Tag Archives: advice

Resources round-up: Copyright

Welcome to this round-up of resources from the CIEP. This time, our subject is copyright.

How much you need to know about copyright as a publishing professional will vary according to the role you have within the publishing process. The resources in this round-up should get you started in understanding the basics, and at the end we’ll point you towards three courses that will teach you the principles of copyright in more detail.

An overview of copyright

Before launching into the details of copyright, it’s worth taking some time to understand what it is and does. The CIEP’s new fact sheet ‘Copyright’, by Pippa Smart, is a great start here. It covers what copyright is and who owns it, how copyright works can be used, moral rights, and instances where you don’t need permission, plus details like copyright layers and the Berne three-step test, all from a UK perspective. Soon this fact sheet will be available to members only, but it’s currently available for a limited time to non-members too.

Detailed guidance

Once you’re ready to look at copyright in more detail you can find information on the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) website, with links to the UK government’s Intellectual Property Office and other official guidance. The UK government is a good source of detailed information on copyright, including a list of exceptions to copyright.

Check out these fact sheets from the UK Copyright Service, too: UK copyright law, using the work of others, understanding fair use and obtaining permission to use copyright material.

Resources by publishers and authors

It can be especially useful to look at copyright from the point of view of publishers and authors. The Publishers Association has produced guidance, as has the Society of Authors. As far as self-publishing goes, Pippa Smart recommends this blog post from the ALLi website about one independent author’s use of song lyrics. Resources by US-based Helen Sedwick on lyrics and images are also useful for self-published authors.

Bookshop sign

Copyright by the book

A book that many editors will already own is Butcher’s Copy-editing, and Section 3.7 is devoted to copyright permissions and acknowledgements. There are also chapters about copyright within other books about the wider publishing process:

  • Inside Book Publishing by Giles Clark and Angus Phillips (Routledge, 2019) – Chapter 12 is on rights sales.
  • The Professionals’ Guide to Publishing by Gill Davies and Richard Balkwill (Kogan Page, 2011) – Chapter 8 is about understanding how rights and permissions work.

If you want to delve deeper, try:

  • Copyright Law for Writers, Editors and Publishers by Gillian Davies in association with Ian Bloom (A & C Black, 2011), reviewed on the CIEP website.
  • Publishing Law by Hugh Jones and Christopher Benson (Routledge, 2016).

Courses on copyright

If you’d like more confidence in understanding and working with copyright, a training course may be a good option. The CIEP offers Copyright for Editorial Professionals, an online self-study course of around 30 hours, and the PTC offers Copyright – the basics, an online, half-day course, and Essential copyright for publishers, an e-learning module.

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: Laptop and notebook by Maya Maceka, bookshop sign by César Viteri, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

How to network better

Laura Summers of BookMachine explores networking benefits, tips and more.

From small beginnings in 2010, starting as a group of colleagues coming together to talk about the book publishing industry, the BookMachine community has grown to become a global organisation. During this time I’ve met hundreds of editors and proofreaders. I remember some of them really well because they’ve stood out against the crowd by their ability to network.

Instead of simply telling me or anyone they’re networking with about themselves and leaving it at that, these professionals show their ‘interest’. They do this by asking insightful questions and aim to be the ‘interested’ person in each discussion or conversation they’re in.

Even if you’re not a networking fan, it’s one of the easiest ways to form connections that might lead to new opportunities. Thankfully, living in today’s digital world means we have online communities that make networking easier for all of us (introverts, extroverts and ambiverts!) to connect.

Not convinced that networking is for you? Here are three reasons to get started.

1.  Spread the word

If you’re a freelance editor or proofreader, networking is an essential way to let people know what you do. Having an up-to-date website is a great start, but to ensure that the right opportunities come your way, you need to connect with others and tell them specifically about what you can do for them.

Networking isn’t limited to talking with potential clients. When you network with other freelancers, along with gaining advice and friendships, you can create partnerships and offer your clients a better service. For example, if you are an editor you can partner with a copywriter to offer your clients more skills.

2.  Understand industry trends better

I read The Bookseller online daily, but there is still so much more to know about the industry. The more people you speak to and connect with, the more you understand current trends in the industry. This, in turn, gives you a deeper understanding of what’s important to your clients and their businesses.

Having more industry knowledge also gives you the added bonus of having more professional topics to talk about during meetings – whether you’re a freelancer or an in-house professional.

3.  Gain more confidence

This one is simple. The more you meet and talk to people, the easier it gets.

Convinced about networking but unsure where to begin?

Explore membership organisations

As well as using CIEP membership to connect with editors and proofreaders through virtual and in-person events and the CIEP forums, consider joining BookMachine’s vibrant community to interact and learn during mixers, virtual hangouts and in-person events. If you want to mix a bit of exercise with networking and check two things off your list at one go, you could even come for our ‘Walk & Talk’ events!

If you’re a publishing hopeful, perhaps in the early stages of your career, think about the Society of Young Publishers (SYP). Attending SYP events and conferences, signing up to be a member and applying for their mentorship programme can help you get your foot in the door and teach you how to network better. Since it’s a volunteer-run organisation, you can even get involved with their online and in-person events if you have something to offer.

Leverage social media

Whether it’s BookTok, Bookstagram or #BookTwitter, there are plenty of ways for you to find fellow publishing professionals and connect with them on social media. Following some of the most valuable and popular accounts within publishing can help keep you in the loop and give you the opportunity to join discussions, conversations and events.

When it comes to social media, don’t underestimate the power of hashtags and the ability to squeeze yourself into a conversation when possible. Try keeping an eye on (or follow) hashtags like #workinpublishing, #publishing and #joinbooks.

Five valuable publishing-related accounts to follow on Twitter: The CIEP; BookMachine; Publishers Association; The Publishing Post; BookBrunch.

Use LinkedIn wisely

When you connect with someone, send a note. Introduce yourself and include a few words about what you do and why you’re interested in connecting with them.

Twitter will cap your tweets at 280 characters, but on LinkedIn, there’s no such limit when you post. But the key is to keep your interactions short and sweet – people have limited attention spans and time when networking. The goal is to make yourself memorable and interesting within that short interaction.

Be helpful

Another useful way to stand out is to answer questions using advanced search. Both Twitter and LinkedIn have great search capabilities. Think about the questions you had when you started out. Or even questions you had two months ago. Search those questions and variations of them on these sites.

What you want is to be helpful to those in your industry and around you. Offer answers, insights, or even follow-up questions to make the discussion more interesting. Don’t worry about sharing your tips and secrets – collaborating and boosting others in your industry is an ideal way to start networking.

Step forward as a speaker

Another idea to network and simultaneously showcase your skills is to pitch yourself as a speaker or as part of a panel at any relevant event. Pitch ideas to event organisers and highlight your areas of expertise so they can introduce you and your work to a wide audience. You can find plenty of these events when you start following and interacting with publishing professionals and publishers on social media.

Have a positive attitude

Finally, networking may seem challenging but try to think about it in terms of building relationships, friendships and long-lasting connections. The more people you know and speak with, the better and easier it will be for you to find the right opportunities to help your career thrive. On a personal level, it’ll also boost confidence in your intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships.

Also, it’s easier once you get started – I promise!

About Laura Summers

Laura Summers is the Director of BookMachine, the fast-growing global Community and Creative Agency specialising in book publishing. Her mission is to provide every publishing professional with the knowledge, ideas and connections to help them to progress in their careers. Follow Laura on Twitter @LauraSummersNow. Connect with Laura on LinkedIn.

 

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: maze by Susan Q Yin on Unsplash, networking meeting by Redmind Studio on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Forum matters: Fiction and other specialisms

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

Headline graphic saying 'Forum matters: Fiction and other specialisms' with books laid out on a white surface

Supporting members’ specialisms

One of the best things about the CIEP community is the sheer breadth of knowledge held and shared freely by its members. From FRedit to flamingos, there’s bound to be a tasty morsel that will make your life easier, or at least a little more interesting, especially if you dig a little deeper into the specialist groups, which were created to avoid overwhelming the core forums. Find out more about joining one or more of these forums.

Since this issue of The Edit is all about fiction, it’s an opportunity to draw your attention to the Fiction forum, which has over 500 members. Of course, fiction editors will gain a lot from the main forums in the first place, and recent useful threads have covered checking facts, how deep down the rabbit hole you need to go (and whether you should charge extra for spelunking), flamingo migration and the etymology of riverbank architecture. Might these reappear in this year’s CIEP conference quiz? Best take notes.

An exploration on SfEPLine of which tools are available to editors with vision loss or impairment (reassuring to know that loss of vision might not necessarily mean an end to an editing career) connects quite nicely with a thread in the Newbie forum (an underrated goldmine of good advice, if you ask us) about screen readers and Latin abbreviations. Meanwhile, a Marketplace offer spurred a sensitive discussion on SfEPLine about the ethics, legalities and practicalities of working with an author who is not yet an adult, in order to safeguard all stakeholders.

The Macros forum also has useful information for fiction editors, and if you’re looking to add more macros to your toolbox but don’t know where to start, try one of the ones recommended in this thread. A handy macro for fiction editors might be Paul Beverley’s ChapterChopper, which shows the number of words per chapter. This could help editors to pinpoint developmental issues like pace slumps or info-dumping.

If you work with science fiction, you might be interested in Reedsy Sci-Fi week (August–September 2022), or catch up with recordings afterwards. This information appeared on the Events forum, full of links to happenings of interest to editors that you might regret missing.

If your special interest is fiction, this is just the tip of it. Come along as we open the curtain and show you what the Fiction group has been up to.

Digging deeper

This section is link-free because not all of our forum users are members of the Fiction forum. If you’d like to access it, find out how in ‘Joining a specialist forum’, below.

The Fiction Special Interest Group (Fic SIG) invites any member to give a talk on a relevant topic of their choice. Kath Kirk gave a webinar on the special considerations copyeditors need for editing science fiction and fantasy novels. She discussed how to keep track of wibbly-wobbly timelines, and this spurred further discussion in the Fiction forum about which software can help editors to visualise it.

Clare Law’s talk on using data-driven editing to become more efficient, get paid more, reduce anxiety and beat imposter syndrome led to robust discussions in the Fiction forum about which silent changes fiction editors usually make, and which queries they’ve stored in their TextExpander arsenals.

Members of the Fiction forum also shared resources for working on children’s fiction, and how to format a fiction manuscript for submission to a literary agent, as well as recommendations of courses for editors who are looking to build their fiction-editing skills.

If you missed these fabulous discussions, don’t worry! Notes from the talks are shared on the Fiction forum afterwards.

Joining a specialist forum

There’s no barrier to CIEP members’ entry into the specialist groups. Everybody should join their local group forum. Even international members can be local through the Cloud Clubs. Apart from Fiction, other topic-based groups are Music, English Language Teaching, Education, MedSTEM, Languages (translation), Legal and more – and sometimes they’re where the real action is!

If you’re interested in a deeper exploration of a niche or subject related to editing, follow the step-by-step instructions on this page or get in touch with one of the forum moderators.

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: books by ready made and woman in a hat by Olivia cox, both on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

CIEP social media round-up: June and July 2022

The main theme of the CIEP’s social media postings in these two months was different perspectives. In this social media round-up, we look at:

  • Different publishing perspectives
  • Different individual perspectives
  • Different mediums
  • Different meanings
  • Member benefits
  • News
  • Quiz

Different publishing perspectives

There are varied journeys into publishing, and within it. Our posts covered roles within the industry, different aspects of editing and different routes to landing editorial jobs.

Jen Moore, an editorial manager from publisher Thames & Hudson, discusses working with freelancers from an in-house perspective, and shares the qualities that publishers are looking for from freelance editors.

Editing is a substantial part of the publishing workflow, but it’s important to remember it’s not the end. Our production colleagues do the work of getting those books into existence and onto shelves and e-readers. Rich Cutler gives us a brief introduction to two of the latter stages, typesetting and design, and looks at how copyeditors can prepare text for typesetting.

Being a subject expert is a valuable quality in editing. Nadine Catto’s love for words first led her to become a lawyer. But a desire for a less confrontational job led her to become an editor of legal materials for publishers and other legal content providers. She describes how she got into legal editing, and what her work typically involves.

Many of us write or edit copy that will be published online, so it’s useful to know some SEO basics to make sure that content ranks well on search engines. Co-founder of Tate & Clayburn Rosie Tate explains how editors and proofreaders can add value to copy that’s destined for the web.

 

Different individual perspectives

Our output also covered ‘conscious language’, that is, respecting the different perspectives of readers (in our editing), and also those of colleagues and clients (in our communications). Conscious editing is being aware of lived experience and varieties of English that are different from our own, and being aware of our own potential assumptions and unconscious bias.

The CIEP community is a generous one – freely sharing editing expertise in our forums. In a ‘Forum matters’ post, our contributors point out that an editor’s job could be described as being entirely about the conscious use of language. And not just about correcting grammar, but being aware of meanings, variations, topics, concerns and intention. Our members share some great resources and advice here.

In her latest ‘Flying Solo’ post, Sue Littleford considers the importance to us, as language professionals, of using conscious language in marketing and selling your services as a freelance editor or proofreader. She encourages us to look closely and critically at our public communication: website text, social media, blog posts and profiles, and responses to client approaches.

The CIEP’s training director, Jane Moody, looks at how editors and proofreaders can become more knowledgeable about conscious language, clearly sets out the objectives to work towards this and lists valuable resources on the subject.

It doesn’t exist yet, but maybe one day there will be software that can improve conscious language in a text. In ‘Talking tech’, Andy Coulson delves into the world of natural language processing (NLP) and AI to find out how we might be able to assess conscious language in the future.

Different mediums

For some, audiobooks seem (unfairly) like ‘cheating’ at reading. For others they are a lifeline, for many reasons. For editors struggling to find time to read for pleasure, it can be a great joy to be able to enjoy books in audio form. Audiobooks are an ideal solution for anyone who is unable or struggles to read print books. Clare Black discusses why she is passionate about audiobooks and explains why her love of listening has created an opportunity for CPD.

Different meanings

A popular read in June was Cathy Tingle’s ‘Finer Point’ post on modifiers. What are they and where should they be placed in a sentence? It’s an aspect of language that many of us are unsure about, or even unaware of. Cathy looks at things that can go wrong with modifiers, and how to avoid them.

Member benefits

June and July saw the launch of two new fact sheets, free for CIEP members. In ‘Editing dialogue’, Stephen Cashmore looks at three aspects of editing written speech that can guide what actions editors should (or should not) take: rules, punctuation and style.

Our fact sheet ‘Editing LGBTQ+ language with sensitivity’ was available for free to everyone throughout June, and is still free for CIEP members now. Learn about terminology and usage, and how to make sensitive edits when working with LGBTQ+ material.

News: the EPWG

The CIEP Environmental Policy Working Group (EPWG) has achieved quite a lot since its first online meeting, just 15 months ago. Read about their work on the CIEP website. And look out, #CIEP2022 attendees! Coming soon are the EPWG’s travel and packing tips for our conference in Milton Keynes, 10–12 September.

News: the conference

The last day for booking an in-person place at the CIEP Annual Conference (Kents Hill Park, Milton Keynes, and online, 10–12 September 2022) was Monday 18 July, but online places are still available. Book before 5pm on Friday 2 September. Highlights include:

  • Whitcombe Lecture by Katherine May
  • After-dinner speech by Reverend Richard Coles
  • Closing plenary session by Ian McMillan

Check out the full programme.

Quiz

Finally, dare you try Quiz 15? Test yourself (just for fun!) on aspects of grammar and usage. Bear in mind, though, there’s not always just one right answer. Sometimes … it depends.

Keep up with the latest CIEP content. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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: beach huts by Arno Smit on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Editing for age appropriateness in children’s books

In this post, Lisa Davis discusses age appropriateness in children’s literature. She considers the very subjective question of how to tell whether vocabulary or content is appropriate for specific age ranges, and takes into account who is reading the book and how it gets into their hands.

When editing children’s books, the editor takes on an additional level of responsibility to their readers. This is a challenge to those starting out in children’s books as one can end up wondering if a word is too difficult for an age group, or if the content is appropriate. However, as well as the intended audience of the book, we have to consider who will actually be reading the story and the gatekeepers who will be selling or sharing it.

Children’s books tend to get lumped together as one genre, which isn’t ideal considering how much children develop and learn each year. Here, I focus on the 0–12 age group, as this is often when age appropriateness comes into question, particularly as adults still have some say in what a child is reading.

Age-appropriate vocabulary

Age-appropriate vocabulary is one of the first things that comes up with editing children’s books, and this refers to the vocabulary level of an intended audience. There’s sometimes an assumption that picture books need to be simple with limited vocabulary, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Picture books are designed to be read by an adult to a child, and this process helps expand a child’s spoken vocabulary. While I wouldn’t advocate using too many challenging words, I would also avoid oversimplifying the language so much that it ends up being dry.

A key element to consider is who is reading the words. For most children’s books for ages up to seven, adults are reading to a child. But vocabulary level is important for early reader books where a child is learning to read. In this case, the word choice is vital and usually tailored to use selected phonetical sounds. This is specialised writing and editing, which one would be trained for. So, unless you’re editing levelled readers, then just using common sense is fine – and remember that many children continue to be read to throughout primary school.

Swearing, of course, is another issue. Generally, for this age group swearing should be avoided, but there are some borderline swear words (‘bloody hell’, ‘damn’, etc) where some readers are OK with it and others aren’t. For this reason, I tend to advise avoiding them unless an author or publisher has a strong opinion on it.

Parents and two children reading a book together

Age-appropriate content

This subjectivity becomes more apparent when we start looking at content. If we think about what content is appropriate for children’s books, we initially paint with broad strokes. However, so much comes down to individual definition and the context in which content is presented. For instance, if I were to ask if violence were OK in a children’s book, I would expect most people to say ‘no’. Instead, it would be better to ask specifically what is happening, how it is presented and what age group will be consuming this content. Is one character slapping another OK in a picture book for ages 3–5? Or in a chapter book for ages 9–12? Why does the slap happen? Is this action glorified? Are there any repercussions for this action? We have to consider the overall message this content sends to the reader and whether potentially problematic content is the only way to achieve this.

While there hasn’t been a study done to examine age appropriateness of content within children’s books, Ipsos Mori and Ofcom did a study on offensive language in 2016 that examined if/when certain words were problematic on TV and radio. The study concluded that ‘it was not usually possible to decide on the acceptability of language and gestures without taking the full context into account’. It also stated: ‘The likely audience should be considered (noting that not all channels are the same) – but the potential audience is also important’.

These findings can be extended to all content within children’s books. For instance, we wouldn’t be OK with drug usage in children’s books. But any reference to drugs or alcohol in books for ages 9–12 isn’t as problematic, provided it’s shown as negative.

However, these considerations need to be put into further context of the gatekeepers.

Considering the gatekeepers

With children’s books, we have several levels of gatekeepers before a book gets into a child’s hands. There are parents and family members, but they are often last in a long line that includes teachers and librarians as well as bookshops or distributors, who get books into schools and libraries. And there are organisations that support or promote books, but only if they adhere to certain criteria.

I’m aware of certain children’s book prizes that won’t include a book that has any violence. Additionally, there are companies that sell books directly to schools, so they are cautious about which titles they select to ensure there isn’t anything problematic that could result in complaints.

The issue here is that ‘problematic’ is incredibly subjective, and people tend to have stronger opinions about content created for children. While many readers are happy to see picture books tackling important social issues, there are others who feel children are too young to be exposed to this content. This is why we always see greater censorship in children’s titles, where even individual schools are deciding not to include popular titles in their collections.

Illustration of a mouse

Context is key

This subjectivity is something that can’t (and often shouldn’t) be catered for. Just as with adult titles, we have to accept that some people won’t approve of every children’s title. But complex subjects such as war, death, mental health and gender identity are all being tackled in children’s books today in ways that are seen as accessible to children. It all comes down to how the content is presented.

While books don’t receive age ratings, we can look to films and the guidance around them. But even here it’s not as straightforward, with the British Board of Film Classification noting that their recommendations ‘consider context, tone and impact – how it makes the audience feel – and even the release format’. So even with guidelines, it still comes down to context. But they also note that ‘giving age ratings and content advice to films and other audiovisual content [is] to help children and families choose what’s right for them and avoid what’s not’, which means ratings can only apply to content at the very top level. While I don’t advocate for age recommendations on books, what we can do is use book blurbs and back cover copy to give a clear indication of what type of story the book is, so readers have a good idea of what they’re getting.

Ultimately as editors, we need to read with a sensitive eye to examine word choice and content, questioning anything that might be inappropriate, while raising anything that could be problematic for some readers, so that an author or publisher can make an educated decision.

About Lisa Davis

Lisa Davis (she/her) is a children’s book editor and publishing consultant who specialises in making children’s books more inclusive. She has worked at major publishers in the UK including Simon & Schuster and Hachette, and in departments including editorial, rights and production. Before going freelance in 2018, she was the book purchasing manager for BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, which gives over 3.5 million books a year directly to children.

 

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: pirate scene by Tumisu on Pixabay, family by cottonbro on Pexels, mouse by Victoria_Borodinova on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Six pieces of advice from runners to editors and proofreaders

Run On, the CIEP’s virtual running group, was founded on Facebook two years ago this week. We now have more than 70 members, who post pictures of the scenic backdrops to their runs – our members really do live in some stunning places, from Scotland to Switzerland, Hong Kong to Ecuador, Cornwall to Melbourne – and share running tips and stories, injury woes, and recommendations for listening as they pound the miles. The group contains fell runners, parkrunners, marathon runners, ultra runners, occasional runners, resting runners and retired runners, all of whom offer support and encouragement to each other. If you’re a member of the CIEP and a runner, why don’t you join us?

When an article by Ron Hogan on what writers could learn from runners came up on Jane Friedman’s website in June, Run On members were asked what editors and proofreaders could learn from runners. Their responses fell into six categories:

  1. Build slowly
  2. Take steps to clear your head
  3. Get enough rest
  4. Push through procrastination
  5. Seek a wider network
  6. Now and then, remind yourself why you do it

1. Build slowly

Many a runner has been caught out by training too much too early and ending up with an injury. One member counsels:

Building distance is not unlike growing your business/doing CPD: start off with modest goals and build slow and steady. A good training base for building experience is better than ‘shortcuts’/skipping the fundamentals.

2. Take steps to clear your head

If you’re seeking a breakthrough or inspiration in an area of your work, it makes sense to step away from your desk and do something else. The answer may well come to you in a different environment, particularly if you’re out in the fresh air:

I find running clears my mind and lets me work out problems. These could be related to editing, running my business or planning ahead. I usually run with music, but occasionally listen to the Editing Podcast too, which helps me solve some of these problems, or at least gets me thinking about them on my next run.

When I’m running, when I lose focus on my breath (I try to meditate on it while running), I allow my mind to drift to work issues and mull over what I’m currently editing/writing. I find I can sort through my thoughts on all kinds of issues in that space. It really clears my head for the day ahead.

3. Get enough rest

Few runners run every day. They know it can lead to injury and exhaustion. One Run On member observes:

Rest days are important for runners, and the same is true for editors, especially when your desk is at home seven days a week and the temptation is to keep working. Rest reduces the risk of exhaustion and burnout, and helps us come back to our work refreshed and enthusiastic. We may even work out/spot things we missed before the break. And just like runners may need to take a break because of injury, so editors need to listen to when their editing brain needs a break.

4. Push through procrastination

You’ve planned a run but a nice sit-down seems much more inviting. Just as runners sometimes have to force themselves out of the door, editors and proofreaders sometimes have to spur themselves on to that next chapter or paragraph. But, running or editing, the effort is always worth it.

There are days when I really don’t want to run at all, but I make myself do it because I know how good I’ll feel at the end of the run … a metaphor for pushing through moments of editing procrastination and being rewarded with a job well done, a load off our minds and a happy client in the end?

5. Seek a wider network

Even though runners often train on their own, they find that joining a real or virtual running group inspires them to carry on and offers support when they need it. The CIEP, and other professional groups, work in a similar way for editors and proofreaders.

Even though these are things we often do alone, online support and advice (and occasional real-life meetings) can make us feel part of something much bigger.

6. Now and then, remind yourself why you do it

If you’re a runner, the two comments below will make you itch to get your trainers on and head out. As editors and proofreaders we, too, need to be inspired by each other. Seek out sources of inspiration – such as training, conferences and other networking opportunities, podcasts, blogs, articles and books – so that you can return to work with new fire.

I typically listen to podcasts or music when I run, but when I really want to be in the moment, I unplug and mindfully notice everything around me: sounds, the movement of my body, the alignment of my posture, the smells in the air, the temperature … This attention to detail sharpens and kind of *empowers* my mind, and it reminds me that running is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one – l think editors owe the same level of awareness and mental fortitude to the work our clients give us.

There’s a comparison for me that’s something to do with the value of sustained/focused attention. When I’m running, I become hyper-aware – in a good sense – of my physical state: what’s hurting, what is or isn’t moving smoothly, what effect it has if I change gait or pace or running surface or any other detail. The result is a much greater feeling of control over and harmony with a body that often otherwise feels like it’s working against me due to my chronic condition. I’m doing a very in-depth developmental edit at the moment and there’s a parallel there, with how immersed you become and how that eventually gives you an instinctual feel for the right structure, tone, word choices etc.

Thank you to all the runners who so generously contributed their thoughts to this blog, and the wider membership of Run On who have made the group such a fun, supportive and inspiring place to be over the past two years.

About Run On

Run On, CIEP’s virtual running group, was founded on 13 June 2019. In autumn of that year, we had our inaugural run at the CIEP conference in Aston, Birmingham (pictured). We support CIEP runners through our Facebook Group page.

 

 

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: runner by sporlab on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Wise owls: a nugget of wisdom

The SfEP’s wise owls are back – and have been thinking about what little nugget of wisdom they would love to have been able to tell their newbie selves…


Two stone owl ornaments, on a log in front of a flourishing garden

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

Find out what you need before buying

Start small, and don’t anticipate your needs, which translates into Think Before You Spend. As a rookie (copy-editing is my second career, and I had no prior experience in, nor even links to, publishing), I was keen to set everything up ‘properly’ – even before I had a business to speak of. I’d talked to freelancers I knew in a different field and they recommended setting up as a limited company from the get-go. All that money wasted when I was just setting up and every penny counted. Ouch! Turns out, in EditorLand at least, being a limited company is almost always something you grow into – and may never need. Then there were all those books. So many books! I never need an excuse to buy books – and I suspect neither do you. Hold back. Some were essential once I’d got myself some clients, but most were outclassed by the internet. (The internet can be fickle, so I’d recommend having your most heavily used resources in hard copy too, if they exist.) Amazon was already well established when I was starting out – I could get books the next day if I wanted. So that’s my nugget of wisdom – find out what you need, then buy it. Don’t buy anything and everything vaguely to do with editing and writing to see if you actually will use it. New business owners, repeat after me: it’s easier to save money than to make money. (But do invest in training!)

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

Take time off if you’re faced with a family crisis

It’s easy to think you can power through problems, or use work as a ‘distraction’, but you can’t be sure your concentration will be sufficient to keep all the plates spinning, and your clients won’t thank you for a rushed or below-par job.

Michael FaulknerMike Faulkner

Know your limitations

I began my freelance career with proofreading, and my biggest challenge from the start was to stick to the parameters, my course tutor Gillian Clarke’s admonition ringing in my ears: ‘Leave well enough alone!’ It’s excellent advice and I did try, but I found myself adding more and more marginal comments to the proofs until eventually I was reframing with gay abandon.

My lightbulb moment came several years later, when I finally admitted to myself that I was not temperamentally equipped to be a proofreader. I didn’t have the self-discipline. Gillian had been right in her assessment that I was too inclined to intervene, and by then I was really pushing the boundaries, encouraged by a law publisher from whom I was getting a lot of work (still am) and whose senior editor said she ‘appreciated proofers who approach everything with an elegant scepticism’. When I made the switch to copy-editing I was much more comfortable.
So, my advice to my freshman freelance self would be, ‘Know your limitations!’.

Liz JonesLiz Jones

Learn to chill out

It always feels good to push yourself hard, to please a client, to go the extra mile, to bask in praise for all your hours of hard work and extraordinary diligence. But remember to look after yourself too, and establish boundaries. So, learn to recognise unreasonable requests, and then learn to say no to them. Learn to give yourself time off. Learn to question whether it really needs to be done by last thing on a Friday, or if Monday morning would be just as good. Learn to look hard at what the client is offering and assess whether it’s as good a deal for you as it is for them. Learn to say no as well as yes. Learn to ask for what you need to do a job well, and to have a life outside of work. Learn to chill out.

Hazel BirdHazel Bird

Have confidence, and prioritise

This year, my editorial business turned ten. In those ten years I’ve vastly expanded both my skillset (from being nervous of any copy-editing at all to managing and co-editing multi-million-word works) and my subject specialisms (who knew this English literature graduate would end up copy-editing postgraduate-level psychology?).

The nugget of wisdom I’d give to my 2009 self has two parts. The first would be to have confidence in exploring the aforementioned skillset and specialisms. As long as it is done mindfully, incrementally and with due diligence, expanding into new and varied realms can be one of the most rewarding aspects of editorial work.

The second part would be to prioritise finding a time-planning system capable of forming a solid foundation for this expansion. I have pretty much never missed a deadline, but sometimes that has been to the detriment of my work–life balance. I wouldn’t tell 2009 me never to take jobs that would involve working crazy hours (such opportunities can pay off exorbitantly in terms of job satisfaction and stability). However, I would encourage her to put more energy, earlier on, into finding a system that quantified the crazy, so as to be able to make better-informed choices about what an opportunity would cost in terms of time.

 

Proofread by Joanne Heath, Entry-Level Member.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

Editors and social media: Twitter

In the first of a new series looking at how editors use social media platforms, Kia Thomas talks about her Twitter motivations and habits.Twitter logoMy name’s Kia, and I’m a Twitterholic.

When and why did you start?

I find it very hard to believe that once there was a time I didn’t really understand Twitter. Why would you go on it? What was the point of telling strangers things in (then) 140-character bursts? And then one day in 2012, I decided to give it a go, and I was hooked. A bit too hooked – I lost many, many hours staring into my phone, and a couple of years later I decided to take a break. But when I started my editorial business in early 2016, I knew it was time to flex my Twitter muscles once more.

I went back to Twitter because my former experience had shown me it was – in amongst the political squabbling, Nicki Minaj GIFs, and cat pictures – a powerful tool for connecting with people. It’s a wonderful way to keep up to date with trends, issues and events in your industry – as a newcomer to publishing, this was invaluable to me. And there is, or at least there can be, a real sense of community on Twitter, if you can find the corner of it where your tribe hang out. Editing Twitter is definitely one of those corners – we chat, we laugh, we debate about all things word- and book-related (and food. There’s a lot of food in Editing Twitter).

What do you share?

I try to keep my Twitter posts mostly related to what I do, so at least vaguely connected to words and books and editing, but sometimes I veer off and post things that are more personal, such as tweets about my kids, especially if they’ve been particularly cute/enraging that day. One of the good things about Twitter is it’s easy to stay active even when you’re only popping on quickly – you can share other people’s tweets and content, or take part in whatever meme/game is currently doing the rounds, so If I’m busy and don’t want to spend too much time on Twitter, I do that.

When I do post more of my own content, my main concern is to keep it funny. I go on Twitter for business reasons, but as a reader/viewer/consumer, I want to be entertained, so that’s what I want to do for other people too. Sometimes I’m pretty sure I’m only amusing myself, but some of my original content gives other people a giggle too – a recent thread I wrote outlining a DEFINITELY REAL AND ACCURATE (spoiler: not so much) approach to editorial pricing seemed to go down pretty well. It garnered lots of retweets and several cry-laugh emojis, anyway. I also use Twitter to share my blog posts, and grumble about Microsoft Word (don’t we all?).

Twitter thread by Kia Thomas

When do you share?

I try to tweet most days, but less frequently if I’m trying to stay away from Twitter for time-saving purposes. I spend barely any time composing most of my tweets, because I am naturally spontaneously hilarious, interesting and wise. But If I’m tweeting something designed to be more engaging, such as my #TheDailySwear tweets (last year, I tweeted one compound swearword every day, with my personal preference on how it should be styled), or a blog post, that obviously takes me longer. My ‘comedy’ threads don’t take me all that long, because they’re pretty much just me opening my brain and letting some silliness fall out. The most time-consuming part is arranging the text so the tweets don’t go over the character limit!

Why do you do it?

Well firstly, because it’s fun, especially when I get to be silly. Some people might baulk at that as a marketing strategy, but it works for me and my personality (humour is all I have, dammit! And swearing. Don’t forget the swearing). But I also love Twitter because working at home on your own can be really lonely. Twitter and other social media are like my virtual office, providing me with colleagues to chat to and connect with. It gives me a sense of belonging to a community, and that can be invaluable in fighting isolation. It provides networking opportunities – I have definitely had work and other professional opportunities that I can trace to Twitter. For example, this year I gave a session on swearing at the SfEP conference, which came about because of a blog post I wrote that was based on my Daily Swear tweets.

What about other social media platforms?

Twitter is the social media platform I find the most interesting and easy to use. I do also have Facebook, but I post very little on there outside of the groups, and my poor business page is horribly neglected. I recently signed up to Instagram, despite the fact that I’m absolutely terrible at taking pictures, and I have my Instagram account linked to my Twitter, so it’s a good, quick way of sharing more visual content on Twitter.

Any advice?

Twitter can be an amazing place to network with colleagues and potential clients and can lead to work. But it’s important not to approach it solely as a marketing opportunity. It’s easy to think you can go on Twitter, say ‘Hire me, I’m awesome’ and wait for the offers to roll in, but in reality it doesn’t work like that. Relentless self-promotion is boring, both to the person doing it and those reading it. Social media networking is like all networking – it works best when you are sincere. Be interested and interesting, help as much as you ask for help, and you’ll find the experience so much more rewarding. I use Twitter to build my online presence in the hope it will help my business be successful, sure, but I’m also building real connections that benefit me in so many more ways than just the prospect of work.

There’s a dark side to Twitter – there are some terrible people on there, there’s an awful lot of news that can make you angry, and it can be an astonishing time-suck – so take steps to protect your time, energy and mental health. Take breaks when you feel overwhelmed by it, realise you don’t have to read or respond to everything, set up filters so you don’t see things that distract you – whatever you need to do to manage your experience and set boundaries. But if you can get the balance right, there’s a wonderful community there just waiting to welcome you with open digital arms. And cat pictures.

Kia ThomasKia Thomas spent 12 years in the arts before becoming a freelance fiction editor at the beginning of 2016. She specialises in contemporary romance and is an Intermediate Member of the SfEP. Kia lives in South Tyneside, and she can often be found networking with her colleagues in online spaces (i.e. spending too much time on Twitter).

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

 

Wise owls: networking

Networking works in different ways for different people – the wise owls are back to share their experiences and preferences.

Metal owl ornaments huddled on a shelf

The parliament has also grown this month, with three new owls offering their maiden contributions: please welcome Louise Bolotin, Michael Faulkner and Nik Prowse, all Advanced Professional Members of the SfEP.

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

I’m not a fan of formalised networking. At business networking meetings, the chat to others often feels forced and you’re supposed to have a dinky little elevator speech – it can get quite competitive and if you’re not a slick business type it’s easy to feel your face doesn’t fit.

Most such meetings I’ve attended in the past have involved breakfast and as I don’t usually eat until after 11am and never talk to anyone until I’m fully caffeinated, I long ago stopped inflicting such events on myself.

If you’re not a morning person, find an evening networking event if you can as there is usually a glass of wine on offer and a little booze can be a useful lubricant if you’re hesitant to go up to strangers and introduce yourself.

I haven’t stopped networking, however. I just take a more informal sideswipe at it. And where do I network? Everywhere. Bus stops, trains, the corner shop, the lifts in my block of flats… I make a point of talking to anyone. Networking is much more about building personal relationships, than practising an elevator speech everyone will have forgotten within five minutes. So make it personal. Have a funky business card and spread it around liberally, even in places you wouldn’t think to.

And make yourself memorable. My tip is to say something about yourself that’s not work-related. “I’m Louise, I’m a freelance editor and when I’m off-duty I like going to gigs. Who’s your favourite band?” A bit of small talk and, then, if you think it might be fruitful go in for the kill – subtly. I prefer, however, to see networking as a long game as it takes time to get to know people and understand how you might be able to work together.

Michael FaulknerMichael Faulkner

If you are interested in proofreading dissertations and theses, scour your address book for academic types with contacts in the universities, talk to people who are at or who have recently left uni, and join the alumni family of your own institution (if appropriate) – all with the aim of building a list of current profs across all the disciplines with which you’re comfortable. Then research the institutions’ proofreading policy and make a direct approach by email to each person identified, offering your services with the usual caveats. For a supervisor with language-challenged students, a trusted proofreader who understands the parameters is a time-saving resource, and they will come back again and again and will pass your name around.

Always carry a card and practise a concise pitch, cleverly disguised as small talk, which you can wheel out at any gathering. It’s amazing how many people there are who haven’t a clue what editing is about but who can still offer you work. If you edit fiction, for example, be aware that in any group of people there may well be one or two who have a novel in them, or a friend who writes, or an exercise book of poems at the back of the cupboard.

During the life of any project, get to know your client and, without being a pain, make sure the experience is fun. This will lead to repeat business and a growing network through referrals.
Allocate time-limited slots for daily social networking. LinkedIn is invaluable for cold introductions (‘You don’t know me, but we’re Linked’). Facebook groups and online editors’ organisations are great for accumulating knowledge and widening your list of contacts (and have a look beyond editorial groups at those servicing your target market – an obvious example for a fiction editor is a writers’ organisation with a directory of services for writers).

Finally, I find lots of referrals are generated by constructive engagement on the Society’s forums. Conversations begun there can be carried on by email, and a list of trusted colleagues can be built up quite quickly to whom work can be referred – which of course is a two-way street.

Liz JonesLiz Jones

I find networking easier to stomach if I don’t actually think of it as networking. For me it’s more about having conversations that reveal shared interests or a personal connection, and they can happen anywhere – it doesn’t have to be in the context of a business breakfast at the local work hub, or some other kind of formal networking event.

Some of my most successful ‘networking’, in terms of commissions won and money in my business bank account, has taken place at SfEP conferences or local group meetings, over coffee. Other ‘networking’ has happened on Twitter, and the connections I’ve made there have tended to be people who might share a professional specialism, yet have responded to me for some of the more offbeat, non-editorial things I share. This goes to show that there’s scope to relax and be yourself. In fact, I would argue that it’s essential. Not everyone will ‘get’ you, but those who do will truly value what you have to offer.

Another source of interaction that might classify as ‘networking’ has been via my blog, which often veers away from the strictly informational, editorial type of post and into the personal – and conversations arise from that. Again, not everyone will like it, but many people appreciate the honesty and like knowing that there’s a real person behind my website, who will take proper human care over their work. A final thing about networking: the editorial world is surprisingly small. Be nice to everyone (or if you can’t be nice, keep quiet). Give it a few years, and that newbie editorial intern you were patient with could turn out to be the publishing director… and with luck, they’ll still be sending work your way, and suggesting that their staff do too.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

I am a very reluctant networker. Not for me attending functions and introducing myself to strangers. But I refuse to feel guilty that I take a more sotto voce approach. I may not get the wide visibility that the more active marketers achieve, but I’m okay with that.

There are, however, small things you can do. A couple of Christmases ago, I sent out cards to my contacts, as I usually do (most of my work is repeat business). At the last moment, I popped a business card in each envelope. Hey presto – two clients I’d not worked with for a few months promptly booked me in straight after Christmas (mentioning it was getting my card that made them contact me), and I’ve worked several more times for each one since.

I always have at least a couple of business cards on me when I leave the house. You simply never know who you’re going to bump into – at a reunion recently, a friend I’d not seen for ages wanted to pass on my details to someone she knew. Easily done with the card I gave her.
At an SfEP conference I got talking to one of the speakers, who duly asked for my card – which, fortunately, I had on me. That got me more than half a dozen books to copy-edit.
I do do social media – mostly Facebook and Twitter. I got very grumpy with the discussion groups on LinkedIn, but I do keep an inactive profile there that I remember to update once in a blue moon, and if I’ve had a good interaction with someone in a Facebook editors’ group, I’ll eventually get over to LinkedIn and offer to link with that person. I’ve not got any jobs from my social media (so far as I know), but for me it’s more about adding to my online presence to give prospective clients a feel for me as a copy-editor.

If you’re a happy active networker, great. If you’re not, don’t despair – small actions can work very well indeed.

Nik ProwseNik Prowse

There is more than one reason to network as an editorial freelance, and they serve different purposes. It’s not a case of ‘today I will do some networking’ but rather having an open mind about anyone you encounter in a business context. Part of this does involve actively seeking out a person with the aim of securing work, but it may just be a case of not turning your back on a working relationship that hasn’t always gone smoothly.

If you work with someone who you don’t get along with, not cutting your ties, not telling them what you think in a way that ends that relationship, may well serve you better in the long run than expressing your feelings in the present. You may decide that you don’t want to work with that particular person again, but keeping your bridges unburnt will keep the door open. The way a person comes across or acts can be the result of the organisation they are working within. In the future, that person may move to a different company with a different outlook. They may remember you and look you up, offering work. You might change your mind about perceived interpersonal difficulties if you find yourself short of work. Or the person may have a much more pleasant colleague whom they suggest you to, which could lead to a different, more fruitful relationship.

Keep doors open once a job is finished. I always aim to end a project on an upbeat note, perhaps with a cheery email to say how much I’ve enjoyed the work, wishing them good luck with the remainder of the production process and indicating my availability for the coming weeks. There are often projects in the pipeline. I work especially hard at this if it’s the first job for a new client, because repeat work is the Holy Grail in this instance. If your contact doesn’t have any work coming up, perhaps a colleague does? Often they will offer to circulate your name, or you could ask them to.

Maintaining links with people who work for your clients can sometimes be tricky: jobs change, roles merge (sadly, redundancies happen) and people move on. If I get a whiff of anyone moving on I always ask where to. They may be going to another company – read: potential client – with which you can forge a new connection. Freelancing is a lonely business, and having friendly personal contact with the people you work with (=for) can be rewarding. But it can also be good in terms of networking.

Finally, probably the most personally rewarding type of networking is the sort you do with freelance colleagues, the others at the coal face. This is one of the most valued aspects of my membership of the SfEP, with the local groups and the online community of the forums. This is where problems can be shared, solutions found, ideas started, and friendships made. Recently I made an effort to connect to a lot more editors on Twitter, and it’s made me feel part of a true community.

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

 

Wise owls: expect the unexpected

After an unusual British summer, the SfEP wise owls share their tips for expecting the unexpected – what kind of planning can a freelance editor or proofreader do to lessen the impact of illness, bereavement or other life events on their business and clients?

Ceramic owl on wet stone

Hazel Bird

Hazel BirdThere’s often a perception that being freelance means a life free of impositions by other people, and there are certainly elements of truth to that. It’s also true that many clients will be warmly understanding when unavoidable circumstances mean a deadline becomes tenuous. But the cold, hard reality is that sometimes a deadline just cannot be shifted. Sometimes the push might come from the client (they may have financial and scheduling commitments that mean your lateness will create havoc for them) but sometimes the push to knuckle down and hit the deadline no matter what can come from you (if, for example, getting behind on your current project would have an unmanageable knock-on effect on your scheduling of other future projects). The result is often that a freelancer will find themselves working when they really, really wish they didn’t have to.

There’s no magical solution when you find yourself in this situation. Obviously the first step is to talk to your client and find out whether there’s any leeway in the deadline (even a day or two may make all the difference) or whether, for example, you might be able to deliver the work in stages. If you then feel the work will be manageable, get it done while taking as much care of yourself as possible, perhaps varying your usual hours around when you feel more able to focus. Shutting down your email and giving yourself a break from ongoing non-urgent commitments (work and non-work) are other possibilities that might help. And, if you can, look ahead to your future projects and see whether they can be moved around to give you some recuperation time once you’ve finished your current task.

In some circumstances, though, no matter what you do, you won’t be able to hit the deadline your client needs. When this happens, one possibility, if your arrangement with your client allows, may be to subcontract the work to another freelancer whose work you trust. However, if that’s not possible (or desirable), the most important thing you can do for the sake of your relationship with your client is to let them know as soon as possible that you won’t be able to meet the deadline. Few things are more damaging to a business relationship than failing to keep the other party informed about circumstances that might affect their ability to manage their schedules and stakeholders. What happens after you’ve told your client will vary widely between clients, and of course the worst-case scenario is that you end up losing the current project or even future work. Sometimes this is just an inevitable part of being freelance: we’re only human and we don’t have bottomless resources. However, in my experience at least (both as the freelancer and as the client), when circumstances that are truly beyond the freelancer’s control are handled with professionalism and good communication, there is rarely a major loss of future work.

Liz Jones

Liz Jones

Needing to take time off work for illness can be tough for freelancers, and I admit it’s something I haven’t got quite right yet myself! Along with everyone else in the UK, earlier this year I had the winter lurgy and, while I was able to scale back my workload so I could rest, I didn’t feel able to take time off completely. Clients would most likely have been sympathetic, but putting off too much work would only have affected projects scheduled in afterwards, which I didn’t want to have to send elsewhere. I battled through it all, but it wasn’t easy at times. So based on my recent experience, which I didn’t handle perfectly, here are a few tips for mitigating the problem, if not entirely solving it.

  1. If some deadlines can be extended, negotiate this with clients as early as possible. They will usually be sympathetic, even if they can’t give you much extra time.
  2. Don’t try to push on with work if you’re feeling too ill – it won’t be of a high standard. Take a break, or a nap, and come back to it when you’re fresher.
  3. Even if work can’t grind to a halt, ask for and accept help in other areas of life to ease the pressure.
  4. With all projects, try to allow some contingency in the schedule. This helps if things don’t come at expected times, too.
  5. Stay vigilant when it comes to rates. It’s difficult to take any time off if you’re only just covering your costs at the best of times.
  6. Seek the support of colleagues. Freelancing is always demanding, and working through illness is just another aspect of this. A little sympathy can go a long way.

Abi Saffrey

Abi SaffreyI think there are two aspects to dealing with the unexpected: preparing for it, and dealing with it when it happens. Wise financial gurus tell us we should have three months’ income stashed away to cover our expenses if we’re not earning; there are income protection insurance policies that pay out when we can’t work due to illness and injury; the government pays Employment and Support Allowance if an illness or disability affects our ability to work (though if we have stashed away that three months’ income, we may not be entitled).

As well as thinking about the financial aspect of the unexpected, there’s the practical aspects of running a business too – who is going to contact clients if we are unable to? A great suggestion on the SfEP forums a couple of years ago about a disaster plan was turned into a blog post; knowing that everything is in order will mean one less thing to worry about if faced with long-term or terminal illness.

Even an absence of a few days has implications – good relationships with clients are going to be essential when asking for a deadline extension or having to return a project unfinished. The temptation is always there just to keep on going, but sometimes it’s best to be realistic, bite the bullet, take however many days off, and then come back ready for action. Working when unwell or grieving may do more damage – to our work and our health – than good.

Of course, this is all easier said than done – I need to get my disaster plan back to the top of my to-do list!

Sue Littleford

Sue LittlefordFreelancers with corporate experience may have come across disaster recovery planning before, and it’s something you need to take on in your own business – ideally ahead of needing to call on it! Think about all the ways you can come a cropper, and make plans. You may want to investigate income protection insurance and personal accident cover (as well as professional indemnity insurance, in case you blunder because you’re not on top form) so that if you’re unable to work because of ill health, you still have some income.

Your plans will vary according to the type of work you do. I work at book length almost all the time, so I build in wiggle room for my migraines and other contingencies (I usually allow at least four contingency days per project). If you’re whipping through short articles on a tight timescale, that’s harder to deal with, but it does mean you shouldn’t fill all your time with scheduled work – you need wiggle room, too, for everything from a bad cold to a broken computer.

If you can’t spend your time working – a child’s sick, you’ve broken your arm, you’ve been bereaved – then the first thing to do is NOT to pretend it’s not happening, but to communicate about it. Assess whether you’re safe to carry on working in terms of how well you’re still able to concentrate as well as perform physically, and how long you’re likely to be off work. Look at which of your clients are affected and contact them. They may be able to extend the deadline or split a big job with another of their freelances.

Organised freelancers have a buddy system, with a number of trusted colleagues they can refer work to, or who can pick up the pieces. One of the definitions of being a freelancer in the eyes of HMRC is that you can subcontract, so don’t be shy about doing it. But do, again, communicate with your client. And accept that you may lose a job that you can’t finish or can’t start on time – some things just can’t be fixed or worked around.

If you’re hospitalised, then you’ll need someone who can access your computer and contact your clients, perhaps sending them as much work as you’ve done so far. Ruth Thaler-Carter has updated her good piece on the An American Editor blog on planning for and dealing with the worst, which will give you plenty of food for thought, as will Laura Ripper and Luke Finley’s post (mentioned by Abi above). If your ill health is likely to be of some duration, or to impact your ability to work long term, you should explore whether you qualify for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) with the DWP.

Sometimes, though, the work simply can’t be done in time, so take a look at your contract now to make sure it covers clearly what happens in such cases, and doesn’t allow a corporate client to shift all their risk onto your shoulders. If you’ve taken any part of your fee upfront, how much of it do you refund? What happens to the work you’ve already done, if you’ve begun?

Mostly (judging by a quick poll of the Owls), it’s just a matter of gritting your teeth, propping your eyelids open, taking the painkillers or cold remedy and working long hours to catch up as soon as you’re able. Powering through is grim, but that may be your only solution.

Sue Browning

Sue BrowningThe first step is to recognise that when you are in the midst of a crisis you’re probably in no fit state to work, even if you can put in place arrangements to do so. Don’t try to struggle through. You won’t do your best work and, worse, you’ll do yourself no favours. Above all, look after yourself. It’s never going to be easy, but there are a few things you can do to prepare for a time when you need to put business concerns to one side for a while.

Preparation

You have to accept that you are likely to lose some business, even if it is just for the duration of your absence, but this will be a lot less stressful if you’ve got a buffer of money put aside. I aim to have about two months’ income in a savings account. I know that can be difficult, but start now, and save little and often. I know freelancers can get insurance to cover times when they can’t work, but policies are costly, you pay for their admin, and you don’t get it back if you don’t claim, which is money wasted. Besides, who needs the additional hassle of putting in an insurance claim? (Caveat: this is my opinion, specific to my circumstances, not financial advice! Your personal circumstances will be different and insurance might be a good option for you.)

Ask someone to be your designated actor (DA) and brief them as thoroughly as you can. In particular, tell them how to navigate your email and file system and find out what projects you are currently working on so they can contact your clients if you can’t. If you don’t already have a system that makes that information easily available (spreadsheet, Word doc –  mine’s a mind map), do that now, and keep it up to date. Your business will benefit from this overview, whether you need to use it as part of a contingency plan or not. I’m currently developing a file for my DA that contains information about where to find stuff and any necessary passwords, along with a prepared out-of-office email message and template messages for different clients. Whatever form this takes, it’s worth walking your DA through it if you can, and make sure they are clear on what they are expected to do, and not do.

I haven’t set up any contingency plans to have another editor take over my work. That’s my choice, with my particular customers. Again, your mileage may vary.

When crisis strikes

If you have time, tell your clients what is happening, starting with those who are expecting work from you and those who have already booked you in advance. You don’t need to go into details, just share as much as you feel comfortable with. In my experience, most people are understanding and supportive (one of my customers sent me flowers when my mum died) and will be there when you are ready to get back down to work again.

Again, if you have time, set up your email autoresponder so that incoming messages get a reply that tells them you will be out of action for a while. Then ignore your email. Don’t even look at it.

It’s trickier if your email client doesn’t have an autoresponse option, as I’m not comfortable with my incoming messages getting no reply at all, however cursory. It may therefore be worth monitoring your mail, say once every two days, if you have the capacity to do so. Set up some ‘out of office’ autotext (e.g. using TextExpander or PhraseExpress) so that with little effort on your part, messages at least receive a reply, but don’t be tempted to enter into a conversation – this is just so that you don’t seem rude.

If you can’t do these actions yourself, now’s the time to activate your DA. Have them alert your current and planned clients and set up your autoresponder or monitor your inbox and reply briefly on your behalf.

On your return

When you’re ready to take up the reins again, do take it easy at first. Some personal crises change your life forever, so don’t expect to be your usual self immediately, if ever. Be kind to yourself and be realistic about what you can achieve.

Contact any regular clients and let them know you are back and ready to receive work. Then work your way through any emails that have accumulated in your absence. Triage them quickly, without much thought, into messages that are worth following up and stuff that can be deleted. Delete a lot. The last thing you want is to clutter your inbox and your mind with might-have-beens. Other opportunities will come up. Trust me. That said, if an interesting offer has come in but you missed out, there’s no harm in a quick reply along the lines of ‘Sorry I couldn’t help you this time but I’d certainly be interested in any future projects.’

Don’t take on too much too quickly. Depending on the reason for your absence, and how long it was, you may find you tire more quickly or that concentration takes a while to come back. Listen to your body and mind, and adapt accordingly. You will find a way back… on your own terms.

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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