How I self-published my business book

How I self-published mu busienss book blog post

I have self-published a business book!

My eBook is called Tall Tartan Talks: My Collection of blog Posts – Tips on Running a Business. I’ve written it as a freelancer for freelancers, sharing many tips I’ve learnt while running my proofreading business.

I used Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). If you would like to buy my book, the link is at the end.

I will explain the how, what and why of the process.

Why did I self-publish?

I have been asked why I used the process of self-publishing. Mainly I did it because my indie children’s book authors asked me about the process. They were looking for support. I wanted to answer their questions.

When I had a lull in proofreading work, I realised I had the time to implement my project.

What did I write?

I already had a collection of over 30 blog posts on my website which I had written to support other freelancers. Why not copy the draft versions from Word and paste them into a single document, I thought? Rather than write something new I could create one manuscript using writing I already had.

If you have an idea for a fiction or non-fiction book, for adults or children, do write it. And keep writing. If the ideas flow, great! When you’ve finished a draft, ask friends / colleagues to read it. This will gauge if the audience thinks your book works. You will feel the need to redraft your manuscript several times.

How did I format my book?

Each blog post is around 1,000 words; the collection totalled around 30,000 words.

Once I had created my manuscript I spent time copyediting the text. I ensured consistency with the styling of subheadings and use of terminology. I added to my style sheet.

I spent a further week proofreading the manuscript. By then I realised I was far too close to the text and fed up with it. I knew there must still be errors, but I wasn’t in a position to look at it objectively.

Using a trained editor or proofreader

I needed an independent, fresh pair of eyes; I needed a proofreader I could trust and who appreciated my blog posts. A kind edibuddy offered her proofreading as a skill swap – in return I would proofread her blog posts. She provided a comprehensive service in an efficient way.

Asking someone else to check your text is essential before publishing. I recommend you either:

  • Pay a trained copyeditor to style your Word document. Or …
  • Pay a trained proofreader. This could be the same editor you ask to copyedit your manuscript. Many freelancers provide both services – though a gap in time between passes is recommended for fresh eyes.

Ideally your professional would be trained by a trusted organisation like the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (ciep.uk).

Creating a Table of Contents

Once I had formatted my Word document with styles for levels of headings, I could insert a Contents page.

I needed help to format the page numbers so that page 1 started at the beginning of Chapter 1 after the Contents page rather than on the first page of my manuscript. I found some support in the Amazon KDP Help pages. In the end my edibuddy formatted the page numbers for me.

Creating a book cover

I was certain I would self-publish my book in the form of an eBook as the cover, as, being a single page, it would be simpler to design.

I designed my eBook cover by finding a template in Canva. I used the tartan which is the design on my website and replicated my website fonts. That way I could keep my design consistent with my branding.

The cover of a paperback includes the front cover, spine and back cover in one template. I tried using KDP Cover Creator. Its limitations meant that I couldn’t use the fonts on my website as they weren’t available in the software. As I wanted to make my branding consistent, I would have to find another way to use my chosen fonts.

If you have many images to insert in your non-fiction or children’s picture book, I suggest you use a book designer who is skilled in formatting illustrations. I can recommend a couple.

Creating my KDP account

I completed the account details for my eBook. I could edit the details on my Amazon KDP Bookshelf. It was helpful that I could save, stop, or continue as time allowed.

KDP asks for personal and tax details to be completed. Next, enter the ISBN (International Standard Book Number). I bought mine from Nielson. Upload your content. Finally, choose a pricing option.

Consider when you want to tell your target audience that your book is available. Plan ahead because KDP needs at least 48 hours to process your account, your manuscript and cover.

Also consider, do you want your readers to pre-order? This is an effective strategy for advertising when your book will be published; it creates anticipation.

How I can help you to self-publish

I can help you self-publish depending on the type of book you want to write. My specialisms are non-fiction, education, middle grade chapter books and picture books.

If you want to self-publish an adult fiction book, that’s not my area, so I can’t help you. But I can refer you to edibuddies who can.

Buy my book

Amazon link to my book published in April 2024: Tall Tartan Talks: My Collection of blog Posts – Tips on Running a Business

Reading resources

I discovered many tips about self-publishing by being a Partner Member of the Alliance of Independent Authors: www.allianceindependentauthors.org

Strong arm. I did it!
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Balance the Freelancing See-saw

Balance the freelancing see-saw blog post

Balancing the ups and downs of your freelancing see-saw can be a challenge.

Tall Tartan Talks here … I’ve listed 12 ways in which freelancing is like life on a see-saw with ups and downs, how to maintain control and balance, and how to cope with swings that make us panic.

Scheduling time for each aspect helps give a sense of control. As a freelance proofreader, I try to manage the swings so that I have more control. A tip I have learnt: things may not get done unless they are scheduled. Included are suggested reminders for fun.

12 Elements to balance

1. Managing clients

Freelancers need to balance client expectations, contend with deadlines and project requirements, while ensuring you are not overextending yourself or compromising on quality. Some clients raise ‘red flags’ in our minds with their requests. Ask yourself, is this client is a good fit?

2. Managing time

Freelancers need to manage their time efficiently to juggle multiple projects, meet deadlines, and allocate time for administrative tasks, such as invoicing and client communication. Develop the habit of, firstly, scheduling projects to allow ‘wiggle room’ and secondly, working on a job in manageable stages, perhaps easiest part first (or do you prefer to get the hardest part over with?). Try time blocking. Avoid daily overwhelm by taking regular breaks.

Schedule time: #TreatTime (eg do a hobby for 15 minutes.)

3. Managing finances

Freelancers need to manage their income and expenses effectively. There are times when you’ll earn more than expected (fantastic!). Boost your savings. Other times your income may be more limited than usual. Balancing your financial stability is crucial.

Whenever I buy something for my business, eg equipment, software, a course, and receive the receipt, I open my Excel Expenses spreadsheet and list the date and expense. I feel more efficient and in control. This means I am up to date with my evidence by 6 April for filing my HMRC Self Assessment Tax Return.

When I return the completed proofread I attach my invoice – this time opening my pinned Excel Invoices spreadsheet to enter the details promptly. Go so far as preparing the invoice before completing the job so that just the final details need to be entered.

Schedule time: #AdminMonday #FinanceFriday

4. Using time efficiently in times of famine

Freelancers can experience periods of busy work schedules and high demand (feast) followed by slower times with fewer clients and projects (famine). Balancing those extremes can be challenging (see point 3). When a client cancels or postpones work, perhaps another client can be brought forward? Or ask a colleague if they could refer work. Or is it time to book some CPD – that training course you’ve had your mind on?

5. Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Freelancers need to keep their skills up to date to stay knowledgeable and instil trust. Scheduling time for ongoing training and skill improvement with client work is essential for future-proofing your business. I have completed many training courses run by the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP); if you’re a member you get a discount.

Schedule time: #TrainingTuesday

6. Balancing health and well-being

Freelancers need to maintain their physical and mental health. The demands of freelancing can lead to neglecting self-care, so finding the right balance is crucial. At least get out for some fresh air and look up at the clouds. My examples of exercise below use the hashtag popular on the socials (‘stet’ is an editing term meaning ‘Leave the marked word as it is’).

Schedule time: #StetWalk #StetRun #StetCycle #StetSwim

Or stroke a #StetPet

balance freelancing see-saw blog post

7. Networking

Building and maintaining professional relationships and networks are crucial for freelancers. Balancing that time and effort with doing paid client work is vital.

For me networking happens on a particular day when I attend two online groups on Zoom – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. One group is for all breeds of freelancers; the other is run by my Institute and is editor-specific (the CIEP).

Schedule time: #NetworkThursday

8. Marketing

Freelancers may need to promote their services to maintain a steady stream of clients. This can require a delicate balance of marketing efforts. Use social media to show up and show people your services. They won’t know what you do unless you tell them.

But, when work is challenging with a tight deadline, how do you find your next client if you have no time to do any marketing? Scheduling tools for social media posts can be your friend.

Schedule time: #MarketingMonday

9. Work–life balance

Achieving a healthy work–life balance is often a struggle for freelancers. The flexibility of freelancing can sometimes blur the lines between work and personal life, making it challenging to maintain boundaries. Anyone else work at the weekends? Sure, when necessary.

I used to resent it when I was a teacher and using my weekend for marking, assessment, and planning. There just wasn’t enough time during the week. My family suffered. I never saw them. I felt guilty. If you do feel the need to work at the weekend, make sure you balance it by taking one or two days off during the week to maintain control of your freelancing see-saw. And make time to see the people in your life who are important.

Schedule time: #FamilyFriday

10. Do a variety of projects

Freelancers often work on a variety of projects with different requirements and clients. Balancing diverse tasks and meeting client expectations is like adjusting weight on a see-saw.

I prefer to book an easy project after the challenges of a long, complicated project as a way of changing gears. Of course, what is easy to one freelancer is not easy to another; it depends on our strengths and interests. How about treats or rewards? Do you reward yourself when a task or stage or project is complete?

Schedule time: #TreatTime (This hashtag also appeared in point 2 but treats are important to me as a great motivator!)

11. To specialise or generalise?

Freelancers can take the opportunity to specialise by providing editing or proofreading services in their niche. Editors that generalise say they can edit both fiction and non-fiction. Specialists offer editing in specific genres of fiction or non-fiction. The choice is yours. Using a previous career is a good starting point for a specialism as you already have more knowledge in that field than others, eg education, law, medicine, music. Or, you may want to move into a new area.

12. Flexibility versus stability

Freelancing offers flexibility but can lack the stability of a traditional job with an employer. Balancing the desire for freedom and autonomy with the need for financial security is an ongoing challenge. Flexibility of work hours and choice of clients is preferable, but the temptation of a regular income can be strong.

Balancing

Overall, freelancing, like being on a see-saw, involves constant adjustments and careful balancing and control to ensure a successful and fulfilling freelance life.

Up and down, up and down … How do you ride the peaks and troughs? How do you stay calm? Finding the right balance for each of these aspects is a key challenge for freelancers. But so rewarding when it works!

balancing the freelancing seesaw
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5 Most Read Blog Posts

5 most read blog posts

As it’s the start of a new year I have been using Google Analytics to investigate the statistics of my website.

Tall Tartan Talks here … What did Google Search Console tell me are the most popular blog posts and pages on my website?

Content marketing

I was interested to see which posts are the most popular and how my content is helping others, whether that’s fellow freelance editorial colleagues or clients (including self-publishing authors).

This analysis is aiding me in planning content; I’m spending some admin time planning blog posts for the next six months, thinking of ways to show my expertise. How to answer questions that I see being asked on social media or in online support groups. Or, indeed, am asked directly by email. Writing blog posts is an effective way to answer those questions.

Questions asked

Questions I’ve been asked frequently are concerned with running a business as a freelancer:

  • How do I become a freelance proofreader or copyeditor? What training should I do? Where can I get support? Clue: join a professional body like the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) which gives discounts to members for training courses, as well as supportive forums and local groups, etc …
  • How do I set up a website?
  • How do I cope with feelings of overwhelm when setting up a new business?
  • How do I keep my inbox manageable?

5 Most read blog posts

I investigated the Google Analysis results and the 5 most read are seen below with links to each post. It also acts as a prompt in case you missed one and want a chance to visit the post.

  1. Review of 2022
  2. CIEP2022 conference
  3. Gardening Your Business
  4. 6 Website features you should check
  5. Manage emails

4 Most popular website pages

These pages of my website are ranked as having the most visitors:

3 Favourite blog posts to write

The following posts were my favourite to write over the last few years because they show my expertise to prospective clients:

For publishing confidence

Why blog? Having a blog post ready when a query pops into my email box makes it much easier and quicker to answer questions that are asked by fellow freelancers and clients, particularly independent authors. In short, giving the link to the post is more efficient and effective. And gives them confidence that I can help.

If you don’t have a website, sending a prospective client a link to your up-to-date LinkedIn profile will inspire confidence in that client that you have the training and expertise they need.

Two related questions I’ve been asked (to be turned into a blog post) are: What does a proofreader do/not do? And: Do you have any tips on how can I proofread my own marketing materials/writing?

If there is any topic you would like me to write a blog post about, let me know. I’m listening.

listening

Review of 2022

Review of 2022 blog post

This year I have been on a mission. A quest, if you like, to notch up as many proofreading hours as possible by gaining experience working freelance for publishers.

Tall Tartan Talks here … My quest? To cold email publishers every month since January 2022. I had been direct marketing to some extent since I started my freelance proofreading business in 2017. This year I have been dynamic in my mission.

The spreadsheet to record my cold emailing over the last 12 months has grown substantially. My strategy has worked. I’ve had more freelance work this year because I told publishers in my niche that I am available. Interested? Read further to explore my strategy.

To illustrate how my marketing year has been successful, I’ve chosen an acrostic using the letters of my name – ANNIE.

ANNIE

Adaptability

Networking

New opportunities

Inspiration

Endeavour

Adaptability

Being adaptable and completing work to fluctuating deadlines is essential to fit in with the requirements of any client, in this case, publishers.

Without a background in publishing, it was even more vital for me to ask questions if I was unsure of anything. If a contract wasn’t mentioned when I had expressed availability and interest in the project, I asked if one would be sent or if I should send my Terms & Conditions. It should be said here that an email agreement does constitute a contract, but I like to have one ready depending on the type of client. Half of the publishers who contacted me sent a contract for me to sign. The rest asked me to send mine.

Another variation was the style sheets. It was interesting to see how they varied from publisher to publisher. Some were basic. Some were extensive. When there was a lot of information to absorb, it was more manageable to make a note of the exceptions to style guides such as New Hart’s Rules. (Relevant to my UK publishers.) This way it was easier to keep track, maintain consistencies, and not get overwhelmed.

Networking

In January 2022 a small group of fellow networkers, part of the Drive the Partnership Network, began our Quest – weekly goals for January to April. Drive is a group of like-minded small business owners.

To facilitate accountability, we met once a week on Zoom for updates and motivation. We were also available via Slack messaging to share challenges and wins. It was a collaborative process: I asked for advice and offered my tips in return. It was what I needed to kick-start my mission. Thanks to Ann Hawkins and Thor Rain (First Aid for Feelings by The Helpful Clinic) for support. If you want to join the tribe at Drive get in touch with me or Ann to find out more.

New opportunities

Up until January this year I had done very little publishing work. The requests that had come through my website were mainly from self-publishing children’s authors. But, by contacting publishers in my specialist areas, eg education, English Language Teaching (ELT), and children’s books, I found that they valued the expertise evident on my website. This has led to exciting new opportunities.

One debate which occurs regularly in the editing world is whether to generalise or specialise. Personally, I have found that narrowing in by using my specialism has had huge benefits. If you are a career-changer with an expertise which makes you stand out from the editorial crowd, you are a useful person to know. Tell people!

This year, in my niche, I have carried out freelance proofreading for an ELT publisher, a publisher of history books, a packager, an educational publisher, and an NGO (charity) publishing a book for international primary schools. Interestingly these enquiries came through my website after I had done a batch of cold emailing, and not, at first, from the publishers I had contacted … Perhaps they had seen that I had shown availability on LinkedIn? I did always ask where they had found me if they didn’t mention it. Anyway, there was something in the air …

Inspiration

As well as being inspired by the members of Drive, I was pleased and proud when it transpired that some members of Drive had found my motivation to be an inspiration to them. I am a natural helper (former teacher!) and keen to help when I can. I have learnt much from others about owning and running a business, and I like giving back.

Endeavour (or 3Ps)

To me, the word endeavour encompasses the 3Ps: patience, persistence, and perseverance.

These are skills to practise in any sphere of life, but they are a lifebelt that I cling to in the running of my business. No-one said marketing would be easy.

Every quarter, when I did another batch of cold emailing, I would ensure I had added another training course to my CV. This year my Continuous Professional Development (CPD) with the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) has been the Editing Digital Content course, and How to Mark Up PDF Proofs with Denise Cowle Editorial (a discount is available to both CIEP members and those in the ELT Publishing Professionals directory.

Completing training courses to add to my range of skills has made me a more trusted professional, giving publishing confidence to new clients.

CPD and networking this year also included attending the hybrid CIEP annual conference in person in Milton Keynes, and the ELT Freelancers’ Awayday in Oxford. Both happening in September!

Marketing success

If you want success in your marketing, I recommend using my strategy for marketing directly with prospective clients. I wrote it for fellow business networkers in Drive.

Review of 2022 marketing strategy

If the above image doesn’t open a new page, use this link which opens the PDF on the Marketing Mindset page of my website.

Children’s book authors

I have helped at least three self-publishing children’s authors publish their children’s books. Three other books have been proof-edited (proofreading with additional suggestions for improvements) and are at the pre-publishing stage.

Of the children’s book publishers I have worked with this year, Black Poppies by Stephen Bourne, published by The History Press about the story of Britain’s Black community in the First World War, is a recommended read for primary schools. It was a fascinating project.

To see the other projects I have worked on see the following pages on my website and my gallery:

book cover of black poppies

My previous yearly reviews

I think it’s interesting to look back and review achievements from previous years. Here are my last reviews – in 2020 and 2019.

Notes:

2019: The bank of proofreading exercises I reviewed is available as a blog post here (written in 2022).

2020: The proofreading mentoring scheme mentioned is not currently available.

Next year

So to 2023 … Direct marketing to publishers continues.

Whatever your circumstances, here’s to a peaceful future.

review of year chocolate log

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Gardening Your Business

gardening your business blog post

Do you ever think about how you garden your business? Gardening or growing your business should be both proactive and reflective.

Mindful gardening

This blog post was inspired by a whole day I spent on mindful gardening. It was organised by a good friend and she inspired me with her content. I could relate everything she said to running my freelance proofreading business, change, and the effects on my mental health.

The participants had access to a large garden with room for ten participants to sit with space, to be still, and to be silent.

It was a luxury to close my laptop for the day and just stop. Just. Be.

Gardening themes

We were guided by her short reflections on the theme of gardening:

  • seeds
  • plants
  • compost
  • pruning
  • seasons and weather

Planting seeds

The seed of my freelance business was planted in January 2017 when I launched my business website (proofnow.co.uk) and joined the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP).

I planted more seeds by training and telling everyone I knew that, having left teaching, I was looking for proofreading clients. I watered those seeds thoroughly with marketing and publicity.

Growing plants

If you’re lucky, those seeds grow into seedlings and become stronger plants.

What has helped you to grow in your life? How have you changed as a person as you have become older? How have your life events shaped and changed you?

My ‘toddler’ business got noticed as my marketing became stronger and more confident. I built on my training. Students, businesses and a charity became my clients. Voluntary proofreading gave me experience and confidence. I added to the testimonials on my website.

Feeding compost

Seedlings and plants thrive when they are given the appropriate compost, soil, and feed.

How do you feed your life? What nutrition does your life need to stay healthy physically and mentally?

How do you feed your business? What does your weekly or monthly feed routine look like? Do you ensure all the (plate-spinning) elements of running a business are in place: emailing clients, keeping up-to-date invoices and expenses, updating admin spreadsheets, marketing, doing CPD (training)?

Two years after starting my business, I started writing my blog. My posts demonstrate my expertise, specialisms, and experiences of running a business. These posts are shared on social media for a wider reach. They have aimed traffic (potential clients, other editors, and freelancers) to my website. It’s ‘Gro-Sure’ for my business!

Pruning

At regular times in the year, pruning is needed to keep plants under control, otherwise they become untidy, too big, and take moisture from smaller plants underneath or nearby. Plants can be trained through pruning to grow in a symmetrical, balanced way or in a certain direction. Or dead stems can be removed.

What have you cut or pruned in your life? What wasn’t working and had to be removed? How has your life changed direction? How did you preserve your physical and mental health? 

Every quarter I review the direction of my business. Looking back, I evaluate how much I have achieved of my annual plan and then review. I ask myself, what do I have to do more? What can I do less? The next quarter’s plan is tweaked. And my website is brought up to date.

I like the term ‘pivoting’. (Think of that scene in Friends when Ross is trying to get the sofa up the stairs with the ‘help’ of his friends. “Pivot! Pivot!”) It means a change in direction.

A life-changing prune happened in my life in December 2015 when I left the classroom with health issues. It took a year for me to work out what direction that prune would have on my family, career, and future. I had been the main wage earner during my 30-year teaching career.

I’m satisfied that what came next was the best outcome. That painful prune led to greatly improved mental health.

Patterns of seasons and weather

Winter, spring, summer and autumn give the garden it’s natural seasonal pattern and rhythm. Plants and people respond to different levels of light and warmth.

How do you feel when the number of daylight hours is at its lowest? What is your favourite season? When is your mood at its best?

What season is your business in? Sometimes I feel I’m in the springtime of my business: the number of clients is increasing; I am reaching out to publishers and accepting new, regular clients. I am reaching out to those clients I want to work with. Marketing is helping me to grow my business.

Do your clients react to seasons? Are some months quieter than others? Do some months need more marketing to attract clients? How do you plan for when there are quiet times in your business? In the gaps, can you take a spontaneous week’s holiday … or do some training?

How do you cope with a deluge of rain or storms? How do you juggle busy times when your services are in demand? Or when projects are delayed then land together? How do you schedule projects?

‘Twine’ to round up

How do we respond to the physical and mental hurly-burly of everyday life?

Have you got a garden? Does gardening help your mental health?

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For a Quiet Garden near you: quietgarden.org/

More Website Features You Should Check (Part 2)

more website featrures you should check (part 2)

Since I wrote ‘6 Website Features You Should Check’ to help you make sure your website is up to date and relevant, I have added to that list.

Here is the original list:

  1. Contact email address
  2. Contact form
  3. Spelling, punctuation and grammar
  4. Copyright date in the footer
  5. ‘I’ rather than ‘we’
  6. A photo of you, the business owner.

Tall Tartan Talks here … Following learning and keen to make my website as efficient as possible I commissioned a fellow freelancer (a WordPress expert) to do a review of my website. An MOT, if you like. I am grateful for the many tips she recommended.

4 more features to check

Therefore, in addition, I recommend checking these features:

  1. SSL certificate
  2. New tab settings
  3. Broken links
  4. Error 404 message

Go on, look again … Open a new tab and work through your website and my list.

What and how to fix

1.What is an SSL certificate?

You are researching a topic and click on a website link. It opens. You notice that the padlock on the top left of the website URL (address) is missing. It appears with the message ‘Not secure’.

Some URLs start with http:// while others start with https. Maybe you noticed that extra ‘s’ when you were browsing websites that require giving sensitive information, like paying bills. But where does that extra ‘s’ come from and what does it mean? Your website host should provide you with an SSL certificate. If your website is missing that extra ‘s’, it could put off potential clients.

2. Setting new tabs

Adding content to your web pages might include a linking to another page of your website, eg Contact page with a hyperlink, or linking to another website you recommend.

If a visitor to your website receives an Error 404, there is an error loading that page, or a page link is broken. A quick and easy way to check that you’ve minimised this problem is to check that the links in your website work. Just google ‘broken links’ – you’ll find a selection of websites to help.

When I checked, I found many broken links. Aaargh! It seems I had tweaked and moved my pages around my website muchly over the last couple of years; I hadn’t checked that links still worked. They do now!

4. Personalising your 404 page

Have you tried personalising your Error 404 plug-in? Thanks to another freelancing colleague for that tip. If you feel creative, you could take your branding all the way through to the pages that break. 

You hope that visitors to your website won’t ever see the Error 404 message, but, if they do, they will still see you, your personality and your message, with a link that you’ve placed there redirecting them back to your homepage.

Are you up to date now?

Remember, your website is your shop window. Does it work efficiently? Does it represent you and your business?

And here’s Part 1: 6 Website Features You Should Check in case you missed it.

Interested in branding? Read my blog post on My Branding Process.

Cheery wave from computer. More website feaures you schould check (part 2)
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Summer of Study

Summer of Study blog post

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 shortcuts: 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 Word for Practical Editing 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 period of work famine, I wanted to take the opportunity to spend some time at the seaside. My children are grown-up and busy. I was able to escape and book a self-catering apartment in Hunstanton (Norfolk), a two-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 of record-keeping.

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.

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 asked 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 Estate 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.

Hunstanton cliffs

The stripy Hunstanton cliffs, West Norfolk.

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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.

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6 Website Features You Should Check

6 website features you should check (part 1)

Have you started your freelance business? Do you have a website? Are you concerned that you don’t have much yet to put on a website?

You may feel terrified at the thought of building a website.

Or have you owned a website for ages? Have things changed in your business? Perhaps your website needs refreshing.

Tall Tartan Talks here … Whether you are a new or established freelancer, it is vital to give prospective clients who come across your website the impression that your features are correct and up to date.

Fear not. I have made a list of website features that you should check, which won’t take a moment for you to fix.

Go on, have a look … Open up a new tab, find the admin section of your website, and work through my list.

Website features to check

  1. Contact email address
  2. Contact form
  3. Spelling, punctuation and grammar
  4. Correct copyright date in the footer
  5. ‘I’ rather than ‘we’
  6. A photo of you, the business owner.

How to fix

1. Contact email address

If you have a website, it appears more professional if your email address is linked to your domain name. For example, my website is proofnow.co.uk. My business email is annie@proofnow.co.uk.

Make sure the spelling of your email address is correct on your website. An error means potential clients, or fellow colleagues, can’t reach you. They will give up and try someone else.

It is personal choice whether to display your phone number or not. Some freelancers like their customers to book a call, so their number may be linked to a Call To Action (CTA) button.

Being contacted by WhatsApp, in my opinion, is the worst way to communicate for business. I keep that app for friends and family. Others don’t want to be disturbed by phone but would rather be contacted by email. Whatever your preferred form of communication, make sure it is apparent and correct on your website.

2. Contact form

A contact form on your website is effective for reducing spam. But ensure it is connected to your email address and messages can get through. It is frustrating for potential clients to send a message only for it to be lost in the ether. Check your contact form works by emailing yourself or asking a friend to test it.

3. Spelling, punctuation and grammar

This may seem obvious, but check the spelling, punctuation and grammar. Proofreading the content is vital, especially if you are providing your services as an editor or proofreader.

It is difficult to proofread your own writing because you see what you think is there, not what is actually there. You may have redrafted a phrase and the sense has gone? Yep! Again, ask a friend to check the content for you.

4. Correct copyright date in the footer

Have you ever scrolled all the way down to the bottom of a website page you are browsing? There is usually a date at the bottom – the copyright date. It should show the current year or the range of years of business.

You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) how many websites look out of date because the footer hasn’t been updated. Even well-known and established brands have overlooked small details like this.

If the date is wrong, how can we trust other content on the website to be correct?

5. ‘I’ rather than ‘we’

This is a style feature. If you are a sole trader, you own your freelance business. It’s just you, not a team. Do you use ‘I’ or ‘we’?

‘I’ is more personal and gives the impression that you are talking directly to me. I can get a sense of you and your business from your website. ‘We’ gives the impression that you are part of a team providing the service.

Be honest with your content. If you use ‘we’, who else are you talking about? What are the names of the people in your team and where are their photos? That brings me on to the next heading.

6. A photo of the website owner

I am aware that not everyone likes to see themselves in a photograph. But a photo of the freelancer brings a personal touch to their website. I can put a face to the name of the business.

It’s not hard to upload a selfie. If it is an up-to-date photo, even better. If you can afford to get a professional headshot taken by someone who can show your personality … fantastic!

Some freelancers use a logo instead. It’s a personal choice. Whatever image you use, make sure it is the same on your website as in any networking groups and social media channels you use.  If you use a photo, we’ll recognise you quicker. You will become a familiar face. And we’ll remember you.

Keep your website fresh

If these features are in place and appear current, the potential clients looking at your website will know that they can trust you. You will give a good impression. The client may even be convinced to ask for your services.

There are other features I haven’t mentioned, but those mentioned here are a start and will point you in the right direction.

Websites are never finished. Don’t think that once it is built, that’s all you need to do. You need to tweak it monthly, at least.

If you add new content, for example, a fresh testimonial, it will keep your website up to date and fresh.

Why your website is important

If you keep these six points in mind, your website will help you come across as a trustworthy and confident professional.

Remember, your website is your shop window.

You may just prefer to rely on a profile on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook to help you persuade clients to book your services. But you own your website. It belongs to you and isn’t at the whim of the social media algorithms.

Your website needs to work for you and represent who you are. Be proud of it!

more website features you shold check

Next: More Website Features You Should Check (Part 2)

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One Day in My Life as a Proofreader

One Day in my Life as a Proofreader blog

We all need a routine and a structure.  Here I describe one day in my life as a proofreader, editor and primary tutor.

Having a business mindset will help structure your daily routine.

Tall Tartan Talks here … Think of yourself as a business owner rather than ‘just’ a freelancer. Knowing your value and worth will help.

Morning

In winter, my routine starts at 7 am; in summer it starts at 6 am. I used to be an owl and stay up late. As I hit middle age I turned into a lark with my day starting earlier and earlier.

It also depends on when my husband gets up. He sits at the dining table eating breakfast and reading a book. I mix a mug of hot water and lemon juice, sit at the other end of the table (the end that is my ‘office’), and switch on my laptop.

He often spends the day gardening for clients and leaves the house early to cycle to work.

Emails

I find that the morning is the best time for me to respond to emails. Mostly I wake up thinking about phrasing a reply to a received email. Or, I have had a lightbulb moment about who to contact for a possible proofreading job.

I leave the emails in my draft folder, making a note to send them at 9am, which is the start of standard business hours.

Freelancers are as varied as the routines and schedules they follow. Flexibility is key as deadlines can determine the hours worked.

Tasks

At this time of the day, I may also get on with one of these tasks:

  • work on a proofreading or editing project
  • research facts for a proofreading project or blog post
  • complete a stage of a CPD training course
  • prepare a primary tuition lesson.

9:00 am: By the time Mr D has cycled off to work, I have usually done several sets of the Pomodoro timing technique. I have completed a couple of hours of work or admin. I realise that I am hungry and should eat some breakfast. A break and a change of view is needed.

I take my Android tablet through to the living room, to a soft chair, where I can sit at the window and look out into the main street. I peruse the comings and goings outside my house, as well as those onscreen in the online newspaper reviews.

9:30 am: My sons (both in their 20s) have gone about their business. They are old enough to be independent, thank goodness. I get on with the next part of the morning routine.

structure of day

10:30 am: Oldest son switches on the coffee machine for elevenses. By now, I have usually logged on to the CIEP (Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading) forums to view discussions. Since I joined the CIEP in 2017, the forums have become my online staffroom.

Social media

After coffee, I check social media and may post some content marketing, especially on Linkedin, whether that be freelancer business tips or a blog post.

If you don’t already, search for and follow my hashtags on Linkedin: #TallTartanTips and #TallTartanTalks (previously called #TallTartanTells). Then you won’t miss any of my tips.

Getting on with the day

For the next two hours, my routine continues. I may answer an email proofreading enquiry. The reply conversation goes like this:

  1. Receive an email through the contact form on my website. Currently I am getting enquiries from new, independent children’s authors. They ask if I’m available and how much I charge.
  2. I direct them towards the appropriate page of my website and give them my availability.
  3. I ask them to send the document so I can give a personalised quote. Or send, at the very least,  a 1,000 word sample from the middle of their text so I can judge how long it will take me to proofread. (The beginning and ends of the text are usually much better.)
  4. From that sample I can give them a quote. If the project needs my educational specialism, I will also factor in my 30 years of experience as a teacher. I know the value and knowledge I bring to a project.
  5. If the timing and rate suits them, I book them in by sending them a copy of my Terms & Conditions. (See templates in the Resources on my website). If the job is large (over 15,000 words) and is going to take a few days, I send an invoice for the deposit for them to secure a slot in my schedule.

Afternoon

1:00 pm: Lunch – joined by Mr D (if he is having a painting day in his garden studio). We have been enjoying some comforting homemade soup. A perk of being freelance means I can take as much or as little time for lunch as needed.

2:00 pm: Desperate for some exercise and fresh air by now, I realise that it is time to take my eyes away from the screen.

For 30 minutes, I either head to the shops in town, or I take a brisk walk in the opposite direction, propelled by my walking poles, towards the nearby countryside.

Break time with a cup of tea

3:30 pm: Time for a break to move around after another spell on the laptop, and to make a pot of tea. Fruit is the preferred snack if I’m being good. Cake on a Friday …

4:00 pm: Take part in a Zoom networking meeting. It could be CIEP Cloud Club West, or my accountability group, or another. Or it may be a tuition day when I tutor a primary-age child on Zoom.

5:00 pm: Time to wind down. I consider the achievements and the work I haven’t fitted in today. Notes are made for tomorrow, added to the e-list on my smartphone. I like the Evernote app.

Next, cooking the family dinner is a welcome distraction.

Past habits

When I was teaching primary children full-time (I Ieft the classroom in 2016), I left home at 7:30 am to be at school to prepare my classroom.

I left school each day at 6pm with a trolley-box full of the workbooks I hadn’t had time to mark after 3.15 pm.

I would continue to mark for at least a couple of hours in the evening. It became relentless after doing it for 30 years. I didn’t see much of my own children while I was busy educating the children of others.

Being the boss

When you own your business, you are your own boss. The responsibility is on you to do everything. This will either terrify you or excite you.

You and you alone are in charge of tasks like email admin, IT support (computer and website, and knowing what to do if something goes wrong or know who to ask); accounting (keeping track of income and expenses). Remember to plan time for networking, CPD and marketing. It helps if you know what to do if something goes wrong, or you know who to ask.

But I get a thrill from running my business efficiently and by doing some of the required tasks each day.

If chores get too overwhelming, break down each element of your big task into smaller chunks.

Relaxing in the evening

7:30 pm: I have a last check of my emails and social media. Then they all get switched off, and I turn to something else. Maybe a book. As I got up so early in the morning, I’m usually running out of steam by this point.

I only work evenings or weekends if I have an urgent deadline or there is a rush job. I charge accordingly for working overtime.

After decades of working an infinite number of unsociable hours, I realise the major importance of having a work–life balance. Having a sense of my self-worth is vital.

Here is the link to my blog page if you want to catch up with previous posts.

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5 Highlights From 2020

5 highlights from 2020

As weird as 2020 was, I have a few highlights from the year.

Tall Tartan Talks here … As I mentioned last year in my review of 2019, life as a freelancer has its ups and downs. This year has been, for some people, an extreme of that precarious situation.

Luckily, my freelance work life is mainly online, so I count myself blessed that I haven’t been affected too much.

I want to tell you about highlights in five areas. Well, more really, but five is a factor of 2020, so it sounded better.

Highlights

  1. Training
  2. Networking
  3. Rebranding
  4. Tutoring
  5. Cold emailing

1. Training

This year has been for me principally a year of learning and adding to my Continuous Professional Development (CPD) with the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP).

  • In December last year I began the proofreading mentoring scheme. By May I had completed it. It was a unique opportunity to have experience of  a wide range of real jobs with guidance and virtual hand holding from a highly experienced Advanced Professional CIEP member. I wrote about it in the blog post Editing Training Part 2.
  • A group of us formed an informal Accountability Group. Consisting of other CIEP members, it prompted me to achieve many CPD goals.
  • I attended the CIEP online conference in November. A huge highlight!
  • I completed the CIEP Copyediting 1: Introduction course.

2. Networking

Along with everyone else in the world in 2020, since March, all my networking has been carried out on Zoom. It’s a necessary evil.

A particular networking highlight this year was that I, along with other international members of CIEP, formed our Accountability Group. (Yes, I am mentioning this again …)

We share our goals fortnightly on a Zoom call. We use the messaging app Slack to have daily chats about wins and rants. It is our safe space.

Without their encouragement I wouldn’t have achieved half of what I have done this year.

3. Rebranding

This time last year, I aimed to research how I wanted the branding on my website and social media profiles to appear. I considered branding, my brand identity, values and colours. This is described in the My Branding Process blog post. I am particularly proud of this 2020 highlight.

I tweaked my website; made sure the Contact form worked; added an Upload file widget so that potential clients can add a sample of what they want me to proofread to their query.

I subtly changed the titles of my blog posts. Originally tagged #TallTartanTells, this was changed to #TallTartanTalks.

To help with tips for general efficiency, I wrote this blog post called Managing Emails after I read a book on productivity. Clearing your emails once a day by ensuring you have an inbox-zero situation can clear the head and prevent worry.

Sadly, I am not as strict with myself as I was when I wrote that blog post. Workload weight means that I tend to have a clear-out once a week these days … It has become a Friday job.

4. Tutoring

After such a busy couple of years of tutoring in 2018–19, I was worn out by the beginning of the year.

review of the year

By March, tuition had moved online using Zoom and interactive teaching software. Boy, was that a challenge! How to get the work to parents? How to ensure interactive learning?

More than half a year on, the online tuition routines are well established: work is emailed before the lesson, a variety of resources are enjoyed, and pupils can even share their screens.

The main highlight? Not travelling to their homes. The extra time taken to plan an interactive and challenging lesson, then email the parents with the information; versus the time saved by not commuting …

I wrote two blog posts with teaching tips this year: How I Teach English and How Do You Learn?

In July, one of my pupils left Year 6 (age 11) thereby finishing primary school. The two sessions of tuition per week I had done with them for two years became available.

The main reason I became freelance was to be in control of my work–life balance. Consequently, I took the decision not to fill those spaces with more pupils because I was losing that balance. Saying no to work is never easy, but preserving mental health is a priority.

Instead I did more editing and proofreading CPD using the extra time I had gained.

5. Cold-emailing

With my updated training skills and new branding, I was ready to offer my further proofreading skills to educational publishers and publishers of children’s books.

The last time I cold-emailed publishers (about 18 months ago) I invested a tremendous amount of emotional energy in the process. I thought about it far too much – not good.

This time I was wiser. I bought the Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2020. I made a list of websites, contact names and email addresses. Once I had researched a publisher, certain that they published what I was interested in proofreading, the cold emailing began.

I found TextExpander very useful for giving me shortcuts for repeated phrases, so that they were much quicker to type, e.g. my email address, phrases like proofreader available, etc … Even a whole email was saved in my snippets so that it appeared when a simple shortcut “//query” was typed!

My CV was updated with my new branding, training and most recent experience. and I attached it, with the body of each short email acting as a covering letter.

However, it is important to bear in mind that the return reply rate is statistically low – a minimum of one in ten. This time I put emotion and desperation to one side in order to become businesslike and pragmatic.

Since then I have learnt that publishers aren’t keen on receiving email attachments. Therefore I now add a P.S. stating that my C.V. is available.

Once the batch of emails was sent for the day, I put them to the back of my mind, and got on with other jobs.

I am grateful to have received a couple of positive replies from publishers responding that they would add me to their books.

review of the year

Children’s book authors

Having re-vamped my website, I pushed the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) on the page which advertises to children’s book authors.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise then when I had several enquiries from independent children’s authors (self-publishing). When I asked them how they had found me (I’m in several directories), their answer was always “Google”.

A proof-editing job I enjoyed was a series of 9 stories for young children. They featured the adventures of the same small character. I suggested tips for consistency across the series.  The author asked for advice on self-publishing. They weren’t the first to enquire.

I searched the hive mind that is the CIEP forums and found some gems of advice to pass on. I really hope the author publishes next year. Fingers crossed!

Perhaps I should add self-publishing advice for authors to my list of aims for next year …

Next year

So, to 2021 … plans need to be considered and formed, no matter what is going on in the world.

For the readers who haven’t seen them, look out for my hashtags #TallTartanTips and #TallTartanTalks on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. They link to the blog posts which promote my editing and educational skills, as well as giving advice and tips.

Whatever your circumstances, here’s to the future, hoping 2021 is better.

review of the year

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