Tag Archives: freelance life

Working together

One of the CIEP’s greatest strengths is its collegiality and mutual support. This extends to our members helping each other to find and succeed in work. Here are six ways we do this.

  1. Advising and encouraging
  2. Sharing information
  3. Supporting each other’s work
  4. Sharing opportunities
  5. Employing each other
  6. Working collectively

1. Advising and encouraging

The CIEP’s online member forums include a Newbie forum, where less experienced members can introduce themselves and ask questions about any aspect of being an editorial professional. These first questions often concern the best way to go about finding work. More experienced members respond with advice, encouragement and tips. These responses tend to reflect the same key themes:

  • Get trained, so you have the knowledge and confidence to offer your services.
  • Join a CIEP local group – in-person or online.
  • Check out CIEP resources, including our fact sheets and guides. These are free to members.
  • Think about how you will market yourself, including identifying the area of editing you will concentrate on. This might reflect your existing expertise (a field you’ve worked in, perhaps) or even your personal interests (for example a hobby like gardening or cookery).
  • Don’t limit yourself, either. If you have trained in proofreading, consider adding copyediting to your training plan. This is because sometimes a client will ask you to ‘proofread’ a document which also needs elements of copyediting to get it ready for publication.
  • Tell everyone you know that you are setting yourself up as an editorial professional. This may get you your first clients.
  • Use the ‘search’ function to find similar threads in our forums – there is already lots of advice there. There’s also a pinned post near the top of the Newbie forum, ‘Newbie FAQs and Collated Wisdom from CIEP Members’, that includes invaluable tips and suggests some great resources for when you’re starting out as an editor or proofreader.

2. Sharing information

Within the CIEP member forums, information is shared about all sorts of editing- and proofreading-related subjects, from tax rules and software glitches to the use of commas. But CIEP members who aren’t registered for our forums can also benefit from the wisdom and experience of other members. Most of our fact sheets and all of our guides are written by CIEP members. The information in these resources aims to equip our members for work, from setting up a freelance business and getting your first clients to editing in specialist areas like scientific articles, cookery books and legal publishing.

Many of the topics covered in our bank of resources are explored at a deeper level in our range of training courses which, again, are designed and delivered by CIEP members.

And there’s more information in our vast collection of blogs which are overwhelmingly written by CIEP members. Our blogs cover almost every editing-related subject, many of which are related to gaining work. Use the ‘search’ function to see what you can find. The Flying Solo series, written by Sue Littleford, author of the Going Solo guide, is particularly useful if you’re just starting out.

3. Supporting each other’s work

Suzanne Arnold and Nadine Catto met through the CIEP London group during lockdown and realised that they lived round the corner from each other. Nadine says: ‘We started meeting up with a few other editors and have all become great friends. As Suzanne and I live very near, we often go for walks together. We have collaborated on a few work projects as well.’ Friendship and work combine, as Suzanne describes: ‘It is a regular (and very valuable) sounding-board thing and sometimes even a bit of informal accountability. But it’s not structured or planned – it’s two friends bouncing ideas around and sharing links to online resources etc and the “agenda” is very driven by what’s going on in our lives on any particular day.’ The connections created by their local group help them both. Suzanne says: ‘There’s a lot of informal help behind the scenes – on a more mundane level, too, such as messaging saying “does this sentence look right to you?” And that often involves the wider group of CIEP friends who live locally.’ Sometimes this informal help extends to pet-sitting: Suzanne feeds Nadine’s cat when she’s on holiday.

In contrast to this more informal growth of connections within a larger formal group, some CIEP members decide to set up their own small accountability groups. In a CIEP blog, ‘Accountability groups: What? Where? Why?’, Eleanor Abraham says: ‘It’s good to have other perspectives, but sometimes you don’t want 150 slightly different opinions, but rather the chance to talk things through with people you trust and respect.’ Eleanor’s group has an hour-long meeting each month, which suits the busy lives of its members; Erin Brenner’s accountability group has a monthly goals check-in and in-person and online retreats. Erin writes: ‘We’ll refer each other for work and collaborate on projects. Some of us have even partnered for new business ventures, and we regularly discuss opportunities to do so.’

Two women working on a laptop together

4. Sharing opportunities

From recommending other people for work to advertising jobs they can’t themselves take, CIEP members often share work opportunities with each other. This happens on our member forums: on the Marketplace forum and local group forums in particular.

As Erin’s accountability group does, many members also recommend colleagues who possess the skills a client will need. Most people who have been editing or proofreading for a while have had the experience of being asked to suggest someone else if they’re too busy to take a job. Directories can help here. The CIEP has a directory of Professional and Advanced Professional Members, but some of our local groups also have their own directories of CIEP members which list their experience and specialisms. It also helps to pre-empt clients’ requests for recommendations to develop our own list of editors we would happily recommend if we can’t do a job.

5. Employing each other

A step beyond recommending our colleagues is employing them to do something for us. In ‘Reflections on the self-publishing process’, Kia Thomas describes commissioning two other CIEP members to help her publish her own novel, and they in turn report on the experience. The project went so well that Kia is planning to use the same team for her second novel.

Kia went about finding Judith Leask, her editor, ‘not just a good editor, but the right one for me’, by ‘asking CIEP members who were looking for more experience in fiction to put themselves forward for the job’. It can be a great approach to work with other editors who are at this stage of their career – for you as a ‘client’ and for the person you’ve asked to do the job. Judith says: ‘Being chosen by Kia to edit her novel was very exciting, because I knew I’d learn a huge amount from her, and that turned out to be true.’

The CIEP has a system for encouraging its members to work with other members who are keen to gain more experience: IM Available. This is a list, refreshed every fortnight, that includes any Intermediate CIEP members who are available for work, with details of their training, skills and experience, so that other CIEP members can employ them – to edit or proofread their own writing or to help with a surplus of client work.

6. Working collectively

Another way to deal with work that is too much for one editor or proofreader is to work in a partnership or a larger collective.

One such collective is Editing Globally, which, through six editorial professionals, spans the globe’s time zones but also the full range of tasks related to getting a publication produced: manuscript evaluations, project management, translation, developmental editing, line editing, fact-checking, copyediting and proofreading, formatting and design. This 24/7, end-to-end service can make it easier for a client to hit a tight deadline. Janet MacMillan, one of the editors in Editing Globally, is a fan of team working:

Editorial teams come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from a team like Global Editing to informal, ad hoc, two-person teams who work together to complete a job over a timescale that would be impossible for one person. I value being able to work with trusted colleagues, whose expertise and knowledge I learn from, and I believe that learning makes me the editor that I am. No matter the size or shape of the team, being able to work with others expands an editor’s knowledge and skills.

Make the most of the editorial community

Freelance editing and proofreading can be lonely work. It pays off – sometimes literally – to reach out to your professional community. If you want some more ideas about how to do this, download our fact sheet ‘Making the most of the editorial community’, which is free for CIEP members.

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: hands together by Hannah Busing on Unsplash; two women working together by CoWomen on Pexels.

Posted by Sue McLoughlin, blog assistant.

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

Overcoming perfectionism

In this post, Harriet Power discusses some ways of thinking that editors and proofreaders can use to disentangle themselves from the pursuit of perfectionism.

Many of us editors and proofreaders are perfectionists. I’m one of them. But while I think we should care about our work and that high-quality work is important, the trouble comes when this shifts into beating ourselves up over our mistakes, or spending extra unpaid hours on a job to get it just right, or feeding the sense of inadequacy that comes from imposter syndrome.

Here are some of the ideas and ways of thinking that have helped me to relax a bit and become less beholden to perfectionism.

Humans make mistakes

We all make mistakes: it’s just a human trait, and that’s OK. In fact, it’s an important part of how we learn: by making mistakes through trial and error, we learn how to do better next time. (One of the worst mistakes I ever made in-house was to send a book to press without the author’s name on the front cover. WHOOPS. Thankfully the author accepted my heartfelt apology, and it wasn’t too big a deal for the publisher because it was a school textbook where the author’s cachet was minimal, but you can be sure I learned my lesson from that.)

Linked to the idea that we all make mistakes is the fact that as (human) proofreaders and editors, we can’t catch everything. Some things will inevitably slip through the net.

This is something that the publishing system acknowledges. It’s why there are so many eyes on a book: the copyeditor isn’t expected to catch everything, and neither is the first proofreader, and so on. If a human could do a ‘perfect’ proofread, and a typesetter could do a ‘perfect’ markup, then we wouldn’t need three or four or even five proofreading rounds.

I’ve worked on school textbooks in-house where there were so many pairs of eyes on them: a development editor, a copyeditor, reviewers, the authors, in-house colleagues, proofreaders, and there’d still be reprint corrections. At first this was dispiriting, but the fact it kept happening helped me to realise that mistakes are just inevitable and perfection is impossible.

Publishers aren’t paying for perfection

Publishers usually have to compromise on quality in some way and they do this consciously. They choose not to pay for a separate development editor and copyeditor, they squash the schedule, they cut budgets: they choose to make a book that is OK, or even good, but rarely perfect.

Often there’s just not the budget to pay for the extra work that would elevate the book to the next level, and I think publishers realise that for the majority of books, those extra hours aren’t worth the investment anyway. Because readers (generally) don’t demand or expect perfection, so it’s not worth the time, effort and money that it requires.

So if the publisher isn’t shooting for perfection, then you shouldn’t feel you have to either.

This wonderful article by Jeff Reimer puts it much better than I can, and is well worth a read.

A project is simply a project, neither a sacred trust to better the world nor a consecrated burden the publisher has placed on their shoulders to ensure the book is a masterpiece. A job is a job is a job.

woman reading under a tree

Readers are more forgiving (or less observant) than you think

Most readers are going to forgive or not even notice a few slips here and there, like the odd typo or clunky sentence or stilted line of dialogue.

I’m not saying that these things don’t matter at all – they do, and lots of them can accumulate to break a reader’s immersion in the novel, or make the how-to guide harder to read and understand. But a few slips here and there really aren’t the end of the world. Readers generally care more about the bigger picture, like whether the story’s any good or whether the text gives them the information they need.

This is something I’ve noticed when reading non-fiction books. Some of them have what I’d call significant flaws – issues that I’d try to fix as a development editor – like unnecessary waffle and repetition, unclear examples, etc. But these books still do hugely well and get 4+-star ratings on Amazon.

Maybe a good analogy here is a musical performance. A hard but important lesson to learn as a musician is that individual mistakes genuinely don’t matter (and half the time the audience doesn’t notice them anyway) – what matters is the overall performance. I’ve done performances where I’ve completely fallen off the tune, played bum notes, forgotten the chords and more, and people still come up afterwards and say ‘that was amazing!’ I think the same is true of reading a book: it’s the overall experience that matters. So don’t sweat too much over the small stuff.

Authors are allowed to write the books they want

This is something it took me a while to accept once I started working with indie authors, because previously I’d just been working in educational publishing, and educational publishers will usually intervene and rework a textbook if the author’s done a bad job (or has simply failed to write to the brief). But I think educational publishing is something of an outlier here and often it’s important to remember that it’s the author’s book.

When I first started doing development edits for indie authors, I think I had a tendency to go overboard: to try to make the book ‘perfect’ and in doing so bombard the author with tons of comments and things to fix. But I suspect this just overwhelmed them and I was asking for too much from them. So now I try to remember to rein my suggestions in. Because I can still help an author to make a book better, even if it’s not going to be perfect, and that’s OK.

The book is not (just) your responsibility

It’s the publisher’s responsibility, and the author’s, and the proofreader’s, and the typesetter’s, and so on. You don’t have to carry the weight of ‘perfecting’ the book on your shoulders alone.

Sign saying wisdom with perfectionism crossed out

Editing is subjective

If you give a manuscript to five different editors, you’ll come back with five different edits. This truism is something a lot of us freelancers hear without being able to witness it first-hand, but it’s something I’ve actually seen while working in the CIEP information team. If three of us in the team review a proof, we’ll all comment on different things. I don’t think that makes us better or worse editors than each other – it’s just that editing is subjective and we all notice different things.

The corollary to this is that we can’t all notice everything.

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses

This is another way of looking at the idea that we can’t all pick up on everything. Every editor and proofreader will have some things they’re better at than others: that’s just a part of being human. We can’t be perfect, great or even good at everything.

I’m not great at the intricacies of grammar, I don’t know enough about the self-publishing process, and I really need to organise and formalise my workflows better. These are all things I’m slowly working on, but in the meantime I try to play to my strengths and do a decent-enough job otherwise, and make peace with the fact that I simply can’t be brilliant at everything. (And the positive feedback that I receive suggests that my clients don’t expect me to be brilliant at everything and don’t care that I’m not.)

Even regular people deserve to make a living

This freeing idea comes from Jennifer Lawler, who wrote this short post on LinkedIn about imposter syndrome. Never forget that even ‘regular’, far-from-perfect people (i.e. the majority of us) deserve to make a living.

Once I embraced the idea that I didn’t have to be special in order to deserve not to starve, it freed up a lot of mental bandwidth to do the work to the very best of my ability and not fret otherwise. Letting go of the idea that I have to somehow be A-MAZING all the time actually allows me to have a more realistic perspective on my abilities and to (so ironically) do better work.


I can’t claim to always follow my own advice, but I hope some of these ideas will help you if, like me, you think it’d be healthy to disengage somewhat from your perfectionism. If you’ve found other strategies that work for you, please share them in the comments!

About Harriet Power

Harriet Power develops and copyedits nonfiction books and educational materials. She is a commissioning editor for the CIEP information team, and a Professional Member of the CIEP.

 

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: header by Ann H on Pexels, woman reading a book under a tree by Pramod Tiwari on Pexels, sign saying wisdom with perfectionism crossed out by geralt on Pixabay.

Posted by Eleanor Smith, blog assistant.

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

A week in the life of a journal manager and magazine editor

Nik Prowse project manages medical journals and edits a magazine on ecology. In this post he describes how he got into this work, what it involves, and what he most enjoys about it.

My first job in publishing was for a learned society, and its main publications were journals. In my interview, the editorial director described journal publishing as ‘a sausage machine’, a phrase which is true in one respect, but it doesn’t do justice to the pleasure of putting an issue together. I was trained as a copyeditor and proofreader, working on two journals, but as I worked only on individual articles the sausage machine aspects of the production process didn’t concern me.

Eventually, I was allowed to work on some of the few books that the society published too, which I enjoyed. When I went freelance, I did a bit of journal copyediting but focused on academic textbooks. After a few years, I also started project managing the same type of material: ­­large textbooks aimed at students and researchers in fields such as ecology, life science and medicine. I enjoyed the project management work (and it paid better), and one of its most enjoyable aspects was seeing a project through from manuscript submission to final printing. That, and building solid working relationships with authors and editors along the way, were good reasons to find the work rewarding. I never thought that I would manage a journal until I was offered the chance to do so, and the opportunity for a new challenge gave me the motivation to try it out.

Wind forward seven years …

My work as a journal manager

I now manage a suite of four medical journals for one publisher. I started out just working on one, an orthopaedics journal. At first I found the work akin to driving too fast along a winding road in the dark: scary and hair-raising. The need to juggle issues going to press, manuscripts being submitted for upcoming issues and planning for issues further down the line, as well as frequent emails about other matters from authors, editors and the typesetter led to a frenetic pace of work that was, occasionally, almost overwhelming. But after a while I began to get the hang of it, developing systems to help me stay on track and generally getting into the swing of things. I felt much calmer as the months progressed.

That first journal publishes six issues a year, and now I also work on three others, all of which publish twelve issues a year. And it all runs calmly and smoothly … most of the time! All of the journals are commission-only, meaning that we approach potential authors based on what topics we need to cover.

Working as a journal manager is mainly an administration job but I find it rewarding, not for that aspect but because it allows me to build long-term relationships with editors who are experts in their field. I also get to interact with the huge number of authors we commission who are also at the peak of what they do. Their willingness to share their expertise for virtually no return, passing on their medical knowledge and teaching the next generation of doctors for the benefit of patients, is motivating and inspiring in itself. They do this despite the pressures of clinical work in the NHS and the increasing pressure that consultants, junior doctors and other healthcare staff are under, and it gives me huge respect for all medical professionals.

a medical journal is open on a desk with a stethoscope to one side

Organisation is the key

The main tool of the job for me is a series of Excel spreadsheets that allows me to see at a glance the situation for any particular month’s issue. Keeping an eye on these spreadsheets on a regular basis is the key to the job, helping me stay on track.

At any one point, I have to think about issues being planned but not yet commissioned, articles commissioned that haven’t yet been submitted, articles in review, articles for the issue that is about to go to press and ones that have been typeset and which may need checking. Many authors who are due to submit articles need chasing, or their deadline renegotiating, because for virtually all of them writing an article for me is not their main concern 97% of the time. In my first few months on the first journal I managed to annoy a few authors by being overly officious, but I quickly learned that respect, diplomacy and courtesy are essential for receiving material on time.

Long deadlines: Good for all concerned

I set very long deadlines, which allows me to grant an extension almost whenever one is requested and has no effect on the publication schedule. This is key to the stress-free running of each journal. Sometimes an article is so late there is a danger it may not be published. However, by that point I’ve hopefully built up enough of a rapport with an author that they are understanding and can work to the final date that we have agreed.

So, in summary, the main tasks of working as a journal manager are:

  • creating, checking and working to schedules
  • emailing authors to thank them for accepting an invitation to write, and providing information on article format and the deadline
  • following up on late articles and negotiating their delivery
  • checking submissions and ensuring that nothing is missing
  • sending papers for review by the editorial board
  • compiling issues and preparing files for typesetting
  • checking proofs
  • and … in the long run, thinking about the commissioning of issues further down the line.

I enjoy this job for a number of reasons. The main one is the sense of satisfaction of getting an issue out on time that contains articles that will help young medical professionals improve people’s lives. They get valuable information from journals like the ones that I work on. It’s a fantastic feeling. And, as I’ve already mentioned, building long-term working relationships with experts is also very rewarding.

My work as a magazine editor

I’ve always enjoyed reading magazines, from Smash Hits as a teenager to Kerrang! when my musical interests changed to New Scientist when I was a student, and more recently cycling and photography magazines. However, with a background in science and traditional book publishing, I never thought that I would have the opportunity to be the editor of what you could call a magazine.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, I saw a vacancy advertised by an organisation that represents ecologists in the UK and overseas for an editor for their membership magazine. I quickly realised that the requirements of the job were a combination of the various skills I had picked up in my 20 years in publishing. These included copyediting, proofreading, project management and, more latterly, understanding periodical workflow and the need to consider more than one issue at a time. Plus, ecology is one of my favourite fields of life science.

I get to choose the cover!

I’m responsible for the front half of the magazine, which consists of articles on a theme that is publicised beforehand. I check submitted articles and send them for review. For each quarterly issue, I chair a meeting involving the magazine’s editorial board, who are all experts in their field. Again, the job involves working with experts who are doing valuable work, this time in nature conservation and in tackling the climate and biodiversity crises that we face.

Many of the tasks of running a magazine, albeit an academic one featuring peer-reviewed articles, are similar to running a medical journal. Scheduling, keeping to deadlines, commissioning and manuscript preparation are all part of the job. One challenging new task is sending feedback to authors, advising them on how to revise their articles based on the editorial board’s comments. The main requirement is diplomacy, giving lots of encouragement as to how to make the article publishable.

But what I love about this new role is that I also play a small part in the way the magazine looks. Journals are very rigid affairs: there’s a front cover with a table of contents on it and there are articles inside, all typeset to a predetermined design. That’s it. However, on a magazine there is a design element to every issue, including arranging the front cover and the straplines that it will feature. Some of our authors provide some fantastic photographs to illustrate their articles, and I really enjoy looking at them and choosing one that will be suitable for the cover.

About Nik Prowse

Nik Prowse has been a copyeditor and proofreader since 1997, following a PhD in evolutionary biology. He went freelance in 2004 and since then has worked as a copyeditor, development editor and project manager of academic, professional and educational materials. Up until recently, he was a tutor for the Publishing Training Centre and the CIEP’s book reviews coordinator. In his spare time, he cycles long distances in search of cake.

 

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: magazines by kconcha on Pixabay, medical journal by Abdulai Sayni on Unsplash, puffins by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash

Posted by Sue McLoughlin, blog assistant.

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

Flying solo: Editor education – an essential investment

In this Flying solo column, Sue Littleford makes the case for why training and continuous professional development are vital for editors and proofreaders – considering their importance to CIEP members in particular.

Members of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) understand the emphasis put on training and the acquisition of the appropriate level of skills, as well as maintaining and expanding them through continuous professional development (CPD).

The CIEP distinguishes between core skills and editorial skills, core skills being about how to edit or proofread, and editorial skills being more about the context in which the editing or proofreading takes place and expanding your skillset.

But why this emphasis on training? It’s there in the curriculum for professional development and in the upgrading system (members should take a look at How to upgrade your CIEP membership, especially chapters 2, 3 and 11 for all members, and chapter 4, 5 or 6 depending on the grade you’re working towards). Training is all over the forums! Advanced Professional Members (APMs) are required to show their commitment to CPD, to stay current with best practice.

Simply put, we don’t know what we don’t know.

We don’t know if – while we’ve been nose to the grindstone – new tools, new standards, or new and better approaches to the work have been developed and are now circulating. Training allows us the time to look up and look around, and see what’s happening out there.

Training also gives our clients the confidence that we do actually know what we’re doing, which is invaluable to them and to us. Members in the Professional grades can take out an entry in the Directory of Editorial Services, and potential clients searching the Directory will have confidence that members who have achieved Professional membership or higher have the backing of solid training.

But surely, I hear some of you cry, I already know what I’m doing! English isn’t evolving so quickly I can’t keep up all by myself. I don’t need additional training – I’m learning on the job all the time. I don’t need formal training – I pick things up as I go!

I say again: we don’t know what we don’t know.

Going on training courses that challenge you to do better expands your abilities and your experience and gives imposter syndrome a biff on the nose. And, as workshop training starts to become available again in some places, there can be the chance to meet other editors and talk together. Just talking to other editors about their contexts can be a real eye-opener.

Sometimes an absolute gem of a tip gets mentioned in the margins of a course, off-topic but really useful to you. Learning isn’t restricted to the course outline.

Some people prefer to learn on their own. Well, that’s fine, so far as it goes; but, especially if you’re still building up your experience as an editor or a proofreader, how do you know you’re learning what you need to know? Are you learning in sufficient breadth, with perspective? Or are you just burrowing further into your own snug editorial world, unaware of what you can learn from outside that niche?

If so, you’re really restricting the kind of material you can work on competently and, in these ever-uncertain days, that may be somewhat counterproductive for your business and your financial health.

Equally, some people have learned on the job by being tutored or mentored by their boss – or just by ‘sitting with Nelly’ as we used to call it in the civil service. That’s fine too, but to upgrade you’ll also need to sit and pass the CIEP’s editorial test (page 34 of the upgrading guide and on the website). Again, the CIEP’s emphasis in the test is on across-the-board competence. Niche away in the jobs you choose to take on, but don’t become isolated and narrow in your approach to your professional practice.

Getting a good solid grounding in the fundamentals of editing under your belt (and keeping it current) gives you a great springboard for developing yourself and your business in the way you want.

One of the characteristics that unites good editors is our curiosity, along with our quest for new knowledge (and a headful of otherwise useless bits and bobs of general knowledge). The ability to know when something we’re editing sounds off is of great value to our clients.

Maintain that inquisitive approach.

A sign reading 'love to learn' points towards a figure walking along a road

Record-keeping

Regular readers will know what a fan I am of record-keeping. It’s no different with training, which is why the Going Solo toolkit (CIEP members only) has a spreadsheet on which to record the training you’ve already undertaken, and the training you’d like to take.

Listing out the training you’ve already taken will help you see where you have weaknesses, or where your training is out of date and ripe to be refreshed.

Keeping a note of training courses you fancy the look of – the spreadsheet has a handy column to keep a link to each one – will whet your appetite and enable you to see whether anything you’ve taken note of neatly plugs a hole or tops up your training in that area.

Consulting the curriculum for professional development will also help you check whether you’re getting a rounded education as an editor or a proofreader. Looking at that curriculum will open your eyes to what it is you didn’t know you didn’t know. Add topics to your wish list so you can be on the lookout for courses to fill the gaps.

And if you’re still working through the CIEP’s grades, the spreadsheet was developed with the input of the Admissions Panel. Collecting the evidence is easy and you don’t have to copy out your training all over again on the upgrade form.

Planning and budgeting

Training costs time and it costs money. If you’re still working through the CIEP grades, then you’ll want to set aside a training budget each year – in cash and in time. If you’re already an APM, then you’ll set aside a CPD budget each year.

But how much money? And how much time? This is where the curriculum, the requirements of the grade you’re aiming for, the direction you’re taking your business in and your wish list of training courses come together.

Using all the information you have recorded on courses taken, gaps in training and your wish list, you can prioritise which course(s) to take next. You can then ensure you can afford them and set aside the time available to do them justice.

I know some inveterate course-takers who have huge plans and then, when they come to tot up the total cost and the time commitment, have to move some courses they’d love to do into the next year – or the next two years. Well, it’s nice to have something to look forward to!

Tax implications

For UK taxpayers, training is an allowable business expense for the self-employed in some cases only. If you pay tax elsewhere, check your own jurisdiction on this.

In brief, in the UK, training is not an allowable business expense if it’s undertaken to enable you to start trading.

Nor is it an allowable business expense if it’s undertaken to enable you to move into a new area of business. Harsh but true.

Training is an allowable expense if it keeps you up to date in your skills and knowledge. Even HMRC likes CPD!

Take note that, as with all other allowable expenses, training costs are only allowable if they are incurred wholly for business purposes.

This is the advice on the GOV.UK website:

Training courses

You can claim allowable business expenses for training that helps you improve the skills and knowledge you use in your business (for example, refresher courses).

The training courses must be related to your business.

You cannot claim for training courses that help you:

      • start a new business
      • expand into new areas of business, including anything related to your current business [my emphasis].

It’s made very clear that not all training is allowable.

The technical bit is in HMRC’s Business Income Manual.

Takeaways

  • Training is a sound investment in yourself and your business, making you fit for purpose as an editor or a proofreader. It gives your clients confidence that you do actually know what you’re doing and will do it well. It also keeps you poised to move your business in a new direction if that’s something you want – or need – to do.
  • Autodidacticism can work well, but can also come across as less authoritative and clients may feel less confident about your offer. Training supplied by reputable providers enhances your profile and ensures you don’t get in a rut.
  • Learning on the job is also fine, but you will need to pass the CIEP’s online editorial test in order to upgrade.
  • Training is also clearly set out in How to upgrade your CIEP membership as an essential pillar of every upgrade.
  • Some training, but not all, is an allowable business expense to be deducted from your business’s profit to reduce your income tax and National Insurance contributions liability.

About Sue Littleford

Sue Littleford

Sue Littleford is the author of the CIEP guide Going Solo, now in its second edition. She went solo with her own freelance copyediting business, Apt Words, in March 2007 and specialises in scholarly humanities and social sciences.

 

 

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: back to school by Olia Danilevich on Pexels; love to learn by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.

Posted by Sue McLoughlin, blog assistant.

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

Starting out as a freelance editor: Reflections on the first few years

Now at the four-year mark of her freelance career, proofreader and copyeditor Eleanor Smith reflects on the ups, the downs and the lessons learnt – and offers an insight into starting an editorial business.

Having reached the four-year milestone with my editorial business, it feels right to mark the occasion by doing a touch of self-reflection on my freelance journey so far. Hopefully other editors will gain something from reading about my editorial escapades – whether that’s a dose of empathy or perhaps some guidance if you’re only just starting out yourself.

In this post, I will cover:

  • leaving full-time employment
  • taking my first steps as a freelance editor
  • an unexpected roadblock
  • choosing whether to specialise
  • celebrating the wins
  • lessons I’ve learnt.

My background and leaving full-time employment

From about age 13, I knew I wanted to work in the publishing industry. Books had always been an important part of my life, with regular trips to the library as a child to pick out that week’s adventures.

With that in mind, I got my degree in English literature and took some courses with the CIEP (then SfEP). But after a month of editorial work experience in a well-known publishing house in London, I realised the capital city life wasn’t for me.

So when I saw a job for a proofreader in a marketing agency pop up in my home town, I was thrilled. I could still use my editorial skills after all – without leaving home! Before long I was busy editing content and should have been loving every minute. But a toxic atmosphere can ruin even the best role …

It was only when the job began to impact both my physical and mental health that I knew it was time to tread a different path. Of course I was nervous, but I felt taking the ultimate risk and going it alone would be worth it. I knew if I didn’t give freelancing a try, I would always be wondering ‘What if …?’

Baby steps

Now it was time to take my first tentative steps into the freelance editing world. Straight away I rejoined as a member of the CIEP and took another proofreading course to sharpen my skills and increase my confidence.

When there’s no income on the horizon, you start to panic a little. So I sat down and made my first plan: exploring different avenues of finding work and deciding what kind of projects I wanted and was able to take on as a relative newbie.

I researched just about every publishing company in the UK (and some overseas too), set up alerts for freelance editing jobs and looked into several online directories. Slowly, my business started to take shape. I had made contacts, figured out what I wanted to do and set my own pace.

A temporary halt in proceedings

A year into working as a freelancer, I encountered an unexpected roadblock: the pandemic. It turned out it was not a great time to have a young business just beginning to spread its wings. Like many, I was faced with deadlines being pushed back indefinitely and found myself with a lot of unwelcome free time.

What this situation did was present me with a valuable lesson. When you’re self-employed, some months will be more successful than others. I used this time to address some of the tasks that had been shoved to the bottom of the pile – the ones that would eventually make it quicker to come out of this dry spell.

I set about updating my CV and directory entries, contacting different publishers, exploring new ways to enhance the services I offer and finding tools to make editing more efficient. I had to keep a positive mindset and believe that the work would return – and thankfully, it did.

Woman taking notes on a laptop

To specialise or not to specialise?

I knew that a lot of editors choose to specialise in a field where they have previous experience, but as my degree was broad and I wanted to step away from the marketing world, I could go in any direction.

From educational children’s material to novels and puzzles, I’ve worked on a wide range of literature, and I can’t say whether I’ll choose to specialise further just yet. For now, I relish jumping between genres, gladly switching from books about history to fantasy epics to gritty crime.

The point I am trying to make is that it’s okay to choose only one route and stick to it, but it’s also perfectly okay to do a bit of wandering and see what captures your interest along the way. I’m still in the latter camp.

Celebrating the wins

When you work for yourself, there is no boss to give you external validation. No one is patting you on the back for a job well done (unless you do it yourself – no judgement here). Because of this, it can be easy to skim past the wins and, in doing so, fail to acknowledge them.

Over the last four years, I’ve struggled to celebrate these wins (even when I achieved Professional Member status with the CIEP!). Often I became so focused on where the next project was coming from, I didn’t take the time to pause and appreciate what I had achieved so far.

Being your own biggest cheerleader is a great asset as a freelancer, and while I still experience the occasional wobble, I’m finding this gets easier with time.

Lessons learnt (the hard way!)

Starting an editorial business is not an easy endeavour, and I will admit that my naivety has landed me in a few, shall we say, unfavourable situations. If you’re early in your freelance career, perhaps I can help you avoid these snags and keep your metaphorical knitwear intact.

Here are some memorable lessons I had to learn the hard way:

  • Early on, I offered to work on a book for free as a trial, with the hope of receiving repeat work from this particular publisher. I excitedly completed the job, got great feedback, then never heard from them again. Lesson learnt: only offer to do a short free sample!
  • After a client was late paying my invoice, I still took on more work with them and had to keep pestering them to pay. Lesson learnt: don’t give clients too many chances when it comes to payment. If an agreement is made at the start of a project, they should stick to it.
  • When a client asks for a timescale, give your timings a little padding. Better that than having to put in extra-long shifts in a panic to get an edit done on time. Lesson learnt: offer a realistic deadline rather than the one you think the client wants to hear.

Next steps

I’m excited to see where the next four years take me. I plan to continue honing my craft further with more courses, figuring out which projects excite me the most and trying out ways to market myself – something I’ll admit I find difficult, as it’s easy to compare yourself to other editors.

Does the impostor syndrome ever go away? I will let you know if it happens!

About Eleanor SmithEleanor Smith

Eleanor Smith is a freelance proofreader and copyeditor based in Somerset with a passion for films, musicals and cats, the latter being her favourite breed of co-worker. A Professional Member of the CIEP, she applies her editorial skillset to an eclectic mix of projects, from children’s educational books to crime, fantasy and historical fiction.

 

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: header image by Pixabay on Pexels, woman taking notes by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.

Posted by Eleanor Smith, blog assistant.

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

Five tips for moving into a new editorial field

Are you looking for a new editorial challenge, or would you like to expand into a new area? Hazel Bird has changed the focus of her editorial business over the past few years and here she gives advice on how to enter a new field.

One of the best things about freelancing is that you have full freedom to evolve your business however you see fit. Sometimes this evolution will be leisurely – a new macro here, a new webinar there – whereas at other times you might want to grab your business by the footnotes and drag it bodily into a whole new paradigm.

Moving into a new field is one such potential business evolution, and it can be done slowly or at speed. I’ve had a go at both. After I started out in 2009, for several years I worked almost exclusively on academic content, but then over time I gradually accepted more and more work in other fields, such as a charity magazine and books on business and digital topics. But then, a few years ago, I decided I wanted to much more decisively pivot in the charity/business direction.

This post will recount some of my experiences and give suggestions on how to move into a new editorial field. Whether you do it circumspectly or more resolutely is up to you!

1 Use what you already know

The charity magazine I proofread during my slow evolution phase was the membership magazine of what is now the Royal Osteoporosis Society. I also sometimes proofread some of the charity’s materials aimed at practitioners in the field (researchers, doctors, radiographers, etc).

As a humanities graduate whose formal scientific education ended at age 16, I arguably wasn’t the best placed to work on such material. However, I was able to demonstrate familiarity with scientific concepts, terminology and editorial practices through the social sciences and psychiatry texts I’d ended up editing for my academic clients (which in itself demonstrates an earlier slow evolution, from humanities onto the edges of the sciences, albeit still within academia). I also had a strong personal interest in nutrition and fitness, which came in very handy when proofreading diet and exercise advice for people with osteoporosis.

The key thing is to know your limits. Had I been offered intensive scientific copyediting, I would definitely have turned it down. However, I felt quite confident proofreading expert-approved text – and in fact my relative ignorance sometimes came in useful by making it easier for me to see things from the perspective of the reader (potentially a person newly diagnosed with osteoporosis and with very little idea of what this meant).

2 Understand your role in the relationship

Sometimes moving fields means working with a whole different type of client. It’s therefore important to understand how clients in your new field will expect the business relationship to work.

For example, taking two extremes from my career, there are big differences between working with academic packagers and working with large non-profits. In the first case, the packager usually sets the terms and fees and establishes the standard of work required. They generally have a good understanding of how publishing works, and there often isn’t a great deal of client management needed beyond managing queries helpfully and submitting and chasing invoices.

In the second case, you’re much more in the driving seat. The client may have very stringent editorial standards. However, they may also have comparatively little practical experience working out how to actually achieve those standards. There is also more of a need to manage the relationship through onboarding, terms and conditions, and ongoing negotiation of fees.

Some of what’s expected you’ll only find out after you begin a working relationship with a specific client. However, the next tip may help you to get some clues about the field in general …

3 Know their world and speak their language

If you’re brand new or a relative outsider to the field you want to move into, there’s a world of nuance that you won’t understand (yet). You’ll need to learn all the specialist terminology – and then when and for which audiences it should be used (versus when the audience will deem it unhelpful jargon).

It can therefore be helpful to follow relevant people on social media – both practitioners (ie potential clients) and other editors who already work in your desired field. Pay attention to the words they use and how they talk about concepts. Read the kinds of publication you aspire to work on. And obviously you can pick up relevant books, attend webinars and industry conferences, and consider getting a new qualification or two. Once you start working in your new field, you might also want to add a bit of padding into your schedules where possible, to enable you to read around topics with which you’re less familiar.

Another crucial place where you need to know your potential clients’ world is in your marketing. This is one I’m still working on, but the point is to speak their language on social media and in your blog posts, quotes and so on, so that you’re identifying their pain points and showing how you can help.

tiles spelling 'time for change'

4 Be prepared to be flexible

Ideally, opportunities in your new field will arrive exactly when you have time for them. Naturally, though, sod’s law means your dream client is going to send you an enquiry for work needing to be done tomorrow when you’re already booked solid for the next four weeks.

So, what do you do? You might choose to do the extra hours, especially if the new work might turn into a long-term collaboration or the fee is especially enticing. Alternatively, you might turn down this particular offer but thenceforth be more proactive, using the fact that your ideal clients are finding you as a confidence-booster to encourage you to step back from some of your old clients to make space for new opportunities.

Or you might do a bit of both. The right option will depend on your circumstances and other commitments. If you choose to dial down your current workload, it’s obviously important to ensure you have enough cashflow to tide you over if the enquiries don’t come flooding in as quickly as you hope. You can also pick your timing for doing this carefully – for example, by embarking on a chunk of CPD or a big business development project so you’re not left twiddling your thumbs if work is sparse.

5 Remember that you don’t need to be overqualified, just qualified

As Harvard Business Review says: ‘It is important, of course, to have at least some of the skills a job requires up front. But nobody should limit themselves only to positions for which they are already overqualified.’ (The article is about employed positions but the ideas apply to freelancing too.)

It’s easy to hold yourself back from new opportunities, imagining that everyone else is ten times more qualified than you or has a career’s worth of relevant experience. Our old friend impostor syndrome can have much to answer for here too. So it can help to remember that you’re not (yet) looking to be the best in your new field – just competent enough to offer your clients a sound, professional service that you can build on in the future.


Whether you move into your new field cautiously or with a bang, I’d say that the overall theme here is flexibility. It’s about using what you know but being ready to adapt your approach and mindset to a whole new arena, without making assumptions. If you can do that responsively and with imagination, putting yourself in the shoes of your new client and their readership, you’re unlikely to go far wrong.

About Hazel Bird

Hazel BirdHazel works with non-fiction clients around the world to help them deliver some of their most prestigious publications in areas such as charity and peace work, digital and technology, and business and leadership. An editor since 2007, she aims to see the big picture while pinpointing every detail. She has been described as ‘superhuman’ and a ‘secret weapon’, but until Tony Stark comes calling she’s dedicating her superpowers to text-based endeavours.

 

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: header image by Jan Huber on Unsplash, tiles spelling ‘time for change’ by Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay.

Posted by Eleanor Smith, blog assistant.

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

Wise owls: Tips on becoming a trusted freelancer

In this post, our parliament of wise owls (all Advanced Professional Members) consider the qualities that turn someone into a trusted freelancer. What keeps clients coming back to them time and time again?

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

Some 95% of my work is for repeat clients. I think that boils down to three things: ability, reliability and understanding the client’s needs. I’m proud of this testimonial from a project manager: ‘All safely received … And all immaculately presented as ever. I like getting jobs back from you as it makes my life so easy.’ I’ve done 39 books so far for this particular client, because, aside from the actual quality of my copyediting, the handover is orderly and complete, and provides what that client wants from me. I don’t miss deadlines and I do flag up emerging problems as early as possible.

It also helps to be organised and easy to work with, and pleasant in your dealings – who wants to work with high drama and flapping about, when you can have peace and quiet?

You don’t have to be a doormat to have repeat clients. With all of mine, I still negotiate on deadlines and on price according to the project. Only today, as I draft this, I agreed with another client an extra week on the deadline for my 23rd book for them. One of the project managers in that same client is also now looking out for books for me on particular subjects rather than sending them out to several freelancers simultaneously to see who’s available. The benefits of becoming a trusted freelancer are manifold.

If you pay attention to your customer service as much as to the quality of your editing or proofreading, you’ll be in a good place to get repeat work. I’m a great proponent of using your imagination in customer service to put yourself in your client’s shoes and, as you can see, my own clients like the results.

Jacqueline HarveyJacqueline Harvey

I’ve been copyediting for over 30 years and almost all my publisher clients have been regulars. What makes them come back to offer me another book? I guess it’s because they liked what I did the last time or on various projects over the years.

A trusted freelancer must at the very least be competent. They need to have an eye for detail, a good understanding of the language, a sense of how a reader will respond to a text, good judgement and a broad general knowledge. A client wants a freelancer they can trust to do a good job and to do it within the agreed time frame.

When I accept a job, I make sure that I set aside enough time for it and complete it by the deadline. I also keep my client informed of the work’s progress and of any problems that may arise. I generally get on with the work fairly independently, but raise questions if I’m unsure about anything or if something unexpected crops up. If I can’t meet a deadline for a good reason (eg the work is taking longer than anticipated), I let them know as soon as possible and we discuss how to proceed: it may be possible to tweak the schedule or I may be able to put in extra hours to finish it on time.

Good communication and courtesy go a long way to sustaining a working relationship, and that goes for my relationship with the author too. I try to approach each text with respect and sensitivity, and to be ready to explain or justify my edits – with reference to style guides if necessary. Some authors may need to be reassured that I am there to help them prepare their work for publication rather than to rewrite it or to censure them for spelling or grammatical mistakes.

In essence, do the job well, keep to deadlines, communicate, and you should gain the experience necessary to become a trusted freelancer.

Sue BrowningSue Browning

I think this depends on the type of client. All clients will appreciate you sticking to an agreed timescale, but this is especially true of publishers, where your work is part of a chain of tasks. Here I suspect that meeting deadlines is the most important factor in keeping them coming back to you time after time. Beyond that, communication is important (especially if you know you are going to miss that deadline), as is working to the brief and doing a good enough job. Being easy to work with also helps. Publisher project managers are often juggling multiple projects, and don’t always have their eye on your particular ball, so keep questions concise and suggest solutions to problems to help them out.

Having a reputation for reliability works both ways – if a publisher knows you will deliver at the agreed time and that you will do a thorough job, they are more likely to stretch deadlines to fit your availability and cut you some slack if something goes wrong.

With independent authors, I find that friendliness and flexibility are key. Communication is even more important, as these clients don’t always know what to expect of an edit, so I tend to explain more, so they come to trust that I get what they are trying to achieve. One of my fiction regulars even says he comes back for the comments that I leave when editing his novels, and the academic authors I work with know I understand the pressures of university life and will always try to fit their invariably last-minute paper in, even if I’m busy. So I’d say don’t be afraid to be yourself – you can be professional and friendly, authoritative and relaxed, serious and silly.

Michael FaulknerMichael Faulkner

In my experience the first two requirements for winning repeat business, perhaps unsurprisingly, are to do the job right and do it on time!

A close third is to introduce trust and reassurance into the relationship early on – give your credentials due prominence in correspondence, yes, but level up the relationship (don’t talk up your amazing skills and don’t be deferential either); offer a free sample; only insist on a formal contract for good reason (the alternative, of covering the main things in an exchange of emails, is normally fine); don’t get hung up on deposits; be responsive; where payment is staged, make sure the client knows the final tranche of work will go out before the final invoice; and reassure the client that you will be there to help should issues arise after the project has been put to bed.

Finally, I find it pays enormous dividends, both for you and the client, if you can make a project fun. Don’t be afraid to be a little irreverent. Believe it or not, this is possible even in my specialty, which is law. Obviously you have to get a feel for the client’s sense of humour (or lack of one, which is fine) and not become a pain, but a client who smiles a lot and laughs a few times will want more of the same because, well, life and the evening news …

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

Being a trusted freelancer is no different from being a trustworthy person in any other sphere. Fundamentally it’s about doing what you have been asked to do while keeping the needs of the other party in mind. For editorial freelancers (and pretty much any other aspect of life) this depends on clear communications. Here are my seven steps to successful freelancing:

  • ensure that you understand what is expected of you, and your client knows what you will/can’t achieve
  • be upfront about any constraints (I can’t deliver by Thursday, but I can deliver by Friday)
  • be honest about costs – be prepared for a little flexibility but remember that it works both ways
  • keep in touch during a project, just enough to provide reassurance that the job is in safe hands
  • if you encounter a problem of any kind, don’t stick your head in the sand – take action straight away
  • be accessible and willing to give a little free-of-charge consultancy now and then
  • pay it forward – if you can’t take on a job, offer to help find some other trustworthy freelancer to help out.

That all boils down to ‘be a nice human’.

But there are times when being ‘trusted’ can mean being ‘taken for granted’, so take care not to undervalue yourself. Being a ‘trusted freelancer’ for one client should not have a detrimental impact on your wellbeing, or your ability to be a ‘trusted freelancer’ for other clients.

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 Erik Karits on Pexels.

Posted by Eleanor Smith, blog assistant.

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

A week in the life of a transcript proofreader

Since moving to the USA, freelance editor Christina Petrides has picked up a more unusual type of proofreading work. She tells us what a typical week proofreading legal transcripts for court reporters looks like.

Court reporting in the USA

Unlike in the UK, the US legal system still relies on human court reporters – also known as stenographers – to accurately record what is discussed. (The UK system has moved to digital recording.) Think of any American TV courtroom drama and there is usually someone quietly typing away on a funny-looking typewriter – the stenotype or stenograph machine – and you’ve got the idea.

Similar to shorthand, the machine has a series of keys that are programmed by a court reporter to reflect the phrases they come across most often. These could relate to the types of cases that they report on, their location or the sort of cases they take on – eg trials, depositions, hearings (arguing legal motions) before a judge or even company board meetings – making it easier for them to quickly record what is being said.

Once a hearing or deposition is over, the court reporter will translate the text, transforming the shorthand text into English, and do a first edit. Then it’s ready for proofreading. There are specific software programs that court reporters use and proofreading can be done either

  • directly into the software program
  • in PDF format using annotations on the full file, or
  • in PDF but returning only an errata sheet.

Proofreading depositions and hearings

I work with three court reporters, two of whom work full time. They are based in Utah, Illinois and Florida but often work with lawyers or on cases filed in other states. Between them they work on depositions and hearings on injury law, corporate disputes, property tax and local planning meetings. They all send me a PDF file for proofreading and expect a full marked-up file in return.

The critical element of proofreading a verbatim transcript is that you cannot make any changes for bad grammar or incorrect phrasing. What you can do is ensure that a transcript is readable and clear. Nowadays, searchability is also important since lawyers will often do a search with specific words, so consistency is crucial. I use the iAnnotate program on my iPad to work and have created stamps for the most common issues or words that I encounter or use. It also allows me to type in words where I think something may be missing and to highlight text to draw attention to something that is unclear.

Is there such a thing as a typical week in court reporting?

Not really! While there may be similarities across the types of cases, each one is unique because each involves different individuals. After three years, I am a little more familiar with the lawyers that engage my court reporters most often. So I’m more accustomed to how they speak – short, pointed sentences or long, rambling trains of thought.

But the plaintiffs and defendants in every case are different. They have their own way of expressing themselves, and more often than not this is their first deposition so they’re nervous. In many cases an interpreter is involved. Some people mumble, making it harder for the court reporter to pick up the correct words, while others nod and shake their heads or say ‘It hurts here’ not realising this won’t make any sense to whoever is reading the transcript. Then there are those who don’t have English as a first language but don’t need an interpreter and have an unusual way of getting across what they want to say.

Empty US courtroom

Proofreading throughout the week

Copyediting and proofreading are so different that I find I can switch between them throughout the day and week and reset my brain, keeping it fresher and getting more done than if I only worked on long projects. I tend to start my day with a strong coffee and a transcript – the double whammy fires up my mind! – and come back to it as and when I need to switch things up.

The most common issues I find are typos (which could be a mistranslation or reporter error) and misplaced or missing punctuation. Readability is key, so punctuation matters. Without changing the meaning of what a deponent is saying, I try to ensure a sentence is clear and understandable. Occasionally, if a proposed comma could alter the meaning, I add a note in the margin so the reporter knows to check against the audio; after all, they were there so will know better than me what a deponent was trying to say and they must certify this is an accurate transcript. Otherwise, inverted words crop up, homophones creep in, and double words make an appearance in most transcripts.

Scheduling transcripts into my workload

After three years, I’m comfortable with how many pages I can proofread in an hour, so it’s easier to schedule the transcripts I need to turn around into my week. The tricky part is that I rarely know what’s in the pipeline. Regular turnaround is three days, so unless I’m inundated from all three court reporters, it’s manageable. A few times a month there will be a rush job that needs a 24-hour turnaround, but my reporters will always check my availability first. Then there is the odd occasion when I need to drop everything and get a transcript proofread.

The best part about this type of work is that I have learned so much about life here: the geography of different states, linguistic nuances from one region to the next, new expressions I’d never heard of before, and how different people live their lives. I can’t live without my online Merriam-Webster dictionary link, and Google is my best friend for checking new place names and proper nouns and sleuthing for clues of what something could possibly mean or how it may be spelled. This often happens when people use industry jargon.

I got started with this work after my husband (a former proofreader who specialised in this field) trained me on the characteristics of verbatim legal transcripts and passed on some of his clients, and I’m glad I did. There are rare times when the details of a case are difficult to read about, but I love it. How could I not when I’ve got the odd malapropism to keep me amused – like the deponent who kept saying that people did things ‘of their own fruition’ – and I can literally work from anywhere on my iPad?

About Christina Petrides

Christina PetridesChristina Petrides is a digital nomad and spends much of her time working on the road. She switched to editing and proofreading in 2017 after a career in environmental consultancy. As well as proofreading for court reporters, she edits non-fiction texts for academics and publishers, specialising in the environmental and sustainability fields.

 

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: header image by WilliamCho on Pixabay, empty US courtroom by David Mark on Pixabay.

Posted by Eleanor Smith, blog assistant.

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

My CIEP journey

As she moves away from full-time editing, and steps down from her role on the CIEP information team, Liz Dalby looks back at what the CIEP has meant to her. (And what it will continue to mean in the future!)

I’ve been an editor for 24 years, and a member of the CIEP/SfEP for about 13 years. For the entire duration of my membership I’ve been a freelance editor, but I’ve recently changed career, and returned to full-time employment as a bid writer – more on which later.

Awareness of the SfEP

Although I only joined the SfEP after I went freelance, I’d been aware of it from very early in my editing career. My manager in my first publishing job handed me a slim booklet one afternoon and asked me to find a suitable proofreader for a project we were working on. This was the original hard copy incarnation of the SfEP Directory, now of course the online CIEP Directory of Editorial Services.

It wasn’t until I was working for myself, many years later, that I properly understood the value of a community of like-minded editors. I was living in rural Somerset, with my only professional contacts based in London and feeling increasingly distant and tenuous. Although I was fortunate enough to have a steady flow of work from in-house colleagues, I was aware of the precariousness of my set-up, and joined the SfEP mainly to improve my job prospects.

Finding a place in the community

However, I was soon caught up in wanting to prove myself and make my mark. I had a decade of experience behind me, and was determined to become an Advanced Professional Member as soon as possible. In fact, that turned out to be harder than I’d expected, not to mention bruising for the ego, but I got there before too long. What next? I wondered. I had a vague notion of wanting to get stuck in somehow, and perhaps even give something back.

I wrote to Gerard Hill, then in charge of the SfEP’s mentoring programme, and offered my services as a mentor. Gerard was kind enough to take me on – though, looking back, I still had an awful lot to learn myself about proofreading, let alone helping anyone newer to the profession to learn the art. But I went on to work as a proofreading and copyediting mentor for the next ten years, mentoring about 50 people in that time. I learned so much by doing this – we don’t often see the work of other editors in detail, so that was a complete privilege. I hope I helped the various mentees I worked with, too.

SfEP Council work

It was working as a mentor that got me noticed by the Council, and I was headhunted for the first and only time (so far!) in my life, joining the Council in 2013. I stayed for just a couple of years in the end. It was a fantastic experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed my work as professional development director in particular. However, it was A LOT to deal with on top of running a business full-time and dealing with two small children.

What I took from my Council experience, aside from professional development that might not have been open to me working purely as a freelance editor, was a deeper connection with the freelance editorial community. In the years since leaving the Council, I’ve tried to maintain that, and later moved into blogging about editing, both for myself and for the SfEP and later the CIEP. In this way I’ve kept in touch with the community and shared (and sometimes overshared) my thoughts on this strange and wonderful profession of ours.

Woman at a laptop taking notes

The CIEP’s information team

From 2019 until now I worked on the CIEP’s information team, being responsible first for the outward-facing newsletter, Editorial Excellence, and then the member newsletter, The Edit. With the other members of the team, under the guidance first of Margaret Hunter and most recently Abi Saffrey, I’ve also written and commissioned numerous resources such as fact sheets, focus papers and guides, on all aspects of editing and freelancing.

As I mentioned at the start of the article, though, I recently decided to change career. I’ve loved being an editor (and I do still do a little editing), but for a while I’ve also known that I wanted to give myself a new challenge and try something different. A quarter of a century is a really long time to do anything, and working freelance can take its toll after a while. I’m proud of the mental resilience that has enabled me to run a solo business for as long as I have, but I knew I was ready to return to a team and feel part of something larger.

Looking ahead

I now work for a foodservice company, writing executive summaries for new business proposals, and I absolutely love the work. It’s a breath of fresh air after so long in and around publishing. I am using all the skills I’ve amassed over the years, from writing to proofreading to project management, while also being immersed in a completely new industry. I still work mostly remotely, but I’m often in online meetings, and no two days are the same. I have absolutely no regrets about my midlife change of career.

But if I’m no longer strictly an editor, where does this leave my CIEP membership? I’ve seen friends and colleagues change career in the past, and sooner or later leave the CIEP, which is perfectly valid. However, I’m not ready to go just yet. For a start, I am still taking on a few selected editorial commissions, so it would seem responsible to keep up to date with best practice, and CIEP membership helps me do that. And I’m still working with words in my day job, so membership is still tangentially relevant. Finally, I’m simply not ready to leave the community of friends and colleagues to which I have given a lot but also got more back in return. I never could have lasted so long on my own without it.

The last few years have been momentous for the CIEP, as it’s changed its name, acquired chartered status, and many things about the way it is governed and run have evolved. And for now I really want to see where the institute goes next as a fully paid-up member, not an interested observer.

About Liz Dalby

Liz DalbyLiz Dalby has been a communications professional for 25 years – the first 24 as an editor, with a recent move into bid writing. As an editor, she worked on thousands of mostly non-fiction projects for a huge range of clients. She also worked on the CIEP information team from 2019 to 2023. She enjoys blogging about aspects of editing, writing and freelancing. When she’s not working with words, she likes yoga, running and painting.

 

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: header image by Matt Howard on Unsplash, woman at a laptop taking notes by Judit Peter on Pexels.

Posted by Eleanor Smith, blog assistant.

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

Wherever you go, there you are: Not-so-new learnings from parenting and editing

In this post, Ayesha Chari shares her experiences on running a freelance editing business while bringing up a young child. She opens up about her struggles to juggle work and childcare, some of the ways she’s had to adapt her work routines, and the things that have helped her to get through it all.

Acknowledgement: with thanks to clients and colleagues who’ve made safe spaces for conversations over the years. This is more personal than I wanted it to be, but I hope sharing will make someone somewhere feel they’re not alone. And that we can learn from each other if we let ourselves find community, even when we least expect it possible.

My four-and-a-half-year-old is coughing away as I attempt for the umpteenth time to write a sentence beyond the blog heading (which, at the moment, reads ‘CIEP blog’, but I hope will be cleverer by the end of this, if that comes). The noise from their tiny hands rumbling a box of classic Lego pieces in search of the perfect one for the pizza-delivery truck they’re building is deafening. The TV is playing today’s game of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022, silently. The partner has taken care of breakfast, cleared up and is going out for a quick haircut before the rest of our day unravels. Another device in the house, I’m not quite sure where, is playing Bollywood songs I’m annoyingly humming in my head on and off every time I get distracted from writing the next sentence here* or trying to figure out how many more days I should wait before getting the child seen by the professionals for the cold and cough that never seem to go away fully now that they’re in school.

(*It has taken me so long to focus that now the game has changed from whacking a ball with a bat to kicking it around furiously for 90 minutes. I hope you will be reading this before the 2022 FIFA World Cup trophy is won, but don’t be surprised if it’s well into the New Year!)

Yes, school. Who’d have thunk I’d be a four-and-a-half-year-old parent and still wondering how I got to where I am, where we all are as a family?! That I’d also be decently self-employed for now nine years and finally ready to call what I do a business. It feels like it was only yesterday that I took our sleeping cuddle-bundle to their first CIEP (then SfEP) local group meeting in person. Together, we’ve since attended nearly three years of regular virtual meetings, fewer in-person ones because masked life, one in-person annual editor conference, three virtual ones, and several editing and business-related webinars. My child’s also been a massive part of everyday editing – it’s about cooperation, I’m learning – and has even got surprisingly excited through my website-building journey last year. So, what, if anything, is this really about?

Parent and child working at a laptop

The not-so-brief backdrop

The year before parenthood was my first financially productive year in five years of freelancing. (New editors: sometimes it can take a while; hang in there, it’s well worth it.) It was that which helped me decide I wanted to stay self-employed and not fill in another full-time editorial job application. Ever.

I was already an Advanced Professional Member of the now CIEP, had committed to training regularly, was relatively active in the editorial community of colleagues-slowly-becoming-friends, and had regular clients who promised to be in touch as soon as I was ready to end maternity leave.

They kept their word, and I was officially back at work as an eight-month-old parent–editor. Without family or friends nearby to help with occasional dailyness, I struggled. We struggled. My workday started, reluctantly, when my partner took over child and house after his full day at work. I’m a morning person (as is the little person, so far), and though I get by with less than average sleep in general, this shift in routine was painful. I struggled to settle into any sort of rhythm, hated working in chunks of time not in my control, felt miserable not being able to take on as much work as I wanted to. The list is long.

The silver-lined obstacle course

A few months in, when the new parenting–editing work routine was beginning to feel a little less frantic, comfortable even, my partner’s work circumstances changed and we found ourselves doing weekdays apart and weekends together as a family. My workdays became night shifts and weekends, and grocery shopping, laundry, essential and non-essential household sundries had to be reorganised. We were maze runners, again.

But there were silver linings. I’ve had the most understanding of clients, a couple of whom were in similar situations as new parents and carers, and eternally supportive colleagues at the end of a direct message or even a phone call if I dared. It felt reassuring to know we were going to help each other get through each assignment one day at a time. Courses have got done, learning has happened, calamities have been overcome and tides ridden, new clients have had work published successfully, deadlines have been met, conferences and meetings have been attended, old tricks shared and new ones picked up, illnesses have been survived, growing confidence in business acquired, and food and laughter have made it to the table among family, friends and strangers even.

The pandemic, as all of us have experienced, magnified the hurdles, with or without children in the mix, with or without much change to daily routines for those with an already functional bedroom or under-the-staircase office. At a cost both personal and professional. But the editing communities that I’ve made my home show me every day that we’re in this together.

Lessons learnt and unlearnt

Clients and deadlines – the relationship puzzle

Emergencies and planned family time both need accounting for. As editors, we all know we’re cogs in the publishing/communications landscape we work in. We take pride in meeting those deadlines, many of which every now and then are not met by others in the same chain. Quite possibly with valid reason and for causes beyond their reach. Yet, we go into a flap when one creeps up on us. The uncertainties of parenting and other caregiving responsibilities make it trickier to plan around deadlines, holidays, rest and recuperation.

For me parenthood has reinforced the importance of being transparent about what I can/can’t and will/won’t do. The boundaries I set for myself help to create realistic expectations with clients. I share as many or as few details as I want to, but if I need time off I let my clients know as early as possible – whether my child is unwell (which can happen overnight), I’m planning CPD time off or I’m unavailable at fixed times of the year. When agreeing deadlines with author-clients specially, I ask if they have other commitments – caring responsibilities, travel, work – and require buffer in the schedule. I make sure they’re comfortable sharing if the need arises and set ground rules about communicating openly and often, especially when a change that may affect the editing project is anticipated.

If the ongoing pandemic has taught us anything it is that we’re all human, that life happens, that priorities lie on an ever-changing spectrum. Extrovert or introvert, people thrive in relationships, in community. Children are brilliant examples of the natural need for human connection. My work is as much about editing as it is about communicating, clearly and well. I’m a strongly opinionated introvert who’s on a mission to learn to be unafraid of sharing, of having difficult conversations and of collaborating consciously. Build your editing business on relationships, not textbook rules.

Parent reading to child

Scheduling – flexibly firm routines

Changing, erratic routines come with the territory that is parenthood. It’s one of the first lessons in the role. Not a pleasant one if like me you thrive on being in control. Not fighting the change makes dailyness slightly less painful. Guilt – for working too much, letting your child cling to you, not working enough, letting someone else care for your child, for yelling, not being firm enough, for sleeping or even eating that last cheese slice/cookie – will come and go. That is reality too. See it for what it is and let go.

In late 2021, a 12k-words-long article that should’ve taken a few hours’ work took a very guilt-filled, tearful two weeks to edit. If I took my own medicine, the matter would’ve been easier to close the chapter on a year later. I know now it won’t be the last, only that moving on will happen with a smidgen less anger. I fought with myself to make the most of my peak productive morning hours, but ended up swinging between tears and fury by the end of daylight hours because I hadn’t edited anything, hadn’t ‘worked’. Not even when the child was asleep and I’d planned to send those emails, clean up files, sort author queries. Vicious cycle until I realised that I was still efficient, just in a different way from what I was used to. It made the editing at night so much smoother: slower but simpler. Routines as a family change with time, age and circumstances. Being flexibly firm is a middle path worth trekking. Unnatural-to-you rhythms can be your friend if you prioritise you in the equation.

Juggling tasks – caregiving versus business

I’ve worked around caring for others, older family and ill friends before. But a little human who needs 24/7 attention of some form is a different juggling act altogether. So, how do you handle the responsibilities? I’ve found (re)prioritising is a constant and perfection a myth. Doing a job well involves managing one’s own expectations and self-care too. Think about whether and how you can share tasks with a partner, with other family and friends, or pay for professional care.

Being not OK is not OK. Running a business and childcare (read: life) don’t come with manuals and are not meant to be in constant opposition. It has taken lots of trial and error for me to get comfortable with what works for us as a family and for me as a self-employed parent. If I could mass-produce sticky-notes for new parents, they’d include ‘Ask for help’, ‘Don’t apologise for having a child/being a parent/having needs’ (in check boxes), ‘Ask for help’, ‘It’s OK to be not OK, but also not’, ‘No rights and wrongs’, ‘No guilt’, ‘Go outdoors’, ‘Work or life, seek help’ (yes, again). Parenting and editing aren’t mutually exclusive: which takes priority when depends on your circumstances.

List of work tasks and birthday reminder

Superpowers –  multitasking ninja or specialist wizard?

Parenting, editing and running a business require all the superpowers of the universe and some. No fooling anyone! Have I got said superpowers? ’Course not. Has my ability to run a business changed since parenthood? Of course it has!

I’ve got more confident in recognising that with responsibility comes power (or is it the other way round?!) – the power to choose when and how to multitask, to focus, (re)train, specialise or generalise, who to work with, what to work on and which services to offer. The power to know when to take time off, how to organise schedules, when to let the laundry pile and the dust collect or hire help with housework, when and how to turn down projects, how to delegate. Even how to put on those trainers and run round the block. (What I’ve not been able to do is figure out how on earth you listen to a podcast while ironing or cooking.) Whatever your superpower, don’t be afraid to restructure your business to suit your family’s needs.

Helpful reminders – editing and parenting

  • Cliché and all, but find your people. Join that professional network, care and share. Build a strong referrals list of colleagues for when your juggling is wobbling. Your clients and colleagues will be grateful. CIEP, ACES, EFA, Editors Canada, IPEd, MET, Sense, ICF, PEG South Africa are all welcoming communities meeting different needs. Find a good fit for you and your business.
  • Plan for eventualities, money and time-wise. Broken bones, illness (sudden or otherwise), school and non-school events, loss and grief, special-O days (birthdays, first-time days). The inventory is endless. Prioritise, compromise, get help, slow down to snail’s pace.
  • Practise efficient editing. Leave buffer time for all projects as default, then add some more. Have healthy money chats. Use tools and tech to make life easier but don’t hesitate to unplug whenever you need. Make time for yourself mindfully, even if five minutes (mine is when I brush my teeth).
  • Make practical changes. Adjust your work space to make it child-friendly. (You will have to share the colourful pens and good stationery sooner than you realise!) Set reminders around your child’s activities and school routines. Use a simple planner to accommodate work and family. Involve your child in your work like they involve you in their play. (Mine is an expert scanner and knows when to flip document sides in the machine.)
  • Find other parents – they need you as much as you need them. Look online but also ask about events in public spaces like libraries, community centres, activity clubs, neighbourhood facilities. Ask your healthcare providers for local networks. Ask parent-friends and parent-colleagues.

For more practical tips, check out coach and fellow-editor Laura Poole’s Juggling on a High Wire: The Art of Work–Life Balance When You’re Self-Employed. It is an excellent, essential read for all who work freelance, with a separate section on ‘Caring for Others and Yourself’ and a chapter on ‘Working at Home When You Have Kids’.

Open forum! Share your favourites and anything that has helped you as a parent and editing business-runner.

About Ayesha Chari

Ayesha ChariAyesha Chari is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP and an independent editor specialising in sensitive editing of interdisciplinary academic writing. When not helping scholars solve content and language problems, she can be found helping undo extra tight Lego bits, hiding glitter, dreading the next dress-up day in school as much as muddy puddles, excitedly jumping at every new word her nearly five-year-old reads (now often in Mama’s emails!), and teaching them to identify constellations in the night sky, among other things.

 

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: header image by William Fortunato, parent and child at a laptop by August de Richelieu, parent reading to child by Lina Kivaka, sticky notes on a monitor by RODNAE Productions, all on Pexels.

Posted by Eleanor Smith, blog assistant.

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