Category Archives: Getting started

Flying solo: Turn hindsight into foresight with checklists

In this new column, Sue Littleford looks at running an editorial business and how to make things more efficient and effective.

Checklists. Write them for your processes, use them consciously and keep them updated. Don’t try to make one checklist work for every type of job.

I could stop there, but we’re learning that the active use of checklists is a gamechanger in avoiding mistakes. The World Health Organization published the lifesaving (or merely inconvenience-saving) results of using checklists in 2008. In 2009, one of the drivers behind the checklist movement in medicine, Atul Gawande, published The Checklist Manifesto. Malcolm Gladwell is a fan. Also in 2009, Apollo astronauts called checklists their ‘fourth crewmember’. In 2019, Scotland reported that, since introducing checklists in 2008, surgical mortality rates had fallen by 37%. Checklists have been applied to air safety since the 1930s with great results.

Lives have been saved, money has been saved, time has been saved, reputations have been saved. What’s not to like?

Checklists help in three ways

  1. You need to think through your processes. Once you see them laid out in front of you, look for gaps and replication, and streamline your systems. That’s an immediate efficiency gain on every single job you do.
  2. They keep you focused. Don’t just glance down a checklist you’ve used a gazillion times and say to yourself, ‘Yeah, that looks OK, I’ve probably done everything’. Pay attention as you work through the list, and tick off each item deliberately. (Like exercise equipment, it doesn’t work if it stays in the box.)
  3. They reduce cognitive overload and anxiety. No need to rely on memory for all the steps, nor to worry you’ve missed one.

You could cover your processes for:

  • taking in a new job and setting up your skeleton records
  • communicating with others
  • doing the initial clean-up
  • converting US to UK English
  • maintaining adherence to the client’s style
  • maintaining consistency between chapters
  • final checks and polishing
  • handover and invoicing.

I’m sure you’ll think of more, relevant to your own practice.

Tailor your checklists to suit each client and their workflow, and each type of job. A proofreading checklist will look very different from a copyediting checklist, which will look very different from a manuscript critique checklist.

The cardinal error is to aim for one big checklist to cover everything. That’s a bad idea for two reasons:

  • you simply can’t cover everything. The unexpected happens, the novel happens; and
  • long checklists are confusing and difficult to follow. They become wearisome and self-defeating.

Instead, have a separate, short checklist for each part of a job.

What a checklist is not

It’s not a list of instructions. It doesn’t contain the detail of how you do your job. It doesn’t remove your autonomy (after all, it’s your checklist and you can change it). It’s also not your first attempt – you will find you need to refine it quite a bit, initially, as you figure out what you need to be reminded about to work well and consistently, as well as what you never forget, and therefore don’t need to include.

What a checklist is

It’s a set of reminders to do the stuff that would make you look stupid if you missed it, and to do the stuff you find you often forget, even though you know you should always do it. It’s your failsafe. And it’s a timesaver, as you work efficiently consistently.

What a good checklist is

It’s a practical, precise, brief and unambiguous reminder of the essential steps you need to take. It underlines your priorities, it stops you forgetting the important stuff in a moment of inattention and it makes you look good to your client or boss.

The big secret: checklists go out of date

I have a client that I’ve worked with for several years, starting out on books and then becoming the sole copyeditor for a journal. I could use the same checklist for both, right? Same publisher? Every time, I sighed heavily about bits of the checklist that were irrelevant, and about the extra bits I needed to remember to check, different for the journal and books. Then the publisher updated their style guide – about a fifth of the checklist was defunct.

Finally, I decided it was time to review the checklists I use most often. I realised that the core of my final-checks checklist had stayed essentially unchanged for about ten years. Ouch. What I’d needed to spell out for myself back then, now only needed a short reminder or could be omitted altogether.

I’d been dotting about the checklist because the flow was no longer logical now I’d matured as a copyeditor. If you’re jumping around your checklist, it’s no longer methodical; it’s an accident waiting to happen.

A checklist for checklists

1. Document your processes

  • List out what you do for each stage of each type of job and for each client.
  • Do you tackle these tasks in the most efficient and logical order? Shunt things around until the sequence is right.

2. Write a checklist that’s no more than one page long

  • If it’s longer, ask yourself why. Are you trying to write an end-to-end checklist? Stop! Short checklists work better than long ones. Don’t include details.
  • Write the checklist as bullet points, and use the empty checkbox symbol as the bullet (I like Wingdings character codes 113, 109 and 114. In Word, Insert tab > Symbols > Font > Wingdings > Character code).
  • Or set out the checklist as a table. I do that if I have to change a bunch of chapters from US to UK English, for example, with the chapters as the rows and each feature that needs attention as the columns.
  • Print out the checklist to use it. Physically tick things off as you complete each task. Your eye is less likely to betray you than working down an onscreen list, but if you’re really trying to reduce your use of paper, use highlighting or set up checkbox content controls in each list to ensure you miss nothing.

3. Set up each checklist as a template

  • As you start each job, open the final-checks checklist you’ll be using and save it specifically for that job. As you work on the text, add to the checklist any tailored checks you need to make at the end of the work – author’s tics, layout issues, anything at all that will add to the accuracy of the finished job.

4. Keep the checklist fresh to your eyes

  • It’s easy to stop paying attention to something you see all the time. To stop your checklists from becoming wallpaper, change the typeface every few uses.

5. Review your checklists

  • How well did the job you just finished go?
  • Were there any catches made at the last moment that could usefully be added to a checklist?
  • How well did the checklists support each aspect of the job? Has this client changed their style or requirements?
  • As you become more experienced, can your checklist be condensed?
  • Have you started using a new tool that should be added to a checklist – a new macro, perhaps?

6. Review your processes

  • You’re not standing still: with every job you gain experience and increase your competence. Review your processes periodically to check whether you’re being as efficient as you can – diarise reminders to do this, or maybe add it as the final item in the last checklist for any given job.
  • Review constantly: be alert to your weak spots. What does your eye tend to glide past? What tasks do you like least and may be inclined to skip or rush? What feedback have clients given you?

Thoughtfully crafted and well-maintained checklists turn hindsight into foresight. And that’s invaluable.

Sue LittlefordSue 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. Before that, she had been the payroll manager for a major government department for some 14 years. Her whole career had been markedly numbers based – both in central government and in the private sector – even though she became the go-to wordsmith everywhere she worked. She eventually switched to words full-time, transferring her skills and experience to hone her business efficiency and effectiveness.


Photo credit: hand-written checklist by StockSnap, both on Pixabay.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Wise owls: should you make your prices public?

The CIEP’s wise owls are all Advanced Professional Members, with well over 100 years of editing and proofreading experience between them. We asked them whether they publish their prices on their website.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

I debated this with myself for quite a while, and decided that I kinda would make price information public. My website links to the Institute’s suggested minimum rates as a starting point for negotiation, and explains that the actual price will depend on the condition of the text, what work is wanted and at what speed. One of my pet hates when browsing for services is having no idea whether I can afford a particular provider, or whether they’re overpriced (or suspiciously underpriced) for what they offer. I don’t want to have to give up my email address just to find the whole thing is a non-starter. Indicating the lowest prices also weeds out the people who want 100k words done for a tenner. And giving an external authority for the lowest possible price cuts down arguments (I believe, anyway!). I always pitch in at rather higher than those minimums though, ‘because I’m an APM and those are the lowest rates that should be entertained by anyone’, and I find that people accept that rationale pretty easily. Whether it’s the kind of clients I work for (my red-flag radar is highly active), or whether the website is working its magic, I don’t get people trying to drive down the price much at all. Well, not for private clients – we all know that some publishers and packagers have their own ideas of a ‘sensible’ budget!

Nik Prowse

I have never made my prices public, for several reasons:

  • One size does not fit all: if I made widgets, then I would sell each one for the same price. But editing jobs are all different: you have to weigh up size, complexity, subject matter and state of the manuscript, among other factors. All affect the price.
  • Clients differ: some pay per 1,000 words, some per hour; some offer a fixed fee. Some will negotiate (asking our rate), some won’t (offering a fee). For those who ask we can assess the job (see above) and for those who offer we can decide whether the fee is worth taking.
  • Urgency affects your fee: deadline is an additional consideration. A job that arrives at 4pm on Friday with a deadline of Monday morning commands a higher fee than the same job offered over two weeks.
  • Our reasons for taking work vary: we have clients we aspire to work for, we have those who pay the bills. We may accept low-paid work from a client who calls once a month. But we may decide to establish a better standard of pay with a new client with whom we want to build a long-term relationship.

My starting point is usually CIEP-suggested minimum rates of pay, but for the above reasons I would never advertise a set price for a job.

Liz Jones

I can see the argument in favour of publishing prices, but I choose not to. This is because I work with a range of clients in different sectors, and the way I agree pricing with all of them is different. For most, I agree a rate per project (either for the whole project, or per thousand words, or per page), but sometimes I agree an hourly rate. All of this tends to work out for me within a rate range I find favourable, while also working with my clients’ budgets. I don’t discuss with clients what the others pay me, just as I don’t discuss any other aspects of our agreements and contracts. However, I do find it helpful to share some pricing information privately, with colleagues. This helps me with quoting for new work, and can help them too.

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

I don’t publish my prices for one very simple reason: no two jobs are ever the same. As a result, my rates vary. I do a wide variety of work that can range from proofreading a doctoral PhD thesis to editing a company’s white paper, to project-managing a team of writers or doing a ‘proof/edit’ on a self-publisher’s novel. I normally charge by the hour, but when I work with PhD students or self-publishers I’m more likely to negotiate a fixed fee. For some clients I may agree to a day rate. Mostly, but not always, my rates are somewhat above the CIEP’s suggested rates because as an Advanced Professional Member my higher rates reflect that my experience matches my membership status. But I once charged ‘mates’ rates’ to a colleague who asked me to work on his first novel because he is also a close friend (that was also the only occasion I worked with a friend – I’m usually strict about separating work and my private life to avoid complications). And on another occasion, I charged triple my usual rate as I worked on a project for a client that had a multimillion-pound turnover: if I’d not charged what they expected, as such companies expect suppliers to be expensive, they’d have wondered why I was so cheap, perhaps imagining I wasn’t that experienced, and I doubt I’d have got the job.

I don’t find publishing rates is helpful. For example, a potential client could look at them, think I was too expensive and go elsewhere, whereas if they don’t know my rates in advance they will at least contact me and we can have a discussion. If their budget is tight, I can offer a more limited job for the amount they can afford. It also means I can avoid tricky conversations if I estimate the cost of a project for a potential client and they respond with ‘But your website says £XX for proofreading, not £YY’. In my experience, businesses often ask for proofreading when they actually mean copy-editing. So I’d rather have a chat about fees once I know exactly what they want and need. I have seen arguments for publishing one’s rates, but I’m unlikely ever to be convinced of the merit.

Sue Browning

I don’t put my prices on my website or other promo material. The main reason for this is that it is very easy to be ‘held to ransom’ over the sorts of ballpark figures one is compelled to quote ‘blind’ to cover all possible eventualities. If, for instance, I were to say ‘My rates range from X to Y’, it’s very hard to then quote more than Y once I’ve seen a sample, as the message the potential client takes from that is that their work is terrible. And that’s never a good way to start a relationship. Either that or X and Y represent such a huge range as to be unhelpful in the first place.

However, I can quite see how quoting rates might reassure potential customers and also dissuade people who are not willing to pay what I want to charge. So I don’t completely ignore the rates issue on my site. Instead I explain that I tailor what I do to each person’s specific requirements and offer a free short sample edit. This seems to work for me in that I attract the types of client I want to attract. But it’s a decision I review from time to time, as I do most of my business practices.

Michael FaulknerMike Faulkner

I fudge the pricing issue on my website, which I often think looks a bit unhelpful, but there are three reasons.

First, I worry that putting my hourly rate out there will reduce the number of enquiries, and I won’t have the opportunity to justify my rate in ‘conversation’. Secondly, my work is extremely varied and therefore price-elusive, ranging from serious law books to literary fiction to children’s illustrated. And thirdly, while I could publish an hourly rate, I would find it impossible to give an idea how that translates into what the client will actually pay, because my words-per-hour rate of progress varies so dramatically depending on the nature of the material, and how clean it is.

My calculation for quoting purposes almost invariably depends on the rate of progress through a (free) sample. Assuming I know the final word count, I divide that by the words per hour achieved in the sample, and multiply the result by my hourly rate – and of course every project is different (unless it’s a regular client, in which case no need for all this malarkey and I can go straight to the price).

So, my publicly stated rate can be summarised in the editor’s two favourite words: it depends!


The revised second edition of the CIEP’s guide Going Solo: Creating your editorial business is now available – it’s a great place to start if you’re considering becoming a self-employed editor or proofreader.


Photo credits: owl by Kevin Noble on Unsplash

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Reaching your potential with The Printing Charity’s Rising Star Awards

The Printing Charity has rebranded its annual Print Futures Awards as the Rising Star Awards. The awards champion young talent working in print, paper, publishing and packaging, and are now open for 2021 entries.

To be named a 2021 Rising Star and receive up to £1,500 towards the cost of training, professional accreditation or equipment to support career development, applicants need to be aged 18 to 30, resident in the UK, working in the sector, and be clear on how the award will advance their career.

Neil Lovell, The Printing Charity’s Chief Executive, explains the reason for the name change:

Refreshing the name and branding makes it clear that the awards are not just about print but all the many aspects of our multifaceted sector. The sector continues to change and our awards, the largest single awards in our sector, are about celebrating the new generation of talent working within it; young people who are already demonstrating great potential.

We’ve had nearly 500 winners since the awards began and, let’s face it, after 2020 we need as much positivity about the sector and its future stars that we can get. We are excited to see who applies this year and are asking businesses to encourage their rising stars to apply.

To find out more and apply for a 2021 Rising Star Award, visit www.theprintingcharity.org.uk/rising-star-awards/apply-now/

Here, four previous award winners share how they used their awards to build their skills and progress their careers.

Grace Balfour-Harle

I won a Print Futures Award in 2020, the most turbulent year in living memory. Although the awards ceremony in London was cancelled, having a Print Futures Award has opened many doors for me. From the outset, I wanted to use the award to attend training courses to further and consolidate my editorial skills. But I gained much more than that; the Printing Charity additionally covered my first year’s CIEP membership, which I am very grateful for.

Despite no in-person events, I haven’t faced any barriers to making the most of the award. Completing multiple courses from Publishing Scotland, I met my tutors and the other attendees; a different type of the dreaded networking, but networking nonetheless. In a practical sense, the courses have refined both my editorial eye and my methodology when completing an editorial job, as well as increasing my knowledge of the editorial process.

Having only received the award last year, it is too early to see the long-term benefits. But in the short-term, because of the courses and training I have completed, I have been able to submit my application to move from Entry Level Membership of the CIEP to become an Intermediate Member. Another direct benefit is that I appeared in Publishing Scotland’s Annual Report for 2019–2020 for undertaking a significant number of their training courses.

Applying for the award has inspired me to take control of my career development, of which continual and long-term learning is my top priority. The flexibility and support of my employers, DC Thomson, have been invaluable to help me start this long-term development plan, and the generosity of The Printing Charity is irreplaceable. All I can say, if you’re thinking about applying for a Rising Stars Award, is to do it – only you know where it might take you!

Clare Diston

In 2019, I was lucky enough to win a Print Futures Award. I am a freelance editor and proofreader, and I found out about the awards through an email from the CIEP (thank you!). I applied and, after an interview in London with some friendly people from the charity, I was delighted to be chosen as one of 93 winners that year.

Since I started my freelance business in 2011, I have worked on all sorts of different texts and across numerous genres, but in the last few years I have discovered a passion for science (especially astronomy), so I used my Print Futures Award to build the science editing side of my business.

I invested my award money in three things. First, I bought a new laptop, because my old one was slow and struggled to handle book-length PDFs. Second, I took the CIEP’s References course, because accurate referencing is key to all scientific texts. Third, I enrolled on UWE Bristol’s Science Communication Masterclass, a four-day intensive course in science writing and communication. It was absolutely brilliant: not only did I learn about the principles of ‘sci comm’ and gain valuable experience writing and presenting my ideas, I also met a fascinating and enthusiastic group of science lovers!

The Print Futures Award has given me a great foundation to start specialising in science writing and editing. Since I won the award, I have gained several new clients in science publishing, and I now regularly copyedit and proofread articles for scientific journals. I’m hugely grateful for this award – it has helped me to reach for the stars!

Alice Horne

When I applied for the Print Futures Award at the end of 2018, I had just left my role as an editor at non-fiction publisher DK to launch my freelance career. I was determined to maintain my professional development, but as every freelancer knows, finding the money for training – let alone the time – can be a challenge.

The Print Futures Award took away the first barrier by funding my attendance of the CIEP’s 2019 conference as well as two training courses. I loved the energy of the conference and the opportunity to meet editors from all over the country (those were the days!) and, of course, there were many insightful sessions; one that really stayed with me was the writers’ panel, which shone a light on the ‘other side’ of editing. The two training courses, meanwhile, solidified my knowledge and helped me develop new skills, specifically editing fiction.

But applying for and being awarded the grant gave me much more than the financial freedom and push to develop my skills. The interview process involved a fascinating conversation with two seasoned industry professionals, and the award ceremony itself was a real treat: meeting my fellow Print Futures Awards alumni and industry figures – and at the House of Lords, no less.

This experience made what could have been a scary and sometimes lonely transition into freelancing an exciting one. My close partnership with my clients as a freelancer slowly evolved into permanent contracts, and I soon found myself editing in-house again, but I’ll always be grateful for the Print Futures Award for giving me the self-confidence and a strong base from which to develop my editing career.

Bryony Leah

I’m so grateful for my Print Futures Award grant. It has helped tremendously, enabling me to fund training courses with the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and Certitec (using my CIEP member discount) that will allow me to expand my services as a freelance fiction editor and proofreader.

It’s easy to feel cut off from the publishing industry when you don’t live or work in Central London, so I’ve always felt a bit isolated with my training, and rely on institutions such as the CIEP for continuing professional development. However, funding courses as a self-employed freelancer can be difficult alongside other necessary expenses. Thanks to the Print Futures Award grant, I’m now enrolled in more tutor-assessed remote training and booked in for a classroom-based InDesign masterclass I previously could only dream of being able to afford.

Further to this, the application process gave me a necessary confidence boost exactly at a time when I was forced to adapt my editorial business due to the COVID-19 outbreak. I’m quite an introverted person and more comfortable working alone rather than asking for help, so the prospect of having to sit through a video interview was unappealing at first.

However, the Print Futures Award judges couldn’t have been more supportive. The interview was relaxed, friendly, and really helped me to put into perspective all of the things I’d achieved with my business already. Imposter syndrome tends to creep in when your workload isn’t consistent, and during the first lockdown in early 2020, I lost all of my retainer contracts in one week. It was the positivity and hope of the Print Futures Award judges and the motivation to continue my training (funded by the grant) that helped me to push through those difficult months. I’m now fully booked until June 2021!


With a history stretching back almost 200 years, The Printing Charity is one of the oldest benevolent charities in the UK. It is on a mission to be the leading charity in the printing, paper, publishing and packaging sector: here to help today, true to its heritage, and investing in future talent. Please see www.theprintingcharity.org.uk for more information and follow @printingcharity


Photo credit: night sky by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Buck the trend: strengthening your business during lockdown

By Rachel Gristwood

2020 was a challenging year in which to set up and run a business. But with the wonders of modern technology, it has been possible to receive training, find clients and function as an editor/proofreader from the comfort of our own homes.

In 2019, I completed the CIEP’s Proofreading 1: Introduction course and passed the Proofreading 2: Headway course. That summer, I began a year-long business start-up course through The Growing Club, a local Community Interest Company (CIC) for women that functions much like an enterprise agency. It provided me with training and support while I was setting up my business: Well Read Proofreading Services.

And then the pandemic struck.

There was no script for how to set up a business and find clients in a pandemic. The trick was to use the contacts I already had, think innovatively and make the most of every opportunity that came my way.

I’ve listed below some suggestions for how to strengthen a proofreading/editing business during the pandemic, together with how these avenues have helped me – sometimes in surprising ways.

Local Enterprise Agency (EA)

Local enterprise agencies exist in the UK to help start-up and small businesses. Other countries may have organisations that perform a similar function but go by a different name for our overseas friends.

  • Ask if they run training courses. These may be as simple as a morning session on how to use a particular social media platform, or an in-depth year-long course on how to set up and run a business. Enquire as to whether you might be eligible for any funding to help with costs.
  • See if they have any networking events via Zoom. You may be able to find new clients. At the very least, you’d be able to chat with other small business owners and perhaps learn from them.
  • Does your local EA have any contact with other organisations that may help you, such as the local group of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) or a Chamber of Commerce?
  • Is there a mentoring scheme where you can be helped with the finer details of running your business and finding clients?

My experience

I am fortunate to live in the area covered by The Growing Club, a Community Interest Company that provides support, training and mentoring opportunities for women in the North West of England. I began a year-long business start-up course in the summer of 2019, which continued via Zoom during the lockdown. Through that course, I now have a business mentor who will answer questions, help me to plan and, most importantly to me, help with any difficulties – something I am so grateful for as it greatly reduces my stress levels!

I attend a weekly Zoom drop-in session, which is great for socialising with other small business owners and finding out answers to any questions I might have. I also attend the monthly local group meeting of the FSB, through which I now have two prospective clients talking with me about their future proofreading needs.

I have gained some business through networking there, and now have two local authors as clients; two local businesses have given me material to proofread that they’ve written during lockdown, and the owner of a new start-up business asked me to bring their website up to scratch because English is their second language.

I’ve also undertaken a piece of copywriting through The Growing Club and had the pleasure of being taken on as a writing coach to help a local author with her writing – something I enjoyed enormously.

Local college

Colleges provide courses to help upskill their local population.

  • Find out about the range of courses they offer. You may have thought of broadening your social media reach to get your business ‘out there’, so see if your local college offers training courses on different social media platforms.
  • See if they run courses on aspects of running a business; for example, marketing or finance.
  • Ask if funding is available to local businesses.

My experience

I found there were social media courses through Lancaster and Morecambe College, with training provided by The Consult Centre, a local social media company. I undertook training sessions on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google My Business, as well as Canva, which enables me to design professional, branded posts to upload to my social media platforms. As a local business owner, I was eligible for full funding.

While I post weekly on social media to increase the visibility of my business, I’ve enjoyed the natural networking opportunities such interaction has given me. Connecting with other editors and proofreaders through LinkedIn has been a pleasure, a helpful resource, and has helped me feel much less isolated during these strange times.

Universities

Students and academics use the services of proofreaders for dissertations, theses, journal articles and books. Some universities maintain a register of approved proofreaders. They may stipulate that applicants to the register must live within easy reach of the university to meet potential clients in person, if requested, and there are often proofreader guidelines to adhere to.

My experience

I definitely knew when Masters dissertation writing time had arrived! Yes, you’re proofreading to a tight deadline, but I got a real buzz out of working closely with the students and helping make their writing the best it could be prior to submission.

I enjoyed a detailed commission for an academic to help ensure her article met the house style of the journal she wished to submit it to.

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading

My membership of the CIEP has played an integral part in my development as a proofreader. I completed the Institute’s level 1 and 2 proofreading courses in 2019.

The 2020 CIEP conference laid a wealth of information at my feet. Thank you to every keynote speaker. The networking sessions were instrumental in helping me build connections with editors and proofreaders.

I also belong to my local CIEP group and enjoy the Zoom meetings. It’s a great way to give tips to others and to learn from those more experienced than myself.

Other avenues

Be innovative!

Write articles for publications. This will get your business name out there and tell people what services you provide.

Diversify. I now also offer:

  • Copywriting
  • Transcription
  • Coaching sessions in writing skills.

For those of you just starting out, see if you can undertake voluntary work in return for a testimonial.

Summary

Be open to opportunities and flexible enough to mould your skills to a situation that may not be your normal remit, but one that you could diversify into.

The most memorable soundbite I learned from my year-long business start-up course was: ‘Don’t ever do the hard sell – just talk to people.’ Ask them about themselves and their business. Leave them with a positive feeling after your conversation and they’ll remember you in a good light.

I hope I’ve been able to suggest ideas to strengthen your business. I’d love to hear your tips, too.

After achieving a Masters in Volcanology and Geological Hazards from Lancaster University, Rachel Gristwood trained in proofreading through the CIEP before setting up her business, Well Read Proofreading Services. She enjoys working within academia, and also with local authors and business owners. Networking is important to her, especially via Zoom during the pandemic.

 


The CIEP’s guides are great resources for editorial business owners – whatever stage they are at. Check out Marketing Yourself and Pricing a Project. A new edition of Going Solo, with an accompanying record keeping Excel toolkit, will be published soon.


Photo credits: Rachel’s photo was taken by her late father, Ken Gristwood. Strength by Vicky Sim; Grow by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Forum matters: Setting up your own business

This feature comes from the band of CIEP members who volunteer as forum moderators. You will only be able to access links to posts if you’re a forum user and logged in. Find out how to register.

With so many new members signing up to the forums, now is a good time to discuss the many things you have to consider when setting up your editorial business.

The practicalities

If you’re based in the UK, take a look at www.gov.uk/set-up-business for information on all the financial and practical aspects of setting up a business. You will have to register it, decide on a name, keep records of the money you make and your expenses, and complete self-assessment tax returns. Many editors are sole traders, and information on this is at www.gov.uk/set-up-sole-trader. Business expenses for sole traders and other freelancers were discussed on the forums in the spring.

If you get stuck, then contact the government helpline.

As also discussed on the forums recently, HMRC runs helpful webinars on a range of relevant topics. CIEP members testified to their usefulness and the value of seeing the human faces behind the tax system.

Your local council may hold seminars on how to run your own business and may offer business grants for new starters, so check out their website.

If you’re in another tax jurisdiction, ask about equivalents on the forums.

Editorial training

It’s not enough to be good at spelling and eagle-eyed at spotting typos. If you want to work as an editor or proofreader, there’s much more you need to know about, from style sheets and house styles to grammar, consistency, layout and presentation. Good-quality editorial training will: (a) reassure you that you know what you’re doing; (b) fill in gaps in your knowledge and help you review learned habits; (c) help to set you apart from the thousands of other copyeditors and proofreaders, and (d) assure clients that you are a professional who knows what you’re doing.

The CIEP runs core skills training courses and courses on other editorial skills, from medical editing to working on fiction.

So the first answer to the question ‘Why train?’ is the obvious ‘To gain and then improve core editorial skills’. If you have never been taught, systematically, how to edit or proofread, you should start [training] now. Nobody would wake up one morning with a desire to be an accountant and set to work without help. Professional editing and proofreading are no different.[1]

There have been recent forum discussions on proofreading web content and proofreading training for American editors.

What equipment will you need?

  • Somewhere you can work without being disturbed by your household (including pets). A big enough desk and a comfortable, supportive office chair.
  • A computer, preferably with a screen that is large enough to view one or more whole pages.
  • A professional email address (charlotte-edit@host.com or charlotte@businessname.org rather than chaz-lol-xx@host.com).
  • Style guides – so you can answer the many questions that will come up, such as ‘should an ellipsis have a space before and after, or be closed up?’ New Hart’s Rules is a commonly used guide for British English editing and Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) for US English, but which style guide(s) you buy will depend on which language you are using, the type of client you work with, and the subjects you work on.
  • A dictionary – there are plenty of free online ones and a popular one is Lexico.

CIEP members get a discount on many dictionaries and reference books: see the members’ area. For general recommendations on reference works, see www.ciep.uk/resources/recommended-reference-books/general-editing-publishing-style.

CIEP members discussed their favourite work-related purchases on the forums in July.

Marketing yourself and finding clients

Now that you’re all set up and raring to go, where are you going to find your clients? This question comes up regularly on the forums, especially the Newbies forum, so do have a look. Recently there have been threads on next steps in starting a business and business networking.

Also, check out Louise Harnby’s great resources: www.louiseharnbyproofreader.com/marketing-your-editing–proofreading-business.html

Working from home

If you’re used to working in an office with other people, the transition to working on your own can be tricky. It’s not for everyone; some people need the buzz of a busy office and don’t cope well with looking at the same four walls each day.

You need to be self-disciplined and stick to working hours – however you define them! – or you could find the days drifting past in a fog of Twitter, daytime TV and housework: ‘I’ll just pop a wash on … oooh, the floor needs sweeping. Where did that hour go?’ If this is you, you might find a recent discussion on time-tracking tools helpful.

Make a list of the things you need to accomplish each day, so you can tick them off and feel a sense of achievement.

CPD

This has been more difficult during lockdown, but there are still plenty of ways to keep your editorial knowledge up to date. Many local CIEP groups are meeting via Zoom and there are always the forums. See www.ciep.uk/standards/continuing-professional-development for more CPD ideas.

Anything else?

This is only an overview. If you have a question on anything not covered here – who to choose as a website host? What social media platforms are best for networking and finding new clients? – then ask on the forums! Many CIEP members are happy to share their experiences of setting up their own businesses. In August there was a lovely forum thread entitled ‘How did you get started?’ in which many members, experienced and not-so-experienced, shared stories of their first steps into editing and proofreading.

You’ll find a list of recommended resources to help you set up a business on the CIEP website: see www.ciep.uk/resources/recommended-reference-books/running-freelance-editorial-business.

Running your own editorial business can be a hugely rewarding, worthwhile and satisfying way to earn a living. Enjoy the journey!

[1] ‘Why train?’ Rosemary Roberts MBE. This article first appeared in the SfEP’s then newsletter, Copyright, in June 2000 and was updated in May 2004. See www.ciep.uk/training/why-train


Photo credits: Come in we’re open by Álvaro Serrano; Home office by Mikey Harris; Office space by Annie Spratt, all on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

 

Freelancing job websites: are they worth it?

By Sofia Matias

At the beginning of our self-employed journey, we editors and proofreaders are, more often than not, overburdened with questions, but none perhaps more important than this one: where can we find work?

If we trust Google with answering that for us, the outcome is near-unanimous: most hyperlinks on the first page of results lead, in some form or another, to freelancing job platforms. They promise that ‘millions of people use [us] to turn their ideas into reality’ (Freelancer), that ‘we’ll make earning easy’ (Fiverr) or that they will give you ‘access to a stream of projects from our international client community’ (PeoplePerHour). But, with so many competing platforms – and millions of freelancers vying for the same jobs – is joining them a good idea?

As is the case with most aspects of self-employed life, what works for one person might not work for another, so ‘your mileage may vary’ is an appropriate sentiment to bear in mind. I know of several people who have successfully found work on these platforms, but my personal experience with them has not been the same. Here is what I learned from my time on these freelancing websites.

Fees, fees, and more fees

These websites are, of course, a business in themselves, so they must make money. Joining them is always free so there are no upfront costs to creating your profile on them, which makes for a good starting point for editors and proofreaders who are not ready to invest in, for example, building their own website or paying for advertisements. Even on the platforms where you can list your services as a product that interested people can buy outright, instead of bidding on listed jobs (such as Fiverr), doing so is free.

However, this is as far as the free lunches go. If you want to make your listings stand out, you can pay a fee to have them be featured on searches and reach more people, increasing your chances of booking work. This is not uncommon, but the point where some people might turn away is the one where, if you do get that all-elusive job, the platform will then take a cut of up to 20% from your payment. This, in conjunction with taxes and other fees (such as having to pay for the opportunity to bid on jobs, with no guarantee you will get them), can make earning a living on these job platforms an uphill battle (and definitely not as ‘easy’ as some of them claim).

High competition for little pay

With such high fees, you would assume that getting a job would be somewhat possible, right? Since it’s in their best interest to make money from you?

Again, your experience may differ, but if there is one thing that most editors and proofreaders agree on, it is that these platforms are filled with millions of people that can do (or claim to do) the same as you do, and who are more than willing to undercut your prices. In fact, you might even struggle to achieve fees that reach the UK minimum wage, let alone the CIEP suggested minimum rates. This is the main reason why I never booked a job on them: I had interest from buyers and personalised invitations to apply for jobs, but I did not want to work for less than my established fee, so I rejected them.

Remember, these platforms are worldwide, and what accounts for a low fee by UK standards can be perfectly acceptable in other countries (and the same applies to the standards of work produced). So, if you want to succeed, you might have to compromise what you are hoping to get for your work, or put in a lot more effort.

Opportunity to learn and acquire experience

Even though I personally never got work from any of the websites I was signed up for, I learned invaluable lessons that I successfully applied when it came to launching my own business. I realised just how important marketing is to succeed when self-employed and learned what to do and not to do when pitching my services.

For people who have an interest in editing or proofreading, but are not sure if it is the right career choice for them, these websites provide the opportunity to try it out without a sizeable upfront investment. For aspiring professionals who want to embark on full-time self-employment but do not want to do so without earning relevant experience, these platforms can be a good opportunity to get some testimonials under your belt, especially if you have another source of income and can be flexible with your prices.

The competition will still be there if you decide to create a business outside of these platforms – and can be just as fierce – so having a place to at least practise how you put yourself across to possible clients is a huge plus.

In short …

Not every editor’s journey is the same, so answering the question ‘are freelance platforms worth it?’ is not as simple as a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

If you are considering looking for work or establishing yourself in any of these freelancing websites, at the very least do your research on which ones are more suitable for you and the work you offer, be fully aware of how they operate, and read reviews (from sellers, not buyers).

What they are not is a magical road to success, so be prepared to be flexible and put in the time and effort these platforms demand. They might just work for you and, if they do not, you can still learn valuable skills you can apply in your career as an editor or proofreader.

Sofia Matias is a professional writer, editor and proofreader based in the South East of Scotland. She specialises in working with independent authors of Young Adult and general fiction, arts and humanities students (including ESL) and businesses, charities and publications in need of clear and concise copy or editorial content.

 

 


The CIEP’s Pricing a Project guide describes the quotation process, from taking a brief to agreeing terms and conditions. This practical guide comprises tips, checklists and worked examples to assist not only freelancers but also clients who seek the services of editorial professionals.


Photo credits: Woman at desk by Andrea Piacquadio (Pexels); pennies by Josh Appel (Unsplash); person at desk with notes by Startup Stock Photos (Pexels).

Proofread by Kelly Urgan, Entry-Level Member.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Print Futures Awards

By Lauren Campbell

In early 2017, purely by chance, I stumbled across something called the ‘Print Futures Awards’. Little did I know that applying for the award was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career so far, starting a journey that led me to the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading.

The Printing Charity

The Print Futures Awards are held by the Printing Charity, an organisation that supports those working in the printing, publishing, packaging and graphic arts sectors. I wasn’t familiar with the Charity when I first discovered the Awards, but the more I read about them the more I was blown away by their work, from their dedicated sheltered homes that offer the opportunity for people from the print sectors to stay independent in retirement, to the plethora of training initiatives that they offer for rising talent in the industry.

The Printing Charity has a rich and fascinating history: founded in 1827 by an independent printer in London, Queen Victoria granted the organisation a Royal Charter in 1865 and every monarch since has been the Charity’s patron. The list of the Printing Charity’s presidents reads like a who’s who of literary and political figureheads, including Charles Dickens among many others!

The Awards

The Printing Charity started the Print Futures Awards scheme in 2003. The Awards offer a grant of up to £1,500 to help those aged 18 to 30 to develop their skills and progress in their print-related careers, and are now the largest single awards programme in the UK printing, paper, packaging, publishing and graphic arts sector.

In 2017, there were 275 applications, and I felt extremely privileged to be one of the 78 winners. During the last round of applications in summer 2019 there were a record 93 winners, proving that the Print Futures Awards are going from strength to strength, and the support that they are providing to rising talent in the industry is crucial.

What really struck me, reading through the brochure of the winners afterwards, was the wide range of applicant backgrounds and the many possibilities of what the award could be used for. Winners came from the length and breadth of the UK, and planned to use the award for career-building aspects such as work experience, postgraduate degrees, specialist equipment and investment into projects like blogs, magazines, artist project spaces and illustrated books.

Applying for the Print Futures Awards

At the time, I’d recently completed the Basic Proofreading qualification from the Publishing Training Centre, and I was looking for ways to further my experience and gain more skills. Having seen the award advertised on social media, I quickly started on my application form, which asked applicants to provide a short paragraph stating how the award would help them. I had so many ideas of what I wanted to do – the hard part was fitting it all into just 300 words!

I was delighted to receive an email saying I was through to the next stage. My delight quickly turned into sheer terror upon finding out the next stage was an interview with industry professionals. I consider myself eloquent enough through the medium of the written word, but unfortunately in person and on the spot that can often be quite the opposite …

To try to combat this, I decided to do as much research as humanly possible. I came up with an extremely comprehensive ‘career plan’: a three-page (A3-size!) business plan that set out every little detail as to how I planned to use the bursary provided by the Print Futures Award. My first priority was to continue my education with the Publishing Training Centre by completing the Basic Editing course, the next stage up from Basic Proofreading. My second priority was to join the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (as it was then) to expand my knowledge of the industry and hopefully meet some lovely fellow editors and proofreaders who could help me on my journey! I went through the comprehensive list of courses available from both the SfEP and the PTC and decided on the right ones for me, adding them to the business plan to meet the potential total of £1,500.

The interviews were held in the stunning St Bride Foundation in London, a print heritage centre and library just off Fleet Street. Fortunately, my anxiety about the interviews was entirely unnecessary. From the outset, my lovely panellists assured me that this was as friendly as an interview could be. We discussed my current role and the training I had done so far, and my aspirations for the future – out came the beautifully printed business plan, and (thankfully) they were thrilled. Apparently I was the first person out of all their interviews so far to produce such an in-depth plan, and it was extremely useful for them in terms of being able to see how committed I was to my career plans and exactly how I’d spend every penny of the award. I left the interview feeling like I’d had a lovely chat – definitely not what I had expected on going in!

Shortly afterwards the Printing Charity informed me that I had been successful in achieving a Print Futures Award, and I was invited to the Print Futures Awards Event at the House of Lords. The evening itself was a spectacular experience: drinks and canapes on a terrace in the House of Lords overlooking the River Thames, meeting and talking to my fellow winners and networking with the big names of the print and publishing industries, and a wonderful feeling that this was the start of my perfect career!

What I have gained from my award

My initial business plan spanned all the way from 2017 to 2020, so it’s been interesting to look back at my predictions and compare them with what I have achieved so far. I have achieved my two main priorities, having been a member of the SfEP/CIEP since 2017 and completing the Basic Editing course in 2018. Both of these have opened doors that I never imagined previously, from attending the wonderful North East SfEP mini-conference last year and meeting those in my local SfEP group, to having the skills and confidence to complete some freelance proofreading and copyediting. The Printing Charity also has an Alumni group, which has been a brilliant resource of contacts and further opportunities, for example training in the Adobe Creative Suite through a series of webinars.

My next goal is to upgrade my CIEP membership to Intermediate, to get a coveted place on the IM Available list. To help with this and to continue my CPD I’m looking to undertake a CIEP training course, and I’m very excited to get back to my favourite past-time of learning new skills!

I can’t thank the Printing Charity enough for giving me the opportunity to progress my career, and I also can’t be more complimentary about the wonderful members of the CIEP for making me feel welcomed and providing guidance and knowledge. I would recommend the Print Futures Awards without hesitation for anyone aged 18–30 wanting to further themselves in any print-related career.

Here’s to many more fruitful years in the CIEP!

Lauren Campbell is a Communications Assistant for a multi-academy trust in Northumberland, and is starting her journey as a freelance proofreader and copyeditor. She is an Entry-Level Member of the CIEP and can be found on Twitter. She has covered a wide range of topics in her editing work, her favourite so far being copy for tabletop role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons.

 


Applications are now open for the 2020 Print Futures Awards.

All new CIEP members receive a £25 training voucher from the Dorothy Mitchell Smith Memorial Fund, which can be put towards the cost of one CIEP course.


Photo credits: Print Futures Awards invitation – Lauren Campbell; Print Futures Awards 2017 winners – property of The Printing Charity, taken by Ray Schram.

Proofread by Victoria Hunt, Intermediate Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Ten tips for your first copyediting job

By Liz Jones

If you’ve focused on proofreading until now, the idea of copyediting can seem daunting. For a start, you’ll probably be working on a Word document rather than a PDF or paper proofs, which means you’ve got far more freedom to make changes. But are you qualified to do the work? How sweeping should your changes be? And how can you tell the difference between what needs to be changed, and what can be left alone? Here are some tips for coping with that first job. 

1. Don’t panic!

First, take a deep breath. You’ve got this. Proofreading and copyediting are on the same continuum – it’s all editing, just at a different stage of the process and therefore with a different emphasis. Copyediting is about preparing the raw text for layout, rather than applying the final polish before publication. (That said, you want the copyedited text to be as clean as possible.) For copyediting, just as for proofreading, it can help to approach the work by considering what can stay the same, rather than what needs to change. The author’s preferences are a good place to start, and if you’re working for a publisher, their style sheet can offer useful guidance on many editorial decisions.

2. Read the brief.

This is your best clue to how much you need to intervene. What is the client expecting? A publisher might offer very clear instructions on the extent and scope of the work, and how much they would like you to change (or not). But what if there is no brief? If you’re working for a self-publisher or a non-publishing business client, the brief might be open-ended or even non-existent. In this case, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the reader. Your job as copyeditor is to remove barriers to understanding the text, and make it ready for publication. Consistency, clarity and accuracy are key. Take a look at the CIEP’s FAQs on copyediting for more tips.

3. Assess the work.

You wouldn’t start to build a house without a plan, would you? (Well, I hope you wouldn’t.) It’s probably a smaller job, but likewise you shouldn’t start a copyedit before you’ve assessed the scope of the work. When you quoted for the job, you will have looked at what it involves and should have a good idea of the time it will take. But before you start the edit look again, and more closely. Work out a plan of action. How will you order the necessary tasks? Can you figure out the most efficient way to complete the work to a high standard? (This is crucial if you’re being paid a flat fee.) It can be tempting to get stuck in right away, but a little forward planning can save a lot of time later on. You might also identify problems you need to discuss with the client, such as missing material or a heavier-than-expected level of editing.

A good way to get an overview of the whole document before you start editing in detail is to style the headings first. (It’s also all too easy to miss mistakes in headings when you’re immersed in the main text.)

4. Clean up the text.

Assessing the text (see tip 3) will have given you a good idea of the tasks that can be batched and automated. Lots of editors choose to run PerfectIt at the start of a job, for example, to highlight inconsistencies. Macros (such as those by CIEP member Paul Beverley) can also help you identify things that need editing, and make the necessary changes more efficiently. Cleaning up the text before you start the language editing can help you focus on flow and readability with fewer distractions.

5. Build a style sheet.

One of the key tasks of a copyeditor (aside from actually editing the text) is compiling a style sheet – either starting from scratch, or adding to the one supplied with the job. This helps you as you progress through the edit, providing a point of reference for all the editorial decisions you make. It also helps the client, and eventually the proofreader, so they can understand your working and hopefully won’t arbitrarily undo your editorial decisions.

6. Consider working on the references first.

If the document you’re editing has a lot of references (and it might not!), it can help to work on these first. There are several reasons for this. First, this is another way of gaining insight into the main text before you start to read and edit it in earnest. Second, the references need to be consistent, so editing them all together can be more effective than dealing with them as they arise in relation to the main text. Finally, they can take a surprisingly long time to sort out, especially if you need to check them for accuracy and tidy up formatting. If you’ve got them sorted before you start the main bulk of the editing, you don’t need to worry about spending an unexpectedly long time on them at the end of the job.

7. Work through the text in order.

Although I know plenty of copyeditors who adore references (!), for me this is the fun part. Read through the whole of the text, and make edits as you go to ensure it is consistent, clear and accurate – as in tip 2. It’s a skilful balance between knowing when to leave things alone, and when to tweak things to improve the flow of a sentence, or to help the author express themselves more effectively. Question (almost) everything – but don’t spend too long doing it.

Some questions arise: What is the copyeditor’s responsibility, and what is not? How many times should the copyeditor read the text? The answer is usually ‘it depends’ – on the brief, on the budget, and on the schedule. Keep track changes switched on (unless your client’s specified otherwise), and be careful not to change the meaning of the text. If something’s ambiguous, query it. If a change is unarguable, and can be justified, go for it with confidence. You’ve been hired for your expertise, and your ability to interpret the client’s needs.

8. Query sensibly and clearly.

How you present your queries might be specified in the brief. You might write them as comments on the Word document, or as a separate list, or both. However you present them, try to ensure they are worded clearly, and politely. It can be tricky knowing what to query, but generally you will want to defer to the author on matters of fact or content that you can’t easily check and verify. If a meaning isn’t clear, this will also need to be queried. You might also flag up editorial changes where they deviate from the author’s preferred style to explain why you did something (such as changing gendered pronouns in favour of singular they/their). For more about querying, see the CIEP’s fact sheet.

9. Carry out a final check for consistency.

Many editors run PerfectIt again at this stage, which can help you weed out straggling inconsistencies. But how many times should you actually read the text? If I’m being paid enough, I read everything twice. Once for the edit, then once to check over what I’ve done. I often find things to improve on this second pass. However, if there isn’t the time or the budget to support an entire second read, I would certainly check over all my corrections to make sure I haven’t introduced typos or other inaccuracies.

Also, check your queries. By the time you finish editing, you might find that some of the answers are clear and don’t need to be referred back to the author.

10. Return the edited document(s) with care.

Don’t rush the return: get things in order, check the brief again to make sure you’ve dealt with everything, and make sure your covering email is informative and clear. As well as the edited text, send your queries and style sheet. Let the client know they can ask you if they have any questions about what you’ve done. Once you’ve submitted everything, invoice promptly, put the kettle on and look forward to the next copyedit! All jobs are different, but your confidence and efficiency will increase with each one.

 

Liz Jones has been an editor since 1998, and freelance since 2008. She specialises in copyediting and proofreading non-fiction, specialising in architecture, art and other practical subjects, as well as highly technical material. She is one of the CIEP’s information team, and is also a mentor in proofreading and copyediting.

 


Photo credits: Getting ready – Johny vino; planning – Glenn Carstens-Peters, both on Unsplash

Proofread by Joanne Heath, Entry-Level Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Wise owls: how I found my first client

All freelance careers start with tracking down that first client. Even the wise owls were chicks once (though probably still wise even then), and their experiences show that there isn’t just one way to go about getting that first paid project.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

I’ll talk about my early career, as my first clients came to me via a now-defunct route. It’s a long time since eBay had classified ads! I also picked up a couple of jobs through Gumtree. Two of my first actions on hanging out my shingle were joining SfEP and getting my website up and out there. My website brought in a few more clients who had found me courtesy of Mr Google – including a novelist I still work for some 12 years later. I also picked up a couple of jobs from what is now IM Available. But my big break was from answering an Announce that went to the whole of the membership (most go to just Advanced Professional and/or Professional Members) – I picked up my first packager client and that broadened my horizons and my experience hugely (which I promptly reflected in my CV). In the early days I also had an (expensive) ad in Yellow Pages, which I cancelled after two years as it was ineffective. But a few days before it was due to come off Yell’s website, a packager looking to hire only editors within the county found me (phew!). We did lots of work together over the ensuing years. I’d certainly advise not putting all your marketing eggs in one basket.

Liz Jones

My first client was the employer I’d just left – a non-fiction book packager. For a while I combined freelance project management (essentially continuing my old job) with working on small editorial jobs for them, alongside another major client (an educational publisher) secured via a former colleague. This all sounds too easy – and it was: it only deferred the inevitable need to find a range of clients, to mitigate the risk of working freelance. At first I suffered many sleepless nights: how would I pay my bills if the packager stopped using me? I realised I needed to take control, and worked hard to gain new work streams – in related areas via old colleagues, and also by ‘cold-emailing’ publishers and other potential clients. It took a couple of years, but I was so glad I put in the effort to market myself at that point. I felt more in charge of my career, and expanded into new areas of work. These days I still work for my first client, but only very occasionally, and I try never to be in the position of worrying about a single client dropping me. (Of course I still do all I can to retain my favourites!)

Nik ProwseNik Prowse

I was forced to find my first client, because I was staring down the barrel of a 3-month redundancy notice. At the time I was working at home, but as an employee, as a staff editor for a science publisher. I needed a change, and redundancy (I realised later) was an opportunity. After deciding to go freelance I made a list of every science publisher I could think of and emailed my CV to commissioning editors, desk editors and managing editors, with the promise of following up by phone a few days later. Most approaches fell on deaf ears. A few turned into paid work in the long term. But two came up with immediate work. One was a European journal publisher offering a very low rate but frequent work. The other was a major university press. The person I’d emailed had a book to place, on molecular biology, and I could start on Monday 16 February 2004. Which was good timing, as I became redundant on Friday 13 February 2004 (very apt). So I finished the working week as an employee and started the next as a freelancer. It made me realise that many freelance opportunities are down to luck, but that you can make your own luck.

Hazel BirdHazel Bird

My first ever piece of work as a freelancer paid £19.03 and took me six hours to complete, so I earned a princely £3.17 per hour. This was back in 2009. I was working full time as an in-house project manager for Elsevier, but I was also in the process of completing the Publishing Training Centre’s distance learning course in proofreading, and I wanted to take on some actual proofreading to keep my future options open.

The client was one of those agencies that arranges proofreading for students and academics. I believe I found them through a Google search for proofreading companies. I know that I completed a test, and I was then added to their list and offered work according to when I was available.

I worked for the agency for around eight months (I stopped after I left my job and began freelancing for my old employer). I worked up to completing around 2–4 articles per week, and by the end of the eight months I was regularly earning over £15 per hour, which I considered a good rate for someone of my experience. There were aspects of the work that weren’t ideal (such as having no contact with the authors and very little feedback), but it gave me a lot of relevant experience to help me upgrade my SfEP membership.

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

My first job came from another, now retired, SfEP member. I had joined the society less than a fortnight earlier, but just in time to put my credentials in the next issue of the old Associates Available. My benefactor lived in my area and quickly got in touch to say she’d had an email from a marketing and comms company based somewhere between our two locations. They needed someone to work in-house for half a day to proofread some web copy. Did I want the job? Well, yes – of course! She passed my details to her contact at the company and the following week I found myself on a train to mid-Cheshire, where I spent several frustrating hours working for the comms company. Yup, it turned out to be a nightmare job and getting paid was also a hassle. But the point is, never underestimate the power of networking and getting your info in front of other people’s eyeballs. Despite plenty of experience, I’d only just returned to the UK after 13 years abroad and I had no contacts. I was very grateful for that first gig. Associates Available has been replaced by IM Available but is as useful as ever for picking up those early jobs that can help you start to build experience and a portfolio.

Michael FaulknerMike Faulkner

This is how I found, not just my first, but my first dozen jobs – so I recommend it as a useful approach for all newbie proofreaders! The only qualification is that you need to be up for academic proofing.

There were three stages:

  1. I worked up a good understanding of the (quite strict) parameters for academic proofreading – in this context I mean dissertations and theses by undergraduates and post-grads, not papers by academics for publication.
  2. I went through my contacts – and my family’s and friends’ contacts – for anyone with any connection, even tangential, to university lecturers in any area with which I was comfortable (I concentrated on arts and particularly law), whether academics, journalists, current students or fairly recent graduates. I was interested in the names of lecturers/profs/supervisors who I might approach, and armed with those names and the courses they taught I got the relevant contact details from their institutions.
  3. I wrote a short, practical, helpful email to each person on the longlist, explaining my qualifications/training; my understanding of what is and is not acceptable in an academic context; how I might hopefully make their life easier (obviously you can’t say this last directly but it has to be implied, possibly with humour); and how swiftly I was able to turn work around.

My first job, for a Saudi student at Kings College London, came almost immediately and I have since worked on many papers by students of the same supervisor. Same for a number of other professors, so for work on which I was able to cut my teeth this approach was pretty successful.


SfEP Members can find out more about IM Available by visiting the Members’ Area on the SfEP website.


Photo credit: owl Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

 

 

 

Not just fun and games: the CPD of escape rooms

By Julia Sandford-Cooke

You might think I’m just a meek and unassuming editor, but I have a secret identity. When I’m not correcting content, I may be stealing diamonds, exploring Egyptian tombs, solving crimes or perhaps even saving the world (twice from a renegade sheep). Despite my reputation for remaining calm under pressure, I have been known to scream, ‘Why are you just standing there? We only have three minutes to defuse the bomb!’

Yes, I’m an escape room enthusiast. Bear with me because the link to continuing professional development (CPD) isn’t as tenuous as you might think. After 20 years as an editor, I’m still committed to learning but I’ve completed most relevant courses at least once, so have begun to seek out new ways to build and apply my skills. After all, we editorial professionals don’t just spend our days correcting grammar and swearing at Microsoft Word – we also practise problem solving, time management, team working and lateral thinking. And all these skills are tested and strengthened in escape rooms.

What is an escape room?

Basically, you and your team of two to about seven people enter a room to solve puzzles relating to a particular theme or story within a set amount time (usually an hour but, increasingly, 90 minutes). In fact, ‘escape room’ is rather a misleading term. It’s really more about escapism than escaping. Although you may need to find a way out of a setting like a prison or cabin within the time limit, instead you could solve a crime, find a relic, save a pirate ship or pass all your wizarding exams. Sometimes the challenge is just collecting as many toy cats as you can. You won’t actually be locked in (I believe that’s illegal) and, in fact, many rooms allow you to leave at any time – but what would be the fun of that? I won’t spoil your future games by describing the puzzles you’ll encounter in detail but they may involve matching words, spotting inconsistences, identifying patterns, remembering sequences, cracking codes, finding pieces of a jigsaw and completing it, or something more physical, such as shooting foam bullets at a target. Typically, you’ll need to identify a numeric sequence or locate a key for a padlock. It’s seen as bad form to require external general knowledge (that’s what pub quizzes are for) so, as long as you know simple maths and the alphabet, you’ll be able to make a start. If you get stuck, your games master, who monitors you on CCTV, can provide a hint.

Most escape rooms are aimed at adults but switched-on kids aged over eight or so often excel as part of a grown-up team, as long as the theme isn’t too scary – my 11-year-old escape room veteran refuses to do any rooms relating to Egyptian mummies, zombies or school detentions. As for the rooms themselves, some are charmingly homemade, some are slickly mechanised and some have amazing movie-quality sets but all require players to accept the scenario in which they find themselves and work together to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome. Can you see the parallels with publishing yet?

Julia and her husband test a virtual reality game at ERIC. Photo by Guy Wah Photography.

Take my nearest venue, Fakenham Escape Rooms. In this game, we have been employed by the International Rescue Corps to complete the work of a missing professor who had been working on new technology that predicts the time and location of natural disasters. Our mission is to find his research and coordinate our findings to discover where and when the next disaster will be. It’s a fun, immersive room and, as it happens, we were top of the leader board for six months until some professional escapologists (pah!) completed it slightly quicker. It’s the taking part that counts – but beating other teams does motivate competitive players like me. The owners subsequently asked us to test their new room before it officially opened, and listened to our constructive feedback on the experience, a bit like a physical version of proofreading.

It’s all about teamwork

So, what makes a good escape room team? Well, I’ve edited enough business books to be intimately acquainted with the Belbin team roles, and have played enough escape rooms to know that combining people with different skills is going to get the job done quicker and better. For example, my daughter has a mind like a trap and is good at finding hidden items. My programmer husband can apply logic to any situation, and I delegate all the maths puzzles to him. Some of the friends I’ve played with are efficient, organised and focused. Others are highly creative or have an in-depth knowledge of binary. As for me, when I asked for feedback on my performance, Team-mate 1 (my daughter) said I’m quick to make connections between different elements and Team-mate 2 (my husband), after some thought, said I’m better at reading than he is. Our greatest triumphs have been a result of focusing on the goal, clear communication and mutual respect for each other’s abilities. All of which are ingredients for successfully managing any project.

Benefiting more than just me

I’ve attended two excellent conferences this year. One was (naturally) the SfEP conference at Aston University. The other was the amusingly named ERIC – the Escape Room Industry Conference in glamorous Dagenham. Covering everything from game theory to marketing, with a little acting thrown in, it was the most enjoyable small-business foundation course that you can imagine. I came home brimming with ideas for developing my own editing business (‘escape rooms’ now features as a key word in my SfEP Directory entry – puzzle tester for hire). As a textbook specialist, I’d love to look at ways of engaging learners via puzzles and for improving testing methods such as those tricky multiple-choice questions that authors always struggle to perfect.

What’s more, while I’m not quite ready to open my own escape room (watch this space), I made a contact at ERIC which has resulted in another exciting new project. I’ve joined forces with my local library to coordinate a treasure trail for teams of Key Stage 2 pupils (9 to 11 year olds) in which they have to use the library facilities to tackle puzzles and act out a narrative – hopefully developing their literacy and problem-solving skills, and their enthusiasm for libraries, in the process.

Try it for yourself

There are now about 1,500 escape rooms in the UK, and maybe 20,000 in the world, so there’s likely to be at least one near you. Some are inevitably better than others – read reviews before you go to gain an idea of quality because it’s admittedly not a cheap hobby. The typical cost is around £20 per person, and it can be even more expensive if (as a purely hypothetical example, of course) you choose to celebrate 20 years with your husband by travelling to Margate to play five games over two days (Kent being the unlikely escape-room capital of the UK). It’s still cheaper than formal training as well as fun, educational and a welcome break from those ubiquitous screens.

Excuse me, I’m just off to Google ‘Milton Keynes escape rooms’. If you want to join my team for some extra escapist CPD while we’re in town for the 2020 CIEP conference, let me know!

Julia Sandford-CookeJulia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications has 20 years’ experience of publishing and marketing. She has written and edited numerous textbooks, specialising in vocational education, media studies, construction, health and safety, and travel. In her spare time, she’s a pirate, spy and astronaut.

 


Thinking about your CPD plans for 2020? The SfEP offers a wide variety of courses, and more informal CPD is available through its members’ forums and local groups.


Photo credits: Sheep Jonathan Poncelet, Escape Rooms sign – Zachary Keimig, both on Unsplash; Julia and her husband testing a virtual reality game at ERIC Guy Wah Photography.

Proofread by Emma Easy, Entry-Level Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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