Summer of Study

summer of study

What do you do when you have very little freelance work? What do you do when emails stop pinging into your inbox enquiring if you are available for a project?

Tall Tartan Talks here … In this blog post I am going to describe the strategies I have used to cope with freelance famine.

Strategies for surviving freelance famine

  1. Use a cushion of savings to pay bills.
  2. Have some rest and time off without feeling guilty.
  3. Do those chores/hobbies/interests you don’t usually have time for.
  4. Investigate resources.
  5. Study CPD.
  6. Book a holiday. That’ll get the work emails coming in!

In a recent period of work famine, I completed the Word for Practical Editing course run by the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) and went on a Solo Business Retreat.

My edibuddies are good at scheduling their work projects so that they are booked evenly over time. This ensures that the time requirements of the clients and freelancer are met. Some freelancers are booked up weeks, or even months, ahead. But sometimes a yawning gap appears. And remains empty.

Many of my edibuddies have used their spare time to do courses to reinforce their skills. The CIEP gives training points on completion of courses. These points can be used towards upgrade. Members get a discount towards those courses. As training keeps your skills current and boosts your reputation as a trusted freelancer, it’s a no-brainer.

I had a course on my mind to do. As soon as I had a couple of free weeks, I dipped into my CPD fund.

Word for Practical Editing

Many of us use Microsoft Word without really delving into all its features.

I already knew about some shortcuts, e.g. Ctrl+X (cut); Ctrl+C (copy); Ctrl+V (paste); and Ctrl+Z (undo). I learnt more shorcuts: Ctrl+A (select all); Ctrl+S (Save). Learning them become more automatic in my muscle memory.

pointing

Microsoft Word is the industry standard in editing and proofreading. In the CIEP course on using Word, I studied how to show the different markup systems in Track Changes; and the importance of communicating to a client which markup they should view for ease of seeing changes.

Styles in Word

The most useful part of the course for me was learning about Styles and applying shortcuts to them. This meant that with a combination of keystrokes I can change a heading to the correct style and ensure consistency.

In short, I learnt how to:

  • Find which styles were already applied to a document.
  • Apply styles to a new document, and modify for clients by personalising their style sheet.

Solo Business Retreat

During this time of work famine, I wanted to take the opportunity to spend some time at the seaside. My children are grown-up and busy. So I was able to escape and book a self-catering apartment in Hunstanton (Norfolk),  a 2-hour drive from where I live in Essex.

Day 1: Enjoy the journey and relax. Take in the atmosphere at the coast. I took one book to read for pleasure; and one book about how to survive as a freelance business owner.

Day 2: I worked on the long-term content marketing plan I bought from Jammy Digital. They help business owners with websites and SEO. My first step was to transfer all the record-keeping for blog posts written already, over the last three years, on to their better, more coherent system.

My evening meal was fish and chips on the beach. When everyone had gone home, I went for a stroll on the sand. The tide was far out. The light was special. Hunstanton faces west, which is unusual in East Anglia. The sunsets didn’t disappoint.

Day 3: I studied the advice from Jammy Digital about how to have an effective content marketing plan. This time I looked ahead and planned six months’ worth of blog posts. I wrote key points for each one.

For those who haven’t read my blog posts before, I write about proofreading, education and learning (as a former teacher), and owning a freelancing business. Find them on my blog page.

In my posts I give answers to the questions my clients ask. Lately, those clients are self-publishing children’s authors, businesses or students. More and more, I tweak my website pages to give extra details to those prospective clients.

This means that I have ready-made answers available when a repeated enquiry is made. Why not turn these FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) into blog posts, I ask myself? Repurposing content was added to The Plan.

Day 4: Time to leave. To allow for Covid-safe cleaning, the instructions were to leave the apartment by 9am. Rather than go straight home, I booked a visit to nearby Sandringham House and Garden for the day.

It was refreshing to relax away from a screen. I chatted to other visitors and wandered at my own pace.

Rejuvenated

My retreat was valuable because it made me focus on one aspect of my business (marketing) that I hadn’t had time to prioritise for at least six months. I felt guilty. It’s hard when you are the sole owner of a business to keep all the plates spinning.

Most freelancers, whether you are an editor or tutor like me, will make a choice at a time of freelance famine. They will either advertise their availability, or enjoy the rest and find something to occupy their time.

I recommend taking time out to reflect, re-evaluate and refresh.

Resource

The idea for the retreat came from the podcast Host a Solo Business Retreat by Melanie Padgett Powers who is Deliberate Freelancer based in Washington, DC. Also her  Tips from my First Business Retreat of 2020. Twitter: @MelEdits.

Hunstanton cliffs

The stripy Hunstanton cliffs, West Norfolk.

 

signature

Editing Training Part 2

training

Training is one of the hot topics during this Coronavirus pandemic.  You may have more time on your hands than usual. You may be thinking about using that time to do some training, also known as CPD (Continuing Professional Development).

In my original blog post about training here, I mentioned that my next aim was to apply for the CIEP Proofreading mentoring scheme. In this episode I update you on my progress.

I am #TallTartanTalks … and I  see a lot of questions on social media asking about training. If you are confused about the when, which, how and why of proofreading training, this post may help you make up your mind.

Training is VITAL to reflect that you take the owning of your editing business seriously. Especially if, like me, you have no background in publishing.

So … are you wondering about proofreading training? Or are you a prospective client wondering about my professional qualifications?

Change of path

After three decades as a Primary School teacher, I had succumbed to work-related stress and was on sick leave. I was slowly coming to terms with a daunting fact: a life I had known for 30 years was changing. I needed to find a Plan B.

Marking’s my thing, I thought. Why don’t I apply my skills to a new business?

The thought of working from home as a freelancer was in the back of my mind and very tempting.  (Read Episode 2 to find out what I did …)

If you are looking at training providers, the CIEP  and the PTC (Publishing Training Centre) offer the most creditable training in proofreading and copyediting.

Courses

So, during the time I have owned my business Proofnow Proofreader (now in my fourth year), I have completed the following CIEP (formerly Society for Editors and Proofreaders) courses and CPD:

  1. Proofreading Progress (2016)
  2. References (2016)
  3. Getting work with Non-publishers (2017)
  4. Educational Publishing Development Day (2018)
  5. Mini conference in Newcastle (May 2019)
  6. Proofreading mentoring scheme (completed May 2020)
  7. Every CIEP annual conference since 2017

These have contributed to my upgrade from Entry Member to Intermediate Member. Here is the link to the Training page of the CIEP website.

In addition, you can keep an ongoing record of your formal CPD in the section called Upgrade your membership. There you can add courses as you complete them. The system saves them, so that you can keep returning to add more information. If you are a CIEP member and haven’t explored this benefit, it’s well worth it.

Mini conference in Newcastle

Since I wrote my last blog post about training, I realised that it’s just over a year since I got the train to Newcastle for this mini one-day conference in May 2019. It was very well organised by the NE Editors group. See my blog post about the event here.

Proofreading mentoring

This post brings my training up to date – I have completed the Proofreading mentoring scheme as a mentee.

So what is this scheme? The following guidance is taken from the Mentoring page of the CIEP website.

Successful mentees can gain up to 10 points towards upgrading their membership. The number of points gained depends on the mentor’s answers to five questions about the mentee:

  1. Are they literate? (grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation)
  2. Are they businesslike? (prompt, clear, efficient, follow brief, communicate well)
  3. Are they accurate? (spot and deal with editorial errors)
  4. Do they use appropriate mark-up? (BS 5261:2005, plus PDFs or Track Changes if used)
  5. Do they use good judgement? (level of queries, frequency and extent of intervention).

The mentor sends a variety of real jobs they have done for clients. These range in subject area and complexity. You are encouraged and supported in a one-to-one partnership. Communication and questioning are recommended.

I found that carrying out the work, following each specific brief, in a safe environment, is a good way to learn.

My knowledge vastly increased, including how to query. I learnt how different clients would expect you to deal with projects and relationships in different ways.

Of course, my confidence wavered considerably through the six months with highs and lows, as it does on any course. But you don’t learn if it is easy. You don’t learn if you don’t make mistakes. I say that to my primary students all the time, especially when they are upset if they got something wrong. Showing you are learning from your mistakes, by applying the lessons learnt, is one of the key points.

As total commitment is necessary, there was a huge wash of positive relief when the last mentoring feedback was returned.

Why training is vital

I am fortunate that I have been able to invest in my ongoing CPD with the CIEP over the last four years of my freelancing career.

Evidence of CPD on your website and CV gives your prospective clients confidence in your skills; your professionalism, expertise and integrity will be evident. Highlighting these is imperative.

Next training opportunity?

The annual September CIEP conference attracts 3 CPD points towards upgrade. I have written some blog posts on this subject too!

In this year of the pandemic, the September 2020 conference in Milton Keynes is cancelled. However, there are plans to move it online in some form. Check with the CIEP for details.

I know I am not alone in looking forward to the alternative conference. Here’s to #CIEP2020!

signature