The benefits of mentoring

SfEP logoWho doesn’t need an experienced and trusted adviser?

A year ago, I was new to this editing lark. I had completed the SfEP’s Introduction to Proofreading, Introduction to Copy-Editing, Proofreading 2 and On Screen Editing 1 and the PTC’s formidable proofreading by distance learning course. I now wanted to put my skills out there and charge for them. But did I really know what I was doing? How good was good enough?

If you are employed, you have someone checking your work at first. You have colleagues to compare yourself with. You get feedback from people who know what they are talking about. When you are trying to be self-employed in a new-to-you field, you do not have any of that.

What did I need? An experienced and trusted adviser. Guess what – that’s the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of a mentor. And guess what again – the SfEP has a scheme to provide mentors just like that to people just like me. I signed up.

I am sure that every SfEP mentor will do things differently, but in my case I received four pieces of work from my mentor and had a set period within which to complete each one. The idea was to treat my mentor as a client, getting practice in sending professional emails and sticking to deadlines. Once one assignment was finished and I had had the feedback, I could say when I wanted the next one, so there was no feeling of being over-committed and the training fitted in around whatever else I was doing.

The assignments were examples from the real world, and covered a section of a reference book on paper, a PDF leaflet, a reference list to be marked with track changes and a school textbook PDF. I laboured over them, sent them off to the deadlines and got my detailed feedback, which went through each assignment point by point.

I loved having someone who worked with me intensively for a short while, who knew what they were about and who was being paid to provide advice so that I did not feel bad about taking up their time.

What did I gain? Heaps of things, but here are a few. I learned:

  • to think about who the client is and what they are looking for;
  • not to panic if I did not find lots of mistakes (this is real life, not an artificial exercise designed for a training course);
  • to look very carefully at the fonts and the headings;
  • to make it clear in my mark-up what was an instruction to the typesetter and what was a suggestion/question to the client.

I gained a huge amount of knowledge and reassurance in a short space of time. It gave me the confidence that I could credibly look for paid work. Not only that, it gave me the final 10 points I needed to upgrade my SfEP membership and reassure potential clients that I was a professional. I was off on my new career.

To find out more about the SfEP’s mentoring scheme, including costs and entry requirements, visit the Mentoring section of the website.

JHI_4220bLiz Hunter (Humbie Editorial) specialises in copy-editing academic books and articles and proofreading theses. Her previous career was in the public sector and included being Director of Schools in the Scottish Government and a member of the Organising Committee for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. She has recently combined her two careers by working some days on a freelance basis for the Official Report (Hansard) in the Scottish Parliament.

Proofread by SfEP entry-level member Karen Pickavance.

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

3 thoughts on “The benefits of mentoring

  1. Ranee Tomlin

    I’m an ACES member, living in the US and currently working to complete the online (and rigorous) University of California San Diego Extension Copyediting Certificate program. At the recent ACES conference and in communications with copyediting colleagues of all levels, I’ve repeatedly stated my strong desire for a mentor. In this blog, Liz has done a great job of summarizing the reasons. I keep waiting and hoping for someone over here to start a mentoring scheme like that of SfEP’s.

    I’ll be at the York SfEP conference in September, and maybe then I can learn more about how you brilliant SfEP members make your mentoring scheme work, so that I can share process details with ACES members in the US.

    1. Gerard M-F Hill

      I am the mentoring director for SfEP and thank you for your kind comments, Ranee. SfEP mentoring is normally done by email, so it is available anywhere in the world, though only to members of SfEP. More details at I look forward to meeting you at conference in York in September, so do drop me a line at If you know someone at ACES who would be interested in setting up a US mentoring scheme, please put them in touch with me.

  2. Sara Peacock

    It’s great to know that you’re coming to join us in York, Ranee – I’ll look forward to meeting you there. Is there any chance you’ll also be at the Editors’ Association of Canada conference in Toronto in June? I will be representing the SfEP there and taking part in the ‘Setting up a Mentoring Program’ session to share some of our experiences. Perhaps you could encourage any ACES members that are going to attend that to learn a little more?


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