Category Archives: Support

How to take care of yourself when you’re your own boss

Even when there isn’t a pandemic, if we run our own business we all need ways to take care of ourselves – mentally, physically and emotionally. In this post, Abi Saffrey brings together some suggestions that have been shared on the CIEP member forums.

CIEP members’ self-care ideas fall into these general categories:

  • time and taking breaks
  • meditation and expressing gratitude
  • food
  • hobbies
  • music
  • friends and partners
  • being outside
  • lockdown clichés

Time and taking breaks

My first thought when it comes to spending the right amount of time on the right things is ‘work–life balance’. I have several issues with that phrase: should there be the same amount of work as life? Surely work is part of life, not opposed to it? (I’m not a fan of the phrase ‘me time’ either.) Anyway, a key element in getting the day-to-day mix of activities ‘right’ is considering time. There is no magic formula, but we can learn by trial and error what works for us.

During the first pandemic lockdown, when my children weren’t able to go to school, I would get up earlier than my family and spend an hour in my office getting to grips with what I needed to do that day so that I could be more focused in the limited working time I would have later on in the day. It also gave me an hour on my own, which turned out to be incredibly important over those three or so months.

Taking regular breaks from work is good for our focus and our eyes, but it’s often easier said than done. One member has alarms set at particular points during the day to remind them to take a 20-minute break; others use the Pomodoro technique.

I force myself to walk away from my desk in the mid-afternoon and read a physical novel for 30 minutes or so for a bit of fun and to give my eyes a break from the screen.

Alarms can be used to force an end to the work day – it’s all too easy to think ‘oh just one more page/section/chapter’. Self-employed editors were well aware of the blurring of the work/home boundary before the pandemic changed office workers’ patterns.

Meditation and expressing gratitude

Several members have mentioned the benefits of meditation and mindfulness to replenish their stores of energy, focus and patience. Some use timers, some apps and others simple breathwork techniques.

One member mentioned spending 15 minutes at the end of the day talking about something positive from the day: it breaks the endless cycle of gloom that comes from the news and ends the day on a high note.

The thing I’ve been doing that has had a huge impact on my positivity is expressing gratitude  … for everything, really: blue skies or rain (we need it!), delicious morning coffee, the roof over our heads, the internet, clean water piped into our homes, electricity, central heating  … the list goes on and on. Even the worst of days has good things in it; you might have to look a little harder. I’ve got very good at finding the silver lining.

Food

Making a meal or baking something can provide focus and pride in the result, as well as the opportunity to share something with others.

Whenever I bake something (which isn’t often), I always give some of it to my elderly neighbour. Gives me an excuse to check in with her, and I always feel so happy that she enjoys my sweet treats!

Planning meals ahead can lessen the daily workload, but can also provide something to look forward to. My family created a four-week rolling menu, which took away the weekly stress of thinking of meals, but with a ‘wildcard’ entry each week there was potential for trying out new recipes (or getting a takeaway).

Under the first lockdown, my husband and I invented a lockdown cooking competition – every weekend we each challenge the other to cook something new and out of our comfort zone. It’s been a great way to actually use each of our collections of cookbooks instead of just admiring the lovely photos. We have a whole routine that has become incredibly important for my sanity because it is structured and focused, and gives me something to look forward to as well as be a challenge not just to cook but also source ingredients.

I batch-cook at the weekend so that, no matter how busy things get during the week, I have nice lunches to look forward to.

Hobbies

The pandemic lockdowns have enabled some people to start new hobbies, or spend more time on existing ones.

For the most part of our lockdown we weren’t permitted to travel more than 5 km from home. Some birders on Twitter had the idea of keeping a #Stage4LockdownList. I started noting every species I saw in my 5 km radius. It encouraged me to get exercise, to be in nature, to be mindful and to appreciate things in my local area that I had taken for granted. I hope this is a new habit that I’ll take with me. (I ended up with 27 birds on my list – not bad for a beginner.)

My regular activity is crochet. Almost daily! You could say I’m hooked  … Fortunately, my yarn stash is well stocked. Sometimes my cat tries to ‘help’, but his company is a delight and a guarantee of daily smiles and chortles.

I have enjoyed patchworking for the past few years but thought I would attempt to learn to crochet … I managed one evening of tying my fingers in knots before returning to my craft comfort zone.

Music

Listening and dancing to music can be a great stress reliever and soul lifter. Several members talked about missing live gigs or singing with their choir. I’ve invested in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones so I can get completely absorbed in what I’m listening to.

Music is always part of my day. I actually feel a bit unwell any day I don’t make music – or listen to someone else making music. Covid-19 has put the kibosh on lots of my musical activities. (Who knew that chamber music would become more dangerous than adventure sports?!) So I make sure to listen to great music. Here’s Thelonious Monk playing ‘Tea for Two’. I’ve listened to this four times today. And every time I do, it feels like an act of self-care.

I also find dancing and seeing live music a great stress release, so have missed those a lot. During lockdown, I’ve been going to an online disco on Friday nights (via Zoom) and watching a live DJ on Twitch every lunchtime. (I’ve even put it in my work calendar – although with a cryptic title, just in case I accidentally share it with a client one day!) It has really helped to feel part of those communities, and the music has helped me to process and release lockdown emotions.

Friends and partners

Seeing our friends and family is so important, and that’s been taken away from many of us over the past year. We’ve found new ways of communicating, and made the most of the times when we have been able to go for walks or coffees together.

I’ve been doing a fortnightly quiz with a group of friends. I don’t think we’ve ever seen so much of each other, actually, as we’re so scattered across the country.

Directly messaging particular friends can bring about that personal connection, in a very different way to posting more widely (and more generically) on social media platforms.

I’ve rekindled a friendship with an old friend. We now send each other silly, or supportive, WhatsApp messages almost every day. If either of us has a low moment, or needs to vent, we can reach out and share. We now also occasionally send each other surprise gifts by post (‘I saw this and thought of you’).

Being outside

From birdwatching to long walks, to tending the garden, to looking at the sky – time spent outside is never wasted when it comes to self-care. Even a walk in the pouring rain can bring with it joy (and the delight of dry, warm clothes afterwards).

I love walking anyway but I’ve made a conscious effort when I’m out now to notice something new or curious on each walk. It could be some particularly splendid fungi, or the birds, or a gnarly tree, or going down a different path for a change and seeing where I end up. Some walks have taken rather longer than planned to get me back to my starting point  …

Movement generally is good for our mental and physical health, so adding in the fresh air and maybe even some vitamin D from the sunshine makes getting outside a win–win when trying to look after ourselves. For several years, I have gone to outside bootcamps every week – when restrictions stopped these, the instructor moved online and I took my laptop into the garden (though the Wi-Fi issues and light glare made some sessions more tense than was ideal …)

I live at the bottom of a hill, and the newsagent is at the top. I force myself to walk up there every day to pick up the paper, then I spend half an hour reading it with a cup of coffee before I get back to work.

I check the forecast every morning to work out when the weather looks best, then intentionally structure my day around that. The rain radar is also useful – even on really bad days, there’s generally a break in the weather at some point. I always feel much brighter (and more productive) afterwards, even on the days when I really don’t want to go outside.

Lockdown clichés

I’ve turned into a complete lockdown cliché, having taken up sourdough and running!

It’s hardly a solution for everyone, but I can totally recommend getting a puppy.

We have two golden retrievers and we try to walk them every day. It’s great to get out into the fresh air and, c’mon, golden retrievers. They’re good for the soul. Doctors should write prescriptions for people to spend time with golden retrievers.

I’m also spending a lot of time growing my hair. I’m trying for an A C Grayling look, but most people think it’s more Doc Brown (from Back to the Future, not the rapper).

I’m also a bit of a lockdown cliché, as it’s walking and breadmaking for me.

Getting it right

There is no one right way of looking after ourselves that works for everyone. This post only covers the most popular themes that members have shared on the CIEP forums. How do you look after your wellbeing? Has it changed over the past year? Let us know in the comments below.

About Abi Saffrey

Abi Saffrey is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. A member of the CIEP’s information team, she coordinates this blog and edits Editorial Excellence, the Institute’s external newsletter.

Now she’s finished writing this blog post, she’s off for a walk.

 

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: crocuses by Aaron Burden; long-tailed tit by Andy Holmes, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

What resources does the CIEP offer?

The CIEP offers a wide range of support and professional development material on proofreading and copyediting. In this post the Institute’s information team summarises the resources available to our members and to the public.

Here’s what we’ll be looking at in this post.

  • CIEP resources
  • guides
  • fact sheets
  • focus papers
  • the CIEP blog
  • newsletters and
  • what’s coming up in 2021

CIEP resources

Our information team works with experienced editorial professionals and industry leaders to provide trusted advice and practical knowhow on working with English language texts. These range from tips on getting started, gleaned from practitioners’ years of experience, to the fine details of editorial markup and proofreading etiquette, plus insights into evolving usage and when to recognise it’s an ‘it depends’ situation rather than a rule of grammar.

Guides

Our guides provide a basic introduction to the various skills and knowledge needed to work as an editorial professional.

On 1 February 2021, we published a revised edition of the Going Solo: Creating your freelance editorial business guide, written by Sue Littleford. CIEP members also have access to the Going Solo Toolkit, which includes a suite of spreadsheet tools to keep track of business records.

 

Fact sheets

Fact sheets are brief introductions to a topic or issue related to practical aspects of editing or proofreading, or working as an editor or proofreader. They aren’t comprehensive but give tips related to the topic and a list of further resources.

Editors work on all kinds of text, from marketing materials, theses and reports to blogs and websites. However, a core area of work for many editors is still books, for print or online publication. All books are different, but many adhere to a standard basic structure. This helps the author and the publisher order the information, but more importantly it helps the reader navigate the finished book, making it a truly useful and accessible resource.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Anatomy of a book

As soon as you agree to take on work for a client, or to complete a task for a colleague, you are under an obligation to ensure the work is completed as agreed. But whether you are a business owner or an employee you will always have other tasks on your to-do list: juggling expectations and moving deadlines, managing yourself and others, chasing invoices and marketing your services, as well as coping with personal matters that may have an impact on your capacity to work. Do you have a plan for how to cope if disaster strikes?

MEMBER RESOURCE: Building a business resilience and disaster plan

Focus papers

Focus papers explore an aspect of the English language or editorial practice that:

  • challenges assumptions
  • offers a new perspective on, illuminates or addresses a problem
  • helps readers better understand the value of professional editing, either their own practice or as potential users of editorial services (or both!).

They are written by well-known and expert names in their field, including CIEP honorary president David Crystal, linguist Rob Drummond and editor Sarah Grey.

If only the whole world had a language in common, war could be avoided. Thatʼs what LL Zamenhof thought when he developed Esperanto in 1887. Esperanto wasnʼt meant to replace anyoneʼs home language, but it would create a common ground for people from different backgrounds. It would make communication easier and more direct, reducing the need for go-betweens like translators and interpreters.

FREE RESOURCE: In a globalised world, should we retain different Englishes? by Lynne Murphy

Serendipitously, just hours after the CIEP asked me to write about whom, an email landed in my inbox. It included this: ‘Patients whom have already received notification …’.

MEMBER RESOURCE: To whom it may concern, by Jeremy Butterfield

 

The CIEP blog

The CIEP blog aims to provide useful and entertaining articles for anyone interested in editing, proofreading, the English language, starting and managing an editorial business, and publishing more widely.

Like many freelancers, I was hit hard by the pandemic. 2020 started well enough, including a huge two-month project for a Commission. But in the week before we went into lockdown last March, I ran into deep trouble. First, as businesses battened down their financial hatches, all the projects I’d had booked in up to mid-June were cancelled by my clients.

Reviving my editorial business, by Louise Bolotin

There are some words I should think about before saying them. Instead, I mispronounce with confidence and blasé out people’s corrections: ‘If-eat? Are you sure? All my French friends rhyme effete with tête.’ (The friends I have yet to make.) There are other words that I rehearse before sharing aloud, such as conscious and conscience. But present me with a dot dot dot and I dither between ellipsis and ellipses. It makes me sound like I don’t really know what it is or they are.

A Finer Point: Read my ellipsis, by Riffat Yusuf

Newsletters

We produce two bi-monthly newsletters: The Edit for members, and Editorial Excellence for anyone who wishes to subscribe. Both highlight new resources and blog posts on a particular topic or theme.

Coming in 2021 …

And there’s more to come … In 2021 we hope to publish guides on punctuation, editing recipes and cookbooks, working with self-publishers and editing scientific research articles. There will be fact sheets on well-being, software for editing and proofreading, and fact checking, and focus papers by Tom Shakespeare, Stan Carey and other well-known names. No doubt the wise owls will appear more than once on the blog, alongside articles about Plain English in fiction and sub-editing.

Wrapping up: CIEP resources

Now you know what CIEP resources are available, have a look at the ones that are relevant to you. Don’t forget:

  • You can download free fact sheets and focus papers (and even more if you are a CIEP member).
  • Guides provide handy introductions to the skills and knowledge needed to work as an editorial professional.
  • The CIEP blog is updated with new content regularly.

Which CIEP resource has been most useful to you so far? Which one are you planning to read next? Let us know in the comments. If you don’t already receive our Editorial Excellence newsletter, click on the button below to subscribe.

I’D LIKE THE NEWSLETTER

About the CIEP information team

Abi Saffrey, Liz Jones, Margaret Hunter, Cathy Tingle

Liz Jones, Abi Saffrey and Cathy Tingle are the CIEP’s information commissioning editors. If there’s a topic that you think could be covered in a blog post, fact sheet, focus paper or guide, drop the team a line at infoteam@ciep.uk.

 

 

 

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 credit: man reading by Tamarcus Brown on Unsplash

 

Reviving my editing business

By Louise Bolotin

Like many freelancers, I was hit hard by the pandemic. 2020 started well enough, including a huge two-month project for a Commission. But in the week before we went into lockdown last March, I ran into deep trouble. First, as businesses battened down their financial hatches, all the projects I’d had booked in up to mid-June were cancelled by my clients. And then the local weekly newspaper where I’d worked as their subeditor for several years rang to say they were laying me off. In the space of a few days, I lost 100% of my work. Utter despair and panic set in because after the final week of that lucrative Commission job, I had nothing – for the first time in 15 years of working for myself.

Normally I’d never admit this, but I was not alone. I heard countless similar tales from other freelancers. For a few weeks I seriously contemplated getting a supermarket job. I had bills to pay, after all. I even got as far as half-heartedly filling out some of an application form for one supermarket. But I reminded myself that I still wanted to be my own boss, rather than someone’s employee. So as the public clamoured to ‘build back better’, I resolved to do the same, as there was no point dwelling on what I’d lost.

Once the shock had settled, it was time to roll up my sleeves. Under lockdown, I had plenty of time to review what I needed to do to bring work back to me – I’d let a few things slide for a while because when you are busy you’re often too busy to do marketing essentials. I also thought about what I didn’t want so I could make the big decisions. One thing I definitely didn’t want was to commute again. I’d worked at the newspaper one day a week, sometimes two, but the prospect of sitting on a train for 45 minutes each way in the middle of a pandemic was now unthinkable.

Despite the prospect of no income for goodness knows how long, I pledged to do a minimum two things every day that might generate work, and I also felt I could afford to spend a bit to earn a bit as I qualified for the government’s SEISS grant.

First, it was time to invest in a new website and logo. My then website was 10 years old and looked dated and unprofessional. Within a few weeks of launching my new look, my site analytics were showing increased visits and enquiries.

Next, it was time to up my CPD. First in my sights was the CIEP’s Medical Editing course, something I’d planned to do for a while but not got round to. Under lockdown I had time to get cracking. I completed the course in October and then paid for a freelance directory entry on a specialist network with the aim of finding medcomms work. That is starting to pay off.

As a member of the National Union of Journalists I have access to a huge suite of free courses run by the Federation of Entertainment Unions. In April I joined their webinars on Cash Flow Planning and Freelance Finance to get a quick grip on loss of income. These helped ease some of the financial stress I was experiencing. I also did the FEU’s Grow Your Business via Email Marketing webinar in August – it was both useful and inspiring. Within days I’d opened a Mailchimp account and am now sending a monthly newsletter to my clients. Late last year, I attended the FEU’s course on goal-setting. I’d never done this before, but I set two goals for this year and I’m reviewing them every month. One was to find three new long-term contracts – two of them found me in December.

There were other things – signing up to some paid-for freelancing newsletters that signpost work opportunities and yet more webinars, and joining a Slack community for journalists that was hugely valuable in providing camaraderie and support for lockdown stress and mental health.

Among my ‘two things a day’ pledge, this was a good time to update my various directory entries, including my CIEP one. I polished my CV and opted to spend more time on LinkedIn engaging with colleagues. I scoured job sites most days to look for freelance work. I got commissioned by a national newspaper to write a feature on being separated from my husband under lockdown. My NUJ branch also hired me to update my training courses on the business of freelancing and run them for branch members on Zoom.

The hard labour paid off and work has come back – in November I was fully booked for the first time since lockdown. And I learned the following:

Resilience matters: I’ve always been strong, and have bounced back from some of my life’s most challenging situations. I drew on that in 2020 to rebuild my business, bank balance and sanity. Never underestimate the power of keeping going – you’ll get to where you want to be eventually.

Envy is pointless: I felt irrationally furious at some colleagues who were still busy. Why them? Why not me? Especially the ones who’d only just started freelancing. But who knew what trouble they too might be in? For all I knew, just because they seemed busy, it didn’t mean they too weren’t struggling. I felt better when I let go of the envy and focused on building back.

It’s OK to ask for help: I’m not great at this, but I did. I was honest on social media, in the forums of my professional bodies and to friends offline about being in a hole and needing work. This helped keep my spirits up and some CIEP colleagues were kind enough to put work my way. I have since given interviews on how freelancers were hit and what I did to get back on my feet. I hope that helped others.

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin began her career in journalism, turning her attention to the editorial side after a decade. She still writes occasionally, but has been a freelance editor since 2005 and is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. She specialises in working with companies on business documents, alongside copyediting a few books every year. An NUJ trainer on the business aspects of freelancing, she took her own advice when the pandemic struck.


Photo credits: empty train by Carl Nenzen Loven; small business fighting for survival by Gene Gallin 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.

Forum matters: Business tools to boost your 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.

An Excel shortcut, how to set up multiple monitors, how to reflect domestic costs in a tax return, how to stay well in lockdown. These are just some of the issues that members have brought to the CIEP forums, looking for help and practical advice. It is a reflection of the age we live in that the responses often recommend an app, a macro, a program or some other automated tool as the solution.

Perhaps inevitably, most posts seeking help or advice are about grammar, punctuation, usage or other language-related problems. But there is a wealth of expertise among the membership on the broader practical aspects of running a business. Most of us are freelancers. So, without admin, secretarial or IT support, multi-tasking has to become second nature.

Digital marketing

A great example of the forums acting as a resource for business tools comes in the area of website building. Most members count a website as a key element of their marketing. There have been a number of threads over the years with advice on the best website hosts, tools and servers for newcomers. One request for advice on website builders elicited views on six different options and an additional resource for templates – all in just 24 hours! The advantage of the forums is that you get suggestions from people in the same line of business who will be facing many of the same challenges. Other threads discuss resources for logo design and blogs, even links to courses on how to improve SEO.

Money matters

However we approach our business, there is no escaping the need to keep careful and accurate accounts. CIEP members shared knowledge and advice about key business tools in a thread on accounts software where members – crucially, with similar business needs to the original poster – weighed in with advice on a number of different accounting packages. They have also touched on the pros and cons (in the UK) of setting up as a limited company or a sole trader, how to handle specific tax issues like PAYE or allowing for domestic costs in a tax return.

All the answers

No discussion about boosting business efficiency would be complete without a mention of macros – the one topic that has a forum all to itself. Its threads reveal that we have members at all points on the spectrum, from programming experts to absolute beginners. But the help and advice available – and freely offered by some members – has enabled many to conquer their initial fear of macros and discover the huge improvements and time savings that can be achieved with them. You can also find discussions on the forums about other editing software packages, such as PerfectIt.

And if you can’t find what you want, just ask! Earlier this year a member said they couldn’t find much information about Linux on the forums, so they posted a question and set off a thread with competing views on the usefulness of Linux as an operating system.

Training, an essential part of maintaining our professionalism and standards, is another area in which the forums are a major source of ideas and inspiration. Many CIEP newcomers have come to the forums for advice on how to negotiate the maze of courses available from the CIEP and other providers, to boost their chances of finding the right course for the career path they have chosen.

Tips for productivity

There are always new forum threads on a wide range of products, programs and tools with a common theme of boosting productivity. Topics covered include:

Keeping healthy

As we all wish 2020 a (probably not very) fond farewell, it is also worth noting that the forums were a healthy source of advice about maintaining our mental health and dealing with the stresses that have come our way. Members have shared ideas and tips on loneliness, difficulties with concentration and a range of self-care ideas, including walking, resting, meditation and cookery.

Many members cite the forums as one of the greatest benefits of CIEP membership (and some of us probably spend too much time on them – see the recent blog post on productivity!). They can be a veritable gold mine of help and advice, and their value comes from the fact that it is members, many with similar experiences and facing the same challenges, helping each other.


Photo credits: But by all means do it by S O C I A L . C U T; high impact designs by NordWood Themes, both on Unsplash

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

CIEP local groups: connecting and learning

The CIEP’s local groups enable members to share knowledge, hear from guest speakers, and gain new skills. Many groups meet monthly, and all have moved to online meetings since March. In this post, three members share what their groups have been up to.

Herts & Essex

By Antonia Maxwell

On 9 July the Herts & Essex CIEP local group welcomed Melody Dawes as guest speaker at its Zoom meeting. Melody is founder of Just Content (a specialist content services provider), and works closely with publishing clients to build teams of freelancers to meet their project needs.

Melody is ideally placed to offer advice and insight into the freelancer–client relationship. She highlighted the importance of scoping the project at the outset. This means establishing a brief, allocating the appropriate resources, and discussing the details of schedules, timing, pace of work – and of course fees. She emphasised the importance of two-way communication at this stage to avoid problems later on. Establishing expectations, hammering out a detailed brief and assessing the level of work are all areas where a freelancer – who may be the first person to delve into the detail of the project – needs to speak out and offer their expertise.

Melody was keen to explore CIEP members’ experiences of working with publishing clients. Project management was highlighted as a particularly thorny area when scoping a project – where clients may underestimate the level of work required. Offsetting quality of work against budget restrictions was discussed too – and again Melody stressed the need for clear communication and honest appraisal of the project.

The meeting concluded with Melody’s reflections on the future. She has noted a shift in emphasis in publishing towards digital products, but emphasised that the editorial skills required for these products remain broadly the same as for print. Freelancers shouldn’t be afraid of taking on digital work – everyone is learning – and as ever the importance of dialogue to establish the client’s requirements and any training needs was emphasised.

Melody talked about freelancers’ concerns for the future resulting from COVID-19 and lockdown. Although there is uncertainty, she felt that publishing seems to have adjusted to some extent during lockdown – for example, catering to the changing demands of the home school market and increased demand for digital output. Whether a lull in publishers commissioning new titles over the lockdown period will ultimately impact freelancers’ workflow remains to be seen.

Thanks to Melody for sharing her insights and spending time with the Herts & Essex Group!

West Yorkshire

By Helen Stevens

Many freelance editors and proofreaders don’t often need to speak in public. In fact, sometimes there’s little need to speak at all in the course of a working day.

So what on earth would possess a freelance editor to step outside their comfort zone and train in public speaking? Neuroscience editor Julia Slone-Murphy agreed to enlighten us.

Julia described situations in the past when she had been obliged to speak in public: the sleepless nights beforehand, the sweaty palms, the racing heart rate, the script delivered rapidly and without looking at the audience … Stepping several miles outside her comfort zone, Julia decided to tackle her fear by taking a public speaking course.

Perhaps not surprisingly, increased confidence in public speaking was the main benefit of training. But Julia also found she was more fluent and confident in verbal communication generally, whether in meetings, at events or on the phone. Similarly, she found she was more logical, coherent and eloquent in her written communications.

Julia gained a great sense of success in seeing herself improve in leaps and bounds, particularly in an activity she had previously struggled with.

Julia’s top tips

  1. Make it personal: Weave your own experiences into the message you’re conveying. Your audience will relate to your ‘story’, and your speech will be memorable and entertaining.
  2. Focus on the message: Don’t worry about being the centre of attention. Instead, focus on delivering a message your audience will find interesting. This moves the spotlight away from you and onto your audience.
  3. Keep practising: Find opportunities to carry on honing your skills, otherwise you’ll be back to square one!

David Crystal, the CIEP’s honorary president, makes it personal when speaking at the 2019 SfEP conference

Julia encouraged all editors and proofreaders to improve their public speaking skills, whether or not they’re planning to actually make a speech.

Goodbye, sweaty palms and racing heart rate; hello, logical thinking, eloquent delivery and sparkling social and business encounters!

NEW: Discovery

By Claire Handy

Thank goodness for the internet! Without it, the local group meetings would have been another casualty of the pandemic. However, since we’ve moved onto Zoom to stay in touch with our fellow editors, I have attended more meetings, and got to know more wonderful people, than I would normally have done.

For security reasons though, it has meant that only members have been able to attend these events. In normal times, those interested in learning more about the CIEP and proofreading/copyediting could usually attend up to three meetings before deciding whether to join the Institute, giving them a chance to ask questions about starting out, and learn more about what the CIEP can do for them. This isn’t possible at the moment, so Discovery meetings have been created to offer interested people the chance to find out more before a career change or joining the CIEP.

We had two trial meetings back in June before the idea grew into its current shape, and the first official Discovery meeting was held on 17 July – all to great success. Each meeting had a panel of amazing CIEP members who gave up their time to answer questions – questions that we all had when we started, which ranged from ‘What course should I do?’ to ‘How long until I get my first client?’ to ‘Does proofreading bring enough income in?’ to ‘What benefits does the CIEP offer me?’ and more. The meetings lasted just over an hour and all participants reported back afterwards that they were incredibly useful and packed full of information. There was so much excitement and anticipation in the feedback I received, which was lovely to read, and we now have new members joining our ranks.

The Discovery meetings will be continuing for future interested people; check out the Events calendar for dates and times if you know anyone who would like to attend.


Photo credit: video call and coffee – Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Proofread by Lynne Baybut, Entry-Level Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Forum matters: Efficacious, efficient, efficiently

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.

We’re all on the lookout for ways to extend our skills and increase our income by working more quickly – and many members are happy to share their experiences on the forums.

Type ‘efficient’ into the forum search function and you get umpteen results, containing hundreds of posts. Try it! It’s a great example of how the CIEP forums offer editorial professionals an indispensable source of practical ideas, sound advice and general support on almost any topic.

Training pays dividends

The search found links to the Efficient Editing course. CIEP courses help you to develop good practices, to increase your knowledge and to improve your expertise. All this development helps you work more efficiently and more quickly, and your hourly earnings should go up. Did you know that if you can drum up the numbers then you can run a CIEP course just for your local group? One effect of the lockdown is that the CIEP is now running some of these courses, including Efficient Editing, via webinar.

Making the most of technology

Local groups – including the Cloud Clubs – often talk ‘efficient’ and share the benefits of specific macros or apps. Efficiency is also a big topic on SfEPLine, which is the best forum in which to discuss technological and practical approaches to some of the more mechanical aspects of proofreading in particular. Checking references is one such time-consuming task, and among the recommendations are Edifix and Recite, with much lamentation over the demise of ReferenceChecker. But contributors also share good suggestions for using more hands-on approaches to managing references, such as the ideal number of passes or the breakdown into single tasks (eg are all the full stops there/not there at the end of the line?). The consensus is that much depends on how your brain works and that therefore there is no ‘right answer’ – the most efficient approach is the one that works for you (the search term ‘references’ brings up over 1,300 posts).

Among the software recommended by forum members for improving editing efficiency are PerfectIt, the Editor’s Toolkit, ProWritingAid and text expanders. But they all come with the caveat that you do need to know what you are doing, or you could end up introducing many more errors – very inefficient, if not downright incompetent.

In praise of manuals

The world isn’t entirely technical, though, and manuals and dictionaries (hard copy and online) still have a role to play in upping your efficiency. Style manuals get a thumbs-up, particularly the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), although the first step is to get to grips with their highly organised layout so that you can find what you need without spending hours searching.

A false dawn?

Another hotbed of discussion is the impact on academic editing of project management companies. These sold themselves to publishers on the ‘efficiency equals cheapness’ premise by using pre-editing software that is supposed to give the copyeditor a head start by creating a manuscript that is consistent and formatted. They assume that the copyeditor will therefore need to spend less time editing, hence the job will be cheaper. The trouble is that algorithms aren’t (yet) language speakers, so copyeditors still need to check for sense and context. What has been sold as a time-efficient system can lead to increasing the work. Sometimes the manuscript can only be worked on using a project management company’s own software – and this sort of bespoke software may not work with a copyeditor’s treasured macros, which has the reverse effect on efficiency. There are a number of recent, and less recent, threads on working with project management companies.

Use your styles

A properly formatted manuscript is a diamond and indicates a skilful, professional producer. Too many writers don’t understand the impact of direct formatting on how the copy transfers from original manuscript to finished publication (direct formatting is, for example, when you turn a single word italic or bold using the symbols on the home page, or go through the laborious process of creating spacing with double paragraph returns or using tabs for indentations). Setting up and using properly defined styles benefits the whole production line – see ‘Losing italics from Word to PDF’. By stripping out direct formatting and applying correct styles, you are also increasing the typesetter’s efficiency.

Managing time, maintaining health

Social media is a cunning efficiency interrupter, and members are keen to share ways of avoiding information overload. This often comes down to time management, beginning with the simple task of spending the first few minutes of your day writing out a simple to-do list (and then sticking to it), to allocating specific time slots for looking at your social media, to signing up to time-tracking software or software that interrupts you every so often and tells you to move! One thread on ‘Difficulty concentrating’ drew out so many fantastic ideas on how to refresh your brain that it would be impossible to summarise them here.

Time to end with the oft-repeated mantra that it’s essential to maintain your health and wellbeing – and no amount of efficiency gain is worth compromising those (thanks, Sue Browning):

Last but by no means least, I find taking time to get some exercise, preferably in the fresh air, pays dividends in focus and productivity. Even when time is tight, a few minutes throwing a ball for the dog in the garden can refresh me for the next stint of work.


Photo credits: This must be the place – Tim Mossholder; dawn – M Mitchell; dog – Afra Ramió, all on Unsplash

Proofread by Mike Smith, Intermediate Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Forum matters

This feature comes from the band of CIEP members who volunteer as forum moderators. Links to the forum threads will only work after you’ve registered for the forums and logged in.

If there is one place worth revisiting often, it’s the CIEP member forums. Some of us swear that access to the forums alone is worth the membership fee – and that’s only a slight exaggeration. In fact, about half the people who have joined the forums have never written a post, but I’m sure they’ve gained plenty from their lurking.

One member has written over 17,000 posts, but then they’ve been signed up for nine years and had plenty of official business to discuss. One per cent have contributed over 1,000 posts, but the majority contribute as and when the fancy takes them. And there’s plenty of variety to suit anybody’s fancy.

All CIEP members have the right to access the forums, but for the moment (until our new website is up and running) you do have to take the positive step of joining. It is a two-stage process, but simple. First you register via the main CIEP website, then your application is approved by a moderator (sometimes this happens in minutes, sometimes in hours; it depends whether the volunteer moderator is online at the time). This process ensures privacy on the forums, because this is a space to share and to vent as well as to pick up useful info. It’s the CIEP water cooler!

Frequent venting, constant support

Plenty of venting does go on: against low pay (Offer from [global company]); against rude clients (Rude email from publisher for asking MS to be in order); and against incomprehensible paperwork (HMRC self-assessment – reporting ‘foreign income’). But it is never allowed to get personal or vindictive. By all accounts, our forums are a much friendlier space than many online. If a thread looks as though it’s going that way, then any member can easily flag up their discomfort by emailing the moderators (forums@ciep.uk). Posts may be deleted, threads removed and, in the worst case, a member can have their access denied (temporarily or permanently). It does happen – but not often. Any vitriol is dealt with swiftly and fairly and in line with the CIEP Dignity Policy. But what usually happens is that a range of viewpoints emerges, putting things in perspective and offering a solution or two.

Many people use the word ‘supportive’ in relation to the forums. It goes without saying that much of that refers to sharing professional knowledge. Knowledge about words and their ‘correct’ use, knowledge about the business of editing/proofreading and acquiring clients, knowledge about hardware and software. But there is other, more nebulous, support that goes on throughout the forums.

On the forums during COVID-19

A case in point has been during the coronavirus lockdown, when the forums have come into their own. Discussions have ranged across:

Collective wisdom

One great virtue of the forums is that the threads automatically become a huge archive, a fount of collective wisdom. The extraordinary thing is how much of this knowledge remains useful year on year, which makes the role of lurker even more valid!

Many questions come up over and over again, particularly from newbies, so the best first step is to use the Search function. Like all search facilities you need to play with the term(s) you input; if, at first, nothing comes up, then try again with a longer or a different word (it needs to be at least four characters long). But please don’t moan if you find you’re sucked into a distracting vortex of posts and you lose an afternoon! We guarantee the forums will distract, entertain and educate you, and it’ll be time well spent.


Photo credit: Kindness by United Nations COVID-19 Response on Unsplash

Proofread by Emma Easy, Intermediate Member.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

CIEP social media round-up: April and May 2020

Two of the strangest months in memory, recorded through our social media accounts

Times such as these are tricky for a social media team whose focus is on publishing and freelancing. As with pretty much everything right now, long term we don’t know what COVID-19 might mean for publishing, the book industry, or editors and proofreaders. We entered April 2020 wondering what we could communicate to our audiences on a day-to-day basis. Too much doom would be unhelpful. Too much levity would be unwelcome. What to do? Like so many others, we took each day at a time.

Silver linings

But heartening developments emerged, at least where publishing was concerned: increased book buying during lockdown, and the appearance of online book festivals and other events, with the Hay Festival, from 18 to 31 May, presenting an impressive array of personalities including our own honorary president, David Crystal. (David also starred in Mark Allen’s new podcast, That Word Chat, on 11 May.) Online events, by their nature, could include many more people than would have attended physically. ACES, the society for editing in the US (@copyeditors), took its conference online with #ACES2020Online on 1 May, and we were promised great things by SENSE, the Society of English-language professionals in the Netherlands (@SENSEtheSociety), whose online conference was to take place in early June.

Revising our lexicon

We covered the updating of dictionaries that the coming of COVID-19 required, so that editors and proofreaders were informed about how to refer to the virus. We posted articles about new terms such as quarantini and coronacoaster, and terms that were gaining popularity such as infodemic, as well as whether we were using older terms differently now. We reminded our followers of the differences between similar terms we were now using a lot, such as hoard and horde (‘There are hordes of people hoarding toilet paper’, one Facebook follower observed).

Keeping up with tech

Video conferencing packages are now part of our lives in a way they never were before. We covered Zoom in various ways, from why Zoom makes you tired to sports commentator Andrew Cotter’s Zoom meeting with his two Labradors: a treat. Meanwhile, Cambridge Dictionaries introduced us to new video conferencing terms like zoombombing, zumping and teletherapy. Merriam-Webster noted the coining of two news-and-phone-related phrases: doomsurfing and doomscrolling.

Shelf isolation

More attention is being paid to bookshelves in these Zoom days (see ‘Bookcase Credibility’, @BCredibility, an account launched in April that comments on the bookshelves of various public figures). Of course, at CIEP we appreciate a good bookshelf (and a good book nook, a scene or figure that can be placed between shelved books). On 25 March we had proved ourselves ahead of the curve by asking our Twitter followers to #ShowUsYourShelves. To fill these shelves still further, during April and May there were a number of articles and postings about the books we could read in lockdown, to comfort us, return us to our childhoods, inspire, uplift or offer us escape, or simply to get us through. We enjoyed artist Phil Shaw’s ordering of books to tell a story with their titles, something that Orkney Library (@OrkneyLibrary), now temporarily closed, had often done for its 70K followers. And, remaining with libraries, the true story about the cleaner who rearranged the books in a library in size order – oh, horror! – inspired sympathy and hilarity in many.

Actors available

Suddenly, actors and other artists had time on their hands and were doing impromptu readings and recitals. Jennifer Ehle, Elizabeth Bennet in the famous BBC 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, read the novel chapter by chapter, and we shared this on Twitter on 6 April. Andy Serkis read The Hobbit online for charity. @SirPatStew (Sir Patrick Stewart) read a Shakespeare sonnet every day until 22 May. Our post announcing this got 83 likes and 33 shares from our delighted Facebook followers.

Home comforts

Of course, we editors and proofreaders are, for the most part, well used to all aspects of working from home, from furry assistants to endless tea or coffee drinking. And, alas, with beverages occasionally comes spillage. One of our most popular posts on Twitter was about an artist who made coffee stains into illustrations of monsters. There were a lot of them. Boy, was he unlucky with his coffee.

Funnies, Friday or otherwise

If you’re a devotee of the CIEP Facebook page, you’ll know that there’s a Friday Funny at about 4pm every week to send everyone off into the weekend with a smile. These are often comic strips by book-appreciating illustrators such as John Atkinson or authors who understand the trials of working from home such as Adrienne Hedger. When we’re very lucky, the legendary Brian Bilston releases a poem. His ‘Comparative Guidance for Social Distancing’ got 160 likes and 105 shares on our Facebook page, and it wasn’t even posted on a Friday. Sometimes the stars align and there’s a cat-and-books story we can post at the end of the week. Such an event took place on 22 May, when we enjoyed Horatio, a cat who wears (or, really, bears) costumes to promote his local library. As one Facebook user commented, ‘That is a patient cat.’ Truth.

Lockdown LinkedIn

We only started posting our blog-based LinkedIn content regularly last June, and since we passed the 10,000 followers mark last August our followers have increased again by another 8,000. Since lockdown, engagement has reduced as many of our followers seem to be working parents who are grabbing opportunities to work while suddenly morphing into teacher mode. During April and May 2020, posts that proved popular included: Denise Cowle’s week in the life of an editor (more than 8% engagement rate and 45 likes), a post by Intermediate Member Hilary McGrath sharing tips for staying motivated when starting a course (more than 4% engagement rate and 38 likes) and, showing reading-related content is our bread and butter, Abi Saffrey’s post about evaluating her year in books (more than 5% engagement rate, 32 likes and 8 comments).

Rounding up the round-up

During April and May 2020 on the CIEP’s social media, the emphasis was on editors and proofreaders looking after themselves, diverting themselves, keeping informed and looking for light where it could be found. As ever, our social media was overwhelmingly about support. We got a new emoji on Facebook – ‘care’, the usual little yellow head hugging a heart. Gotta tell you, it’s coming in useful.

Don’t miss a thing in editing and proofreading. Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


Photo credits: wall emojis by George Pagan III; cat by Andrii Ganzevych, both on Unsplash

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.

Relative density: kids and coping in the time of COVID-19

By Cathy Tingle

It’s Tuesday. I was supposed to write this blog yesterday. According to our COVID-19 routine, on Mondays my husband runs ‘school’ for my two children, aged 7 and 9. But yesterday the kids were particularly restless. They didn’t want to do the tasks set by their teachers. The younger one kept interrupting me in my ‘office’ (bedroom). There was a lot of shrieking as they chased each other around the house. Add to that the summons to buy our possessions back at their ‘shop’ (I couldn’t miss that: there was an iPad going for 45p), a surprise Zoom meeting for my husband, and some complicated new logging-on process for online school followed by my son sending his friends excited greetings (which had to be typed, finger by finger, on my laptop), and my day was pretty much shot to pieces as far as writing was concerned.

Hello again, old routines

We parents are used to the feeling that our best-laid work plans are precarious. You might be halfway through editing a chapter and the school phones to say your daughter has a tummy ache and can she be collected. You could plan an evening of proofreading but your son decides now is the time to find getting to sleep difficult. It goes with the territory.

But this prolonged uncertainty about when we can work is new for most. Or, rather, it’s a revisiting of something many of us experienced when our kids were tiny. In a recent CIEP forum thread about parenting, members described a common pattern. As a newish parent, to find time to work you rely on nap times, evenings and weekends (the last if there’s a partner or other co-carer to share the load). A little way along the line you can then add the hours that playgroups and nurseries might give you (sometimes only a couple of mornings a week, but it’s something). CIEP members reported having to take laptops or study books on family holidays.

The long and winding quest for productivity

Then, one blessed day, they get to school. Once you’ve got over the surprise that a day at primary school isn’t actually as long as you thought, and realised your most productive times of the day are not during those six hours (one of our editors only really hits her stride at 2.30pm – she has to leave the house to fetch the kids at 3pm), you get the high school years. The kids can at least find their way to school and back, but transporting them to extracurricular activities might take time. And at home? ‘The younger one [14] does seem to feel the need to talk to me about random things when I’m trying to work’, one of our editors reported. Another, whose children have now left home, comments: ‘What I learnt was that a 5-second question requiring only yes or no would cost me 10 to 15 minutes’ work. That was how long it took before I had everything back in my head.’ Bear this in mind when you’re thinking, during these lockdown days, ‘My teenagers don’t require a lot of attention. Why on earth aren’t I more productive?’

So, while we’re required to use ‘school’ hours to educate our children ourselves, many of us are grabbing evening work, weekend work, first-thing-in-the-morning work, as we did in the early years, and as many of us still do in the school holidays. One CIEP member with three children starts working at 5.30am; another uses the hour before the family stirs to answer emails and prioritise her day’s work to avoid stress later. Sometimes there is a tag-team within the parent unit, with one parent covering mornings, the other afternoons, or, if the other parent lives somewhere else, with children going away for a couple of days or more each week. If all else fails, we’re sitting with everyone else with our laptops, snatching ten minutes here and there.

No answers, just a few tips

Many people choose to become freelance precisely because of the flexibility it offers when you have a family. But many editing and proofreading parents are finding lockdown difficult, and it’s not the bare fact of spending more time with our children that’s making us feel like this – of course not. We love them. It’s the pressure of balancing working and caring that’s the problem. If we get paid by the project and don’t have time to complete projects, or we’re paid by the hour and our hours are vastly reduced, how’s that going to work out? It’s worrying, and we don’t have any clear answers, apart from to investigate any government support for self-employed people during this crisis. But here are a few tips for negotiating work and life right now.

  • If you have work, make sure your clients know your situation. Many of them will be in the same boat and will understand, but at the very least it removes the terrifying feeling that you have absolutely no wiggle room on your projects. You might not need to ask for extra time, but knowing you could in an emergency helps everyone.
  • This isn’t the time to be aiming high, so don’t put pressure on yourself to be marketing or rebuilding your website. Don’t listen to those people who talk about achieving great things in lockdown. The achievement level you should be aiming for is ‘coping’.
  • Easier said than done, but if you can, separate work and caring for your children. We often feel we do neither very well, but trying to do them concurrently just confirms this feeling.
  • If you do get a quiet few moments while they’re doing their maths worksheet or drawing a flower, tackle those mundane tasks that might help your business. Personally, I’m deleting old emails. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for forever and it will be useful once we’re all up and running again not to have (cough) 45,958 unread messages in my inbox.
  • Screens aren’t the enemy. From the BBC Bitesize educational programmes to the fantastic Horrible Histories and Operation Ouch!, telly can educate, entertain and buy you some valuable time, and there are a wealth of online museum tours, story readings, science demonstrations and language tutorials too. It doesn’t need to be highbrow – kids will find educational opportunities in most things. When I sought reassurance that there were educational benefits to the Captain Underpants Movie, another CIEP member testified that her son had gained three things from it: an enthusiasm for writing comic books; an introduction to classical music; and an ability to execute armpit farts. All of which will be invaluable when filling in his UCAS form, I’m sure you’ll agree.
  • Take that #StetWalk, as we say in the editing world. Get out for your daily exercise with your child(ren), whether you feel like it or not. It will do everyone good, and the break from work may mean you’re more productive this evening when things are quieter.
  • When you do try to work, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t concentrate very well. This is a completely natural reaction to everything going on in the world, and something that was reported by a number of CIEP members.
  • It might be that we can accomplish more together than apart right now. Reach out to others you could team up with. One member says that one of the lessons she has learned over many years is that ‘some of the most valuable things I do in my business are not done alone; they’re shared’.
  • Sneak off now and then. Not out of your front gate: to the kitchen, or the garden, or into your own choice of fiction, or a podcast. Too often I find myself retreating to Twitter, and that ends up being far from a moment of peace. Find other ways to escape, if you can.
  • As you’ll all be living under the same roof in these conditions for some time yet, try to focus on what matters. As one member says: ‘being extra kind is more important than ever, and remembering that it really, really doesn’t matter whether they learn their grammar or long division is helpful’. Another says: ‘Every single night that your little one goes to bed fed, warm, well, and loved is not failing, whatever else might be going on. Be kinder to yourself.’
  • Get them involved in what you’re doing, if you think it will interest them. My kids have helped me find the pictures for this blog, and for the first time ever they’re helping me lay the table for meals. They even seem to enjoy it.
  • Sometimes you’ve got to throw your plans up in the air and take the opportunities life presents. And if life is presenting you with a child who wants to sing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ with you, cuddle up in front of a movie or have a chat about Instagram (or whatever young people talk about these days), just enjoy the moment and the chance to spend some time with them.

More than one of our members reported that home schooling had been their way of life even before COVID-19 struck. They’d been down a similar path to the one many of us are now treading, and had realised that, in one editor’s words, ‘what I’d feared would be strange and isolating and terrible turned out to be none of those things. My child has blossomed, found their own path, and taught me that there are many ways to live a life, to be a parent, to educate’. Some situations might not look ideal at first glance, but they end up being rewarding in ways we never anticipated.

And so, working-from-home parent, in the words of one CIEP member addressing the other parents on the forum, ‘hugs and solidarity vibes’ to you. We’ll get there, even if it’s by a different route to the one we were expecting.

Many thanks to the contributors to the CIEP forums, who so generously shared their experiences and their child-squeezed time.

Cathy Tingle is a CIEP Advanced Professional Member based in Edinburgh who specialises in copyediting. After trying and failing to work ‘alongside’ her children, she’s offering a reduced service until they go back to school. She’s terrible at baking.

 

 


The CIEP’s forums are a great place for members to connect with and support each other.

CIEP members shared their pandemic concerns and experiences with Liz Jones in April.


Photo credits: family with tablet by Alexander Dummer; child with heart by Anna Kolosyuk, 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.