The South Warwickshire and Coventry local SfEP group is all about collegiality and collaboration. One of us writing this piece has been a member since the group’s inception, and the other joined more recently, but funnily enough we both started with exactly the same experience: walking unaccompanied into a town centre pub and wondering what a group of editors and proofreaders looked like.
It turns out that they’re fairly recognisable: not because they all carry dictionaries and a range of coloured pens, but because they’re a lively and friendly group who welcome all newcomers. The fact that in both cases it was a cold Monday night in the winter, and there weren’t many other people about, may not be entirely coincidental …
We’ve come from very different backgrounds: one of us had a 14-year career in local government, had always enjoyed writing reports and putting documents together, and was ready to do something different to fit in more flexibly around her children. The other is an ex-academic who found herself moving further into management and further away from the research, writing and editing that she liked better. So we both, in our different ways and at different times, decided to take the plunge.
Our local SfEP group has been a key support for both of us, even though we specialise in very different areas. It works like this: every couple of months, our group coordinators book a table in a restaurant-cum-pub in Leamington Spa, and send out invitations. We arrive. Some of us eat, some don’t; some of us have a glass of wine while others stick to the fruit juice. Debates rage over whether the chunky chips are better than the skinny fries. We have an informal agreement that the ‘old hands’ spread themselves out so that new and more established members are all mixed up; there are no cliques here. There is also a convention that we don’t sit next to the same person we sat with last time. This keeps the conversations fresh, and also avoids old pals talking exclusively to each other (the two members of the group who would spend all their time talking about cricket if given half a chance know who they are …).
One thing that all attendees agree on is how useful the meetings are. Everyone has a different set of experiences and skills, and it’s certainly not one-way traffic. Yes, the more established among the group are able to offer tips on going (and staying) freelance; but equally, those who might class themselves as ‘newbies’ often have a wealth of experience in different fields which they’re happy to share, or a fresh perspective, which means everyone learns something.
When you spend much of your day working on your own, meeting up with others in a similar situation is priceless, and the value of the group stretches far beyond the bi-monthly meetings. We have an email circulation list, and many of us also communicate via Twitter or other social media, all of which is that bit nicer when you can put a face to the name.
One of our initial worries about joining the group was the possibility of local competition, and whether this might hinder getting work, but in fact the opposite is true. When professional and social relationships build up between local group members, some will pass work on to others they trust if they are too busy to do it themselves. There is no sense of competition in terms of how booked up people are, how many regular clients they have, and so on, because everyone respects the fact that we’re all doing this differently.
The invitation to the group’s September meeting landed in our inboxes a few days ago. We’re both looking forward to catching up with the regulars, meeting some new faces, learning some more about anything from pricing structures to how to edit music, and, of course, ordering some of those
skinny fries chunky chips!
Catherine Hanley always enjoyed the writing and editing part of her academic job, and eventually decided she’d rather concentrate fully on it. She has been freelance since 2011, specialising in academic work in the Arts and Humanities, particularly history; historical fiction; and (it’s a long story) cricket. She is a Professional Member of the SfEP. www.HanleyEditorial.co.uk
Lisa Robertson set up Editwrite in April 2015, after working for a local authority for over 14 years in various children’s services planning and commissioning roles. She offers a range of editorial and writing services, including document writing consultancy. Her specialist areas are children’s services, the public sector and charities. She is an Entry-Level Member of the SfEP. www.editwrite.co.uk
Proofread and posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.
The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP