Category Archives: wise owls

Wise owls: how do you save time when editing?

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

Sue Browning

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

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

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

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

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

Liz Dalby

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

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

Sue Littleford

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

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

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

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

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

Michael FaulknerMichael Faulkner

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

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

Hazel Bird

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

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

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: owl by Hoover Tung  on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Wise owls: what are your views on sample edits?

We asked our parliament of wise owls, all Advanced Professional Members, to tell us their views on doing sample edits.

Hazel Bird

For me, a sample edit is often an indispensable part of the negotiation process with a potential new client. It helps me to better understand what the client is looking for from an editor and more accurately estimate how long a project might take. And it gives the client a feel for my editing style and allows them to ask questions about what I do and why.

This applies regardless of whether the client wants a light edit or one at the heavier or developmental end of the scale. No two editors will edit the same piece in the same way, and definitions of ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ vary. A sample edit cuts through these potential ambiguities and misunderstandings by laying examples of the actual proposed changes bare for both parties to see.

Another crucial benefit is that a sample edit allows me to gently show the client if I identify issues in their text that they haven’t foreseen. While I’m always clearly focused on exactly what the client wants for their text, I also keep in mind that they’re considering hiring me as an editorial expert, so I might see ways to enhance their text that they haven’t anticipated. A sample edit is a great forum for those kinds of discussions.

My policy on sample edits is quite specific, however. I offer free sample edits of up to 1,000 words with no obligation to the client. But I tend to offer the sample after an initial discussion of the project, when I’ve had a chance to assess whether my working style is likely to mesh with theirs. So, for me a sample edit is a way for the client to get a deeper idea of what I can offer and for me to refine my understanding of what they need – it isn’t the first stage of the process. This seems to work well, so I’m happy that my samples deliver a good return on investment for me while building my potential clients’ all-important trust in the service I can offer them.

Jacqueline Harvey

If an enquiry about a copyediting project looks interesting, I will discuss with the potential client the kind of edit they are looking for and then do a sample edit on part of the text, usually a representative section from the middle. It helps me get a feel for the writing and alerts me to issues that we might need to sort out before the work begins. It also gives me a rough idea of how long the project might take to edit as a basis for my estimate. Perhaps more importantly, a sample edit also gives the enquirer an idea of the kind of edits I would make and the queries I might raise.

Only on one occasion was I paid for a sample edit. A potential client, with whom I had discussed their project, sent a chapter and a style sheet of sorts, and asked me to edit what I could in two hours. They wanted to see what each of the two or three editors from whom they’d requested a sample would do to improve their book. (I did get the contract, so it worked out well for me.)

Michael FaulknerMichael Faulkner

I’ve always done free sample edits, although these days 80% of my work is for repeat clients so there’s no need.

With a new client, if the job looks like it might be for me I invariably explain how a sample edit will:

  • give me an idea of the word rate (per hour) that I can manage and therefore how much to quote;
  • tell me whether the job really is for me; and
  • give the client a feel for whether I am a good fit from their point of view.

I don’t charge for the sample, and generally I’ll do a treatment on 1,000+ words.

I always make sure to mention, before asking for a sample, that there are any number of reasons the job might not be for me, so that the client is not offended if I end up passing.

One piece of advice. Having returned a sample, unless you are pretty sure you’re on the same page as the client, it’s worth getting fairly specific feedback as to how many changes/corrections, if any, they are likely to reject or question. If it’s more than one or two in the sample, be aware that you’ll end up spending unplanned-for time batting things to and fro during the edit proper, and simply quote accordingly. If it’s lots, then unless you’re in the early stages of your editing career, consider passing on the job – sometimes a writer is so wedded to the text that even sound edits will be rejected and the whole job will test your sanity. This doesn’t really apply if you’re relatively inexperienced, when rejected edits and lots of questions can be an opportunity to hone your skills!

Liz Dalby

I don’t have a one-size-fits-all policy when it comes to sample edits. They’re not something I routinely offer, but I will sometimes do one for a prospective client if the size of the project warrants it. Pitching for projects always involves some investment of time and a little risk, and I see this as an extension of that. However, I wouldn’t edit more than about 1,000 words, in that case. I don’t charge for the sample edit in this scenario, but usually the client goes on to commission me for the whole project so it tends to work out well.

Sometimes a client will ask for a sample edit after I’ve been commissioned, and this is usually a really good idea. It can help to set the author’s mind at rest about what a copyedit will entail, for example if they’ve had a difficult experience of being edited in the past. I can also gather feedback about how best to approach aspects of the work. In this case there is no risk that the project won’t go ahead (unless I were to do a horrendous job!), but it can still take extra time if there is subsequent discussion over the level of editing, which should be accounted for within the budget.

Sue Browning

I have offered free sample edits for book-length projects since I started out 17 years ago. I review this every so often, as I do most of my business practices, but I’ve never found a good reason to change.

I ask the potential client to send a few pages from the middle. I glance through those pages to get an overall feel for the work, and choose a place to start where I think I can show what I can do for them. Then I set a timer for 20 minutes and edit away. I stop when the timer pings (at the end of a paragraph!) and count how many words I’ve edited. I multiply this by three to get an approximate number of words per hour on which to base my project quote. I don’t charge for that because it only takes about half an hour in total and lays the groundwork for what we can expect from each other, which is valuable in building trust.

I’m talking here about book-length projects, where half an hour is small in comparison to the total time and the value of setting clear expectations from the outset. For shorter pieces – a journal paper for an academic, for instance – I ask only for the word count, then estimate a fee based on experience and my large database of similar work. The scope of editing required on an academic paper is more defined, there’s less chance it will spiral beyond expectations, and the consequences are less serious if it does, so a sample is both more burdensome and less useful. And most of my new academic clients come from referrals so there’s already an element of trust there.

Sue Littleford

Most of my work is for publishers, so sample edits aren’t often part of the landscape. On the few occasions I’ve decided to do them, it’s often for my own purposes, to produce a quote, rather than to show the prospective client what I can do.

I once did a sample specifically for the prospective client (copyediting around 1,000 words, suggesting larger-scale fixes to extrapolate throughout the book). He instantly set red flags a-flying, asserting that I should have rewritten the sample for him, and that anything less than a rewrite was a proofread.

This shows the importance of establishing what the author wants to happen to the text – without that sample, the problems would have been legion. I sent him to the Directory to look for developmental editors.

It also shows the importance of having some kind of conversation with a prospective client rather than just accepting a job sight-unseen, or with minimal to-and-fro, especially from inexperienced authors.

I’ve never yet charged for a sample edit. For pricing purposes, I ask for a chunk from the middle (probably less polished) and a sample of references and notes, so I can see what the status of the text is; I may do a timed copyedit of 1,000 words of the middle bit of the text to get a feel for the pricing. The last time I did a sample (for a new publisher client), I got the whole manuscript, and picked a 1,000-word chunk at random for myself, happily catching a major blooper – Sherlock Holmes is a Mr, not an Inspector! I sent that bit back – and we agreed the deal.

About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: owl by Nicolette Leonie Villavicencio  on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Wise owls: what’s your favourite phrase or saying?

We asked our parliament of wise owls to tell us about their favourite phrase or saying. And because it’s nearly the end of the year, we even said it didn’t have to be related to editing.

Liz Dalby

‘I can’t think about that right now.’

The thing I seem to find myself saying most often is ‘I can’t think about that right now.’ If this sounds negative … well, it is and it isn’t. Often, I can only take in a certain amount of bad news. I want to stay informed about the world I inhabit, but at the same time I’m human and can only cope with so much. So not thinking really hard about everything (the environment! politics! people being bad to each other! the groaning to-do list!), all the time, is a necessary act of self-care. It enables me to function: to carry on without overwhelm, and get stuff done.

In my editing life, ‘I can’t think about that right now’ is less an evasion, and more a trusted approach to workflow that has served me well over the years. The way I undertake an edit is to do it in several separate passes that focus on different things. So for example, my first pass would entail styling headings and getting a sense of the overall structure and logic of a document. While I’m doing this, I might notice that there are some inconsistencies (a stray z spelling or em dash, for example), but I simply make a note and skip over them, not stopping what I am meant to be doing. I might even mutter ‘I can’t think about that right now.’ (Yes, I do talk to myself sometimes when I edit.) Not allowing myself to be sidetracked in this way saves me time and maintains my focus and accuracy.

Sue Littleford

‘It’s the way you hold your mouth.’

Mum, observing my failure to thread a needle, would declare that, ‘It’s the way you hold your mouth’. And, of course, it is. Next time you’re threading a needle, or putting on mascara, or concentrating hard, take a mental step back and check in with your mouth. Odds are your tongue is stuck out, or your lips are contorting – think of little kids learning to write and draw. Try to arrange your mouth neutrally and you’ll find the task just got harder! The phrase just means that you’re not applying yourself correctly.

I don’t remember hearing this anywhere else, though, so I’d been wondering if it was from Mum’s familect. But after a squiz on Google and, discarding those that are about speech therapy, I get nearly 300,000 hits just on the phrase as Mum used it (there are variants, naturally). One person claims it originated in the 1950s and is from the US, another that it’s Irish. Mumsnet thinks it’s from Lancashire but a fair few people on that forum say they’ve never heard it in Lancashire; but people in New Zealand know it (but don’t say which part of the world their ancestors emigrated from). Well, my family’s from what is now Greater Manchester, so it certainly showed up in pockets of north-east Cheshire and south-east Lancashire! The consensus is that it’s something old folks say. Let’s give it a new lease of life and get all generations using it because it is a simple truth, pithily conveyed.

Melanie ThompsonMelanie Thompson reading the SfEP guide 'Pricing your project'

When the CIEP information team posed this question I didn’t think I had a favourite phrase or saying, then as the deadline loomed* (as they are wont to do) several candidates came along at once – just like buses.

Brand new in at number 3 is:

‘HIPPO’

I heard it in the first episode of Stephen Pinker’s new series for Radio 4 (Think with Pinker). It stands for ‘Highest Paid Person’s Opinion’, and is something editors are probably very familiar with.

Holding on at number 2 is:

‘Keep on keeping on’ (aka ‘KBO’, source: Churchill)

Applies to many situations we editorial professionals face, whether it’s starting out and early training, building up a client list, or just keeping going in a long edit, or a long freelance career. I once ran a workshop at the SfEP (as was) conference based around this theme.

But still up there at number 1 is the Bard himself with:

‘To thine own self be true.’

A great motto for freelance workers: more than most, we really do have the opportunity to aim for this target.

* Cf. Douglas Adams.

Nik Prowse

‘Do the needful.’

One of my favourite phrases for a work context is ‘do the needful’, which in an editorial or production setting can be useful in an email such as, ‘The author has sent me the revised manuscript, which is attached. Please do the needful.’

I first encountered this when new to publishing and working in-house for a science publisher. The old hand in the office, who was the fount of all knowledge and who I was keen to learn from, often rattled off emails containing the phrase, and to me it made instant sense: it meant ‘please do what is necessary’. It was concise and, to my mind, a polite way of asking someone to do something.

Years later, working as a freelance project manager, when I asked my in-house colleague to do the needful she questioned it and whether I was sure that’s what I meant to say. She was familiar with the phrase but had only seen it used by colleagues based in Southeast Asia. It is a common phrase in Indian English, and perhaps sounds unusual to those more used to British or American English. As many of us work with typesetters, editorial controllers and project managers in India and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, I’m sure it’s a phrase that is often encountered and which has trickled into parlance in the UK and the US and Canada too.

I love its conciseness and musicality, and I would be very pleased to see it used more widely. So you know what you have to do: spread the phrase, do the needful!

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.’

I stumbled over this saying many years ago, when I was still in my 20s. It was a long time before I discovered that American author Neale Donald Walsch had coined it. Walsch is most well known for his book series Conversations with God, which I’ve never read, but where the quote comes from. I’m not religious, but this saying is a daily reminder to me to push myself forward. It’s very easy to slide into a rut, but you only get one shot at life. You’re never going to live every day like it’s your last, because life gets in the way, but I’ve had some of my best experiences when I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone. And some of my worst, but let’s not go there (that said, I learned from them). So I’ll keep stepping out of my comfort zone, because I don’t want to die full of regrets that I didn’t try this or didn’t do that because I was too lazy or timid or fearful.


Other wise owl wisdom in 2021 covered making prices public, how long editing takes and where clients find them.


About the CIEP

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

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: owl by Jesse Cason; another owl by Joe Green, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

 

Wise owls: where do your clients find you?

We asked our parliament of wise owls, all Advanced Professional Members, where new clients have found them, and where they focus their marketing efforts.

Liz Jones

My clients mostly find me via word of mouth, repeat business, the CIEP Directory, my website, LinkedIn and Twitter. Repeat business is probably the most important one from a financial point of view, and it’s one reason that I make sure to treat all my clients the way I would want to be treated – by offering clear communication, reliability and dedication to the work. Twitter can seem like a massive distraction at times, but I’ve forged some good working relationships on there.

I’ve also found clients in person, by approaching them at local networking events or at the CIEP conference. The thought of marching up to people and asking for work can seem intimidating, but when approached as more of a conversation around shared interests, it’s less scary. Since I rebranded at the end of last year, with a new website, I’ve had more enquiries that way – and blogging helps with this, by making me more findable.

Finally, I try to keep in touch with clients and former work colleagues via LinkedIn, which means that even if they move jobs, we remain connected. The key to all of this is that I don’t expect my clients to find me in just one way – there need to be lots of possible ways, to ensure a steady flow of work.

Sue Littleford

The short answer is through two main routes: my CIEP Directory entry cropping up in their searches, and people asking their friends for recommendations. Seriously – work towards upgrading to at least PM level as your directory entry will be worth its weight in gold. Or it will, once you’ve tweaked it. You’ll easily notice on the forums those members who have a steady stream of the work they like to do – check out their directory entries to see what’s working for them, especially those in the same kind of market as you. Keep your directory entry updated – put a recurring appointment with yourself in your diary to make sure you do!

I take the view that my work is an advert in itself. I’ve had people recommending me to their friends and colleagues up to five years after I worked for them. So always treat each job as having the potential to win you new clients, as well as making the immediate client a happy bunny.

Shameful confession time: I’m a reluctant marketer, and I’ve also let my website get old and tired. This summer it’s getting a complete overhaul, so I hope that I will be able to drive more traffic through the site and convert that traffic into interesting new clients. I’m also pants at social media, but I’ve set my sights on putting more into LinkedIn to get more out of it, as I reckon that’s where my kind of client is most likely to be hanging out.

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

I’m a strong believer in making it as easy as possible for clients to find you, either deliberately or by happy accident, so I spread myself widely across the internet to facilitate that. Apart from my website, I have listings on six professional databases – including the CIEP’s (which brings in a reasonable amount of work). Two of those have never produced even an enquiry, but that’s OK – I maintain the listings as they help keep me visible across search engines. One database has produced only one enquiry over a decade – in January this year, resulting in a two-year project after one phone call (a happy accident).

Then, of course, there’s good old word of mouth. I’m lucky, I get a lot of referrals. In the past six months alone, I’ve had three clients come to me via recommendation. One of those came via a previous client; the other two were from colleagues in a related profession.

But I don’t like to coast, so I keep my website updated (with the occasional blog post to push me up the search rankings), ditto my database listings, and I try to network on various platforms. My current best client did a shout-out on Facebook and, one Zoom call later, I got a long-term job. I’ve had other jobs via Facebook groups plus a couple via LinkedIn and I once landed a client via Twitter. I’m not very active on Twitter but in a quiet spell I’ll tweet to say I have some spare capacity. Eighteen months ago, I joined two Slack groups – one of those also generated a regular client.

Lastly, I started a newsletter in September 2020 – it offers advice and writing tips, among other things. While it’s yet to generate any work for me, it’s another place to find me and I see it as one more way to connect with people generally.

Nik Prowse

I have a website, a profile on LinkedIn and a CIEP Directory entry. Those are the three places my clients will find me. My website acts like an online CV, and it’s where people look once they’ve found me to get more information. I keep it up to date and fresh-looking. I’ve just had it rebuilt, and it’s now easy to view on a mobile device (my old site wasn’t) and is more visible on Google as a result.

My profile on LinkedIn points to my website, as does my CIEP entry, and this arrangement brings in offers of work. In terms of searching, a CIEP Directory search will probably put me in front of more potential clients than if they search ‘copyeditor’ on Google, and I’ve had plenty of work via the CIEP/SfEP over the years. So the Directory is my most lucrative marketing tool. But the combination of the three promotes my visibility online, and if people are trying to find me, they can.

I’m also on Twitter, but my potential clients – academic/educational – aren’t likely to be looking for editors on Twitter, so it’s more a social thing and for networking with other editors.

Sue Browning

Where do my clients find me? Snowballing, that’s where! What on earth do I mean by that? Let me give an example. Back in December 2015, I began editing for a Japanese linguist. It wasn’t a huge amount – around half a dozen journal/conference papers a year – but on some of those papers she had a co-author, who subsequently became a client in their own right. And they recommended me to others, so over the years, my client base of specialist Japanese (and now Korean) linguists has snowballed to eight, all over the world. And I’ve found that this is typical, particularly of academics in specialised fields – once they find someone they trust, they stick with you and recommend you to their colleagues.

So, I’ve been trading for 16+ years and have the luxury of being able to fill my schedule with work from repeat clients or recommendations. Where does that leave you, the person who has come here hoping to learn how clients might find you? Well, how did that Japanese client find me?

A fellow CIEP (SfEP then, of course) member passed my name to her when they retired. They had scoured the CIEP Directory (hint 1), and I stood out because I’d listed the required specialism (hint 2), and they recognised me from my forum presence (hint 3). My website also brings me enquiries (hint 4). Although it is woefully passé looking, its very personal nature (hint 5) obviously strikes the right tone with some people, many of whom are ideal clients that complement those I get from more academic circles.

Oddly enough, in a world where I often work globally, the local seems to be important too (hint 6). A fiction author whose fifth book I am currently editing explicitly mentioned keeping his money in the local economy when he first got in touch, and a new business client I gained last month chose me because I was ‘over the hill’, referring not to my age but to the fact that I live on the other side of the Malvern Hills from him!

The importance of an online presence

Perhaps it’s no surprise that each of the wise owls above has a strong online presence. A CIEP Directory entry, a LinkedIn profile and perhaps a Twitter presence sit alongside a professional website. And once those clients have tracked down an editor they like working with, recommendations can really expand that editor’s reach, and the demand for their services. Where do potential new clients find you? Let us know in the comments below.

Starting out or keeping going

Whether you’re just starting your editorial business, or you’re well established, there are plenty of CIEP resources to help.

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: owls by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Wise owls: how long does it take to edit something?

We asked our parliament of wise owls, all Advanced Professional Members, about editing speeds: how long does it take to edit or proofread something? What’s fast or slow, and is that even the right question?

Hazel Bird

Few topics in the editorial world are more prone to oversimplification than editing speeds. I suspect some of this comes from clients, for whom a supposedly ‘standard’ speed might be either (more positively) a helpful starting point for fee negotiations or (more negatively) a crude tool used to push back against requests for fee increases. The most extreme example of the latter I ever encountered was when years ago, as a very new proofreader struggling with hideously messy proofs, I told the client how quickly I was working – a speed I now know with experience was reasonable – and was informed that they ‘knew children who could read more quickly than that’ (and yes, they did say ‘read’ rather than ‘proofread’). I was far too timid to respond with any fortitude at the time, so please forgive me the self-indulgence of this delayed public catharsis.

So, clients may have an idea of how quickly we should be working, and that idea may or may not be based on sound knowledge of what professional editorial work entails. However, as editors and proofreaders, we care about this too. We naturally want to know how our speed compares to that of our colleagues. And speed = time and time = money, so knowing how quickly we edit is vital to ensuring we are quoting appropriately.

Looking back at my records of over 600 projects, I’ve clocked up editing speeds between 250 words per hour and (very occasionally) 10,000. Clearly, then, it would be nonsensical to refer to ‘my editing speed’ in the singular, but it would also be pointless to think of either extreme as ‘slow’ or ‘fast’. For example, 500 words per hour seems slow on the face of it, but it might be fast for especially complex editing of text by someone writing in their second (or third or fourth) language with structural changes.

Thinking about your editing speed is crucial, but ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ are only relevant as far as you can contextualise them within your own work – its difficulty, detail, workflow and so on. And, equally, before you compare your speed with that of another editor, make sure you understand what you’re comparing yourself against – in essence, what kind of work the other editor does.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

There are two ways of looking at speed: how many words per hour you can deal with, and how intensively you can keep going. Do you spread a five-hour job over two days, a week, or get it all done in one day? Nor will your speed be consistent over all the stages of a job. I take longer per word checking and fixing bibliographies than the running text.

My own belief is that the right speed is the fastest speed you can safely go while fulfilling the brief, giving good customer service and maintaining your own equilibrium.

It’s pretty obvious that speed is dependent on four things:

  • the condition of the manuscript
  • what the client wants you to do to it, and how many times
  • your own expertise, and
  • everything else, by which I mean the way that life gets in the way of work and sometimes work gets in the way of other work.

Because of these four factors, it’s not usually sensible to try to compare your speed with other people’s except in the most general way. What you can usefully do, though, is keep records of your own speeds. If you’ll pardon me a plug for the Going Solo Toolkit for CIEP members (you’ll need to be logged in), the Work record spreadsheet helps you to collect all the information about a job that will give you a feel for your range of speeds for a given type of work, as influenced by those four factors.

Finally, don’t be seduced by the idea of an average – my fastest is three times my slowest, so I need to discover factors 1 and 2 in order to be able to give a decent quote.

Liz Jones

In my experience, it’s helpful to be able to think two things at once about editing speeds. First, it is definitely useful to have an idea of how long it takes you to proofread or copyedit a particular number of words. This will be an average figure, depending on the state of the original text, but having such a figure to refer to will help when it comes to quoting for work.

But at the same time as it’s useful to have benchmark figures in mind, it’s also important to remember that they mean nothing. Every project is different, every author is different, every brief is different, every budget is different (unless you’re working on a series of similar documents for the same client). Crucially, every editor is different. Faster editing isn’t necessarily better editing, although very slow editing is likely to cost either your client or you dearly.

When I’m mentoring editors, I tell them that in the beginning, it’s better to focus on accuracy than speed. You don’t ever stop focusing on accuracy, of course, but the speed does improve of its own accord over time – and of course there are all sorts of things we can do to increase it further. But that’s another story.

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

Asking how long it will take to edit or proofread a document is akin to asking what it will cost. As with pricing, it depends. I know from experience that my average editing speed is around 2,500 words per hour. If I’m given a text that is very clean, which is to say the writer has already gone through it to check for typos, errors and other possible issues, and for clarity, I could work as fast as 3,000 words per hour.

However, I have a number of clients outside the UK whose first language is not English. I’m likely to receive a file from them that has either been written by them or badly translated. For those clients, I will probably have to do a lot of rewriting and thinking through what they actually mean, and my speed will be more like 1,000 to 1,500 words per hour. And I could be as slow as that even when editing for someone who does speak English as their first language, if the text needs a lot of work, or if there are a lot of tables.

I log all this data on a spreadsheet that also records my time for each client, so I have a good idea of my range of speeds for different proficiency levels in English and the condition of the text. The data acts as a good comparison chart when I’m approached by new clients. I always ask for a sample of the text, as I can assess my likely speed and that will form part of the pricing. My speed includes everything: hours spent on the actual editing or proofreading, plus time reading the style guide if there is one and other prepping, plus all the time taken to administrate the job – that’s the number of words divided by the total time spent on the job.

It depends

As with so many aspects of editorial work, the simplest way to sum up the answer to a question about editing speeds is ‘it depends’. Each editor, client and project combination is different, and thus so is the time the edit or proofread will take.

What are your experiences of editing and proofreading speeds? Do you see yourself as ‘fast’ or ‘slow’, or somewhere in the middle? Let us know in the comments below.

Increasing editing and proofreading efficiency

If you are looking for ways to use your working time more efficiently, there are plenty of CIEP resources to help.

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: fast owl in flight by Pete Nuij on Unsplash

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Wise owls: should you make your prices public?

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

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

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

Nik Prowse

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

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

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

Liz Jones

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

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

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

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

Sue Browning

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

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

Michael FaulknerMike Faulkner

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

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

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

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


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


Photo credits: owl by Kevin Noble on Unsplash

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Wise owls: references and citations

References and citations play an important role in many publications, providing evidence to back up an argument or prove a hypothesis, or to encourage the reader to find out more.

This week, the CIEP’s wise owls reflect on references and citations they have known, and the common issues that they come across while working with them.

Hazel Bird

The most glaring issue I tend to come across when I’m editing references and citations is a complete lack of references and citations.

As issues with references go, it’s a pretty big one. But it’s understandable: not all authors have the academic background or training to know how to construct a reference list or even to know that referencing is necessary.

Editors can do a lot to help you work out what needs a reference and how to present your references, but here are a few basic tips that pretty much always apply:

  • If you’ve quoted somebody else’s words, you need a reference.
  • If you talk about a specific idea or concept originated by someone else, or if you discuss their ideas (even if you don’t quote them directly), you need a reference.
  • If you include statistics or results of analyses, you need a reference.
  • Don’t copy someone else’s exact words and present them as if they are your own, even if you provide a reference. You either need to quote them (and provide a reference) or paraphrase their ideas in your own words (and, in almost all cases, still provide a reference).
  • Make the reference as precise as possible – for example, include the page number or the exact URL where you found the quote.
  • If you want to include a quote you found on the internet, you need to check whether the person credited with the quote actually said it. Websites that host collections of quotes are notorious for their inaccuracy. Quote Investigator is a good place to start, but you might need to do some digging.
  • Referencing doesn’t have to be obtrusive: there are all sorts of minimal and even invisible referencing styles that editors can help you implement.

But above all, if in doubt, include a reference!

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

I don’t often edit books or papers that contain references or citations, but by far the commonest issue I come across is that they have not been properly formatted. Often, it’s a case of not having read the style guide for a journal, or someone has merged the Harvard and Vancouver styles of citation, not understanding that they are very different. The latter can take some untangling. I once had a client whose journal style guide required authors’ first names in the bibliography – there were a dozen pages of citations so I had to send that back with a note after fixing the formatting. There may be fewer rules for a bibliography in a book – here the most common problem I find is duplicate entries or incomplete entries. It can be quite time-consuming to hunt for information such as the publisher’s location or the relevant edition. It’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle and can be satisfying when you complete it.

Liz Jones

I’m not one of those editors who loves working on references and citations (apparently they do exist), but they are an essential part of our work. One of the best tips I was ever given was to work on the references before the rest of the text. For me, this has two benefits: first, I have an overview of what’s cited, can get a feel for the consistency of the references as a whole, and see what’s missing. Second, this can be a surprisingly time-consuming part of an editing job – so once it’s done, the editing part feels more relaxed (dare I say fun?).

These are some of the most common issues I encounter in references:

  • inconsistency of capitalisation
  • varying elision styles in number ranges
  • inconsistency of author names where they are mentioned more than once
  • problems with the punctuation between elements of a reference.

At copyediting stage, I find the numbering of references is less likely to go awry, as this is built into the working of the Word document, if it’s been done correctly (I realise this is a big if). Sometimes, though, note markers will exist in the text that are not linked to any reference, which can upset the numbering sequence and necessitate an author query. At proofreading stage, one of the main issues I encounter is text markers not matching the numbering of the references in endnotes, so I make sure to check this very carefully, and to double-check it if I need to suggest a change that results in renumbering.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

I spend a lot of my time editing references. Here’s what I see too much of – and something I’ve only ever seen once:

  • Ignoring the house style – and, indeed, all issues of consistent style, including the use of et al.
  • Citing impossible page numbers.
  • Still having ‘forthcoming’ for something that was actually published in 2013.
  • Getting the author names out of sequence in the reference and/or citation (or spelling them four different ways within two paragraphs).
  • Missing out elements – I’ve had references that had the author name and an approximation of the chapter title, and nothing else.
  • Cutting or adding text, but not updating the references list accordingly.
  • Conflating references is another good one – easy for the author to do when there are several references by the same people, or similar-looking people, or similar-looking titles.
  • Using the reference list from an earlier version of the work (especially when theses are repurposed as books), as ‘that’ll be close enough’ (I’m quoting a client) despite the cuts and additions made to the original text. I had to polish up my crystal ball for that one.
  • Missing out a hard return at the end of the reference, so another one hides inside it (one of the many reasons I always edit the references first).
  • And in my last book, instead of using the hanging paragraph setting for the bibliography list – or even using hard returns and tabs, as too many authors do – the author used section breaks to change the margins, so each reference took two sections, one for the full-out line and another for the indented lines. Just imagine how much work that was for more than 500 references – only for me to hoick it all out without a second thought.

The CIEP’s References course helps you to:

  • learn how to deal with references
  • find out what you didn’t know about references and fill any gaps
  • explore unfamiliar reference systems
  • discover ways of referencing less typical sources.

Photo credits: Owl by Joe Green on Unsplash

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Wise owls: dialects

There are many different Englishes – and there are Englishes within Englishes. The wise owls have turned their thoughts to their favourite features of dialects of England.

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

I’ve been a sucker for a flat northern vowel ever since I watched Coronation Street as a kid (long ousted for EastEnders, whose mockney lacks the same appeal). I’m a southerner by birth so when I moved to Leeds in the 1980s I was thrilled to be called ‘duck’ by the Loiners and hear them rhyme bath with math(s). I have an unconscious tendency to mimic other people’s accents, so it wasn’t long before I started flattening my own vowels when in the company of northerners. I quickly added owt, nowt and summat to my verbal repertoire, and have been using them ever since because, well, they are just so much more succinct.

What I also love about northern dialects is the rich vocabulary – I’ve been in Manchester for more than 12 years now and I’m still learning the lingo. Words like bobbins (rubbish) and brew (a cup of tea) roll off my tongue as easily as fookin’ hell (no one swears quite as awesomely northernly as Liam Gallagher), often shortened to ‘kinell. However, I doubt my stepson would approve if I called him ‘our kid’. My absolute favourite is ‘out out’, as in ‘Are we going out, or out out?’ This is Mancunian for deciding how dressed up you ought to be for a night on the tiles.

Obviously, I still get confused when Mancunians say dinner when they clearly mean lunch; I’ve had some awkward attempts to diarise meetings thanks to that. But when I turn up for lunch/dinner, I’m as likely to greet my companion with ‘Yallright?’ as I am to say hi. I’ve lived far longer in the north of England, or Oop North, as I call it, than I have anywhere else, so the accents and vocabulary have left a bigger imprint on my brain than those of all the other
cities and countries I’ve lived in. And that’s not bobbins. Maybe one day I’ll be taken to be proper Manc.

Hazel Bird

A variant of dialects that I find interesting is idiolects, which are
uses or coinages of words particular to individuals or small groups (such as friendship groups or families). They tend to grow organically out of day-to-day interactions, and unlike dialects they can be
cross-regional.

For example, I have just looked up the term ‘hoon’ in the Oxford English Dictionary and learned that it is an Aussie/Kiwi term for ‘behav[ing] in a loutish or irresponsible way; spec. to drive fast or recklessly’. However, by way of a link with rally car culture, my family has come to use it to refer to ruminant animals’ prancing across a landscape. Our definition is quite precise: sheep can hoon; cows, horses and such cannot.

We also use the word ‘puggle’ to refer to (1) the act of moving foodstuffs around a cooking pan to prevent them from adhering to the bottom or (2) fussing a cat. The OED has the meaning ‘to poke out’, which bears passing resemblance to (1) but not to (2). How we came to adopt these meanings is a mystery.

Another oddity is the spelling ‘baout’ (pronounced with extreme emphasis on each vowel) for ‘boat’. A baout can be a water-worthy object of any description, with the word denoting a sense of longing. However, like many dialect and idiolect words, it has a shared significance that is hard to put into words.

I often encounter dialect and idiolect words in my creative non-fiction editing work. When
used well, their effect can be powerful, conveying intimacy, alienation or a little of both.
They can make the reader the author’s closest confidante or deliberately shock them into
a new perspective.

Melanie Thompson reading the SfEP guide 'Pricing your project'Melanie Thompson

Nah then, mardy bum! There are often discussions in the CIEP forum about whether it’s permissible to quote song lyrics, but in this case the famous line is part of my childhood vernacular, and if you tell me I can’t write it, I’ll get a reyt face on.

One of the biggest thrills of my life was to hear that line sung at full throttle by the passengers on the crammed tram conveying myself and my (then) teenage son to hear Arctic Monkeys play in their (and my) home town: Sheffield.

Unlike the next-most-famous city band (the Human League) who adopted the ubiquitous
1980s musicians’ twang, Arctic Monkeys are proper tykes who know how to pronounce Beauchief (Beechiff) and will know that they need to pack their brollies if someone tells them
it’s silin’ it dahn.

Lots of people think they can ‘do’ a Yorkshire accent by splatterin’ apostrophes awl o’er t’ro-ad but Sheffieldish doesn’t work quite like that. Indeed, there are regional variations even within the city boundaries depending on whether the speaker hails from the northern or southern side – and it’s nothing to do with whether they support the Owls or the Blades.*

TV and radio programmes often fail to do the Sheffield accent justice: not all shows can afford Sean Bean (sadly!). But to hear a bit of authentic Sheffield banter, try Tom Wrigglesworth
and ‘family’
on BBC Radio 4. Every time I hear Tom’s fictitious dad answer the phone with ‘Sheffield 973629’ I am transported 150 miles north! (Why do my older northern relatives recite their number?)

I had the full force of my Sheffield accent elocutioned out of me, as a teenager, but my dad is an aficionado. This has been known to cause major confusion among his southern careworkers, but the fuss is usually somert and nowt, such as a mix-up between putting something o’r’ere or o’r theer.

To me, dialects are not just about words and pronunciation, but a way of life – some of which is sadly now dwindling.

Back in the day, my nannan used to gerron t’bus to go shoppin’ dah’n’t’cliff armed wi’a bag o’spice to share with the other passengers! She’d gerroff and buy some breadcakes, peys, a pound of tripe and a bottle of Hendo’s, then reverse the journey to be home in time for dinner.**

As I set off out to play, my mum might have told me not to get my clo’e’s loppy from scrawmin’ around in’t’ gennel; and if a friend later called round for me, the response would be ‘She in’t-in’.

Dialects can be problematic in formal writing and speaking, but they are a matter of great local pride and shouldn’t be regarded as a lesser form of English, in the right context. Nuff said?

Ah’ll si’thi’!

* Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United football teams

** My grandmother would get on the bus to go shopping at Attercliffe, carrying a bag of sweets … to purchase bread, peas, tripe and the local delicacy Henderson’s Relish [try it on pie!], and return in time for lunch.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

It is my abiding regret that I wasn’t born in my grandmothers’ generation so far as dialect goes, to hear their grandmothers speak. Alas, I am a child of the Fifties, by which time dialect was fading rapidly, and almost gone from my little corner of Hyde, a Pennine foothills mill town eight miles east of Manchester. We were in that select group of people that says scoan, not sconn (much smaller geographically than I ever imagined), and we had ginnels (though not as generally defined – ours were always covered). A buffet (pronounce that T!) was a broad, low wooden stool, an exceedingly useful article, especially for a tiny kid as, if you turned it upside down, you could sit on the underside, surrounded by rather solid framework, and pretend it was a rowing boat. I’m delighted to find it in Oxford Dictionaries at definition 3 (sans boat) and the etymology appears to be Old French into Middle English 600 years ago.

Mum kept an odd bit of grammar going well into the present century. She’d say ‘When I’m waken’ for ‘When I awoke’. And I distinctly recall a small schoolfriend (we must only have been six or seven) tell someone to ‘Stop thy skrikin’ ’ – a term that wasn’t  used in my house, a couple of hundred yards away (not metres, back then), but was easy enough to figure out (‘Cease that noisy crying, forthwith!’) and if you couldn’t, well, it’s in Collins. Its etymology is harder to find, but it looks like being Old Norse for, not very excitingly, to scream or cry. We were just within the Danelaw, back in the day, so that sounds about right. Of course, the people around me didn’t speak a dialect, just as we didn’t have an accent – we just spoke how we spoke, but we knew it wasn’t like those posh folk on the wireless or telly – unless it was for comic effect and Marriott Edgar was being recited (I gave this monologue at a school show, and that was accent, really, not dialect). I’ve been living away for too long now to retain any strong linguistic links to home, and though I do still rhyme grass with crass, and bath with math, I no longer rhyme book with souk. Thanks for a lovely nostalgia trip!


The wise owls pop up on the blog every couple of months to reflect on their experiences on various topics. All are Advanced Professional Members of the CIEP.


Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator (who is quite a fan of bishy barnabees).

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

Wise owls: managing money

It’s coming up to the end of the UK tax year (5 April) – the CIEP’s wise owls have turned their thoughts to keeping track of income and outgoings.

Liz Jones

Here are some things I’ve learned about managing money in 12 years of freelancing:

  • Tax is a potential killer. I’m happy and proud to pay tax, but it’s one of the things I’ve found most challenging to manage in terms of cash flow, especially in years when I’ve taken a few weeks’ ‘maternity leave’. It’s really important to set aside more than you think you’ll need: if your earnings fluctuate, so will your tax bills. I’ve found paying an accountant to be a worthwhile cost to help me get my tax calculations right and understand how I can make the most of allowances.
  • It’s essential to get into a position where you’re not depending on a particular payment being made on time in order to pay vital bills such as the rent or mortgage. Even with the best clients, timely payment is not 100% reliable.
  • I never justify charging clients a high rate by citing my circumstances. As it happens, mine is the main income for my family, but that’s irrelevant to them. They’re paying for my work, not to support my lifestyle.
  • I use FreeAgent to manage my invoicing, and my accountant takes the information directly from this to complete my tax return. It’s not free but it’s saved me a lot of time over the past few years.
  • I chase invoices as soon as they go overdue. After once losing nearly £2,000 on an unpaid invoice when a client went into administration, I also invoice regularly in smaller stage payments for large jobs, to mitigate the risk of a client going bust.

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

My nickname is The Spreadsheet Queen! I use spreadsheets for everything, although I’m barely proficient in Excel. No matter, as you don’t need to be. I created a spreadsheet to track my invoicing just by setting up a few columns with headings such as date, client, what the job was, PO number (if applicable), how much I billed, when I invoiced, when the money is due, etc. I have extra columns for notes and to tick off when my client has paid. I also have a spreadsheet for tracking client hours, with my per hour rate in a column. I bill some of my clients monthly, so I can tot up jobs on the tracking spreadsheet and transfer the billable sum to my invoicing one.

My outgoings are minimal – I’m mindful that expenses are tax-deductible (mostly). My biggest expenses are my CIEP fees (and conference, if I decide to go) and my trade union subs. Then there are costs for software, and, occasionally, stationery, plus fees for my accountant and PC fixer (an essential expense!). Again, I track all these on a spreadsheet – it’s useful to see how much I’m spending per year, including versus how much I’m making. I aim to limit expenses to 5% maximum of my turnover, but it’s usually below that.

I check my business bank account on my phone daily to see what’s gone in (or out). Yes, I have a separate business account – I find it easier to track income and expenses without having to trail through my supermarket shopping, Spotify subs and utility bills. It’s not possible to separate business and personal completely, but it’s about 99% foolproof. I set aside 20% of every invoice as it’s paid – it goes into a dedicated savings account for my tax bill after my accountant has filed my tax return. Setting that aside also stops me from thinking I have more disposable income than I actually have.

Hazel Bird

Managing money is about finding a system that suits your business model. For example, if you’re raising lots of low-value invoices, it might be worth paying for a system that raises, sends and tracks invoices for you, and integrates this data into an accounting package. I’ve seen CIEP members recommend the likes of Crunch, FreshBooks and QuickBooks for this purpose. I tend to raise fewer high-value invoices, so I use an Excel template (which I complete and convert to PDF) and do my tracking in Google Sheets. This lets me geek out with functions to create my own personalised reports. It also means I have no money-management-related expenses beyond the time I take.

It’s definitely not essential to have an accountant, especially if your finances are simple. But naturally this means keeping on top of current tax and accounting requirements, particularly if you’re registered for VAT or invoicing clients in jurisdictions outside the UK. Members often raise very helpful threads on these topics on the CIEP forums.

Finally, there’s a stereotype that freelancers never complete their tax returns until the week they’re due – and then discover we owe the government far more than we expected. I’ve always consciously avoided that approach, because it’s important to me to know my exact tax liability and ensure my cash flow will cover it. To make this as painless as possible, I tend to be one of those insufferable people whose accounts are always up to date. This is inevitably a bit tedious, but it shouldn’t be too tedious. Your system should slot into your work as seamlessly as possible. Money management should serve our businesses, not the other way around.

Nik ProwseNik Prowse

A wise man – a mentor from my early days as a freelancer – once said to me: ‘Put aside your tax money before you spend it.’ He also advised separate bank accounts. So I have a bank account into which all of my business income goes, and as soon as I have a receipt I put a percentage of it into a savings account to cover tax and National Insurance. I set the percentage slightly over what my tax will be, so that I save something each year just by hiving off my tax money.

I don’t use anything other than Microsoft Excel to manage my business income. I have a spreadsheet with columns for date, project name, invoice number, ingoings and outgoings, with a reminders column for payments due for bills and the mortgage. I have separate sheets for the money put aside for tax, business expenses and income from clients. That way, when my tax return is due my business income and outgoings are all present in one handy file.

These two systems have always allowed me to know how much I have, and to be certain that I can’t dip into crucial money that will need to be paid to HMRC.

Sue BrowningSue Browning

My key advice is to do things as you go rather than leaving them to pile up and need sorting out later. Sent an invoice? File it and record it on your income sheet. Renewed your CIEP subscription? File the invoice/receipt and record it on your expenses sheet. I give each invoice and expense a unique reference. Then each month, I download my business bank statement and reconcile it with the invoices issued, marking up each item on the statement with its reference number in my accounts. This reconciliation takes me less than half an hour each month. I do everything electronically, scanning paper receipts on the rare occasions I receive them. I also use a program called Cushion for scheduling, time-tracking and invoicing so my information is all in one place, but do what works for you.

I also put about 20% of my month’s income into a savings account earmarked for tax. This means I don’t dread the total when I submit my return. My accounts spreadsheet has a totals worksheet that collects the monthly figures and gives me an annual total. Come tax return time, I have only to refer to that sheet, knowing that all my invoices and receipts are in order, so my tax return takes me about half an hour. That’s when I am grateful to past me for taking a few minutes regularly to keep on top of things.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

Knowledge is a wonderful thing. First, know your money style. Are you disciplined? Does it trickle through your fingers? Track your invoices, and pounce on any that become overdue the first day they’re overdue. Don’t be shy. You’re in business, not pursuing a hobby. Be polite but firm, and repetitive – it works in most cases. Don’t be afraid you’re ‘nagging’ – you’ve done the work, so your client should pay up! Budget for your business and household expenses: work out what you want to spend on training, marketing, CIEP membership and conference attendance, materials, resources and overheads – and know when those become due.

Work out what you need to live on, likewise. Use that knowledge to help you set the hourly rate you want to earn. A simple spreadsheet of your invoices with a running total can be used to forecast your tax and National Insurance bill. According to your money style, either save enough from each paid invoice to pay the tax on that invoice or do your tax return as early as you can and set up a direct debit with HMRC to pay in monthly instalments (more like a PAYE scheme, and there’s no temptation to dip into your tax pot before you pay it to HMRC). With interest rates so low, the satisfaction of knowing you’re paying down that tax bill rather than saving the money and earning on it may balance out easily. Attend HMRC webinars on business expenses and filling in your tax return.


If you’re starting out on your freelance journey, the CIEP’s guide Going Solo covers the finance basics, including tax and record-keeping obligations.


Photo credit: owl – Dominik VO 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Wise owls: how I found my first client

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

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

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

Liz Jones

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

Nik ProwseNik Prowse

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

Hazel BirdHazel Bird

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

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

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

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

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

Michael FaulknerMike Faulkner

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

There were three stages:

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

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


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


Photo credit: owl Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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