Welcome to my second blog post. In Episode 1, I told you a bit about myself and how I became a freelance proofreader. This post gives a bit more detail about my first goals: my business plan, proofreading training, and how I got here.
‘Here’ is actually the dining room of our Victorian-terraced house near Stansted Airport in Essex which doubles as my office.
Meanwhile, my husband has the luxury of his studio space (at the bottom of our 100-foot-long garden) to paint. His studio is next to the chicken coop, so he has company there, chatting away to the three clucking girls when stretching his legs. If you like birds, the theme develops … keep reading.
How did I get here to this point in my freelancing journey?
Teaching – my previous life
As a former primary teacher, I was trained in the primary ‘Talk for Writing’ project initiated by the poet Pie Corbett. He was asked by the government of the day to raise standards in Literacy.
His theory was that, in shared writing sessions with the class, as ideas are being discussed and written on large poster paper, children are encouraged to write their own version simultaneously. The children get swept along with the enthusiasm of the teacher and the drama of the story, in whichever genre was relevant for the age of the child, at that stage in the term (e.g. fantasy). A buzzing atmosphere would ensue.
Over a week of Literacy lessons, a hanging washing line of posters with beginning, middle and end parts stretched across the classroom.
A growing story and a sense of achievement took shape, with ideas magpie-ed by the children. They were allowed to ‘borrow shiny ideas’ to help one another. A few children felt secure when they knew that they could share ideas if they were faced with a blank page in front of them. Don’t we all need that reassurance? Evidence suggests that their independent writing would grow from practising together.
Writing a business plan
When I left teaching, I applied for the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) with the Job Centre. My Business Mentor helped me complete a Business Plan. Compiling the 20-page Business Plan took me a month of research and exploring strengths and weaknesses of the business I had in mind.
These were my learning takeaways:
- Googling ‘proofreading’ and finding The SfEP at the top of Google!
- Second on Google’s list was Louise Harnby and the treasures of her amazing website for editors and authors!
- Doing a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). Finding proofreaders and businesses who I first thought of as competitors, but later discovered how supportive and encouraging they are.
- What was my marketing strategy going to involve? Was I going to have a website? Was I going to do social media? The answer was a resounding YES. EVERYTHING.
- Describing the goals and objectives of my business over the short term (0-1 year), medium term (2-3 years), and long term (4-5 years).
- Describing the trends in my chosen market (students, academic, businesses and educational publishers).
- Predicted expenditure on equipment and training? How much was I going to spend? Predicted income from proofreading and tutoring? How much was I going to charge?
If you are deciding at this point whether to strike out on your own or not, the business tools from the Princes Trust are recommended by others setting up as freelance. Planning and preparation are essential.
I have read so many jewels of advice about how important training is. Preferably from a respected organisation such as the SfEP or PTC (Publishing Training Centre). By January 2017, I had registered with the SfEP, and because it was vital that I train first, by May of that year I had completed my final SfEP Proofreading Course. Also important was learning how to use the BSI symbols (British Standard Institution marks).
There is much discussion as to whether the symbols are valid these days as businesses and non-publishers are unaware of them and have no need of them. But, I felt, knowledge of their use added professionalism in case I got an opportunity to work in publishing – education in my case. They are like learning a new language, but I was happy to add them to my skillset.
For those considering or currently doing the Proofreading Courses, other skills you will learn are: proofreading against copy; proofreading blind; proofreading tables and references; and proof-editing vs proofreading in Word. You will find that proofreading is SO much more than you first thought.
You may prefer copyediting, which is also offered by the SfEP. Have a look at the wide range of courses offered – both core skills and editorial.
Ready, steady, go!
The courses consolidated my knowledge and confidence. I was ready to take on work as a proofreader. My newly hatched website was designed and updated with my qualification. Now I could build experience. My next goal was looking for work in proofreading.
I was both excited and terrified about the possibilities, and of what the future would hold. Luckily, I have a supportive husband who would change his regular job to ensure a more consistent income, while I struck out with my fledgling business Proofnow Proofreader.
Initially I would focus my marketing efforts on students. Well it made sense with education being my specialism. I also started tutoring primary children in the afternoons to help pay the bills.
In my next blog post, I will describe the process of choosing and designing my website and researching the content marketing world of social media.
Happy new beginnings!
Proofread by Lisa de Caux, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk