Category Archives: Training

What editors need to know when asking authors questions

The Art of Querying, a new CIEP course, is on its way. Its creator, Gerard M-F Hill, gives
us a speedy tour through questions and queries, and what the course offers editors
and proofreaders.

Is the current King of France bald?

Questions are of many kinds, and not all of them are good questions – or even answerable.

Whatever you edit – advert, magazine, novel or research paper – you soon start asking yourself questions. What does this mean? Where did those come from? How am I supposed to know that? Is that all? Or even just: why? Of course queries should be clear and concise, but it’s good to be constructive too. What makes a good query?

Before you fire off a query, ask yourself what the problem is. You need to have a reason for asking, because the author may not think it is a problem at all. You first identify the problem by analysing what is bothering you. As a result, you will craft a better question and often you will identify an answer (or answers); then the author just needs to say yes (or no, not exactly … more like this).

Might I suggest?

As queries take up the author’s time (as well as yours), it is only common courtesy to keep them as few and as short as possible. So you need criteria to decide when to ask a question, and you also need a range of suitable formulas that you can adapt for each situation. Good questions will help to ensure that you get a usable answer.

Queries can be short, but they don’t have to be abrupt. It pays to be diplomatic. There are good ways to approach an author, to frame a question and to follow up an incomplete answer – and there are some even better ways.

Does it match the brief/blurb?

Who is this publication for? What will readers want to know? What will they expect to find? What are they expected to know already? Will they know all these facts, names, words, idioms, allusions or connections? Will they resent the presentation as either patronising or trivialising?

As an editor, you ask yourself such questions because they are a big part of the expertise that you offer and that your client is paying for. A publisher does not wish to hear of such defects from unimpressed reviewers or disenchanted readers.

Does it make sense?

What is the writer trying to say? Are they getting their message across? Does it make sense? Why is this different from that? You ask yourself such questions on behalf of the reader, who should not be left to wonder and has no way of asking the author to explain.

If it doesn’t make sense, if the plot or proposition doesn’t add up, if defective grammar is stuffed with malapropisms or other unsuitable words, the reader will soon drift off and never return. The editor aims to prevent any such crisis by smoothing the reader’s path so they can be informed, educated or entertained without being tripped up, distracted or misled.

Are you happy with this?

Where possible, make it easy for the author by presenting your query as a simple choice: A or B? This, that or the other? Would this [rewritten sentence] represent what you are saying?

Have forgotten something?

It’s easy to see that ‘you’ is missing in that sentence. It’s not so easy to spot when a whole topic or aspect of a piece, or the dénouement of a subplot, has been overlooked. The questioning editor keeps a lookout for content that the reader may be expecting, but which is not there.

Easy questions

Why is water wet? This penetrating question from a thoughtful child nonetheless demonstrates that ‘the greatest fool may ask more than the wisest man can answer’, though children are not fools. The saying is often attributed to King James I and VI.

In checking the reference (as all good authors should) I found to my surprise that the aphorism did not come from the wisest fool in Christendom, but from Charles Caleb Colton’s Lacon, published in 1820. In non-fiction, references – inadequate, unconvincing, mangled or missing – usually generate half your queries.

Here’s the answer!

Between 2010 and 2019 I regularly ran a session at the SfEP conference on The Art of Querying, and since then I have been expanding this workshop into an online course. It begins with the whole question of questions. For a start, what do you need to ask yourself? Can your author query be answered at all? Is there only one way to answer it? Could it be misinterpreted? Does the text assume the answer to an unspoken question?

The course next looks at questions to ask the project manager, with a checklist, and how and when to approach the author, with examples of how to do it and what not to do. This section discusses practicalities, from typefaces to time zones, alongside the principles and professional ethics that underlie all editorial queries. It Looks Funny examines your five options before you ask anything, followed by advice on formulating queries and notes, with six rules to help you.

Readers struggle with four major problems – inconsistency, ambiguity, omission and error – and each of these topics has a whole section of the course to itself. Different types of content have their own pitfalls, so there are sections devoted to prelims, narrative and argument, vocabulary and terminology, references, tables and artwork.

The Art of Querying is meant to be instructive, stimulating and enjoyable while extending your editing knowledge and skills, with lots of questions (and answers), well over a hundred real-life examples, copious but concise study notes and a variety of exercises to let you think through different solutions, along with a decision tool to determine whether and what to query, six rules you can follow and a dozen checklists for you to download and use. The Art of Querying is also (I hope) a good read and good fun!

Find out more about The Art of Querying

About Gerard M-F Hill

After several years teaching and 16 years driving heavy lorries, Gerard retrained as an indexer and copyeditor. Since 1990 he has worked on over 500 books and mentored over 100 proofreaders.

As a director of SfEP (2007–16) he devised the basic editorial test used by CIEP and as chartership adviser (2016–20) he worked with the chair, Sabine Citron, to obtain the institute’s Royal Charter.

 

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: question mark by Emily Morter; Answers 1km by Hadija Saidi, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

The CIEP Curriculum for Professional Development

The CIEP’s training director, Jane Moody, has been working closely with directors, tutors and the wider membership to create a curriculum for professional development. In this post, Jane explains:

  • why we need a curriculum
  • what that curriculum covers
  • how the curriculum works.

Do we need a curriculum?

Yes, we do! Most professional organisations have a set of skills and knowledge that you need to understand or at least know something about to call yourself a professional in their area. Some test their members on this set of skills (physiotherapists and accountants, for example) before they can call themselves members of their professional body. All expect their members to refresh their skills and learning against this skill set periodically. Continuing professional development, CPD, is expected of all members, no matter their status in the organisation, and this is true of copyeditors and proofreaders as well.

We, as editors and proofreaders, now also have a framework of study – the CIEP Curriculum for Professional Development.

What does it cover?

At first glance, you might think that you won’t need to know about everything in the curriculum. Have a closer look, though. Any publishing professional needs a basic grounding in publishing ethics and law – even if you only scratch the surface, you should at least know something about the moral rights of authors, plagiarism and copyright. If you work as a freelance editor/proofreader, you are running your own business, so you need to know something about keeping records, what HMRC needs to know about you, and how to work efficiently. You will have your own equipment, so a basic knowledge of how to manage your files and keep them secure is essential for your own and your clients’ peace of mind. That takes you to the end of Domain 1 of the curriculum: Working as a professional.

You may be working in-house in a company and, if so, there will be some aspects of business management and practice that may not be immediately relevant to you. The knowledge in this area will, however, be useful to most members working in our profession today.

Even if you never work for a ‘traditional’ publisher with an editorial department, a production department and a marketing department, you will need to understand the basics of a publishing workflow. There are good reasons why some tasks are done before or after others. The more you understand about the industry and its processes, the wider your client base can be and the more useful you can be to your clients.

Working with words means that you need a good knowledge of the English language and its mechanics, and how different people, groups and organisations use the language. You need to be able to judge whether something makes sense, is clear and appropriate for the audience, and to be able to raise queries with an author or client in a concise and sensitive manner.

How you work is critical to getting repeat business – do a good job and you may pick up a regular client; do what you think you need to without learning about how and why and you are not likely to be asked for a second date. The nuts and bolts of copyediting and proofreading processes have been refined over many decades and, no matter who you work for, understanding what you are doing, who for and why matters if you want to do the best job you can. And now you are at the end of Domain 2.

Not all editors/proofreaders will use all the skills and knowledge included in these two domains of the curriculum in their day-to-day work. Nevertheless, as you grow in skills and experience, you are likely to want to broaden your awareness of publishing processes and the breadth of publishing outside your initial comfort zone. Developing your knowledge and acquiring a broad range of skills are essential CPD.

Some people prefer to remain as ‘generalists’, working for many different clients in several genres and subject areas. If this is true for you, you may never need to consult Domain 3. Others like to specialise, some in traditional areas where there is a body of specialist publishing, such as medicine, music, fiction or the law. Each of these specialist areas has its own conventions, specialist knowledge and terminology. Domain 3 covers a few of these specialisms and others will be added – if there is a specialism that you think should be included, copy the template at the start of Domain 3 (page 28), fill it in and send it to the training director.

How it works

Each domain of the curriculum is set out in columns. The first column divides the domain into detailed topics. The second column shows the competencies, professional skills and attitudes expected of a professional copyeditor/proofreader for this topic, and the third lists some resources to support learning in this area. Eventually, there will be a fourth column, which will list the ways in which a copyeditor/proofreader can demonstrate their competency in this area – a test pass or other kind of assessment, perhaps. This is an aspiration for the future.

We hope that you will contribute to keeping the curriculum alive. Have you taken a course that helped to expand your knowledge and skills? Have you come across a book or other resource that is really useful to you in your practice? Do tell the training director about it.

Download the curriculum now

About Jane Moody

Jane has worked with books for all her working life (which is rather more years than she cares to admit), having started life as a librarian. She started a freelance editing business while at home with her two children, which she maintained for 15 years before going back into full-time employment as head of publishing for a medical Royal College.

Now retired, she has resurrected her editorial business, but has less time for work these days as she spends much time with her four grandchildren and in her garden.

 

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: book stacks by by Lysander Yuen on Unsplash; cogs by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

Eight ways to optimise your CIEP membership upgrade

The CIEP’s Admissions Panel shares eight things that members can do to make their upgrade applications straightforward, and hopefully successful.

What the Admissions Panel needs from you

The CIEP’s membership structure, with its four grades, is one of our core member benefits. It’s designed to help you, our members – to enable you to show the world that you have verifiable experience and qualifications. It’s also designed to contribute to the stated purpose of our chartered Institute: to uphold and promote the highest of editorial standards.

The Admissions Panel, which assesses upgrading applications, may seem a rather shadowy entity. Except for the professional standards director, who chairs the Panel, not even the CIEP Council knows who its members are. Panel members never have direct contact with applicants – it is all done through the CIEP office – and the anonymity of applicants is rigorously upheld. If a Panel member thinks they might know who an applicant is, they withdraw from handling or discussing the application and it is dealt with by other Panel members.

The Panel has a dedicated forum where details of applications are discussed daily – for example, deciding how many training points to allocate to a course they have not encountered before. All upgrades that are refused must be discussed on the forum and the grounds for refusal agreed, and a second Panel member must check the application in detail.

The Admissions Panel is interested in core skills (copyediting and/or proofreading) – where and how you learned them, the experience you have in exercising them and (for the professional grades) what your clients thought of your work in using them. You should complete your application with this very much in mind. The detail on the website will guide you.

In the course of Panel discussions, certain issues arise repeatedly, and we’d like to clarify how you can help us with these, so that we can in turn help you. We so much appreciate it when you remember to do this or realise how helpful that is! Here are eight tips your Admissions Panel would like to share with you.

1. Approach the upgrade process as you would an editorial job

  • Understand the brief, do what’s asked and do it to a professional standard. This means you need to read the upgrade pages of the website carefully. That is your brief: all the instructions you need are there. It also means keeping your upgrade application confidential, just as you wouldn’t go on Twitter, for example, to discuss a job application.

2. Begin building your application early

  • You’ll have a much better chance of providing us with complete and accurate information if you add to your upgrade application as you proceed with your training and work experience, rather than trying to assemble all the information later on. Our system saves all the information as you enter it, and you can return to it, edit it and add to it as and when you like. Nobody will see your application until you decide it’s ready and submit it.
  • An important free toolkit to help you complete your upgrade is included in the members’ area. Under Going Solo Toolkit follow the business records link to find a suite of spreadsheets. As well as helping you to keep good records for your business, two of them in particular will keep you on the right lines when applying to upgrade, because they log the information the Panel needs. Fill in the work record and training and CPD spreadsheets, delete the green-headed columns that the Panel does not need to see, and upload them with your upgrade application. Sorted!

3. Know what the core skills are and make sure you have
them covered

  • Do you know the difference between the core skills and other editorial skills? The CIEP core skills are copyediting and proofreading, and they are fundamental to your upgrade. Look for the flagged courses in the list of examples of training courses in the members’ area of the website, under professional development.
  • If the course you want to know about is not on the examples list and you are unsure about points for particular training, contact the professional standards director to ask. They can also answer your queries about whether a client or employer is considered to be a publisher for the purposes of upgrading: that is, whether that client or employer can assess your work in terms of the editorial standards that the CIEP regards as essential.

4. Understand the requirements for your grade

  • All applications for the professional grades have to be supported by the three pillars of training, experience and reference(s). No one of these can make up for a shortfall in another, and if a pillar is missing your application will fall down.
  • For Intermediate membership, the importance the CIEP attaches to training as a basis for your career is reflected in the proportions of the minimum requirements: six training points to one experience point. At least four of these training points should be in the core skills.
  • For Professional membership, you need to show that you have a more extensive grounding in the core skills. You will probably also have done training in further editorial skills.
  • For Advanced Professional grade, you need to provide evidence of recent continuing professional development (CPD), in addition to your core skills training. To be considered for the topmost grade of CIEP membership you are expected to have had training that is more advanced. Continual acquisition of skills and knowledge is a mark of advanced professionalism. The Panel will take into consideration a variety of CPD, but it has to be recent – within the 36 months before the date of application.

5. List all your relevant training

  • Don’t assume that if you have listed extensive experience but little or no training the Panel will credit you with the necessary training points. You may have been trained on the job earlier in your career – if so, tell the Panel! The Panel can allocate training points to this if they have enough information about it. Who delivered it? When did it take place and how long did it go on? What did you learn? Did it involve being mentored? Was it assessed?
  • If you have gained a degree or diploma in publishing or journalism, or a related field, the Panel will be interested primarily in any editorial modules you have done, so do give details of what was covered in these modules.
  • Skills such as development editing, structural editing and editorial project management can be counted towards your upgrade, as long as you have enough evidence of the core skills too. Do list any training in these. If they form part of your work experience, indicate what proportion of your work was in these areas. The Panel will be able to allow a small proportion of the minimum hours for the grade to be from one of these activities.

6. Exclude irrelevant information

  • Any further information you give should be concise and relevant. Please don’t attach a discursive account of your career. If you need to give additional information, confine it to a paragraph or a list in the further information section of the form. Personal information is not relevant; if you include personal information, there is a danger it might identify you, which will hold up your upgrade as it will have to be transferred to another Panel member to assess.
  • Training or experience in translating, writing, teaching writing, teaching English, indexing, typesetting or marketing is not relevant to your upgrade so there is no point in listing details of these. Copyediting or proofreading your own work also cannot be counted.
  • Only training and work in copyediting and/or proofreading English (any variety) will count; training or work in other languages will not. This is because membership of the CIEP indicates to your prospective client or employer that you have attained a certain standard of competence in editing and/or proofreading English. If a training course is taught in a language other than English, the Panel cannot assess its content. And your experience of editing in a language other than English does not attest to your competence in editing English.

7. Present your upgrade documents well

  • It may seem a strange thing to have to say to editorial professionals – but do proofread your application! The Panel is often surprised at the errors and typos that come through on upgrade forms and uploaded documents. Remember that you can save your upgrade form and return to it as often as you like to check and edit it before you submit it. Remember, too, that your upgrade application is showcasing your professional competence.

8. The Panel will only ask for additional things from you if they
are necessary

  • If the office contacts you with a question from the Panel, it’s because they need to know the answer in order to give your upgrade the best chance to succeed.
  • If the Panel asks you to take the CIEP’s editorial test, it will be for a good reason. If you have an extensive work history for publishers but little or no formal training, you can demonstrate that you have a grasp of the core skills of copyediting and proofreading by passing the test. If you have worked only, or mainly, for organisations or individuals that
    are not considered to be publishers for the purposes of upgrading, you will be asked to take the test. The expertise of such clients or employers is not in copyediting or proofreading and they may not know what the professional standards are, but this work can still be
    counted for your upgrade if you can demonstrate – by passing the test – that you know
    what they are.
  • Of course, you don’t have to wait for the Panel to ask you to sit the test – you can do it before you apply and include the result on your form.

The professional approach and high standards that you bring to your work for your clients are equally relevant to your application to upgrade. Read all the information and instructions and use the tools provided to help you. Good luck!

If you’re preparing to upgrade your membership, don’t forget:

  1. Approach the upgrade process as you would an editorial job.
  2. Begin building your application early.
  3. Know what the core skills are and make sure you have them covered.
  4. Understand the requirements for your grade.
  5. List all your relevant training.
  6. Exclude irrelevant information.
  7. Present your upgrade documents well.
  8. The Panel will only ask for additional things from you if they are necessary.

Start your membership upgrade now

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: tiles by Andrew Ridley; Please stay on trail by Dan Gold, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

A week in the life of a development editor

Harriet Power gives us an insight into her typical working week, with a focus on development editing.

This article covers:

  • what the job of a development editor involves
  • the typical process for a textbook
  • the typical process for a professional development book
  • marketing and professional development.

I began my editorial career in-house, and very much learned how to development edit on the job. I was never given any formal training; instead I learned through a mix of instinct and informal guidance over the course of eight years working for educational publishers like OUP and Pearson. My last in-house position was as a development editor for OUP, where I mainly developed GCSE humanities textbooks.

I went freelance in 2017. Since then most of my work has been for educational publishers, though I’ve also started to work on prescriptive non-fiction over the past year or so.

I really enjoy development editing. I love getting stuck into a manuscript to make sure it really works. I love that combination of creativity and logic needed to solve any problems. I love working closely with authors and feeling like I’ve made a real difference.

What my job involves

For non-fiction, development editing all comes down to the simple question of does this book deliver what the reader wants? In this way I think it’s actually quite objective.

I developed my first book a few months into my first job as an editorial assistant. (This was for a small publisher where editorial assistants basically did everything and you really had to hit the ground running.) I was given minimal guidance and hardly had a clue what I was doing … except instinct meant that I did. Because we all know what makes a good textbook, having relied on them over six or so years of schooling. So I started asking questions like, ‘Does this chapter give enough detail to answer an exam question on this?’, ‘Is this explanation too difficult for GCSE students to understand?’ and ‘Are these checkpoint questions unambiguous and answerable?’

It turns out these were the right sorts of questions to ask, and I still rely on them today.

When a textbook lands on my desk

When I’m asked to develop a textbook manuscript, it typically arrives with a whole host of extra documents: my brief, the author brief, the syllabus, a sample design, a sensitivity checklist, etc. So I spend a bit of time reading through all of this, trying to get the project clear in my head, and then make a list of things I need to check for each chapter (or even each double-page spread). The main purpose of this checklist is to make sure the author’s done what the author brief asks of them. (Which in turn implies the book delivers what the reader wants.)

The checklist might cover things like:

  • word count (is there too much material or not enough?)
  • spec match (does the book cover everything on the syllabus?)
  • features (has the author included the right number of features – like exam tips, discussion points, etc – and are they treated consistently?)
  • activity questions (are they answerable; have answers been provided, and do they actually answer the questions?)
  • artworks/images (are they appropriate, relevant, varied; are there the right number?).

Then I’ll work through each spread or chapter checking everything off. I might also do a fair bit of line editing, particularly where the text is unclear or unobjective. I’ll probably end up doing some fact-checking (even though it’s not an official part of the job), and I’ll keep an eye out for anything that could potentially cause offence and flag this up (even though there might also be a separate sensitivity review).

The development edits I do for publishers always include querying the author and taking in their revisions as part of the job. On some days, it feels like quite a lot of my time is spent wording diplomatic queries. Sometimes I have to ask an author to do a lot of work (without the publisher paying them any more for it), and they can’t simply say ‘no thank you I’d rather not’ in the same way an indie client can.

So even though it slows me down, I’m always careful in explaining why a major edit is important. I try to provide solutions/suggested rewrites, because I know the authors are busy (most of them are practising teachers). And the more help and direction I give, the more likely the author won’t go off-piste. That’s important when I have to take in their responses. I’ve found over the years that being really clear about what you want, and giving specific examples of what’s needed, helps to mean the revisions you get back are more likely to be on target.

One thing I really enjoy about development editing textbooks is trying to make sure controversial topics are covered in a balanced, objective way. This might mean being very careful over the wording of a spread on euthanasia, for example. So even though development editing is largely about ‘bigger picture’ stuff, I still have to focus on individual sentences or even words. For example, to make sure the wording of a list of arguments for and against euthanasia doesn’t accidentally make it look as if we’re favouring one side over the other.

When a professional development book lands on my desk

Another week, one of my publishers might hand me a professional development book where the brief is much less detailed (often amounting to little more than ‘can you edit this one please?’). This might easily turn into a combined development edit and copyedit. Basically, I’ll do a copyedit but if a manuscript has bigger issues then I’ll also point these out and help the author to fix them. So here I don’t have a prescribed checklist, as such, but I’ll ask questions like:

  • Is there enough detail to be able to take this advice away and act on it yourself? (One book I worked on almost doubled in size to make sure we’d answered that question.)
  • Does the book answer the question it sets out to solve? (One book ended up with a different title as a result.)
  • Does this book explain everything in a way that a beginner can understand?
  • Is the overall argument logical and persuasive?

I find development editing to be the most ‘thinky’ work that I do. You have to hold the whole book in your head in a way that isn’t so necessary with copyediting or proofreading. Edits can be more complex (and explaining why they’re so necessary can require careful thought). So I’m happy when I get weeks where I can switch it up with a bit of copyediting or proofreading or something else for light relief.

Marketing and professional development

Until the pandemic hit, I’m ashamed to say I put minimal effort into marketing and not much more into professional development. But that’s changed over the past six months or so. Now I try to set aside an hour a day for one or the other.

Last year I decided it might be a good idea to do some proper training in development editing (better late than never, right?). I couldn’t find much on offer but did sign up to EFA’s 8-week course on non-fiction development editing, which was really great. I also bought Scott Norton’s classic, Developmental Editing (which I still need to finish).

This year I’ve been working my way through a small pile of craft books on how to write non-fiction. I’d definitely recommend reading craft books if you want to get into development editing – they really help you to understand how good books work and what they should contain. Three I’d particularly recommend for non-fiction are:

  • Rob Fitzpatrick’s Write Useful Books. (This really changed my mindset on how to write great prescriptive non-fiction, and I’ve got quite evangelical about it.)
  • Ginny Carter’s Your Business, Your Book. (This’ll give you a really solid grounding in the elements that make up a strong professional development book.)
  • Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato’s Thinking Like Your Editor. (Twenty years old but full of interesting, still relevant ‘insider’ advice on what publishers are looking for from ‘serious’ trade non-fiction.)

Summing up

This article has covered:

  • training and career paths to development editing
  • typical working processes
  • marketing and professional development for development editors.

About Harriet Power

Harriet Power is an education and non-fiction editor, a Professional Member of the CIEP, and co-author of four GCSE Religious Studies revision guides (this last one was a surprise even to her). She worked in-house for eight years before going freelance in 2017.

 

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: handdrawn lightbulb by Mark Fletcher-Brown; Together, we create! by “My Life Through A Lens”, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Is proofreading a good side hustle?

Proofreading has long been touted online as a good way to supplement a regular income – the side hustle. This post by Louise Harnby examines the notion, and explores the challenges.

In this post, we’ll look at the following:

  • What is a side hustle?
  • The problem with the terminology
  • Proofreading as a side hustle – popular but problematic
  • Do I need training?
  • Who am I competing with?
  • Who hires professional proofreaders?
  • How will I find work?
  • Additional considerations

What is a side hustle?

A side hustle is the term used to describe part-time work that’s done alongside a person’s regular job. Side hustles can be long-term or short-term gigs, and they’re popular because they allow people to dip their toes in the proverbial water rather than fully committing to a career change.

For some, they’re essential, either because their day jobs aren’t generating enough income to meet their costs of living or because their day jobs don’t come with an income at all – for example, those bringing up children or caring for dependants.

The problem with the terminology

In the editorial world, there’s resistance to the terminology owing to the negative connotations of hustle.

Editorial work is about attention to detail, about respecting a client’s voice and brand, about shaping and smoothing text rather than butchering it.

And editors and proofreaders do love their dictionaries. Which doesn’t help matters given hustle’s lexical association with pushiness, pressurised selling, prostitution, and worst of all, fraud.

Since professional self-employed editors and proofreaders spend a chunk of their time trying to build trust with clients searching for editorial support in what is essentially an unregulated global market, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that mention of a hustle makes them twitchy!

Proofreading as a side hustle – popular but problematic

Let’s put the terminology to one side. Can proofreading work be done on the side? Yes. Can a proofreading business be set up overnight? In name, certainly. However, the reality is that unless you already have clients waiting in the wings, you’re going to have to do what every self-employed business owner does – find them, or enable them to find you. Which means marketing.

Furthermore, you’re going to have to find those that you’re a good fit for, and that means skilling up.

Training takes time to complete and marketing takes time to bear fruit. For that reason, if you’re looking to earn extra income quickly, proofreading makes for a poor side hustle.

Do I need training?

Side hustlers in the making might be wondering if training is necessary. Put yourself in a potential client’s shoes. Even if you’re a mega marketer, such that you get in front of your clients quickly, persuading them to hire you requires them trusting you to do a great job.

Trust can be earned in more than one way, but training’s part of the equation. When the tap starts dripping or a plug starts sparking, I don’t want someone messing around with my plumbing and electrics if they haven’t made the effort to ensure they know what they’re doing.

Clients who want help with their words feel the same way about having their text polished. And so they should. The work we do will cost them tens, hundreds, perhaps even thousands of pounds. Proofreaders charging for their services owe it to their clients to be qualified to do a great job.

Plus, we don’t know what we don’t know. Prior to carrying out editorial training, I had no clue what a publisher expected from a proofreader. Training solved that problem. One thing I learned is this: a good command of spelling and grammar is just the tip of the editorial iceberg.

Here’s just a smidgen of the skills my publisher clients expect from a proofreader – issues that once read like gibberish to my untrained eye.

  • Marking up page proofs with BSI proof-correction symbols
  • What to do with overmatter
  • How to manage orphans and widows
  • How to check running heads
  • Handling stacked hyphens on rectos
  • Checking that references are styled according to APA or Harvard

 

Who am I competing with?

Something else the side hustler should consider is the competition. This is not a barren marketplace, alas. There are tens of thousands of editorial professionals out there already, many of whom run their businesses as full-time enterprises. They:

  • are highly trained, often with specialist skills and knowledge
  • are very experienced and have portfolios to prove it, and
  • have been around for a while so know how to be found and where to get work.

That said, there is always room for new proofreaders and editors because most of the work these days is done digitally, which means the market is global. And just as people join the profession, so others leave it.

However, it would be a mistake to think that competing in the proofreading market is just about supply and demand. It’s a digital world, which means the name of the game is visibility.

Who hires professional proofreaders?

First, the good news. Anyone who works with words and cares about their meaning and readability will be interested in hiring a proofreader. This short list of potential clients only scratches the surface.

  • Academics
  • Business owners
  • Educators
  • Independent authors
  • Marketing and communications agencies
  • Packagers and project management agencies
  • Publishers
  • Students

That’s the easy bit. The harder bit is that not all clients know what kind of editorial help they need. And so, even if they ask for something called ‘proofreading’, and that’s what you’re offering as a side hustle, it might be the last thing they need. Literally.

In fact, they might need specialist structural or stylistic help that doesn’t fall under the scope of proofreading at all. Proofreading is a final quality-control check after other rounds of editing.

So if you’re thinking about offering this service as a side gig, make sure you and anyone you work with understand the precise scope of the work you’re offering.

Failure to do so could lead to disappointment, complaints and requests for refunds, thereby turning your side hustle into an upfront hassle.

How will I find work?

Getting work means being visible. Either the client has to find you or you have to find them, meaning anyone looking to earn an income from proofreading needs to have marketing skills as well as proofreading skills.

That’s a necessary time-sucker that any independent editorial pro needs to wrap their head around from the get-go.

There are lots of ways to be visible, some better than others, depending on what types of clients you want to proofread for.

  • Emails, letters and phone calls are good options if you want to get on the radar of publishers and packagers.
  • Content marketing is a slow but powerful burn for those wanting to be found on Google and social media by authors, students and academics.
  • Freelance directories can be a good source of work, though are often the first port of call for clients looking for cheap and fast.
  • Many professional editorial associations such as the CIEP have editorial directories that can be good lead generators for appropriately qualified proofreaders.

Proofreading might seem like your ideal side hustle but you must factor in regular time to get the work in the first place. There’s too much competition not to do so.

Additional considerations

Finally, don’t forget the additional business-critical responsibilities that come with the job, even if it is on the side.

  • Will you need indemnity insurance to protect yourself?
  • Will the income you earn need to be declared to the relevant authorities? Will there be tax implications? Might your additional income affect any state benefits you receive?
  • Do you have funds in place for training and marketing? Both have costs to them.
  • Do you have access to an environment that will allow you to concentrate and work without interruption?
  • Do you have industry-standard hardware and software, and know how to use it?
  • How many hours a day do you have available, and will you be able to meet clients’ deadlines? High-quality proofreading is labour-intensive work. Even experienced full-time proofreaders will need at least a week to proofread a novel. Being realistic about the time required is essential.

Summing up

Proofreading can be used to supplement income from another job. Many full-time professional proofreaders started their editorial journey by doing it on the side.

Don’t forget that being a proofreader means becoming one first – via training. And making your side hustle viable means being found by those who need your services – via marketing.

It can be done – just not overnight.

Want to become a proofreader?

The CIEP has loads of support and information to help you get started.

And Louise Harnby has a selection of books and courses to help you on your journey.

About Louise Harnby

Louise Harnby

Louise Harnby is a professional fiction editor with 30 years’ publishing experience, and specialises in working with independent crime, thriller and mystery writers.

She is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP and co-hosts The Editing Podcast with Denise Cowle.

 

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:

 

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.

Getting to grips with grammar and punctuation

By Annie Jackson

Do you go cold when you hear the words ‘dangling participle’? Does the mere mention of a comma splice or a tautology make you anxious? Do you have a faint memory, perhaps from primary school, that people who write ‘proper’ English never start a sentence with ‘And’ or ‘But’? Perhaps you’ve been flummoxed by the terms used in the school materials that you’ve had to work with while homeschooling your children (you are not alone: see this article by the former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen).

Actually, you almost certainly know much more about grammar and punctuation than you realise. The ‘rules’ are often no more than old-fashioned preferences or prejudice, and may not be relevant anyway. It all depends on the text: a novel for young adults, an information leaflet for patients at a doctor’s surgery, or an annual report for a major company – each requires a very different approach. The tone in which the document is written, and the intended readership, will dictate how strictly grammar and punctuation rules should be applied.

If you work with words, in any capacity, and you feel that your knowledge could do with a brush-up, then the new online course from CIEP, Getting to Grips with Grammar and Punctuation, could be just what you need.

Why both grammar and punctuation?

Let’s see how the Collins Dictionary defines grammar: ‘the ways that words can be put together in order to make sentences’. It defines punctuation as ‘the use of symbols such as full stops or periods, commas, or question marks to divide written words into sentences and clauses’.

This explains why these two subjects have to go hand in hand. Grammar is about putting words together; punctuation helps the reader to make sense of those words in the order in which they have been presented. Used well, the grammar and punctuation chosen should be almost imperceptible, so that nothing comes between the reader and the text. If they are used poorly, the reader will be confused, may have to go back over sentences as they puzzle out the meaning, and may eventually stop reading as it’s just too hard to figure out.

For the want of a comma …

Take this well-known example. ‘Let’s eat, Grandma’ is a friendly invitation for Granny to join the family meal. If you remove that tiny comma, the poor woman is at the mercy of her cannibal grandchildren.

More seriously, a misplaced comma can have huge legal and financial implications (see ‘The comma that cost a million dollars’ from the New York Times).

Poor grammar can have unintentional comic effects (dangling participles are particularly good for this, as you can see here). It could even affect your love life (see this Guardian article ‘Dating disasters: Why bad grammar could stop you finding love online’).

So it’s worth knowing the rules you must follow, and those that can sometimes be ignored.

Why this course?

Getting to Grips with Grammar and Punctuation is for anyone who works with words. It aims to:

  • clarify the basic rules of English grammar
  • clarify the rules of English punctuation
  • discuss some finer points of usage and misusage
  • explain the contexts in which rules should or need not be applied.

This course alternates units on grammar and punctuation, with two basic units followed by two that go into more detail. Each unit has several sets of short, light-hearted exercises on which you can test yourself to see how well you have taken in the information. The penultimate unit discusses finer points of usage, and finally, there are three longer exercises on which to practise everything you’ve learned from the course. There is no final assessment for the course, but every student is assigned a tutor and is encouraged to ask for their help if any questions arise as they work through it.

There is an extensive glossary of grammatical terms as well as a list of resources, in print and online, for further study. This includes a number of entertaining and opinionated books on grammar which will prove, if nothing else, that even the pundits don’t always agree.

By the end of this course, you should have a clear idea of some of the finer points (and many of the pitfalls) of English grammar and punctuation. You should have developed some sensitivity to potential errors, acquired greater confidence, and learned strategies to make any written work you deal with clearer, more effective, more appropriate and even, perhaps, more elegant. And we hope that you will have found it interesting and entertaining at the same time.

Annie Jackson has been an editor for longer than she cares to admit. She tutors several CIEP courses and was one of the team who wrote the new grammar course. Despite many years wrestling with authors’ language, and before that a classics degree, she realises there’s always something new to learn about grammar.

With thanks to the other members of the course team who contributed to this post.


Photo credits: books by Clarissa Watson 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.

Making the most of Microsoft Word

By Alison Shakspeare

It’s a fierce world out there, particularly for freelancers, and freelance editors need to make the most of every second when their hourly income rate depends on it.

Although ‘other software is available’, Microsoft’s Word is still the go-to writing program across the English-speaking world. Therefore, maximum familiarity and minimum ineptitude have got to be good things – and those are on offer through the CIEP’s Word for Practical Editing course.

I’ve been using Word since expensive new IBM PCs were gingerly invested in by my then-employers. There was no money for training and an infant worldwide web, so when you had a query it was a case of wading through cumbersome, incomprehensible manuals or picking the brains of those who’d been using it for longer. So, over the years I’ve gradually absorbed and researched ways and means of improving my knowledge and use of this ever-updating, universal software – but it’s amazing what you fail to pick up on if you jog along on your old familiar track.

You can tell the course has been written by practising editors because it acknowledges the numerous approaches to editing tasks. Therefore you don’t feel that there is only one way to use the program or to find and use the tools. The course uses screencasts as well as documentation, so you can absorb the information in the way that suits your brain best. And when you’ve finished you end up with the study notes, exercises, model answers and a range of useful resource downloads to refer back to.

What Word for Practical Editing is not is a beginner’s guide to using Word. You do have to be a user, and you do have to know your way around the basic conventions and tools, or you’ll find yourself floundering in a sea of unfamiliar terms.

What Word for Practical Editing does do, which may be unexpected, is widen your knowledge of working in the editing world in a business-like manner and of dealing with clients.

Whether you use a PC or a Mac, this course is for you if you want to:

  • extend your knowledge on approaching a project, beginning with the client brief before you approach the Word manuscript and tips on setting up the program and its tools, and different ways of viewing it
  • improve your ability to find errors and inconsistencies – not only are you told how to use the inbuilt Find & Replace (F&R), Spelling & Grammar and Macro tools and are referred to some great add-in programs, but you are also given a useful list of common errors any editor needs to be sure they are clearing up
  • clearly communicate your findings with your client – from checking the compatibility of your Word versions, to being sure that what you receive matches the brief, to different ways of showing Track Changes; you are also given useful templates for a stylesheet, an invoice and a feedback form
  • check that you are using styles and templates as effectively as possible – there are several layers to using these universal bugbears, and if every Word user were sent a copy of this information the air might be less blue
  • widen your knowledge of shortcuts – and you can download a useful list of them to keep referring to until they become second nature
  • gain insights on archiving and CPD, because jobs aren’t always done with once you’ve sent off the edited Word doc.

I will probably not end up using all the shortcuts the course introduced me to, even though they save on keyboard time and could even ward off RSI, but I’ve certainly expanded my knowledge of what Word offers and tightened up my use of it – and therefore increased my hourly income.

What more could you want?

Alison Shakspeare came to editing after a career in arts marketing and research for leading national and regional organisations. Her client base has expanded as her skillset has grown from basic copyediting to offering design and layout services. She truly enjoys the CPD she gains from working with academics, business organisations and a growing number of self-publishing authors.

 


Photo credit: Love to learn by Tim Mossholder 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.