Category Archives: Freelance life

Information for freelancers.

Freelancing from the publisher’s perspective

Jen Moore is an in-house editorial manager for the publisher Thames & Hudson. In this post she discusses what types of jobs they use freelance editors for, how they find new editors, how they determine fees, and what qualities turn a freelance editor into one of their trusted favourites.

Thames & Hudson is an independent publisher of illustrated books that publishes books on art, architecture, history and visual culture of all kinds. We have an expanding children’s list and a division producing textbooks for the American college market, but in the main our books are trade titles aimed at readers with a general personal or professional interest (but not necessarily a specialist academic background) in a particular subject area. In-house editors generally manage between four and six titles at once, which they will often – but not always – copyedit themselves. When they don’t, and for titles not managed in-house, we are reliant on freelancers.

When and why do we use freelance editors in favour of in-house staff?

The economics of publishing, and especially illustrated publishing, are getting tougher, and the number of full-time in-house editors has gradually declined over the past few years. But as a house we publish more books than ever (around 200 a year), and good books still need thorough editing, so it’s inevitable that we are using more freelance staff than before.

But it’s not just a question of in-house capacity. There are also positive arguments in favour of using freelance staff. For one, freelancing is an excellent way to keep a very clear handle on the costs of a project. Working with freelance editors means that someone has to prepare a brief and propose a fee, analysing the materials that the author has supplied very thoroughly and estimating how many hours it should reasonably take, and the appropriate budget. The efficiency savings of all that up-front thinking and planning can be considerable.

Some books are much better suited to freelancing than others. In some cases, the text, images and layout come together by an organic, interdependent process, and the different roles and stages in the production workflow cannot be clearly defined. These projects generally require close teamwork by a very hands-on, in-house team and are not suited to freelancers.

The most straightforward books to freelance are those where the author submits a complete manuscript; a picture researcher gathers images according to a pre-determined list; and these elements will be brought together into a layout by the designer. Usually we will copyedit the text in Word while the images are being assembled – in that case the editing is ideally suited to a freelancer. Some titles follow an opposite track: images are arranged in a layout, then the text is written to fit the space allowed. These titles are also straightforward to freelance, except that they have to be edited in layout, so we need editors with the skills and software to do that.

What tasks do we offer freelancers?

The most obvious one is copyediting, whether this is to be done in Word or in InDesign layouts. That may entail just a light review for consistency and typos, or it may involve extensive rephrasing, rewriting, abridging, fact-checking, plagiarism-checking and drafting captions. Generally, we prefer the copyeditor to liaise with the author directly to secure approval of the edits. This is more satisfying and gratifying for the editor; and it represents a big in-house time-saving. We also offer proofreading and indexing work to freelancers.

But actually, from our point of view, the copyediting is often the most straightforward part of the editorial job. All books also need an editorial project manager, someone to:

  • discuss and agree the layouts with the designer and author
  • chase up captions and any missing elements from the author
  • take in proof corrections
  • compile prelims
  • commission and edit the index
  • review picture proofs, final text pdfs and plotter proofs
  • write the jacket blurb and request an author biography and photo
  • check jacket proofs.

There are deadlines for all of these tasks, and they involve liaison with multiple in-house staff across various departments. If the freelance editor is only copyediting, then all of these tasks have to be undertaken by an in-house editor who may not actually know the book that well, and so may not make the best decisions or write the best copy. To do the full project-management job requires quite an advanced set of skills – at the very least confidence in dealing with authors, designers and so on, as well as proficiency in InDesign. By and large, it requires experience of working as an in-house editor on an illustrated list.

All of this may sound like a big ask, but we do expect to mentor freelancers to get them up and running in this role. For the right people, it’s well worth the investment of our time. And project management doesn’t have to be all or nothing – you don’t need InDesign, for example, to draft a blurb or edit captions. Freelancers who want to take on more than the copyediting or proofreading should initiate a discussion about what they can offer.

How we find our freelancers

We have a list of tried and tested people, of course, but they move on, they take jobs, they get booked up. So we’re always on the lookout for new editors, and if your skills are a good fit for our list, then we are glad to receive your CV! Naturally, we are looking for people with proven editorial experience and relevant subject knowledge gained in an educational or professional context. Beyond that, we seek individuals who are happy to take initiative and work autonomously, as well as being effective communicators who will keep their in-house point of contact informed – but not over-informed! – of their progress.

We have a short, sticky editorial test. But a test is not enough to tell me whether an editor:

  • is able to exercise judgement about how much to intervene
  • has the stamina and conscientiousness to apply consistent standards across a whole text
  • has sufficient general knowledge and awareness to know what they don’t know (without having to fact-check everything), and to flag problems around sensitivity or inclusivity
  • has the flexibility to work with differing styles of writing and different subject matter
  • has the confidence and courtesy to win the trust and respect of an author
  • and has an understanding of the legalities of publishing (if our in-house reviews have missed potentially libellous content, for example, we are reliant on the freelance editor to alert us to it).

When working with a new editor, I will ask for a sample edit while the job is still in its early stages, and keep a close eye/ear on that editor’s work and their reputation among my colleagues.

How fees are negotiated and paid

To enable us to keep a handle on freelance costs, we always aim to agree a fee up-front, at the point of handing the materials and brief over to the editor. If it’s a straight copyediting job, this will be calculated on:

  • the number of words
  • the degree of complexity or specialisation of the subject matter
  • the quality of the writing and level of intervention required
  • how tidily presented the text is
  • whether there is endmatter, and how well-compiled it is
  • whether there are extremely tight deadlines
  • whether the editor will liaise directly with the author.

Determining fees is not an exact science, and depends on both parties assessing the materials in detail and agreeing to the estimate of how much work is required. There is often room for negotiation, but if I don’t think the job is worth any more than I’ve put on the table, I won’t shift on the fee. I will, however, revisit an agreed fee if the project proves more complicated than could have been anticipated at the briefing stage. But it’s really important that the freelancer alerts their contact as soon as this is apparent. Our budgets are tight, and must cover many more elements than the edit.

Making the transition from trial to trusted freelancer

We’re looking for people who do an excellent, accurate, timely, thorough, professional job of the editing. Truly talented editors are rare. When we find them, we stay in touch. And if it’s been a while between jobs, I am very happy to receive an email reminding me that you are out there, or an updated CV letting me know what you have been up to!

About Jen Moore

Jen Moore is the Editorial Manager of the History & Archaeology list at Thames & Hudson. She studied Archaeology & Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, specialising in Egyptology, and has been working in publishing for eight years.

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: canvas by Steve Johnson, person working by Vlada Karpovich, books by Jonathan Borba, all on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Reading for pleasure – can editors and proofreaders still do that?

When you come into this profession you may well think to yourselves: is this the end of my nights curled up in front of the fire with a good thriller? Am I going to be able to read my psychology newsletter with the same interest? In this blog post, Alex Mackenzie quizzes editors and proofreaders to find out if they’re still able to read for pleasure.

My preoccupation with this question led me to quiz CIEP members about their reading and whether the job has changed their habits or enjoyment in any way.

Everyone who contributed to this blog post said they have changed their reading habits since starting in the profession, and in these ways:

  • what I read
  • when I read
  • where I read
  • how much I read.

How my reading habits have changed

People who used to read a lot of fiction (up to a hundred books a year) now read less – or have even dropped it entirely – and may compensate with film. People who don’t work with fiction don’t necessarily feel an effect on their reading for pleasure, but possibly have noticed a slower speed when reading non-fiction. Others now select their reading to complement or distract from the job.

‘I wasn’t exactly keen to sit down with a novel after I’d turned my computer off for the day.’

‘I spend all day reading academic writing that’s usually not written too well, so by the time I’m done with the day’s work, I’m exhausted and my brain can’t take in another fact.’

‘When I worked in an office, I commuted across London for an hour each way so I used that time to read, but when I changed career and became a proofreader, working from home, I found that reading on the stairs between the kitchen and my spare-bedroom office wasn’t terribly practical. I’ve always read in bed before I go to sleep, but only for 10 or 15 minutes each night, so I found I wasn’t making much of a dent in my to-be-read pile.’

‘I’ve been struggling to focus on reading for pleasure for quite a number of years (too much work/stress).’

‘I’ve been an editor for 28 years. Historically, I have never been a fussy reader – as long as a book had a well-structured, compelling and plausible story, I was always able to ignore most other issues if not being paid to correct them (!), whereas at one time I prided myself on having finished every book I had ever started.’

‘As my workload has intensified and become more fiction-orientated, I have discovered that I don’t want to read anything too taxing when not working.’

‘My editing work is focused on business and marketing topics, which has allowed me to maintain my strong fiction-reading habit. What has suffered over the years is my professional reading. I used to read so many more books on language, editing and business. These days, I just don’t have the time.’

‘I have a pile of fantastic profession-related books waiting for me to find the energy to read them.’

‘My reading as a result of the job relates more to my translation work than to my proofreading and editing. Last year I was being mentored as an emerging literary translator of Welsh to English and, as I have no training in translation, I read a lot of books translated into English from various languages as a kind of CPD.’

How I feel about this

  • I’ve lost some of the pleasure.
  • I notice mistakes more.
  • I tune into the author’s style straight away.
  • I appreciate good writing.

The people who responded find themselves to be fussy fiction readers. Low-quality writing, an author’s idiosyncrasies and editorial oversights such as sloppy punctuation in dialogue are unwelcome distractions. With cheap ebooks available for 99p, fiction is accessible but often poor, so people now give up on a novel where they never would have done before.

‘My editing brain now hijacks the suspension of disbelief, which means that much of the pleasure I previously derived from fiction has vanished.’

‘I notice mistakes all the time. They just sort of jump off the page or screen. But when I’m reading something that was most likely edited, it’s more difficult. I know that everybody has really tight deadlines and horrendous workloads, so it’s not that the mistakes upset me, but reading something that’s full of errors makes me really, really tired because by the time I get to the end, I’ve mentally corrected each mistake I noticed.’

‘The thing that editing has ruined changed in my reading is that I notice an author’s style really quickly. From favoured sentence structures to being overly attached to commas, it takes me just a few pages to notice it.’

‘I used to read fiction – Arthur C Clarke, Dick Francis, C S Forester – but apart from the latter (whose prose I enjoy for its own sake) I’ve more or less stopped reading fiction, mainly because learning to edit fiction has reduced my suspension of disbelief to near-zero.’

‘My shelves are now littered with books I couldn’t be bothered to finish as they were so poorly constructed/written – including some by well-known and successful authors.’

‘So for me to like [it], there must be some phenomenal writing going on.’

What am I doing about it?

  • I just ‘shake it off’ and live with it, compartmentalising the day job.
  • I choose more carefully (either for pleasure or for professional development).
  • I joined a local book group.
  • I stop reading if I don’t enjoy it.
  • I appreciate quality writing.

People realise the importance of regular reading; developmental editors especially need to read widely. We can be coin-operated, switching our editing brain on and off, and we make a big effort to specialise in areas that don’t trespass on our reading for pleasure. We may be able to compartmentalise our minds, and shifting physical positions helps too – keeping a foot in academia at the desk, critiquing fiction on the bean bag. And sometimes a complete change of routine forces a book upon us, and we find ourselves whisked away by the magic.

‘For a while, I accepted that this was just how things were.’

‘I’ve consciously decided not to edit fiction because I want to keep enjoying reading fiction in my free time. It’s the thing that keeps me going in tough times, and the last thing I do every day before bed.’

‘Were I to edit fiction, I wouldn’t be able to lose myself as easily in my free reading.’

‘Following a house move, I found a local book group and signed up, thinking it would encourage me to read more and in new areas. It was all fine for the first book (yes, I was cram-reading in the hours before the meeting); then, with exquisite timing, lockdown came along. We continued to meet online but I found reading almost impossible during that first period of confinement (there was so much on Netflix to watch, after all) so I missed a couple of sessions. I picked it up again earlier this year and I’m so glad I did. I’ve read some fabulous books that I wouldn’t have even considered normally, and I’ve made some new friends.’

‘I took this book away with me during the first year of Covid and it completely carried me off into another world. The fact that it was linked with a highly infectious disease probably helped!’

‘In informal, unedited writing, I can just shake it off (after all, I know my writing is also bound to be full of mistakes). To combat this, I’m picky about the stuff I read, from news websites to novels. I choose sources with writing that is generally carefully edited and produced over a longer time, I don’t read any self-published novels, and I tend to favour authors who have been writing for longer. I have stopped reading some authors just because of an annoying tic in their writing. I just choose my authors with care. When a book is written really well, the mistakes fade into the background because my mind is filled with vivid imagery. My tiredness fades away because the book is giving something back. Some books manage this with plot, some are really funny, some have characters who feel truly alive, some are like paintings done with words, some are written with almost painful empathy, and the very best manage to do it all.’

‘I read fiction almost exclusively (non-fiction tends to be limited to a few articles a week), and usually fiction that isn’t too heavy. I also like videogames with good stories, where I can zone out and read a few lines at a time. [Some] are brilliantly written games that have a lot of stories to tell, but you’re only reading a little every few minutes, so it’s not so exhausting.’

‘I churn through vast quantities of best-selling crime fiction and thrillers, and various other types of commercial fiction, which, apart from allowing me to switch off, also keeps me abreast of the latest trends and conventions in the various genres. And of course, finding out whether I guessed correctly how they’re going to end or whodunnit is always entertaining – I’m rarely wrong, which is, I suppose, an occupational hazard, but doesn’t usually detract from my overall enjoyment of the book.’

‘I save more demanding works of literary or ‘must-read’ fiction for quieter periods of work or for holidays, when I can give them the attention they deserve.’

‘I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction, as well as 19th- and early 20th-century literature or stories that take place during those times. I like to be taken out of my everyday life. Sometimes I like a slow, reflective pace (especially in the winter) and other times, I like a fast, adventurous pace.’

‘If the story is good enough I won’t think.’

Reading choices mentioned:

‘Anything about how things around us, and about us, work.’

‘[certain authors] for when I want to shudder/marvel at the universality and resilience of the human condition, [others] for when I want to marvel at a writer’s ability to unfurl, with tenderness, the gender roles and hypocrisies of people in a seemingly moral society. And love that makes you weep.’

Videogames: ‘Sunless Sea’ and ‘Sunless Skies’

Authors: Hugh Aldersey-Williams, Jane Austen, Rutger Bregman, the Brontës, Bill Bryson, David Eagleman, Giulia Enders, C S Forester, Neil Gaiman, Kevin Hearne, N Mahfouz, Naomi Novik, Maggie O’Farrell, Herman Pontzer, Catherine Poulain, (as translated by Adriana Hunter), Kate Quinn, John Scalzi, Ali Smith, John Steinbeck, Ian Tregillis, Anthony Trollope, Ali Turnbull’s blog.

Wrapping up

The bottom line is that there are occupational hazards, but good writing is worth the distractions. And we appreciate how editors invisibly facilitate our reading for pleasure!


Without contributions from CIEP members, this would be a short and dull read! My thanks go to: Caroline Petherick (especially for editorial assistance), Riffat Yusuf, Erin Brenner and Melanie Thompson, among others who prefer to remain anonymous. Thanks also to those in Cloud Club West who incidentally dropped me a tasty morsel!

About Alex Mackenzie

Alex Mackenzie is a British copyeditor and proofreader living in Asturias, Spain. She moved into editing from a 30-year career in international schools across nine countries. Alex is a published English language teaching (ELT) author with a Master’s degree in education. Areas of specialism are ELT, education, sustainability and meditation, adding creative non-fiction and fiction. She 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: coffee and cake by Pixabay, couple reading by Andrea Piacquadio, books by a window by Lum3n, all 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 new-ish social science editor

Taylor McConnell started his freelance editorial business in 2021. In this post he describes how he got into proofreading and editing, and how his weeks have varied between doing work and trying to find more work.

I always liked words – spelling them, learning them in another language, making puns about various Italian cheeses while on the bus home from school. It didn’t matter how, but I was fascinated by them. I guess being a language nerd is part of my genetic programming.

My undergraduate studies focused primarily on German culture and politics, but I also developed a passion for memory studies in the meantime. As an interdisciplinary field, memory studies allowed me in my MSc and PhD studies to engage with a wide array of social science disciplines and the humanities, including sociology, political science, history, architecture and linguistics. It’s this unique blend of knowledge production that I wanted to pursue in a longer academic career – that is, until I ran full-force into the giant brick wall that is the academic labour market.

Enter editing

I came into editing ultimately through a mixture of happenstance and frustration (fixing punctuation errors is good stress relief, I must say!). A friend asked out of the blue if I would be interested in editing his bachelor thesis in management. As I also have a management degree and had tried in the past to start up an economics blog with this same friend, I readily agreed. Trying to figure out the pricing for this project, however, is how I stumbled head-first into the CIEP, and I couldn’t have stumbled better.

This was August 2021, and after far too many rejection letters from potential employers, I said ‘Tschüssi, bye bye’ to academia and ‘hello’ to freelancing. By sheer good fortune, my temporary German residence permit allowed self-employment, so I set out working on a business plan for the immigration authorities, as well as building my brand and website and diving into some good old-fashioned CPD.

Starting up as a freelancer in another country, though, does come with its own pains. It took until mid-October to finish all the prerequisite paperwork to register as a freelancer and apply for the appropriate residence permit (which was only approved five months later!). Between actual bits of paid work, over several weeks I had to:

  • figure out billing and tax implications for work within Germany, within the EU and further afield;
  • register for a tax number, a tax ID number and a sales tax number;
  • get all the insurances sorted out – health, business liability, retirement, contents, just to name a few;
  • write all my website copy in German, including terms and conditions and a legal imprint; and
  • create a three-year financial outlook, with monthly cashflow estimates.

Not really something a sociology degree prepared me for …

Time management is a social construct

In the past six months, my workflow has adapted to changes in my own taste for editing and proofreading as well as to my increasing skill set. Starting out, a typical week would exclusively involve writing extensive pleas for contracts on Upwork, which resulted in at least two good clients, or travelling around the Rhine-Main area to stuff student mailboxes with flyers. I realised this was a terrible idea since no one was living in student halls at the time and most university campuses were closed to the public.

As with any freelance job, there is no such thing as a typical work week, and my working pattern now is just as irregular as it was during my PhD. This is both a blessing and a curse. Running a business and writing a 300-page text both involve many moving parts that have to be built, maintained and brought together bit by bit over long periods of time. Skill development, marketing and outreach are just as important now as planning fieldwork, brushing up on my Croatian and dealing with student government were then.

When I do have contracted work, I prioritise that above all else. We need money to live, after all. In these periods, I tend to start working around 9am, getting all the tedious bits of editing out of the way first. This includes:

  • formatting the document to make it easier to read, if the brief allows (12-pt Times New Roman or Helvetica, 1.5-line spacing, all that jazz);
  • running PerfectIt for consistency errors, especially when authors set up MS Word in American English but then write in British English;
  • checking for sentence vs title case (My Worst Aesthetic Enemy); and
  • fixing errant straight quotation marks and eliminating double spaces.

I then typically work online editing in bouts of 35–40 minutes before taking a break to drink my umpteenth coffee or do some chores. I always go for a midday walk around the neighbourhood and then continue working until around 3pm or whenever my brain is fried. If I want to complete something, I’ll resume working around 7pm and work for another hour or two until I can do no more.

In for the long haul

In the first few months, I typically covered three to six student essays or an occasional journal article or administrative report each week, with work sent by other proofreading and editing firms, most of which were located in East Asia. The pay was fine but not as enticing as the projects that paid my own rates, which picked up from December. Ultimately, the good work only came along once I started politely nagging my own Twitter bubble of academics.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve had fewer but longer and higher-paying jobs from people I know, which has reinvigorated me, as I know where my work is going and who it is directly benefiting. One PhD thesis was enough to cover my bills for the month, and any additional work that I could fit in was also accommodated.

In drier spells, I have focused my attention more on marketing, making tweaks to my website, creating a bank of social media posts and messaging my academic colleagues to gauge their interest in my services. My March so far has been one of these periods, which, after my best month on the books, is now turning out to be my worst. I’m hoping that the extra investments made in building my brand and expanding my reach beyond my initial trusted circles will pay off later in the year.

Managing financial expectations is probably the trickiest factor of freelancing. I am a very risk-averse person and always make contingency plans for any event, but freelancing, as is turns out, was my ultimate contingency plan for not gaining full-time employment elsewhere. In the end, however, making the jump into editing is probably the best work-related decision I’ve made in a decade. I have complete control over every last detail of my work, who and what I get to work with and how much I get paid for it.

The value of networking

There is strength in this sort of independence, but there is even more in the network of freelancers and editorial professionals that the CIEP has created.

I didn’t come into freelancing expecting to earn as much as I would have, perhaps, in a full-time position regulated by state contracts, nor have I yet. But the degree of personal development that this job and this network in particular foster is beyond what I could have imagined. One bumpy month is more than offset by the new wonderful cast of characters I have encountered in the Cloud Club West meetings each Thursday. They have been nothing but supportive and encouraging, even in hard times. (Join us!)

This career is not the one I originally sought, but it is ultimately the one most suited to my interests, skills and habits, and I’m happier for it. And although I don’t ever expect to develop *the* ultimate weekly routine, it’s so helpful to continue learning from others about their experiences as freelancers and how they use their time. You never know where you’ll find your next source of inspiration.

About Taylor McConnell

Taylor McConnell is an editor and proofreader for academic and corporate texts and a German-to-English translator based in Wiesbaden, Germany. He specialises in social sciences and business studies and works primarily with multilingual authors. Taylor is an Entry-Level Member of the CIEP and holds a PhD in Sociology on post-war Croatian memory politics from the University of Edinburgh.

 

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: book by Kranich17, to do list by StockSnap, both on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Why should editors and proofreaders attend the London Book Fair? Tips from two first-time attendees

This blog post discusses tips and impressions from two CIEP members attending the London Book Fair for the first time. Should you bother with all the seminars? Is it worth handing out business cards? And isn’t it all a bit overwhelming? Let’s hear what Aimee Hill and Andrew Hodges have to say …

Our first London Book Fair

It’s spring in the UK and the London Book Fair in early April was an energising way to start socialising in person again! This year was our first Fair, and we showed up not knowing what to expect. Even knowing how huge the event was, the size of the hall was still astonishing. Here are some tips and advice to help you navigate the event.

Aimee says …

Come with goals

Turning up to the London Book Fair with concrete goals is essential. Whether it is worth it depends entirely on what you want to get out of the Fair. And the whole event is so large and bustling that, without goals, it is very easy to wander around aimlessly staring at the rows upon rows of stands.

Find out who is visiting and meet them

Twitter is a great source for finding out who is at the Fair before you go. While I was there, I met up with some other editors I know, including Andrew Hodges, past course mates who had found themselves in the same industry, and in-house publishing people who I’d previously only chatted to on social media. It is a valuable chance to say a quick hello to connections.

Go to seminars that interest you, but don’t overdo it

The seminars throughout the event are invaluable. There are few better ways to get insight into the industry than the talks that LBF put on. If you work with independent/fiction authors, the seminars hosted at Author HQ give insight into the different concerns and interests of your clients. They are also all recorded, so you can catch up on the ones you missed and rewatch the ones you were too tired to pay attention to. Extra tip: if your goal for the Fair is just to go to these seminars, there are digital tickets that give you access to the recordings without having to trek to London.

Be emboldened to socialise

In my opinion, networking is just a fancy word for socialising. While the Fair is primarily a corporate, work-focused event, there is space for getting to know a diverse range of people across the industry. Informally, the queues for coffee are long enough that you are likely able to strike up a conversation with those around you. In a more organised sense, the Wednesday offers opportunity for drinks socials all over the fair. In particular, both the Society of Young Publishers and the Independent Publishing Guild provide space for people to get together.

Andy says …

First impressions

After all that online networking and professional development in a box room under the stairs, it felt amazing to be around people! I spent the first hour walking around grinning, dazed by all the stands and people there to discuss books. Was it smaller than usual? Was Author HQ normally three times the size? I had no idea, and I didn’t care. It felt massive and a bit ‘out of this world’.

When I described it to a friend, she said the book fair sounded like a political party conference: its core had a corporate feel, with people paying lots of money for stands … and with loads of interesting stuff happening around the edges.

There was a traditional publishing crowd brokering deals in a part of the Fair we weren’t allowed to access. I got a small taste of this when I met a representative from a German publisher promoting titles to be considered for translation into English.

The logistics

If you have a long train journey to get there, two days will probably be enough. Don’t forget to bring water and preferably a packed lunch. Chairs for visitors are in short supply, and as Aimee points out, while you can sit down to watch all the interesting talks, don’t overdo them as you may end up feeling fatigued!

Where should editors hang out?

Well, that depends on your goals. If you want to network with publishers, there are loads of stands to visit. My favourite place was Author HQ, where the indie authors were mostly hanging out. There were great talks on energising the writing process, publishing successes with Amazon KDP, and on making UK publishing less London-centric.

My experience in book translation inspired me to hop over to the literary translation centre too. Broadly speaking, the translators felt closer to academia and activism, while the indie author crowd were more entrepreneurial. Despite their differences, both crowds were bursting with creativity and a love of books!

ALLi’s tenth birthday party was a highlight, where I chatted with several indie authors. I learnt a lot about the relative merits of different publishing services and by the end of the evening we were discussing reversals and character development in short stories.

I was sad the CIEP didn’t have a stall at the Fair this year, but the pandemic is far from over and the decision to wait was sensible. I bumped into Alison Shakspeare and got chatting to Aimee Hill over coffee, and it was good to know there were other CIEP members there.

Is it worth it?

Was the LBF an investment that will bring me a return? In the narrow sense, I have no idea, and that’s not why I went. My reason for attending was to get to know and understand how publishing works a bit better. This wider-picture perspective will inform my future edits and interactions with publishers and indie clients.

And that’s why you should go – at least once.

The Fair has given me a taste for in-person events now, and a new-found energy. Next up is Cymera in June – bring it on!

About Aimee Hill

Aimee Hill supports independent authors with communicative line editing. She primarily works with science fiction and fantasy authors.

About Andrew Hodges

Andrew Hodges runs an editorial business called The Narrative Craft in Edinburgh, UK. He loves line-editing fiction and ethnography and enjoys chatting with science fiction and fantasy authors about worldbuilding and point of view issues whenever he can.

 

 

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: wall of books by Eugenio Mazzone on Unsplash, London Book Fair by Andrew Hodges.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

The many benefits of being a member of the CIEP

Once again it’s that time of year when we’re asking CIEP members to renew their membership. If you’re a CIEP member who can’t quite decide whether to renew or not, perhaps the five editors below can persuade you it’s worth it …

Laurie Duboucheix-Saunders

I have been a member of the CIEP – back then it was the SfEP – since I started freelancing in 2008 and I have never considered not renewing. With no professional editorial experience, I found out about the Institute when looking for a training course. Being a member allowed me to gain the skills I needed to become a good proofreader and editor, but remaining a member has allowed me to stay at the top of my game. Even though I am an Advanced Professional Member, I still benefit from doing courses with the CIEP, to refresh what I know or to keep up with an industry that keeps changing.

That’s not even what’s best about the CIEP. Being a member is not just about having the CIEP’s ‘seal of approval’ (read ‘logo’), it’s about belonging to a community that supports you and challenges you. The forums are a great place to go when you’re stuck and need the hive mind’s input. There’s always someone who can help you find the answer you need or point you in the right direction. The CIEP’s knowledge pool is vast, and chances are someone will be able to answer your questions about martial arts or architecture or nuclear fusion, as well as help you locate an obscure rule in a style guide so large you wonder what sort of mind it takes to come up with so many different rules about commas and full stops.

The CIEP is part of my daily life. Thanks to it, I have met people, online or in real life, who have become colleagues and friends I interact with every day. Being a freelancer can be a lonely business and the CIEP’s support (legal helpline, suggested minimum rates) is invaluable, but its members are what makes it indispensable.

Pedro Martin (Sanderling Editorial)

Renewing my CIEP membership is a no-brainer. I ended up getting my biggest client so far – both in terms of repeat work and total billable hours – from the ‘marketplace’ forum, so my membership definitely paid for itself.

I really appreciate how useful it is for people who are new to freelancing. I joined as a Professional Member with in-house experience, so I felt confident on the editorial side of things, but I was so clueless about transitioning to freelancing! Navigating your first few months as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader is especially tricky, so it’s great having access to so many knowledgeable and experienced editors who are happy to help with your questions.

And that’s on top of all the other membership benefits (like free guides for members, discounts on editing software and subscriptions, and the forums in general). I look forward to another year of advice, training, CPD, discounts, collegiality, resources and support for copyeditors and proofreaders with the CIEP!

Janet MacMillan

Janet MacMillanThere are so many reasons why I’m renewing my CIEP membership: the vibrant forums where you can get an answer to what’s on your mind day or night, the highly respected training and continuing professional development, the enquiry- and work-producing directory, the helpful guides and fact sheets, the mentoring and the standards, among other things.

But the fundamental reason for me is the community. The CIEP community has helped me through thick and thin, especially in the last couple of years when we’ve all been struggling through plagues, war/political conflicts, earthquakes, blizzards, fires and even loo roll shortages.

The fact that I have so many lovely colleagues all over the world is a true joy, and that I can see and chat to at least 20+ of them every week is an incomparable pleasure. I see community members boosting each other up, both professionally and personally, taking pleasure and pride in each other’s successes, supporting one another in all that the world throws at us, and doing gentle kindnesses for each other.

The gorgeous card someone sent me earlier this year, the gratuitous offers of help with work and CIEP commitments when I faced trying caring responsibilities recently, the unexpected, but touching, comment on my first haircut in over two years, the entertaining GIFs someone likes to send, the ridiculous jokes and banter among members on social media, members travelling long, long distances to meet up, so many members working so hard for the common good, are all part of the CIEP community. To paraphrase a mid-2021 comment by a colleague in an international Cloud Club West Zoom meeting: the fact that I retain any semblance of sanity is, to a huge extent, thanks to the CIEP community. I wouldn’t be without it!

Caroline Petherick

I’ve subscribed to CIEP since the early nineties, and right from the start – even before I managed to access the infant internet – I found the sub worthwhile, because by being a paid-up member I got relevant training, hence confidence in what I was doing, combined with the expertise of some experienced editors one to one. That helped me start my business, even though for the first few years it was slow. Then, since around 2000, with the developing range of resources and support that the CIEP has provided, membership has been intrinsic to the success of my business and (particularly with the forums) to my enjoyment of life at the laptop. I can’t imagine being without the CIEP.

Alex Mackenzie

In a face-to-face conversation recently I found myself describing why our virtual CIEP network is so valuable to me. No, we’ve never met in person, but we are in weekly (some of us daily) contact. Our online video meetups – Cloud Club West (CCW) – is where (mostly) international members meet for professional support and online company.

Working from home is isolating anyway, and in this profession things can get pressurised and tense, with moments of complete loss and mind-boggling confusion. (The usual culprits: misbehaving tables, testy authors, a slow month, quirky layout, low motivation, time management, technology bugs, scope creep, grammar, ethics and copyright, to name a few). We need to reach out to like-minded people sometimes.

Two years ago, CCW spawned another smaller accountability group comprising seven members who spur each other on to market ourselves and get more clients. Both groups share personal and professional stories (even displaying our pets, children, artwork and knitting) – the CIEP membership makes this possible. (Read more in our blog post.)

What I value is the breadth of experience in editing and proofreading, from newbies to Advanced Professional Members. Being reflective about language is what many of us have always enjoyed (we speak close to 20 languages, from Afrikaans to Luxembourgish). But we come at it from all angles (history; environmental and social sciences; role-playing games; politics; law; economics; education; maths and statistics; chemistry, as well as English literature and linguistics). And we are spread across the globe – in diverse personal contexts – with fascinating stories to tell.

This means there’s always someone to offer advice, answer a query or point towards an alternative approach. This is an excellent professional resource and I always have a running list of queries for the next meeting. As we all value investing in high-quality CIEP training, we recommend courses to each other, and sometimes buddy up to work through them together too. And it’s nice to put faces to names when they pop up in the forums.

I know I speak for many in the CIEP when I say, the professional network is a major pull for continuing our membership.

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: woodland by Larisa_K on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

How to earn more money in your freelance editing business

How can editors earn more money in their freelance editing business? Carla DeSantis discusses the advice presented by Malini Devadas at a recent Toronto CIEP local group meeting:

    • Common mistakes when setting rates
    • Mindset and strategy
    • Marketing your freelance editing business

One of the benefits of being a CIEP member is the option to participate in local group meetings – getting to know other local editors, sharing information and making collegial connections. As the global pandemic forced groups to meet online, one advantage for the Toronto CIEP local group has been the ability not only to include Canadian editors outside of Toronto, but also to host guest speakers from around the world at these local gatherings.

In January 2022, Toronto CIEP local group coordinator Janet MacMillan invited Malini Devadas, based in Australia, to speak to our group on how to earn more money in our freelance editing businesses. Malini Devadas coaches editors and academic writers; through her business Edit Boost she helps editors to find more clients and earn more money.

Common mistakes when setting rates

Malini began the Toronto CIEP session by outlining four common mistakes that editors make when thinking about their rates:

  1. Worrying about what others charge
  2. Assuming that you know what clients will pay, without basing that assumption on data
  3. Devaluing your own time and skills
  4. Underestimating how long a job will take, which could lead to overestimating earnings and underquoting.

Mindset and strategy

In order to counter these common mistakes that editors can make in their businesses, Malini suggested adopting the following mindset and strategy:

1. Be confident in your ability to help people

How do you help your target client? When content marketing, talk about the issues that are of interest to your clients, not necessarily to other editors. What are your clients worrying about? According to Malini, it most likely is not simply punctuation and word choice. Show your clients that you can solve their problems for them. Since Malini also coaches academic and scholarly authors, she emphasised the need to normalise the idea of academics being edited.

2. Realise that you cannot help everyone who contacts you

As an editor, you may be limited by your schedule, what you need to earn, and your expertise. It is important to determine when you do not have the subject expertise necessary for a project and to perhaps pass it on to a suitable colleague. If a client is not able to pay what you need to earn in order to properly complete a job, it is okay to say no. Conversely, if you do not really want the job or already have too much work on your plate, you can charge more.

3. You are allowed to earn whatever you want to earn

Frequently, editors figure out what this amount is by working backwards from what their expenses are. It is important to take into consideration any specialised skills or knowledge that you may have, professional designations or how long you have been an editor. While it is easy to assume that certain disciplines (such as academia) may pose an unspoken limit on acceptable rates, Malini suggested that editors should not generalise about a discipline’s ability to pay, as sources of revenue may exist, despite your assumptions.

4. Life balance is a necessity, not a luxury

Everyone needs sleep and rest, even (or especially) editors! It is important for freelance editors to adopt a mindset that allows them to plan for life balance within their work schedule.

5. Market your business to attract the people who value what you do

If you focus your message on your ideal clients, you will automatically repel the clients who are not right for you. And remember, you do not necessarily need a lot of clients per year, just the right number of key clients to keep you busy for the time that you wish to be working (this could work out to, for example, 12 clients a year, if your average project lasts a month – fewer if you factor in vacation time). If you focus on marketing to the right people, you will get more inquiries from those potential clients who have the budget to pay your desired rates. If you can increase the number of inquiries coming in, you may then be able to earn more money by working fewer hours (which leads to #4 above). And remember #2 above: you do not have to take every job.

Man relaxing on some grass

Marketing your freelance editing business

So, what should freelance editors’ marketing strategy include in order to increase inquiries and, consequently, their ability to raise rates? Malini suggested using some of the following sources:

  • Contacts and connections. Let your existing contacts know that you are offering editorial services. If your target clients are academic writers, for example, consider offering writing or publishing workshops at universities (which may come with some compensation); such speaking engagements will give you good exposure. If you wish to work with graduate students, contact the departmental person who coordinates graduate students or use one of your contacts for an introduction.
  • Social media. Find out where your ideal clients hang out on social media platforms: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn? In the case of academics, Twitter seems to be the preferred platform for engagement. Once you determine where your clients engage, work to develop relationships with people who can lead you to contacts. For example, consider whether you are targeting professors directly, publishers or managing editors. If you are offering workshops, remember that you need to sell your services to the university and departmental administrators, not directly to students.
  • Email marketing. Once you have provided content on social media that will get your ideal clients’ attention and people become familiar with you through those channels, consider moving these connections to email marketing. In this model, you will be providing content via email directly to the inboxes of people who have already decided that you add value.
  • Writing blog posts intended for your ideal clients (not for other editors) can also be a useful tool for driving new clients to your website. Hosting your material on your own website creates evergreen content that you can continue to share on social media. Once the blog post drives traffic to your website, you should have a call to action at the end of every blog post, which will encourage the potential client either to join your email list or to contact you.

The key, however, is to use whatever platform you are comfortable with, as long as you do some form of marketing.

I am grateful that the Toronto CIEP group provided a forum for our local group to connect with Malini at our meeting. The international editing community is lucky to have someone like Malini as a resource to constantly encourage us to value our skills, services and time. I have taken many of Malini’s suggestions into account over the past several years and have seen my business and income grow as a result. It is easy for freelance editors – frequently working in isolation – to undervalue themselves without cause. Malini’s main message, which is one that all freelance editors should embrace, is that editors running their own businesses offer significant value that should be properly compensated. Confidence to advocate for ourselves is key.

About Carla DeSantis

Carla DeSantis headshot

Carla DeSantis is an editor, indexer and translator based in Toronto, Canada. She specialises in scholarly humanities and social sciences, especially multilingual texts, and is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. Carla has published on medieval Latin topics and is the author of the blog Parchment to PDF.

You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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: money by nattanan23, man on grass by Pexels, both on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Flying solo: How can we apply our editorial judgement to our businesses?

In her regular Flying solo column, Sue Littleford considers how the critical skill of editorial judgement can be applied to running an editorial business.

Editorial judgement calls for an understanding of context, for knowing your stuff when it comes to technical matters (whether that’s the finer points of grammar or the finer points of Word or the finer points of inorganic chemistry, if that’s your niche), for knowing when to press ahead and when to leave well alone, and for knowing what resources you need and how to use them.

Each of these skills can also be applied to the way you run your business.

Understanding context

Marketing works best when you know who you’re marketing to. Who do you work for? Who do you want to work for? Who’s your ideal client, and what’s your ideal subject matter, your ideal content, your ideal everything?

Just as in copyediting and in proofreading, you can’t make good decisions until you understand the context.

If you have a marketing budget – and that is a time budget, every bit as much as a cash one – then you want to spend it wisely.

What will give you, to coin a phrase, the biggest bang for your buck? Or your hour?

Where do the clients you want to work with hang out? I closed my Facebook business page. No, don’t squeal in horror! My clients aren’t there – in terms of social media and looking to hire, they’re over on LinkedIn, which is where I’ve placed my focus. I’m not wasting my time updating content for people who aren’t there to read it.

Most of my clients come via my CIEP Directory entry, which I had just updated before drafting a bit more of this post. It’s a worthwhile investment of my time to keep my Directory entry fresh – that’s the context in which my ideal clients are most likely to find me.

Technical matters

The business equivalent of knowing your subjunctive from your style palette is fairly wide-ranging.

Do you understand the laws under which your business operates? Do you have all the necessary licences and permissions? UK residents have a fairly easy ride, it always seems to me, when registering as self-employed. I hear much more complicated stories from people trading in other countries. You need to be on top of these technical issues.

Are you au fait with taxation rules? Are you attending HM Revenue and Customs’ live or recorded webinars on allowable business expenses, record keeping and completing your self-assessment return?

Are you budgeting for the Health and Social Care levy payable from April 2022 being added to Class 4 National Insurance contributions (and then as a separate tax from April 2023)?

If you’re not in the UK, are you doing something similar in your own jurisdiction, ensuring you’re up to speed with the latest tax changes that affect you?

Are you reading up on and generally getting ready for Making Tax Digital (MTD) in April 2024 (again, UK folks only)? Have you started investigating the app you’ll need to use to make your returns?

How about your contracts and your terms and conditions? Fit for purpose? Compliant with the law of your land?

Are you on top of IT security – firewalls, anti-malware programs, back-ups?

What about banking? Do you operate somewhere a separate business account is mandatory? (It’s not a requirement in the UK, for instance, but it is in some countries.) Would a separate business account, even if you’re in the UK, make sense in your circumstances?

Judging what action to take

Now you’ve layered up these transferable skills, you understand the context you want to work within and you know where you want to steer your business. It’s time to exercise more judgement in deciding what action you need to take.

Just as you take an overview of an editorial job, and use the brief and your own technical expertise to decide how to tackle each specific piece of work, apply that same thought process to the wider scale of your business.

Do you need a website? Or a better one?

Should you start a blog? Or should you revive or close down a neglected one?

How will you use social media to market yourself? Which platforms will repay your investment of time? Do you need to remove yourself from any that aren’t repaying your time, or try new ones?

Speaking of time, how should you schedule yours? How many hours a day do you want to work? What steps do you need to bring your current hours up or down to that level? Do you need more clients, or just better-paying work? How will you get from where you are to where you want to be?

How does your work fit around your home life? It’s been especially tricky for so many people in times of Covid, and often difficult adjustments have been made in so many households. Have you found the sweet spot yet? What further adjustments would help? Is any untapped support available, or do you just have to endure for a while longer?

Keep your eyes on the prize – you’re thinking now at whole-business level, not just the piece of work in front of you on your desk.

What about a business retreat? Can you either get away by yourself for a couple of days, or with one or two trusted friends who need to do some in-depth thinking about their big pictures too?

If you need to stay at home, can you schedule a couple of days with your email and phone off? Give yourself breathing space in which to lift your eyes up to the horizon and take the long view of where you want to be headed.

From your musings, you will return to your quotidian world with action plans for each area of your business that was under consideration this time.

Maybe you should concentrate your business retreat on just one area. I know I need to be better prepared for disaster recovery, for instance, and I need to give some serious thinking and investigation time to it.

Judging what action not to take

But, just as in editing and proofreading, you also need to know when to leave something untouched – it might not be perfect, but it’s certainly good enough. Don’t pressurise yourself to write action plans to overhaul parts of your business that are working well enough.

Again, just as in editing and proofreading, you also need to think about the brief – the framework you’re operating in – and budgetary constraints. Perfection is a ridiculous and pointless goal. Good enough within the circumstances is what we’re aiming for.

Time spent running your business is an overhead that facilitates earning money, but it is not time spent actually earning it. So keep your action plans modest. No counsels of perfection. No eye-wateringly demanding roadmaps to some unachievable Utopia.

Take simple steps (if they’re not simple, you’ve not broken them down enough) that will either repay the investment now, or lay the groundwork for part of a larger strategy. Just keep it moving forward. Think in terms of the tortoise and the hare, if the tortoise could occasionally break into a trot.

Does each step take you closer to the goal? Or are you doing things that are unnecessary, and no one is paying you for? You try to avoid that when you’re working with text. Apply the same judgement to your business.

Good enough is good enough.

Notepad with a to do list

What about resources?

Now you’ve worked out which actions you need to take, and which you can delay or completely forget about, what do you need to help you along?

How will you make your plans practical?

Do you know where to find business support (in the UK, try Small Business Britain or IPSE) or guidance on getting along with HMRC? How about guidance for MTD preparation?

Would you benefit from advice on IT security? Or on contracts?

If you’re a member of the CIEP at one of the professional grades, did you know you can get some free legal advice? (Log in to the CIEP website, go to the members’ area, then Benefits and scroll down to the last block of info.)

Are you aware of all the member benefits the CIEP offers? It’s a growing list! Are you signed up to and do you use the forums? They’re one of the best benefits – places to ask questions and offer answers to others, and take part in discussions that may well broaden your scope. Even if you only join the forums to lurk – to read without posting – you’ll find a wealth of helpful and interesting material.

If you’re not a member, then take a look at the resources the CIEP offers to the public.

More prosaically, do you buy reference books on paper or use online versions? Style manuals, dictionaries, grammars, editorial textbooks, etc? Which is most cost-effective for you?

Have you checked you’re on the fastest broadband package you can afford from your supplier? If your connection is a bit unreliable, or slow, then you might feel it’s a sensible investment to have paper copies of certain reference works – perhaps in addition to online versions.

What about founding a mutual support group – people who can help out if you can’t work and need someone to complete the job? Could that group also be a mastermind or accountability group to support you in your business as well as your editing and proofreading?

The bottom line

You’ve spent a lot of time and effort – and money – in developing your skills as an editor and/or proofreader. You’ve undertaken training to learn your craft and how to apply editorial judgement as you work with the text.

Businesses don’t happen by accident – and they don’t stay viable by accident, for the most part.

The judgement you rely on when working with words is just as applicable to your business life. Make good use of it!

About Sue Littleford

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

 

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: tortoise by Marzena7 on Pixaby, notebook by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

What happens when the tax office wants to inspect your editorial business?

Do you really get through that number of red pens per year? And where were you going on the morning of 29 February? Melanie Thompson describes her experience of being inspected by the UK’s tax authority, HMRC.

This post covers:

  • Receiving notification of an inspection
  • What was requested and by when
  • Collecting and sending all the evidence
  • HMRC’s response

Many people dream of becoming an editor, proofreader or some other flavour of editorial service provider. They often declare their love of words or desire to help others communicate. I don’t recall ever seeing someone say they were going freelance or setting themselves up as an editorial business because they longed to number all their shopping receipts or to fill out the self-employment section of their annual income tax return.

But unless your editorial empire comprises a staff of more than one person plus office assistant (aka pet dog or cat), you will have to find a way – and the time – to manage the business end of your business.

In the freelance world, even getting paid can be a time-consuming process. So, developing some sort of system that suits your needs is unavoidable.

Questions about bookkeeping and accounting apps often crop up in the CIEP forums, especially from people who are new to freelancing. Certain topics recur, ranging from the benefits (or otherwise) of business bank accounts to whether editors can claim for new spectacles.*

One question that hasn’t cropped up, as far as I recall, is ‘What happens if there’s a tax inspection?’ Perhaps people are too terrified to ask!

If that’s you, hide behind the sofa right now. I’m about to reveal all …

The dreaded brown envelope: receiving notification of an inspection

Among all the many side effects of the Covid-19 pandemic was one very small useful thing: Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) gave us all a little breather with paying the summer instalment of tax ‘on account’ in July 2020 by six months, as well as some leeway with the date for submitting that year’s tax return. So, when I received a brown envelope from HMRC back in August 2021, I put it in my in-tray and carried on with my work, thinking it was just the usual reminder about filling in the tax return by 31 January.

A few days later when I’d met my work deadline and fancied a change from on-screen work, I started sifting through the heap of incoming post (mainly junk mail offers from competing credit card companies), opened the pending brown envelope and skimmed my eye down the left-hand side of the letter.

Check of your Self Assessment tax return for year ended …

A compliance check is …

We will be checking to see …

What we will be checking …

You now need to check your records …

OK, I got the picture (8/10 for plain English … on the first few paragraphs). But …

… please give us the information asked for in the enclosed schedule.

A big aggressive? Well, at least they said please. But the truly frightening bit was:

Please send us the information by ** September.

Less than four weeks away, and at the height of the summer vacation.

What HMRC wanted from me

I pinged an email to my fabulous accountant, Patsy, who had just received a copy of the letter direct from HMRC.

The three-page letter came with three attachments: the general information about compliance checks, the extra Covid-related general information, and a one-page ‘schedule’ explaining what I needed to send.

The general information included this warning:

You cannot choose to ignore an information or inspection notice if we give you one …

So far, so terrifying. The schedule did little to calm my nerves, as it requested the whole year’s worth of bank statements, credit card statements, invoices and receipts, and my financial statement drawn up by my accountant – all to be scanned in and sent on a memory stick.

That might not sound so bad, and it’s true I had collated a lot of that information when preparing my 2019–20 tax return. But there’s quite a difference (for me) between putting things on a spreadsheet with a column for notes to explain bits and pieces to my accountant, and compiling a huge bunch of scanned documents or PDFs from numerous sources to send off to someone who could send me a big fat fine if I made a mistake.

Pile of receipts next to a laptop

Collecting ALL the receipts

If you use an accounting app such as FreeAgent or QuickBooks, you may not appreciate the effort and stress I endured over the next few days. When I started as a freelancer in 2000, I created a spreadsheet for my accountant, and I’ve used the same system ever since. With only three or four invoices per month, and not many irregular expenses back then, there hadn’t been the need to do anything differently.

Now I was faced with corralling random bits of paper, emails linking to downloadable receipts, paper credit card bills, online banking documents and foreign exchange expenses. I shut myself in my office and switched my scanner to warp factor 5.

The trickiest task was reconciling the various online bills that are paid monthly by credit card (such as pay-as-you-go top-ups for my mobile phone, and the monthly £0.79 for cloud storage). When preparing my accounts I just noted the dates and amounts from my credit card statements. So I had to log in to each of these random small expenses accounts and download the actual bills – complete with remembering usernames and updating passwords. Once I had all the expenses scanned in, I numbered them all so that they were easier to cross-reference, while slapping my own wrist for not having done all this in the first place. (But seriously, is that really a good use of my time?)

HMRC’s interrogation

I did get everything together in time, and sent it all plus an explanatory covering letter by registered post. Our village postmaster, noting the address, wished me luck!

Then it all went quiet … for two months.

When I finally received a letter (including an apology for the delay) there were four questions arising from my documents. Only the first one was a mystery! That asked whether I was using ‘cash basis’ or ‘general accounting/accruals basis’.

At that point, I was so relieved to have an accountant. I had no idea what the question meant, never mind what system I was using. (Apparently, I use the latter.)

Questions 2 and 3 were clarifying exchange rates and bank commission fees for a few invoices in US dollars and were very easy to answer.

But the fourth question was my favourite. It was about two receipts for train travel to the CIEP (then SfEP) annual conference in Birmingham, where I had been a speaker. What the inspector hadn’t noticed – and I did enjoy pointing out – was that one of them was for my trip to the Society of Indexers conference in London the week before, where I was also a speaker. And yes, it was all listed properly in that list of numbered receipts I’d taken so much time over.

App-ily ever after?

By the end of November, it was all over. I had the all-clear, and there was nothing to pay. What a relief.

And within a few weeks, it was time to submit my tax return for the 2020–21 period. So no time to swap to a sparkly new app. I’ll be sticking with my spreadsheet for now.


Resources to help with tax

For everything to do with income tax in the UK, visit the gov.uk website.

Sue Littleford’s Going Solo: Creating your freelance editorial business  can help with record-keeping so the next tax return (or inspection!) doesn’t seem as daunting.


* As with most editing-related questions, the answer is ‘it depends’.

** Many thanks to my accountant Patricia Brady ACMA.


About Melanie Thompson

Melanie Thompson reading the SfEP guide 'Pricing your project'Melanie Thompson (APM) specialises in writing and editing materials relating to climate change, environmental topics and energy efficiency in buildings. She is a member of the CIEP’s Environmental Policy Working Group, and also a CIEP tutor for the copyediting, proofreading and web editing courses.

 

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: wallet by Steve Buissinne on Pixabay, receipts by picjumbo.com on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

The CPD in the work we do

In this post, Abi Saffrey thinks about the ways in which we develop our professional selves while doing the job we do – an often overlooked form of CPD.

This article considers:

  • Informal conversations and guidance
  • Seeing a task from a different perspective
  • Observing colleagues and peers
  • Procrastinating on the internet
  • Teaching others
  • Writing an article
  • Continuing professional development

It’s highly likely that most of the people reading this post have put some formal training on their professional development plan for 2022. I certainly have every intention of signing up for the CIEP’s Plain English for Editors online course, or perhaps the References one. I also have some of the Publishing Training Centre’s e-Learning modules to work through.

When building our development plans, we often dismiss or forget the informal learning that we do every day while working. There are so many ways to learn new skills, adapt current ones, deepen our understanding, broaden our experiences – these are perhaps harder to label than a training course, but equally important in keeping our careers, and businesses, on track.

Informal conversations and guidance

Whether working for an organisation or ourselves, we have networks of people that we talk to. In an office or via an instant messaging tool, we can ask colleagues quick questions, or perhaps jump on a video call to discuss an idea.

Even a more formal meeting can be a learning opportunity, not just about how to carry out a task but how to communicate about it, finance it or improve it.

For those of us who work at home alone, having conversations with peers can remind us of our professional sense of self, and I find that after one of those conversations, I’m more proactive and productive.

Seeing a task from a different perspective

It’s very easy to focus on how we race through a task that we do often, and I suspect we’re all a bit prone to forgetting the actions that sit around that task. With my editorial project management work, I can gain insights into how copyeditors and proofreaders work, into what designers and typesetters need to know, into the priorities of the publisher – and I can take that and apply it to my own editing or proofreading (as well as future project management).

Taking a step back and thinking holistically about a project can be informative and rewarding, remind us of the bigger picture, and perhaps help us identify areas for more formal CPD.

Observing colleagues and peers

This is easier when working in an office with someone, clearly. I learnt so much from those around me as an employee, and when working in a client’s office as a contractor.

I’m in an accountability group, and on one of our professional retreats we spent a session looking at how we’d edit different types of texts – we all had different approaches and talked about which approach worked best for each text. With a bit of planning, this could work well over a video call or even in an online chat forum.

Talking of online chat forums, the CIEP member forums are full of gems covering every aspect of editing and running an editing business.

Procrastinating on the internet

Twitter, hey? It’s a right time-sink. How about that Wordle game? At least you can only play it once a day, but then did you read the articles about how to get better at it?

This may be the wrong thing to say, BUT there is value in procrastinating on the internet. So many of us scold ourselves for spending a bit too long on social media platforms, but there are great things in among the pyramid scheme promotions, political despair and, of course, cats. There are relevant blog posts, discussions, contacts being made, creativity being sparked, unknown terminology being discovered, different approaches to the same problem and the worldwide #StetWalk movement.

Teaching others

Teaching someone else how to do something that we know how to do is a fabulous way to reinforce our own knowledge. It can help us to realise how much we do know, and often highlights what we still don’t know. There is a lot of value in rewinding our understanding and trying to build up that understanding in someone else. That word you use all the time? They don’t know it. Those who learn from us can ask questions that we might never have thought of, and finding out you didn’t know what you didn’t know will be a revelation.

Writing an article

Write about what you know. Tailoring an article to the intended audience is a skill, and writing has the same benefits as teaching. For editors, writing also has the added value of building empathy towards those whose words we work with. When this article comes back from its proofreader, I will be nervous about what corrections may have been made. And once this is published, I’ll wonder about what kind of reception it will have. Receiving feedback help us to better give feedback (and give better feedback).

Continuing professional development

The skills that we need change and evolve, as do the industries we work in. Let’s welcome informal professional development into our work lives, and acknowledge that which already exists. I’ve covered the kinds of learning I’ve benefited from throughout my career – share yours in the comments.

About Abi Saffrey

Abi Saffrey is an editorial project manager, copyeditor and the CIEP’s information director. In 2022, lots of her informal CPD will come from working with her CIEP Council and information team colleagues.

 

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: snowdrop by Kiwihug; Toronto perspective by Nadine Shaabana, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Flying solo: Good communication is accessible

In this latest Flying solo post, Sue Littleford looks at the importance of accessibility in business communication.

Accessibility shouldn’t be an afterthought. You shouldn’t make a thing and then think, ooh, I guess I should make it accessible. Instead, build accessibility into the thing from the start.

We wordsmiths know that accessibility for every reader begins with the right words.

From an editorial point of view, that means clarity in your communication with clients and authors.

From a business point of view, that means clarity in your website text, your emails, your contracts and definitely in your small print. This is the angle I’ll be looking at.

Even if you have a law degree, your client may not

Just as one of the things we can easily spot is when an author has tried to reach for the big words, words that they’re not completely in command of, so it is with writing your T&Cs and anything vaguely legal, whether that’s in emails, on your website or in your contract.

Absolutely, ensure the necessary points are covered. Writing your T&Cs in straightforward language helps you to be clear about what you offer, and what you require from a client. It then helps your client understand what it is they’re signing up to, which is one of the key ways you can prevent problems from appearing later on.

So many problems with clients stem from a lack of mutual understanding of what’s being bought and what’s being sold.

I really rate Karin Cather and Dick Margulis’s book The Paper It’s Written On: Defining Your Relationship with an Editing Client (ISBN 9781726073295), and I recommend it in the Going Solo guide.

At the time of writing, the Kindle edition is £5.98 and the paperback £9.81 through Amazon – a modest price for such an incredibly helpful guide through the complexities of contracts, and priceless if it means you sidestep problems with a client.

Although the book is written by Americans, it’s not the legal jurisdiction that’s important in this little book (70 pages) so much as the explanations of the breadth and nature of the kinds of things you want to nail down.

Contracts – honest ones – are clear and unambiguous, and they spell out the responsibilities of each party to the contract. A good contract is, in short, accessible intellectually to all involved. A good contract will also include remedies if either you or your client fails to keep up their end of the bargain, and this will be worth its weight in gold to the other.

No weasel words, no wrapping things up in cod legalese that will confuse and may well backfire.

Emails are contracts, too

You may prefer to rely on an exchange of emails rather than a formal contract. That’s fine – the emails become the contract. So it’s essential that your emails contain everything you need the client to know about your transaction, in unambiguous terms. Bear this in mind when negotiating a job.

My confirmation emails rehearse the terms of the job, the terms of payment and so on, so that what is agreed is all in one place. Complete. Accessible.

Good accessible communication is honest

Be straight with your clients, even outside of a contract. Don’t confuse your potential clients with undefined technical terms – and if you’re having to define a lot of technical terms, shouldn’t you be using clearer language in the first place?

Do NOT promise perfection. You can’t deliver it, what with so much of English being subjective. I bore people senseless on this point, I know – but it is so important. Promising editorial perfection is, frankly, mis-selling.

Any editorial discussion on social media will show you the range of possible solutions to a drafting problem. Some you’ll doubtless discount as wrong for the context, but you will also find a range of perfectly sensible solutions, not just one sensible solution.

A client told to expect perfection may have preferred one of the other solutions, and a difference of opinion on the use of the serial comma, ending a sentence with a preposition, or just how essential ‘whom’ is these days may mean your edits are found wanting, despite being just fine for many other clients.

So be honest about what you bring to the job, and be clear that you can’t promise perfection, as perfection is in the eye of the beholder.

Accessible marketing

How accessible is your website? I’m not talking just about tech things like colour contrast, and alt text and aids for assisted reading.

Do you keep your paragraph-length short for easy reading on all sorts of devices?

Are your terms and conditions for the website as crystal clear as your contract for services?

If you maintain an email list, are your subscribers offered a genuine choice as to whether to join it? Can they unsubscribe readily? Do you make it clear in every mailout how to do that?

Sweat the small stuff

I recently had an email from a fellow editor and noticed in their email signature that they were still linking to their directory entry through the old sfep.org.uk address. Their LinkedIn URL was still using http://.

Both those addresses still work just fine for now – until they don’t. Your email signature is a great opportunity to reinforce your brand and marketing: is it clear, up to date and accurate?

The ultimate small stuff is, of course, small print – content that punches above its weight. How accessible is the small print for your cookie widget on your website? Your privacy notice for GDPR compliance?

What about your profiles on places like LinkedIn or, indeed, the CIEP Directory of Services? Do you speak plainly of what you offer? Will your target client actually understand what they’ll get when they approach you?

Accessibility is good customer service

All this boils down to good customer service – as always, I’m going exhort you to put yourself in your client’s (or potential client’s) shoes and bring them along with you, cooperatively. Avoid the hard sell wrapped up in unclear, weaselly contract terms, opaque jargon (jargon editor to editor is sensible shorthand; jargon editor to novice author is not accessible) and sneaky email address capture for marketing.

A good client relationship will be built on openness, clarity and honesty – in brief, on accessibility.


Sue started writing her Flying solo column at the beginning of 2021. She’s covered checklists, customer service, using business records to make decisions, useful UK tax resources and lessening the impact of our business on the environment.


About Sue Littleford

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

 

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: lightbulbs by Dil; speech bubble by Volodymyr Hryshchenko, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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