each discussion or conversation they’re in.

Even if you’re not a networking fan, it’s one of the easiest ways to form connections that might lead to new opportunities. Thankfully, living in today’s digital world means we have online communities that make networking easier for all of us (introverts, extroverts and ambiverts!) to connect.

Not convinced that networking is for you? Here are three reasons to get started.

1.  Spread the word

If you’re a freelance editor or proofreader, networking is an essential way to let people know what you do. Having an up-to-date website is a great start, but to ensure that the right opportunities come your way, you need to connect with others and tell them specifically about what you can do for them.

Networking isn’t limited to talking with potential clients. When you network with other freelancers, along with gaining advice and friendships, you can create partnerships and offer your clients a better service. For example, if you are an editor you can partner with a copywriter to offer your clients more skills.

2.  Understand industry trends better

I read The Bookseller online daily, but there is still so much more to know about the industry. The more people you speak to and connect with, the more you understand current trends in the industry. This, in turn, gives you a deeper understanding of what’s important to your clients and their businesses.

Having more industry knowledge also gives you the added bonus of having more professional topics to talk about during meetings – whether you’re a freelancer or an in-house professional.

3.  Gain more confidence

This one is simple. The more you meet and talk to people, the easier it gets.

Convinced about networking but unsure where to begin?

Explore membership organisations

As well as using CIEP membership to connect with editors and proofreaders through virtual and in-person events and the CIEP forums, consider joining BookMachine’s vibrant community to interact and learn during mixers, virtual hangouts and in-person events. If you want to mix a bit of exercise with networking and check two things off your list at one go, you could even come for our ‘Walk & Talk’ events!

If you’re a publishing hopeful, perhaps in the early stages of your career, think about the Society of Young Publishers (SYP). Attending SYP events and conferences, signing up to be a member and applying for their mentorship programme can help you get your foot in the door and teach you how to network better. Since it’s a volunteer-run organisation, you can even get involved with their online and in-person events if you have something to offer.

Leverage social media

Whether it’s BookTok, Bookstagram or #BookTwitter, there are plenty of ways for you to find fellow publishing professionals and connect with them on social media. Following some of the most valuable and popular accounts within publishing can help keep you in the loop and give you the opportunity to join discussions, conversations and events.

When it comes to social media, don’t underestimate the power of hashtags and the ability to squeeze yourself into a conversation when possible. Try keeping an eye on (or follow) hashtags like #workinpublishing, #publishing and #joinbooks.

Five valuable publishing-related accounts to follow on Twitter: The CIEP; BookMachine; Publishers Association; The Publishing Post; BookBrunch.

Use LinkedIn wisely

When you connect with someone, send a note. Introduce yourself and include a few words about what you do and why you’re interested in connecting with them.

Twitter will cap your tweets at 280 characters, but on LinkedIn, there’s no such limit when you post. But the key is to keep your interactions short and sweet – people have limited attention spans and time when networking. The goal is to make yourself memorable and interesting within that short interaction.

Be helpful

Another useful way to stand out is to answer questions using advanced search. Both Twitter and LinkedIn have great search capabilities. Think about the questions you had when you started out. Or even questions you had two months ago. Search those questions and variations of them on these sites.

What you want is to be helpful to those in your industry and around you. Offer answers, insights, or even follow-up questions to make the discussion more interesting. Don’t worry about sharing your tips and secrets – collaborating and boosting others in your industry is an ideal way to start networking.

Step forward as a speaker

Another idea to network and simultaneously showcase your skills is to pitch yourself as a speaker or as part of a panel at any relevant event. Pitch ideas to event organisers and highlight your areas of expertise so they can introduce you and your work to a wide audience. You can find plenty of these events when you start following and interacting with publishing professionals and publishers on social media.

Have a positive attitude

Finally, networking may seem challenging but try to think about it in terms of building relationships, friendships and long-lasting connections. The more people you know and speak with, the better and easier it will be for you to find the right opportunities to help your career thrive. On a personal level, it’ll also boost confidence in your intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships.

Also, it’s easier once you get started – I promise!

About Laura Summers

Laura Summers is the Director of BookMachine, the fast-growing global Community and Creative Agency specialising in book publishing. Her mission is to provide every publishing professional with the knowledge, ideas and connections to help them to progress in their careers. Follow Laura on Twitter @LauraSummersNow. Connect with Laura on LinkedIn.

 

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: maze by Susan Q Yin on Unsplash, networking meeting by Redmind Studio on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Working through the (peri)menopause

Recently I put out a call in the CIEP forums for people to submit their experiences of working through the menopause, and the perimenopause (the years leading up to the menopause). This post is a collection of those responses, with some links to helpful resources at the end.

Coping with menopause

Menopause is a subject that’s being talked about increasingly in the context of work: in the media, and by employers and the government. It’s a major change to go through, and for many people – both those to whom it is happening, and their family, friends and colleagues – it presents significant challenges that require lifestyle adjustments.

The contributions I received are published here anonymously. The public conversations that are happening now are obviously a good thing, because they help to remove the stigma surrounding menopause, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that some of the symptoms can make aspects of full-time working more difficult. It’s clear that for now it’s still easier to discuss menopause confidentially in a professional context – none of us can afford for our clients to think we’re giving anything less than our best.

The responses below share some common themes. There are physical symptoms, as well as mental and emotional ones – with some better known and understood than others. All can make work more challenging. For those of us who work for ourselves, we at least have the option of managing our time differently to cope, to some extent. But more understanding of the difficulties faced at this time can only benefit all of us. It’s also refreshing to read of the positives that can arise from this life stage … and of course, some are lucky enough to suffer few negative symptoms at all.

After the testimonies, there are links to sources of more information on (peri)menopause.

Personal experiences

The effects of ‘emotional disinhibition’

I’m having quite a late menopause – I’ve just turned 58 and was still having regular periods until about a year ago, which of course was in the middle of the pandemic. So it’s really difficult to disentangle the physical and psychological effects of increasing age (including lingering pension-age-change trauma), hormonal changes and lockdown stress. In relation to work, the biggest combined impact has been on my energy levels, my ability to concentrate for long periods and my motivation. I’m working very much part-time and I haven’t accepted any full-length books for well over a year because I know I just can’t manage them at the moment (whether this is temporary or permanent, I do not know); luckily, though, I’ve been getting enough shorter jobs to get by on.

Another change I’ve noticed is what you might call ‘emotional disinhibition’, which I suspect can be put down to hormones. This has caused constructive chaos in some specific pre-Covid overcommitments in my personal life, but, so far, no clients or colleagues have been exposed to it. I suppose that might eventually happen, but I am inclined not to care: whoever provokes it is likely going to deserve whatever they get.

Physically, apart from energy etc, and the odd hot flash, I’m just dealing with the fact that my periods are currently entirely unpredictable in all respects. In that context, and overall, I’m really grateful at this point that I am working at home and managing my own time. I just stop when I need to and transfer to the sofa via the kettle. I can’t help thinking of some of my previous jobs in which this whole process would have been much harder to cope with.

Enjoying the pleasant warmth!

I noticed not the slightest difference … all I had (and we’re looking at 20 years ago, now) was the occasional warm flush (very pleasant indeed) and no other effects that I was aware of. So I just carried on as usual. 🙂

Living with disturbed sleep patterns

I started experiencing symptoms of perimenopause around five years ago. The most significant symptom – and the one that had the greatest effect on my work – was insomnia. Although I usually didn’t have difficulty falling asleep, I would keep waking at 2am, heart and mind racing, often drenched in sweat, and be unable to get back to sleep again. The next day, exhaustion, brain fog and sometimes a throbbing headache would make it difficult to concentrate, and my efficiency and accuracy in editorial tasks suffered as a result.

The two GPs I had during this time offered no support, dismissing me as being ‘too young’ for menopause (meaning under 50) and suggesting that I should improve my sleep hygiene and perhaps try antidepressants. I resolved to educate myself as much as possible about how best to manage the menopause transition. Fortunately, I could take advantage of the burgeoning number of books, websites, videos, podcasts, blogs etc in the past few years that provide evidence-based information about the perimenopause and menopause. Often, just knowing I wasn’t alone in having myriad ‘weird’ symptoms was a great comfort.

Although none of my clients knew anything of what I was going through, I had to make various adjustments to my work schedule. For example, I used to do an hour or two of editing in the evening, but have since cut that out; now the hour before bedtime is reserved for ‘winding down’, such as doing gentle yoga, meditating and listening to music. The elimination of evening work has forced me to become more efficient and focused earlier in the day, which is a benefit overall. I have also become more choosy in the kinds of jobs I accept, opting for those with greater flexibility – such as more journal articles and fewer books, more proofreading and less substantive editing – and trying to negotiate more generous timeframes for projects where possible. This has led to a decrease in business income for a couple of years, but I needed to respect what my body and mind could cope with at the time; besides, taking on the same volume and types of work as I did pre-menopause would almost certainly have meant lower quality of output.

Now postmenopausal, I have found a gynaecologist who is willing to trial hormone therapy with me, and it is working quite well to alleviate the insomnia and relieve other symptoms including hot flushes, water retention, skin itching and joint pain. The prescription costs are significant but worth it for the much-improved functioning and restored productivity. I am aiming to gradually scale up my workload as I feel better physically and mentally.

Finding ways to cope with a range of symptoms

My experience with working through the (peri)menopause is very recent, and started with a bang and not a whimper. I was on my daily walk, back in March, when I was suddenly breathless, my heart was racing, and I thought I was having a heart attack. After months of tests, observations and specialists, we have come to the conclusion that my racing heart is the by-product of hormonal fluctuations – perimenopause.

Looking back, I did have other symptoms, which I discounted as regular steps in the ageing process: sore joints, itchy skin, tinnitus, hot flushes, extreme tiredness, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating and breathlessness when exercising. I found out my body – a woman’s body – has oestrogen receptors all over, in my ears, eyes, skin, other organs (heart) and gastrointestinal tract. Oestrogen also plays a role in maintaining the cardiovascular and central nervous systems, and regulating bone density, brain function and cholesterol levels. So when oestrogen levels drop, it can play havoc with almost every system.

The symptoms that most bother me are the racing heart, and the forgetfulness and trouble concentrating. I’ve taken a multipronged approach to dealing with these symptoms. I take medication that slows my heart rate (which unfortunately also makes me more forgetful), and I have started hormone replacement therapy to deal with the heart and the other symptoms. I have also stepped back to part-time work so that I can go to the gym and exercise for one to one and a half hours each day.

It is early days, but I think the combination of medical intervention and exercise is starting to help.

I am also changing how I work, to address the issues of concentration and editing accuracy. I’m updating and expanding the checklists that I use when editing and proofreading, to make sure I don’t forget any steps in my editing process. I’m using software tools and macros more frequently in my editorial practice. For example, I use PerfectIt at the start and at the end of an editing job, to help make sure I pick up on any inconsistencies in the documents I’m editing. I also work for shorter periods of time, 45 minutes to an hour, and then take a 15-minute break, and I work shorter days. I don’t get as much work done each day, but I am more confident that the work I do complete is of the professional standard that I expect of myself.

I’ve heard that perimenopause can last for years. I’m prepared to continue changing my approach as my hormones continue to change. I do hope though that once they settle down, it comes as less of a shock than when it started.

Understanding menopause as a process of transition

The further you go into the perimenopause the more you realise it’s a transition. By necessity, you must change your previous habits because they probably won’t work for you any more. For me, gone are the days when I could keep 20 things in my head at once. After having kids, I thought I was exhausted, but at least I could work for hours on end, given the chance. Now I am too tired all the time to do that. I also have to make sure I have back-up, mostly in the form of detailed lists, so I don’t forget things. I have to take longer breaks from work during the week, and have a proper weekend. I really can’t take too much on, and this is a change from before.

Fifteen years ago, I could exercise for long periods. I gave that up as I realised that my body wasn’t springing back from the exercise I was doing. I was getting injured. My joints were suffering. I had resigned myself to brisk walking for the rest of my life, but just recently I’ve discovered that a really short run every day perks me up but doesn’t injure me. (So far.) I’ve also started taking a dip in the sea now and then, and I’m hoping to make more of a habit of this, because the shock of the cold (and it is cold) resets your body for a time. When I go down to the beach it’s mostly ‘ladies of a certain age’ that I see in their swimsuits, and I’m just beginning to grasp why. You find new ways to be. You do what helps.

So it’s a cliché but you have to listen to your body and you have to look after yourself. It’s no good fighting it. Work with it and watch to see what you’ll become. I felt grief when I realised my young self was gone, but being older makes me feel more connected to other people and makes me appreciate the smaller, everyday things.

Two women walking down to a beach

Dealing with sudden menopause

Thank goodness the menopause conversation is finally public. It felt like the last big taboo only two years ago. And I’m glad to see this discussion in editorial circles – I hoped it would come soon.

Before I started my editorial business, I had left full-time employment and started some part-time casual work while deciding on my next move. Once I’d decided on proofreading and editing, I joined the CIEP and started training and getting editorial experience. So far so good …

Unfortunately, I was advised that I needed an emergency full hysterectomy in the early part of the pandemic. It turned out that this was absolutely the right decision, so phew. The flip side of this was, of course, being propelled into surgical menopause. So I had no perimenopause to speak of – just a very sudden onset of various physical and mental issues, which I’ve had to tackle without HRT for medical reasons. My recovery from surgery was fairly straightforward. The difficult part was after those first few weeks. My biggest and most persistent problem is poor sleep – this affects my mental focus, decision-making and energy levels, and means that I can’t progress individual editing projects or my business or my training as fast as I would like. It is very hard to accept a certain level of reduced output each day, but I have no choice. It’s an ongoing battle to build and sustain a sense of myself as a new business owner, a new freelancer, a new editor, and a woman newly coping with menopause. Lots of emotional stuff. Some days I feel very lost, negative or angry; some days are middling, just plodding along OK; other days there are rewarding highs when I feel confident, liberated, and that I can actually do this.

What helps me to cope? First and foremost, a supportive partner and enough funds between us to weather this – I have no idea how I’d be surviving financially if it wasn’t for him. (And I doubt I could still function in my former full-time job, either.) I’ve also got family and friends who I can talk to openly, and I had good support from my NHS surgical team. Beyond that, I’ve had to find resilience at much deeper levels than I’d been aware of previously. I’ve read carefully chosen, reliable sources to learn about menopause. I’ve had to get much more practical and concrete about self-care. I take daily non-prescription supplements approved by my surgeon. The privacy and flexibility of freelancing from home has certainly made some things easier and less stressful to manage. Being a member of the CIEP has been a supportive lifeline in so many ways. On a more fundamental level, I am motivated by enjoying the learning and the work – because I still feel I’ve chosen the right new profession for me.

For anyone who’s not yet at this stage in their life, I would encourage you to learn about menopause now so you’ll have some idea of what’s going on and be able to plan your life accordingly. And for those who won’t personally go through it, learn about it so that you’ll understand your loved ones’ experiences.

Managing mood swings

Over the last three years, the peri symptoms I’ve grown most concerned about are the mood swings, irritation and anxiety that get worse in the final half of my cycle (or they did until my cycle started skipping months). I didn’t want these symptoms to adversely affect my clients or the people I teach and tutor online, or my family and friends. My doctor suggested meditation first thing in the morning, and yoga in the evenings as well as anti-anxiety medication.

I keep a daily work diary and mark off the ‘danger’ weeks that come once I notice the signs of ovulation. I use Post-it notes as they can be moved around the diary or to the edge of my computer screen: WATCH 4 SNARKY. They may need to become a permanent fixture now.

The positives of menopause

I am unreservedly happy to have menopaused. I don’t mean I’m glad I’m past that time that’s called the menopause or perimenopause. I mean I rejoice in the knowledge that I need never again have to menstruate or worry about contraception. I feel free, and well, in a way I never did before.

I don’t remember what work I was doing when I realised that unless I came off the pill I wouldn’t know when my periods would have stopped. I know that that concern, and dealing with it, didn’t affect my work. Earlier in my life, period pains had most definitely affected my concentration.

Finding renewed purpose

Looking back, I’m convinced that I’ve been experiencing perimenopausal symptoms for the last few years (I’m in my mid-forties), but I’ve only been fully aware that’s what they are for about the last 18 months. I got very depressed, and like so many people, I was initially put on antidepressants. Gradually I began to realise, with the help of my partner, that it might be menopause-related (waking up every night covered in sweat was a major clue), and I asked my doctor for HRT. Fortunately, he prescribed it for me straight away. I know I was lucky. I was able to come off the antidepressants after that.

Since I started taking HRT I have tried various doses and types, and now I seem to have a combination that works. I have few night sweats, not many hot flushes, and my moods are more stable. (Until we got the dose right, I was still suffering from terrible, black moods in the week or so before my period, and immense tiredness.) As well as the HRT, I eat quite healthily, don’t drink alcohol, have reduced my caffeine consumption, and exercise regularly (walking, running and yoga), which all seems to help a bit. I can completely understand why so many relationships falter around this time. Mine almost did, but my partner has been really supportive.

A woman sitting on a mat doing yoga

Cutting back on work is not an option, and won’t be for the foreseeable future. I am fortunate in that I have not yet felt the need to do that. The symptoms so far have affected my personal life much more than my working life, although at certain times I must remind myself not to take perceived criticism of my work personally. I do have more problems with memory than I used to, but it’s unclear how much this is to do with menopause and how much is to do with ageing in general, and also the collective trauma we have all been through in the last couple of years. The memory problems tend to be about remembering what I went upstairs for rather than anything that affects my editorial work, which I am thankful for.

In terms of work, I am really happy that a more positive conversation is happening about the menopause. People going through the menopause might suffer some debilitating symptoms, but in so many other ways they are at the height of their powers, professionally speaking, with decades of experience to draw on, and often a renewed sense of purpose and energy. Personally, I feel more at peace with myself than ever, and like I have so much to offer. In some ways I feel as if I am just getting started.


Resources

NHS – Menopause: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/

British Menopause Society: https://thebms.org.uk/

CIPD – The menopause at work: https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/culture/well-being/menopause/printable-resources#gref

Talking Menopause: https://www.talkingmenopause.co.uk/resources

About Liz DalbyHeadshot of Liz Dalby

Liz has been an editor since 1998, and freelance since 2008. She runs Responsive Editing, offering editorial services to publishers, businesses and other organisations, as well as academics and self-publishing authors. She also works on the CIEP’s 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: clouds by eberhard grossgasteiger, beach by Rachel Claire, yoga by Marcus Aurelius, all on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Why listening to audiobooks has made me a better editor

Audiobooks have seen a steep rise in popularity over recent years, particularly since the pandemic. In this post, Clare Black discusses why she is passionate about audiobooks and explains why her love of listening has created an opportunity for CPD.

A lifelong love of books

Like most editors, I have an enormous love of books, and I am proud to say I am a lifelong bookworm. My fondest childhood memories relate to books and visits to the local library with my mum and sister for the weekly storytime session. I vividly recall sitting cross-legged on the parquet floor, captivated by the austere librarian and the story they were reading.

Audiobooks are accessible and convenient

Ten years ago I had major eye surgery. Before surgery I usually read a novel a week, and one of my big worries was how I could read while convalescing. The obvious answer was to listen to books instead. I can honestly say that listening to audiobooks got me through those first few tough weeks following surgery. Audiobooks helped to fill the long days and transported me to other worlds when the prospect of being able to read ‘normally’ again seemed a lifetime away. I discovered that listening to a story really brought it alive and gave a deep connection to the characters.

Once I had recovered and was able to resume normal life, I wanted to get back to reading print books again, so my love of audiobooks was put on hold.

Making time for reading can be difficult

After I became self-employed as an editor, I started to read less for pleasure. This happened unconsciously at first, with realisation dawning when I couldn’t recall the last fiction book I had read. At that time, I think reading for enjoyment seemed like a chore rather than a pleasurable activity. This was due mainly to the amount of screen time editing requires, which is inevitably very tiring on the eyes. And I was also guilty of thinking that spending time on business-related activities like admin and marketing was more important. I became aware that the book-shaped hole in my life was making itself more obvious.

I am lucky to have a wonderful little library ten minutes’ walk from my home, so I made an effort to visit more regularly. Borrowing books from the library helped me to get reading again. But I still didn’t make enough time for reading for pleasure as I ended up renewing books several times.

Listening with Borrowbox

On one of my visits to the library, I saw a poster advertising Borrowbox. Borrowbox is an app that allows library members to borrow ebooks and audiobooks through a smartphone or tablet. Books are automatically returned after the loan period, and users can also reserve and renew, just as with conventional library books.

My passion for reading for fun has been rekindled by borrowing audiobooks through Borrowbox. Although the range of audiobooks is not as wide as with ebooks or print books, there is still a broad selection to choose from. This has provided the opportunity to listen to books from genres and authors that I would not have discovered otherwise. One to mention is Gone Fishing by Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer. I love the television series of the same name for its tranquillity and the companionship of this hilarious duo. But I am not a fishing buff, and probably would never have read the printed version of this book. The audiobook appeared as a recommendation on my Borrowbox account, and I am glad that I decided to listen to it. The book is narrated by Bob and Paul, which makes it very entertaining and deeply enjoyable. Reading the print version would not have given me so much laughter.

Audiobooks improve mental and physical health

I would go as far as to say that audiobooks have revolutionised my life, and I take every opportunity when I’m not at my desk to grab a few audio moments. The big win for me with audiobooks is that I can combine listening with other activities. Daily fresh air and exercise are very important to me, and I usually go out for an hour each day. Not only does this help my mental and physical health, but it also means I get to listen to my latest book. And sessions on my cross-trainer are now that bit more bearable.

I still appreciate conventional books and usually have an ebook from Borrowbox or a Kindle book in progress as well. But I tend to get through several audiobooks to one ebook.

Audiobooks can improve editorial skills

Although I have been an audiobook fan for quite some time, thinking of them as a form of CPD occurred to me only recently.

When reading solely for pleasure, I tend to be quite a quick reader, but when listening to an audiobook, I listen at normal talking speed. There is always an option to speed up the recording. but I never choose to do that. As with listening to someone else speak, you need to focus completely on what is being said. For me, hearing the words spoken allows me to immerse myself more deeply in the book.

Listening to audiobooks is a positive learning experience that has developed my critical listening and line-editing skills. I am presently studying a developmental editing for fiction course, and listening to published books is proving an excellent way to apply the theory.

A book I recently enjoyed is Platform Seven by Louise Doughty. I’d describe it as atmospheric, beautifully sad and tinged with joy, and it moved me to tears several times. Reading the print version would not have had the same poignancy. The book uses omniscient point of view, which I didn’t realise before listening. Being able to listen to an omniscient narrator has helped me to understand more about how this point of view is used.

All audiobooks offer opportunities for learning or reinforcing editorial knowledge. I regularly notice elements that I think are handled well. Good pacing and rhythm and flow of sentences are particularly obvious in the narrator’s change of tone and tempo. I also think about how I might have handled some aspects differently if I were the editor. As most editors know, many aspects of editing are subjective and not all editors will handle issues in the same way. Occasionally, I note things that I think are wrong. I would notice some of these issues if I were reading purely for pleasure, but listening means I can enjoy a story and learn at the same time. And, of course, when listening, there are no distracting spelling or punctuation issues.

Many editors, including myself, read aloud when they are editing. We all generally read aloud more slowly than we do when we read silently. I find that reading aloud is effective as it gives a better feel for the text and makes any problems or issues more obvious. It makes sense that this applies when listening to audiobooks.

Another reason I love audiobooks is the way that narrators vary accents and speech patterns for the different characters. Bringing the characters alive in this way makes me feel like I really get to know them. And listening provides an excellent way to note how authors handle characterisation.

Audiobooks are proper books

Some people believe that listening to audiobooks is cheating or not proper reading, but I don’t understand that. By listening to a book, I am still consuming and enjoying its content. As I have mentioned throughout this article, listening to a story really brings it alive for me.

Audiobooks are an ideal solution for anyone who is unable or struggles to read print books. Audiobooks are convenient, allow multitasking, can make a story more poignant and provide an immersive way to enhance editing skills. They are growing in popularity and are here to stay!

About Clare Black

Clare Black is a Professional Member of the CIEP. She is an aspiring developmental editor, line editor, copy-editor and proofreader specialising in crime, thriller and contemporary fiction. Clare had a varied career before becoming an editor, including working as a solicitor and running a dog-washing business. When not editing, she is usually listening to an audiobook!

 

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: red headphones by Yarenci Hdz, headphones and phone by Jukka Aalho, both on Unsplash, woman with phone by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

A week in the life of a legal editor

Nadine Catto used to work as a divorce lawyer, and now edits legal materials for publishers and other legal content providers. In this article she describes how she got into legal editing, and what her work typically involves.

My path to legal editing

When I was at school, I was told that the best career for someone who loved words was a lawyer. Although I had some niggling doubts, it seemed like a good idea at the time and I excitedly started my career as a divorce lawyer. For someone who hates confrontation, this may not have been the smartest career choice. While others loved the rough and tumble of the courtroom, I wished everyone would just stop arguing and I could curl up in the corner with a book!

My wish came true (sort of) when a conversation in a creative writing class led to some work experience with a publisher. Books, words, more books – I loved it! I saw an advert for a job as an assistant editor for a legal publisher who was looking for someone with a legal background. We made the perfect match! Fast forward eight years and two children later and freelance work beckoned.

 A typical day

  • School run and answering my twins’ endless questions, followed by a morning walk by the river to shift from Mum-mode to editor-mode.
  • Check I’ve received the batch of articles from the legal content provider.
  • Prioritise article work for the week according to the editorial manager’s schedule.
  • Several hours of focused copyediting and rewriting articles on international law, and trying to stop the cat from jumping on the keyboard and deleting all my work!
  • Afternoon school run and more questions from the twins. Put finishing touches to the day’s articles and write a summary of the articles.
  • Send the articles back to the editorial manager and feel happy that they are now in house style and easier to understand for the busy legal professional.

This is just an example of a typical day. But my working week could be proofreading a 3,000-page legal reference book (this took longer than a week!), copyediting how-to guides for corporate lawyers or copywriting articles for a DIY legal publisher. For me, it’s the variety that makes freelance work a joy.

I’ve been fortunate to have quite a steady flow of work since I went freelance, and I work part-time to fit in with the school day. But in order to make this work, I do often work at weekends and in the evenings to free up more time during the working week to fit in family commitments.

Legal editing tasks

When I receive an article from the editorial manager, the first thing I do is format it according to their requested house style. I re-style the headings and change footnotes to endnotes. The articles can be from anywhere in the world on any area of commercial or corporate law. So, I also check which language it’s set to – it could be US English, Peruvian, Spanish or any other language! I set it to the client’s preferred language, which is often British English, and run a spellcheck. Some style issues that I always have to be aware of are case names, citations, the names of judiciary, legal terminology and the names of courts. I usually have a long house style to work with, so I make sure that I’m really familiar with it, and I go back to the editorial manager with anything that the style guide doesn’t cover.

I then read through the article to get a sense of what it’s about – perhaps making a few small corrections as I go. This can also involve quite a lot of head-scratching about what the author is trying to say under layers of legalese! I try to ensure that the article is in plain English; however, with legal writing, it is sometimes important to keep certain terms of art, so it’s a fine balance. Rather than wading in with corrections that could potentially change the author’s meaning, I make suggestions about rewording and write very diplomatic queries.

The end goal is to produce an article with a clear message that’s easy for a busy legal professional to understand quickly. Sometimes I do a bit of legal research to understand the subject so that I can make better suggestions for rewording. Lastly, I write a summary of the article – something that will entice a reader to read it (not always easy to make the law sound enticing, but I try).

If I’m copyediting, I work in Word using Track Changes. If I’m proofreading, I work in Adobe Acrobat using the comment tools.

Marketing and professional development

It can be difficult to fit in marketing, and it’s something that I do struggle with. I know I should be promoting myself, but it’s always the last thing on my to-do list. I try to make time in the week to attend a networking group, investigate new opportunities and send my CV to other legal publishers or law firms. We’re lucky in the CIEP to have the legal editing special interest group (SIG). This is a newly created SIG, and I hope it will be a great place to learn from each other and share concerns and queries.

The joys (yes, really!) of legal editing

Yes, law can be a dry subject, but I’ve learned so much about different areas of law and it’s so interesting to see how different jurisdictions deal with similar issues. The biggest joy for me is to take a manuscript filled with dense legalese and tease out the meaning to improve the readability. I was once that busy lawyer with little time for professional development, so it’s great to know that I’m helping them out. Plus, I’ve worked for some genuinely lovely clients and that’s a real bonus.

About Nadine Catto

Nadine Catto edits and proofreads articles, how-to guides and books for legal content providers and publishers. Nadine is a qualified lawyer who worked in-house for a legal publisher for eight years. Nadine is an advocate for plain English in legal writing, and is a Professional Member of the CIEP.

 

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: scales by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA on Pexels, Lady Justice statue by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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