Tag Archives: getting started

Should I volunteer when I’m starting out?

Wherever you are in your editing or proofreading career, taking on voluntary work can benefit you and others. But, as many who have done it will tell you, it’s not without its snares and snags. With the help of some generous CIEP members who have shared their experiences, in this article we’ll look at how volunteering can work when you’re starting out. We’ll also suggest some questions that you should ask yourself before you start offering your valuable time for free. In a future CIEP blog, we’ll look at how volunteering works when you’re established in your editing or proofreading career.

Below we’ll cover:

  • Discovering a taste for what you enjoy
  • Learning with less pressure
  • Declaring yourself
  • Getting your foot in the door
  • Using voluntary work for membership upgrades
  • Four questions to ask yourself before you volunteer

Discovering a taste for what you enjoy

Unpaid work is the way that many proofreaders and editors start – in fact, it can be how they realise they have an aptitude and enthusiasm for what will later become their career. Perhaps a friend, knowing you’re good with words, asks you to check the grammar and punctuation in their thesis, and halfway through you think: ‘I’m really enjoying this!’

Learning with less pressure

Once you’ve done your basic training, volunteering can help you test your new editing or proofreading skills and learn a few more without the stresses that could come from being paid. One of our members described the voluntary jobs she had taken on since completing her CIEP Proofreading courses – proofreading two series of short stories, some poetry and three website articles – and the impressive set of new and improved skills she acquired in the process:

  • increasing her competence and confidence in using Track Changes and Find and Replace, and starting to explore Word Styles
  • learning how to save a web page as a PDF, and practising using the Adobe Comments tools
  • using PerfectIt and other macros for the first time
  • compiling a style sheet to use as a template
  • keeping a record of time spent and work carried out, which helped her calculate her average proofreading speeds.

This member has appreciated the time and space that volunteering allows for growing into a new career:

I am finding this period of focusing on voluntary work to be hugely beneficial. With each job I develop new skills or learn about new tools which I can incorporate into my practice. As an Entry-Level Member, I like not having the pressure of being paid – for now!

At the same time, however, she hasn’t lost sight of the ultimate plan – to get paid work:

I am also building up a little bank of testimonials which I can use on my website, and at least two of the clients have said they will recommend me to friends and colleagues.

Declaring yourself

Sometimes you might be volunteering in a different arena from editing and proofreading, but if you tell the people you meet what you usually do for a living, more relevant volunteering work could come your way. One member says:

My daughter is a pharmacy dispensing technician at a village medical centre near to us. During the summer of last year, they were looking for volunteers to step up and help manage visitors attending for their flu jab, along with those attending for other medical appointments and pharmacy collections. Always happy to help out, up went my hand, into which was promptly thrust a high-vis jacket.

When asked what I would normally be doing, I was happy to tell folks that I’m a novice proofreader and occasional copywriter. The next thing I knew, my lovely daughter came home from work with a bottle of red in one hand and the medical centre’s newly penned ‘Team Handbook’ in the other.

Always remember, though, that if you’re accepting ‘payment in kind’, such as wine, you need to declare yourself to the tax office, too. Sue Littleford, our columnist on business matters, explains:

Had the CIEP member’s bottle of red wine been handed over for some proofreading, it would have been a ‘payment in kind’ and yes, it’s taxable. He’d have had to put the cash value of the wine in his accounts.

Getting your foot in the door

Getting paid in wine, or cake/casseroles/bedding plants if any of those are more your thing, is great, but at some point you’ll need to get some paying clients. One member described how this happened for her:

When my youngest was a baby (2012), I was involved with my local NCT branch. I worked with the newsletter team, and somehow took on the role of getting 700+ printed copies of this booklet distributed to local members every quarter!

I carried on proofreading for the branch long after I’d left my NCT days behind. It was only about five hours’ work a quarter, but it was great experience and something regular to look forward to while I was starting out.

Then last year, someone I knew from that time contacted me through LinkedIn. She remembered what I’d done with the NCT newsletter and thought I’d be a perfect fit for a project she was leading on at work. I’ve now had 8–9 months of consultancy work through this company on two different projects, helping me towards my most profitable year by far!

It’s not going to work quite like that for everyone every time, and this won’t last forever for me. But I do think that doing those little jobs on a voluntary basis can sow the seeds in people’s minds, and you never know when they might need you for something different (and paid). It shows people what you can do and how you work, and they’ll remember that.

Another member says:

When I started my freelance proofreading business last July, I contacted many companies and charities offering my services for free in exchange for a testimonial, as I felt this was the best way to gain experience and also increase my exposure in the form of having recommendations to hand.

I had a few positive responses, one of which was from Kathy Bishop, the editor of the Catholic magazine The Faith Companion.

Kathy’s initial response was that she would be happy to help me out as everyone ‘needs a helping hand’, and that she would send me a couple of articles to work on for the next issue, but she wanted to make it clear that they weren’t looking to take anyone on. I replied saying that wasn’t a problem at all, I was just happy with the opportunity to gain some experience and increase my hours.

I now have The Faith Companion as a regular client for the foreseeable future, and I really don’t think this would have happened if I hadn’t originally offered my services on a voluntary basis.

Using voluntary work for membership upgrades

Can voluntary hours count towards a CIEP membership upgrade? They can, if you’re using certain core skills and applying for a certain level. Professional standards director Lucy Metzger says:

For someone seeking an Intermediate Member (IM) grade, it’s fine for some or all of their 100 hours of work experience to be voluntary, and we wouldn’t expect it to be done for a traditional publisher. Some paid proofreading or copyediting work would strengthen the IM application overall, but it’s not a requirement.

However, in order for volunteer work to be counted in an IM application, it still needs to be work using what we call our ‘core skills’ – proofreading and/or copyediting. If a person’s voluntary work has included non-editorial tasks, as well as some core skills work, we would count only the number of hours using the core skills.

For upgrading to Professional (PM) or Advanced Professional (APM), the core skills work experience needs to be for publishers who understand the standards we are looking for in the core skills. If the work is for another body whose core business isn’t publishing (a ‘non-publisher’) the applicant’s experience can be validated by passing the Institute’s editorial test. If a previous application for IM relied mostly on voluntary hours, those hours would most likely be for non-publishers, which would count in a later application for PM or APM only with a test pass, demonstrating that the applicant had the required level of expertise in the core skills.

Four questions to ask yourself before you volunteer

So far, so good, then. However, there are some important questions to ask yourself before you take the plunge and offer your services for free. These questions are taken from an archived blog about volunteering written by a previous blog coordinator, Tracey Roberts.

1. Who should you volunteer with?

Not all charities or non-profit organisations need free help, so do your homework: ‘many charities have healthy budgets’, as Tracey points out. You could follow your interests, and volunteer to proofread or edit something in the fields of gardening, poetry, politics, sport or history, for example. There may be a newsletter for a club or organisation you belong to that you could help with. Some of our members edit their local church magazine.

2. What will you get out of it?

‘This is important,’ says Tracey. ‘If the person or organisation you are volunteering for doesn’t know what’s required of a good editor or proofreader, how valuable will their testimonial really be?’ Tracey makes another very valid point which touches on an aspect that many editors and proofreaders have been burned by: ‘Working for a client (or especially a friend) who doesn’t understand the process (and while you are still learning yourself) could turn into a tricky or negative experience.’ So make sure you go in with open eyes.

3. What skills do you want to practise?

If you want to work in fiction editing, look for experience there. If your aim is to be a scientific editor, volunteer to proofread a PhD thesis in biology.

4. How much time are you happy to provide?

Tracey explains:

In the early stages of your freelance career you will be busy building your new business and need time to develop your marketing strategy, website etc. Any time spent volunteering must fit around the creation of your new freelance business, and other important personal commitments, to ensure a healthy work–life balance is maintained.

Remember too that if you work for a client for free, or even a reduced rate, it will be very difficult to start charging at full rate when asked to take on future projects.

So remember not to overwhelm yourself, and as time passes think carefully about the balance between your unpaid and paid work. As your career matures, however, there’s no reason why you should give up volunteering if it’s still benefiting you and your business. In our second related blog, we’ll look at what you can get out of volunteering when you’re more established.

Written by the CIEP information team. With thanks to the CIEP members who generously shared their experiences.

About the CIEP information team

Abi Saffrey, Liz Jones, Margaret Hunter, Cathy Tingle

Liz Jones, Abi Saffrey and Cathy Tingle are the CIEP’s information commissioning editors. If there’s a topic that you would like to see covered in a blog post, fact sheet, focus paper or guide, drop the team a line at infoteam@ciep.uk.

 

 

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.

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Photo credits: welcome by Andrew Neel; raise your paw by Camylla Battani, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Print Futures Awards

By Lauren Campbell

In early 2017, purely by chance, I stumbled across something called the ‘Print Futures Awards’. Little did I know that applying for the award was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career so far, starting a journey that led me to the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading.

The Printing Charity

The Print Futures Awards are held by the Printing Charity, an organisation that supports those working in the printing, publishing, packaging and graphic arts sectors. I wasn’t familiar with the Charity when I first discovered the Awards, but the more I read about them the more I was blown away by their work, from their dedicated sheltered homes that offer the opportunity for people from the print sectors to stay independent in retirement, to the plethora of training initiatives that they offer for rising talent in the industry.

The Printing Charity has a rich and fascinating history: founded in 1827 by an independent printer in London, Queen Victoria granted the organisation a Royal Charter in 1865 and every monarch since has been the Charity’s patron. The list of the Printing Charity’s presidents reads like a who’s who of literary and political figureheads, including Charles Dickens among many others!

The Awards

The Printing Charity started the Print Futures Awards scheme in 2003. The Awards offer a grant of up to £1,500 to help those aged 18 to 30 to develop their skills and progress in their print-related careers, and are now the largest single awards programme in the UK printing, paper, packaging, publishing and graphic arts sector.

In 2017, there were 275 applications, and I felt extremely privileged to be one of the 78 winners. During the last round of applications in summer 2019 there were a record 93 winners, proving that the Print Futures Awards are going from strength to strength, and the support that they are providing to rising talent in the industry is crucial.

What really struck me, reading through the brochure of the winners afterwards, was the wide range of applicant backgrounds and the many possibilities of what the award could be used for. Winners came from the length and breadth of the UK, and planned to use the award for career-building aspects such as work experience, postgraduate degrees, specialist equipment and investment into projects like blogs, magazines, artist project spaces and illustrated books.

Applying for the Print Futures Awards

At the time, I’d recently completed the Basic Proofreading qualification from the Publishing Training Centre, and I was looking for ways to further my experience and gain more skills. Having seen the award advertised on social media, I quickly started on my application form, which asked applicants to provide a short paragraph stating how the award would help them. I had so many ideas of what I wanted to do – the hard part was fitting it all into just 300 words!

I was delighted to receive an email saying I was through to the next stage. My delight quickly turned into sheer terror upon finding out the next stage was an interview with industry professionals. I consider myself eloquent enough through the medium of the written word, but unfortunately in person and on the spot that can often be quite the opposite …

To try to combat this, I decided to do as much research as humanly possible. I came up with an extremely comprehensive ‘career plan’: a three-page (A3-size!) business plan that set out every little detail as to how I planned to use the bursary provided by the Print Futures Award. My first priority was to continue my education with the Publishing Training Centre by completing the Basic Editing course, the next stage up from Basic Proofreading. My second priority was to join the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (as it was then) to expand my knowledge of the industry and hopefully meet some lovely fellow editors and proofreaders who could help me on my journey! I went through the comprehensive list of courses available from both the SfEP and the PTC and decided on the right ones for me, adding them to the business plan to meet the potential total of £1,500.

The interviews were held in the stunning St Bride Foundation in London, a print heritage centre and library just off Fleet Street. Fortunately, my anxiety about the interviews was entirely unnecessary. From the outset, my lovely panellists assured me that this was as friendly as an interview could be. We discussed my current role and the training I had done so far, and my aspirations for the future – out came the beautifully printed business plan, and (thankfully) they were thrilled. Apparently I was the first person out of all their interviews so far to produce such an in-depth plan, and it was extremely useful for them in terms of being able to see how committed I was to my career plans and exactly how I’d spend every penny of the award. I left the interview feeling like I’d had a lovely chat – definitely not what I had expected on going in!

Shortly afterwards the Printing Charity informed me that I had been successful in achieving a Print Futures Award, and I was invited to the Print Futures Awards Event at the House of Lords. The evening itself was a spectacular experience: drinks and canapes on a terrace in the House of Lords overlooking the River Thames, meeting and talking to my fellow winners and networking with the big names of the print and publishing industries, and a wonderful feeling that this was the start of my perfect career!

What I have gained from my award

My initial business plan spanned all the way from 2017 to 2020, so it’s been interesting to look back at my predictions and compare them with what I have achieved so far. I have achieved my two main priorities, having been a member of the SfEP/CIEP since 2017 and completing the Basic Editing course in 2018. Both of these have opened doors that I never imagined previously, from attending the wonderful North East SfEP mini-conference last year and meeting those in my local SfEP group, to having the skills and confidence to complete some freelance proofreading and copyediting. The Printing Charity also has an Alumni group, which has been a brilliant resource of contacts and further opportunities, for example training in the Adobe Creative Suite through a series of webinars.

My next goal is to upgrade my CIEP membership to Intermediate, to get a coveted place on the IM Available list. To help with this and to continue my CPD I’m looking to undertake a CIEP training course, and I’m very excited to get back to my favourite past-time of learning new skills!

I can’t thank the Printing Charity enough for giving me the opportunity to progress my career, and I also can’t be more complimentary about the wonderful members of the CIEP for making me feel welcomed and providing guidance and knowledge. I would recommend the Print Futures Awards without hesitation for anyone aged 18–30 wanting to further themselves in any print-related career.

Here’s to many more fruitful years in the CIEP!

Lauren Campbell is a Communications Assistant for a multi-academy trust in Northumberland, and is starting her journey as a freelance proofreader and copyeditor. She is an Entry-Level Member of the CIEP and can be found on Twitter. She has covered a wide range of topics in her editing work, her favourite so far being copy for tabletop role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons.

 


Applications are now open for the 2020 Print Futures Awards.

All new CIEP members receive a £25 training voucher from the Dorothy Mitchell Smith Memorial Fund, which can be put towards the cost of one CIEP course.


Photo credits: Print Futures Awards invitation – Lauren Campbell; Print Futures Awards 2017 winners – property of The Printing Charity, taken by Ray Schram.

Proofread by Victoria Hunt, Intermediate Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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