One Day in My Life as a Proofreader

one day in my life as a proofreader

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

Freelancers like me find ways to work, rest and play to optimise our mental health and pay the bills.

Hello, this is #TallTartanTalks … It’s more professional to think of yourself as a business owner than a freelancer. Both are correct, but having the mindset of authority and worth will help you get on with what’s required of the day.

Morning

In winter, my routine starts at 7am; in summer it starts at 6am. I used to be an owl, but, as I hit middle age, I turned into a lark with my day starting earlier and earlier. It also depends when my husband gets up – he often works for gardening clients.

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 end of the table (that end is my ‘office’), switch on my laptop, and start drafting emails.

Emails

I find that early morning routine is the best time for me to write down my email responses. Mostly, I wake up thinking about phrasing a reply to a received email. Or, I have had a brainwave 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 – the start of official business hours when sensible folk begin their day.

I say sensible … Freelancers are as varied as the routines and schedules they follow. Flexibility is key as deadlines 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.

9:00am: When Tom has cycled off to work, I have usually done two sets of the Pomodoro timing technique and completed a couple of hours of work or admin. I realise that I really 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.

9:30am: 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.

morning coffee

10:30am: 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

Afterwards, 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, find and follow my hashtags on Linkedin and Twitter: #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. At the moment I am getting enquiries from students and new, indie children’s authors. They ask if I’m available and how much I charge.
  2. Reply with my availability. At the moment I am booked up for the next month.
  3. If they can wait, I ask for a 1,000 word sample from the middle of their text to judge how long it will take me to proofread. (The beginning and ends of the text are usually much better, so not always a good way to judge.)
  4. From that sample I can give them a quote. I have increased my prices now that I have completed intense proofreading training over the last three years. If the project needs my educational specialism, I will also factor in my 30 years of experience as a teacher. I know my value and the 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 going to take a few days, I send an invoice for the deposit to secure that slot.

Afternoon

lunch

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

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

For 30 minutes, either I wheel my shopping trolley to the shops in town or take a brisk walk in the opposite direction towards the nearby countryside.

Cup of tea

3:30pm: 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 …

4:00pm: Take part in a Zoom CIEP networking meeting. It could be Cloud Club West, my accountability group (which chats daily on Slack). Or it may be a tuition day when I tutor a primary child on Zoom.

5:00pm: Time to wind down. I consider the work I haven’t fitted in today. This will be carried over to tomorrow, added to the e-list on my smartphone. Appointments for Zoom calls are written in my paper diary.

The past

When I was teaching primary children full-time (Ieft in 2016), I left home at 7:30am to be in the classroom. By 6:00pm I left school with a box trolley full of the workbooks I hadn’t had time to mark.

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 children while I was busy educating other people’s children.

Being my own boss

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

You and you alone are in charge: secretarial and admin; your computer, website and knowing what to do if something goes wrong, or know who to ask; keeping track of income and expenses; networking; training; marketing.

But I get a thrill from running my business efficiently; by doing a bit of the above, each day. If it gets too overwhelming, break each element down into smaller chunks.

Evening

7:00pm: Listen to The Archers on BBC Radio 4. My mother typed the scripts when she worked at Pebble Mill in Birmingham where it was recorded in the 1950s. This time in my routine is sacrosanct.

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

I only work evenings or weekends if I have a deadline. I charge for overtime accordingly.

After decades of working an infinite number of unsociable hours, I realise the major importance of a work/life balance and my self-worth.

logging off

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.

Review of 2020

#TallTartanTalks 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 5 areas. Well, more really, but 5 is a multiple of 2020, so it sounded better.

  1. Training
  2. Networking
  3. Rebranding
  4. Tutoring
  5. Proofreading jobs

1. Training

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

  • 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.
  • Attended the CIEP online conference in November. A huge highlight!
  • 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. The process is described in 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 to their query of what they want me to proofread.

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

After a blog post review by Jammy Digital, I removed the ‘Tall Tartan Talks’ from the URLs of the blog posts to be clearer and to the point, with key words added to make the posts relevant for more effective SEO. The #TTT hashtags continue to be used for illustration and content branding purposes.

To help with tips for general efficiency, I wrote this blog post about 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 during 2018–19, I was worn out by the beginning of this year.

phew

By March, tuition had moved online using Zoom and interactive teaching software. Boy, that was 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. Mmm, 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 about VAK learning.

In July, one of my pupils left Year 6, aged 11, thereby finishing primary school. So the 2 sessions of tuition per week I had done with them for 2 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. Proofreading jobs

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’ and 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. It was attached with 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 1 in 10. This time I put emotion and desperation to one side to become business-like and pragmatic.

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.

it is what it is

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

So, 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.

2021

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Manage Emails

manage emails

Would you like to get your email inbox down to zero by the end of each day? I didn’t know such a thing was possible. You may wonder – inbox zero – what magic is this?

#TallTartanTalks here … I have started reading a non-fiction business book called Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott.

One particular chapter which struck me immediately was about managing your emails. His strategies were revolutionary for me. This blog post is a review of that chapter.

I *was* one of those people who had over 200 emails in each of my three inboxes. I sorted them occasionally. Inevitably, if I include my smartphone, I was prone to checking them far too often. Always scrolling through social media. Just like you.

Cluttered inbox

I starred or flagged some important or urgent emails for easy reference, but my inbox was becoming unmanageable. My professional email, [email protected] was the fullest. My personal gmail account didn’t look much better.

Then, I found Ninja Email Processing, the chapter where Graham says, “Be a Ninja – take a ruthless approach to emails!” Now I adopt his strategy daily.

Interested? This is how you do it.

Reduce your inbox to zero daily

The bare bones of how to get started are:

  1. Open emails
  2. Create three new files: Action, Read, Waiting
  3. Scan the first couple of lines of each email. If it needs to be dealt with immediately, move into Action. If it isn’t important, move to Read. If you are waiting for someone else to action, move to Waiting.

I used to look at my growing email notifications, groan inwardly, feel fear and overwhelm, avoid, then stress about what might be in my inbox. When I was waiting for a particular email from a client, I would pause a job whenever a notification sounded, whether that job was proofreading, or tuition preparation. I had to check then and there who it was from.

STOP!

Graham suggests that the problem needs to be viewed in a different way: your email inbox is just where your emails land; don’t check your emails, process your emails; and don’t let your emails nag you all day.

Strategy

Firstly, look at your inbox as a landing page, not a to-do list. We tend to keep the emails in that inbox so we don’t lose them. The answer? New folders need to be created to hold actionable emails, and those emails which can be deferred.

Secondly, restrict checking emails to three times a day: first thing in the morning, or 9am (or whenever your business day starts); and 4:30pm to give you 30 minutes of reducing your email list to zero. Or later, if you don’t stop on the dot of 5pm. You may also want to check emails at lunchtime. Me … I am slowly restricting my addiction of reading of emails after 8pm … The same goes for checking social media or Slack. (My excuse is that some of my colleagues are in a different time zone.)

How to process (not check) emails:

  1. Scan the first email for a couple of seconds. Don’t hang about. Ask yourself, is it vital I action this? If yes, move to Action.
  2. Scan the next email. If someone is acknowledging they will action something you have delegated, move to Waiting. This guarantees that you will have a reminder to follow this up.
  3. If the next email is something not at all urgent but for perusing, say, a subscription which you want to read at your leisure, move to Read. Don’t start reading it now.
  4. Repeat steps 1–3.
  5. By the end of 30 minutes, there should be zero emails in your inbox.
  6. Repeat three times a day.

management

Subject folders

You may be like me and organise your emails into many subject or archive folders. Again, this can get out of hand. My next job is to whittle those down to more efficient descriptors. So that when I have gone through my burgeoning Read file, I will move each email to a re-named folder. Or delete it.

Graham’s theory is that if you have only three files to move the incoming emails into, it makes decision-making and sorting much easier. Agonising will be reduced to a manageable level.

If, say after a week, you look in the Read folder and email subject is no longer current or valid, delete. Or move it to an archive folder.

One of Graham’s tips is to think of a set of Ds: decide, do, delegate, defer, delete.

Cut the dead wood

Perhaps you subscribe to newsletters by email. For example, if you follow particular people for their business or subject knowledge … there are many out there. It may be time to review them and prune who you subscribe to.

Try subscribing to one for six months. Count how many of their newsletters you actually read (and follow the advice suggested) in those six months. Be honest. Be brutal. Cut out the dead wood and unsubscribe if the answer is only one or two. That is one way to reduce the number of emails you get.

If you are successful with this method, you will feel you have more control over those incoming emails.

Information overload

Information overload is a threat to our productivity, so I recommend Graham’s book if you want to be proactive about reducing that overload. By managing your emails, and your time, by procrastinating less, you can focus on your priorities.

There you have it. If you learnt something from this post, find my other blog posts about my freelancing business here.

I look forward to finishing the book. Guess what – I have signed up for his newsletter.

Background: Graham Allcott

Founder of Think Productive (@thinkproductive), Graham Allcott is an entrepreneur, author, speaker and podcaster, coaching strategies for business and time management. He is host of the podcast Beyond Busy. His book was first published by Icon Books Publication in 2014, and totally revised in 2019 because of the advances in technology.

Other chapters in Graham’s book include:

  • The Organize Habit
  • The Review Habit
  • The Do Habit
  • Stop Messing About on Your Phone

 

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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!

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About Websites and Marketing

marketing

Much has happened since I first wrote, a year ago, about marketing my proofreading business, so this is the update. How I told the world I was open for business.

Building a website, social media and content marketing were the essential strategies I used, back in 2017, to proclaim my arrival about my new services as a proofreader.

In a previous episode, ‘Business Plan and Training’, I detailed how I became a freelancer offering proofreading services after decades as a Primary school teacher. In this tweaked blog post, I describe how I decided on my marketing strategy and how it has evolved.

As a freelance business owner, I know some folks who still cringe at the thought of putting any personal details ‘out there’. Or haven’t got the interest or skills in building a website. But, in my opinion, how else are you going to advertise your services or get business unless you are a presence on-line? There is also plenty of support out there if you need guidance.

A ‘shop window’

A website is essential: you need a ‘shop window’ to display your business”. These were the words of my Business Mentor at my local Job Centre when they helped me set up as a self-employed proofreader. So, the process of choosing a website domain, a host, designing my website, plus researching the content marketing world of social media was a steep learning curve.

But I have come far over the last two years!

Also, in recent months, I have seen many people entering the world of editing and proofreading who are asking all the questions I asked then.  So this might help. What follows is what I did.

Build a website

By January 2017, my NEA (New Enterprise Allowance) Business Plan (with People Plus) had been approved, and I was told by my mentor to go away and build a website. The only domain name which was available and that I liked the sound of was Proofnow. So that was the easy part. Proofnow Proofreader was born.

“How do I build a website?” My only experience had been editing my class page on the website of the school where I taught.

I chose my first website host. Fair enough, the building of each page was fairly straightforward: I added Services, Pricing and About pages, with a few photographs for variety; I emphasised my previous career as a teacher with efficient marking skills – this would be my USP. I could add a couple of testimonials after getting some proofreading work.

Tweaking

Although I was pleased with the look of the site on the desktop of the PC, it looked dreadful on my mobile. One tip I had read was that your website must be viewable on all devices.

At the end of my first year, I knew I had to find a different host. So, I did some fairly intense research to find my next website host. John Espirian (relentlessly helpful technical copywriting for B2B websites, LinkedIn nerd) gives good advice as well as offering discounts on his website. One such offer is with Siteground for hosting, amongst others, WordPress.

New website

I copied everything over, probably using old-fashioned techniques, and not how a website designer would do it … But, after a couple of phone calls to Siteground customer service to solve the odd glitch – they were very supportive – I was up and active with my new host. What a relief!

Over time, I read and researched more about how your website should be less about you and more about how you can solve problems for your potential client. This gave me the courage to tweak the theme and wording.

Basic website tips

  • easy to read, clear font
  • your headshot and/or logo
  • your services – what you can do for your client
  • contact details – how does a new client get in touch with you?
  • Say less of what ‘I’ can do but what ‘you’, the client, needs. How can you (the freelance) can solve their (client) problem?
  • match the branding on your website with that on your social media sites where you will publish and market your website. In other words: same headshot, same banner, same headline/tagline for consistent marketing. (A JE tip.)
  • Designing your brand is made easier by choosing prepared designs from a free app.  Canva is a design programme for those who have basic technical skills. I found it really useful when ensuring consistency in designing the banners for marketing my website and social media profile pages. This represents ‘joined-up marketing’.

Everything I tried with my website involved trial and error, with the undo button at hand. Also, with sheer surprise if something worked first time!

Visibility

Now, having been with WordPress for two years, I am now happy with my website and proud of what I have achieved so far. It is easy to self-manage and looks good on a desktop, tablet and smartphone. Statistics show that mobile devices are used more for browsing websites than any other. Indeed, smartphones mean that websites can be viewed immediately when a link is shared. So, it is essential that your website works, and looks good. Anywhere.

Social media

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, …? What kind of social media do you prefer? Where are you going to share your website? What kind of content marketer are you? I know some folks who steer well clear. They’re just not interested. I know some folks who do it ALL. Is that a good idea? Does it work? Does it GET you work?

Facebook

The first thing I did on Facebook when I started my business was to advertise Proofnow Proofreader as a business Facebook page because I understood it.

This year I have joined more Facebook support groups. Anything you need reassurance for, it’s there, whether you are a freelancer, editor, proofreader or tutor.

Here are some of the Facebook groups I enjoy which you could try:

LinkedIn

I was fortunate to attend a workshop on LinkedIn run by fellow SfEP-er John Espirian at the SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) annual conference in 2018: ‘How not to be a LinkedIn Loser’. I learnt A LOT. He gives results of methods he has tried to make the algorithm work for him, then passes on the tips. In fact, I’m going to see John talk on this very subject at the Cambridge Social Media Day (#CSMDay2019) just up the M11 from me, in November, when I will undoubtedly top up my social media skills.

LinkedIn tips

He recommends liking and commenting on the posts of others to engage in conversation, rather than sharing (which is a Twitter algorithym). This raises the visibility of your profile. To some, LinkedIn is where important contacts can be followed, and serious business connections can be made. Work may even follow. This is my favourite way to post my blog posts where colleagues  can engage. Here is my LinkedIn page. Judge for yourself. Why don’t you try personalising your invite to connect? Then I will understand how we can help each other.

LinkedIn is also beneficial as recommendations can be made. After doing a proofreading job on a punctuation book for children, I was able to send the author a link where she could write a testimonial. It’s impactful because the focus is on the client to write it for you.

Twitter

On Twitter, retweeting (sharing) posts of those you follow, and your own posts improves engagement. I engage on Twitter because a lot of SfEP members are there. An educational author even got in touch and offered me a proofreading job! Here is my Twitter page.

Like, comment, share

Having read a HUGE array of tips about content marketing, everything I have learnt has been by osmosis, by watching how others do it. However, it IS an effort to stay on top of content on social media.  When following those you subscribe to for tips and advice, it is imperative to be selective. Take control and make your inbox manageable. Or it can become addictive or overwhelming. And you never get any work done.

Content marketing

If you want to share content, planning is vital. Blogging, for instance, is far more effective if subjects are planned for the long term. Then fit in spontaneous posts when giving a reaction to situations. I try to publish a blog post monthly – it’s scary how quickly those months go.

When I share a #TallTartanTells blog post, I aim to do it on a day when I am at home and have the time to like and comment on the engagement. This is timetabled in my diary.  As a result, when I engage, my website viewing statistics improve rapidly.

Others prefer to use scheduling tools (like Buffer and Hootsuite) so that the timings of content posting are automatic. The worry of manual posting is removed.

Next …

In my next blog post I will return to the subject of Primary tuition, and how it links to educational publishers as clients. You can read my introduction to this theme in my blog post here.

 

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SfEP2019 Conference

Several highlights from my time in Birmingham at Conference Aston with the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) include great company with colleagues, lots to learn, and laughs galore.

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The theme of the conference was ‘In the beginning was the word’. My chosen sessions were:

  • Speed networking
  • The art of querying
  • Mindfulness
  • Lightning talks
  • Microsoft Word styles into Adobe InDesign
  • A training toolbox for editors
  • The six habits of highly effective editors
  • Grammar amnesty (bring your grammar questions)

Speed networking

This is the first conference (out of three so far) when I have had the courage to attend the speed networking session. Fellow editors and proofreaders have five minutes to talk to the person opposite about business, ask questions, pick up tips, and share business cards. Then delegates on one side of the room rotate … I was able to promote my website blog #TallTartanTells and my weekly LinkedIn tips #TallTartanTips for newbie freelancers. One of my favourite sessions.

Quiz: #TeamKevin

Saturday ended with dinner (with a Mexican Chilli theme – not my favourite) and THE Quiz. I sat next to Matt Pinnock, a friend from Essex, and Sophie Playle (fellow Herts & Essex local group member). Team Kevin was decided as a *memorable* name. Matt and others were superb with their general knowledge and song first-liner facts. We won Heroes chocolates. (See photo. Nikki Brice is in the background.)

Sunday: Whitcombe lecture

The first prestigious speaker of #sfep2019 was Chris Brookmyre, a Scottish crime thriller writer who was hilariously interesting and entertainingly rude. Especially about his sub-editor days and the Amazon reviews of over 20 books he has written with the ‘tartan noir’ theme. I’m ashamed to say this is the first time I have come across this term. So, I have ‘bookmarked’ a couple of his less bloody books to acquire.

The art of querying

Gerard Hill led a superb workshop on how to phrase queries to clients. He presented a series of real-life texts he had copy-edited and proofread. We questioned, discussed, analysed, and decided whether to ‘stet’ (leave alone), correct, query, check/suggest/query, or ‘flag’ as a concern. He encouraged, supported and justified in a sensitive way. I can understand why he is the chartership director and why we were successful in our bid.

Mindfulness: becoming mindful with words, work and the whole of your life

I have never felt so much like I needed a session on being still and quiet. We were encouraged to sit comfortably. With our eyes closed, we concentrated on the leader’s voice giving calm instructions on how … to … be … She emphasised focusing on our breath, on clearing our heads and gently pushing against our problems or worries. One helpful tip to relieve stress was: take a mindful walk outside, admiring the beauty of nature. Something I’m aware of already through the #StetWalk. But it always slips to the bottom of my to-do pile – unwise.

Lightning talks

The feeling among SfEP members is that the Lightning talks are the most popular session, as they are so light-hearted. They also cover a wide range of topics. So, for those who aren’t aware, six sfep-ers talk for five minutes each about a topic close to their heart, accompanied by their Powerpoint presentation. Sadly, I could only be at the first of the two sessions, as I wanted to attend a different session later. But the topics that spoke to me most were Pam Smith’s editing music, and Liz Jones’ on finding a good work/life balance.

Microsoft Word styles into Adobe InDesign

Here is some background into my interest in InDesign: I edit a magazine for charity. I was taught to use Microsoft Publisher for editing purposes. I’m aware that InDesign is the modern equivalent, so I wanted to find out more. Two designers from Oxford University Press (OUP) explained how the text and images are put together on designed pages for English language teaching resources – teacher guides, children’s workbooks, indeed anything education based. The implications of how the styles in Word documents transfer and appear in InDesign were discussed by experienced colleagues. Next step for me: training in InDesign.

Gala dinner

It was my third conference, so the nerves about what to wear to the Gala dinner were a little less. Listening to the Linnets (see photo) always calms the nerves, relaxing us with impressive singing and entertaining us with clever lyrics about editing! This year they sang to the tune of ‘He who would valiant be’. Rob Drummond, our after-dinner speaker, and Reader in Linguistics at Manchester University had us laughing about our use of language versus our pedantry in the application of the rules.

A training toolbox for editors

Hilary Cadman, Australian science editor, is a visitor to our local SfEP group in Bishops Stortford, Herts, when she is visiting her family. We get on well, so, when I saw she was running a workshop on how to use our knowledge to train others, I was intrigued. As a teacher, I knew I could be a trainer. As a freelancer of three years, I knew I had free resources available on my website. So how to link the two …?  Hilary demonstrated how to make a screencast by recording her voice-over the modelling of a skill on screen. There was an audible gasp of wonder when she played back this example training video. (She presents her PerfectIt courses in this way. If you haven’t discovered them yet – I have done the Introduction to PerfectIt – there are discounts for SfEP members on the Benefits page of the website.) Next step: learning how to make training videos for newbie proofreaders.

The six habits of highly effective editors

To be effective, the habits of good editing are to be a detective, spy and linguist; to have empathy and intuition. Developing a healthy work/life balance to work effectively includes appropriate sleep, timing/timetabling, repetition of skills, and exercise. Our presenter, Matthew Batchelor, advocates using NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) methods, in other words, learn the language of your mind. Next step for me: To practice a more effective work/life balance. Even more important when I seem to have a whole year of CPD ahead of me!

Grammar amnesty

Lucy Metzger (SfEP Vice-Chair) chaired a grammar panel with Luke Finley, Annie Walker and Cathy Tingle. Bring your grammar questions was the mission: questions about grammar you have always wondered about … For example, when to use ‘that v which’ which catches me out when I am proofreading. There was an excellent discussion and exploration of language, with helpful book recommendations on display.

Closing speaker: David Crystal

Conference came to its glorious conclusion with the fascinating plenary session by David Crystal sharing about his experiences editing the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language.

At the end of the day, I was glad to catch up with edibuddies Laura Ripper, Helen Stevens, Melanie Thompson and Cathy Tingle. Sorry to those who I didn’t get a chance to chat to.

Before undertaking the three hour drive back to Essex, I decided to stretch my legs and had a pleasant walk into the centre of Birmingham in the company of colleagues heading to New Street Station. It looks so different to what my mother would have seen when she left Birmingham for the last time in the mid-1970s.

Here’s to next year

So, as the post-conference blues set in, here’s to next September and #sfep2020 (or #ciep2020) in Milton Keynes. Here’s my link to my blog post about last year’s conference (#sfep2018).

Thank you to Beth Hamer and the conference team!

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Proofread by Lisa de Caux, SfEP Intermediate Level Member, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk

Why One-day Conferences Appeal

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When I heard the North East Editors (@NEEditors) were organising a one-day SfEP mini conference in Newcastle, I was very tempted.

I mentioned to Mr Deakins that, as he had spent 4 years there studying Art and had a great affection for the place, he might want to accompany me and ‘do culture’ (art galleries, museums) while I was learning.

Thankfully, he was REALLY keen so we hatched a plan that was win-win: we would have a mini-break by train from Essex in May, and I would get some Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and upgrade points.

#SfEPNEConf here I come!

On the morning of the conference, we left the Holiday Inn really early and sauntered to the cathedral to admire the architecture. At the appointed hour, I headed to the venue – the rather stunning Royal Station Hotel – adjacent to the railway station. A perfect location.

Victoria Suite was sumptuous with huge windows through which the bright sun shone all day and impressive, glistening candelabras. Very glamorous and extremely spacious for the 68 delegates.

An interesting variety of sessions had been planned. At this point I must credit Eleanor Abraham (@EABediting) who wrote excellent summaries in her live tweeting throughout all the sessions. I have relied on some of her tweets for accuracy.

Sessions

  • Denise Cowle: Marketing Your Editing Business
  • Matt Deacon (from Wearset): The Changing World of Academic Publishing (and the ripple effects on editors)
  • Melissa Middleton: Ministry of (Business) Training MO(B)T
  • Hester Higton: Efficient Editing – How to Make the Most of Your Fee
  • Panel Discussion chaired by Luke Finley: Navigating a Course in Publishing. With Sarah Wray, Debbie Taylor, Alex Niven

Session 1 – Denise Cowle

Denise is the SfEP marketing director and she belongs to the Content Marketing Academy. Some of her points included:

  • It’s important to make the shift from ‘freelance’ to ‘business owner’.
  • Have a website. Everybody can have a social media profile, but any of the platforms could disappear tomorrow. Your website is yours to do with what you want.
  • Be brave and network with editor colleagues, including those from your specialism.
  • Like, comment and share content from colleagues.
  • Be helpful and demonstrate your knowledge.
  • Add value. Give away brilliant free stuff on your website (be like Louise Harnby!).
  • Record outcomes – “What gets measured gets improved”.

Time for coffee and CAKE! Marieke Krijnen even brought Stroopwaffels from Amsterdam.

Session 2 – Wearset

Next, Matt Deacon, Project Manager at Wearset, conference sponsors, talked about the pressures that publishers, in this case academic experts, are against. Pressures from profit-driven markets, the internet, expectations on speed of delivery, globalisation and increased competition. All affecting editors.

He asked if artificial intelligence and natural language processing apps are going to take our jobs? No. Context, style and subtlety of language need the human element. Tools (such as PerfectIt) help with mundane tasks and reduce the time taken to edit, leaving us to focus on language and sense.

Matt gave guidance on how to future-proof editing: spot change, embrace and innovate, and spearhead development. How can we as editors encourage standardisation of templates amongst publishers? He suggested that the SfEP has a role to play in encouraging cleaner formats for editing  by sharing discussions with publishing clients. Food for thought.

Session 3 – Melissa Middleton

After a quick change-over, Melissa Middleton’s session was hilarious. She runs Project North East Enterprise (PNE) promoting Enterprise and CPD. Apparently, there is one local to you – part of the National Enterprise Network. She had us eating out of her hands with her Geordie humour!

In groups, we listed all the ways we do CPD daily – many more than we first thought. Her final workshop activity had us writing our top skill on a post-it to be placed on a poster of collective skills; then writing a skill we want to improve on a separate post-it for a second poster.

By the end of the session we had created a Skill Swap Shop. Very simple, clever and effective.

As a post-script, a couple of the SfEP directors reminded us that the Forums on the SfEP website offer a similar support: members ask a question, and those with relevant knowledge answer. Many of us learn from the way different professionals answer the question with techniques they have used. Melissa finished her session by sharing an Interactive CPD Toolkit – a very useful resource.

 

Session 4 – Hester Higton

After lunch, Hester’s session was fascinating, if intensive. Her aim was to help us judge what can and can’t be done when clients are cutting costs and driving down schedules.

Given examples of non-fiction texts to discuss and prepare for copy-edit, the task was to analyse the brief and project; calculate how much time could be allocated to each task, bearing in mind the rate of pay for the job and the time scale.

Hester’s tips:

  • Can the essential work be done within budget? And by the deadline? Often, when copy-editing, there was little time to put aside for dealing with the actual text.
  • Know what your key priorities are and stick to them.
  • How often, when an editor says the text is ‘clean’, do you believe them …?
  • Use clean-up automaton routines, keep track of the project, and analyse when finished for timings and cost.

Session 5 – Panel discussion

Luke Finley chaired the last session which was a Panel Discussion: Navigating a Course in Publishing. On the panel were Sarah Wray, Debbie Taylor and Alex Niven. The panel discussed such questions as:

  • How do editors deal with …?
  • How have you tackled a ‘muscular’ (favourite word of the conference) or heavy editing job?
  • When do you get time to work on your own novel when you are an editor/publisher and enjoy writing?

One-day conferences

This is my second one-day conference. The first one I attended was the Educational Publishers Development Day in November 2018 at De Vere West One (DVWO) in London. Both conferences were hugely popular with impressive speakers and plenty of opportunities to network.

In summary, one-day conferences appeal to me for a variety of reasons:

  • Lasting only a day means they are not expensive in terms of time or money.
  • Their location may be nearer to you than the main SfEP annual conference.
  • They present more regular networking opportunities than waiting for the annual conference.
  • They are eligible for upgrade points.

The FINAL (unofficial) session moved venues and headed to a bar for well-earned drinks. Unfortunately, I had to miss it as my husband and I reconvened at the station for our train home.

Bravo and cheers to the NE Editors: Kia Thomas, Nik Prowse, Caroline Orr, Jenny Warren, et al, for a valuable day!

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P.S. A summary of this was seen in the SfEP Blog in June 2019.

P.P.S. BitmoAnnie thought she really should wear tartan to represent #TallTartanTells. She feels a new branding concept brewing.

 

Why SfEP Conference is Cool

conference

By this time of year (May), many SfEP folks will have enthusiastically booked an early bird ticket to the SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) conference. Or be in a dilemma wondering whether or not to book for September’s annual networking event.

I am in the former camp.

If you are not feeling brave enough. Or wondering if you can afford to spend such a lot of money (it’s all relative), then read on.

Booking

If you have booked already, then it seems a very long time until September. When you psyched yourself up in March to book your place, it feels very unreal and way off in the future.

Rest assured, the wait will be worth it: there is popular opinion that it is one of the most valuable CPD (Continuing Professional Development) events you will attend. As well as being superb for networking.

Previous conferences

Here are my highlights from the first two conferences I attended.

#SfEP2017

I was told about my first conference by a local member when I joined the SfEP in January 2017. I booked my place at Wyboston Lakes, Bedford. He pointed out the advantage that it was only an hour away from where I live (near Stansted Airport). I must admit that I was up for trying anything – it felt like a big adventure. It helped that I knew fellow local members were going as well.

Some highlights were:

  • Eating meals in the canteen was an experience – I’ll never forget the sound of 120 delegates all eating and chatting together. If you are a freelancer who lives alone quietly, the change in environment may be something which either excites or frightens you. On the upside, there is always someone to talk to. Or you can get away to quieter parts of the campus to collect your thoughts in between the learning parts.
  • Saturday evening quiz – hilarious!
  • John Espirian and Louise Harnby’s double act on Content Marketing.
  • Accountability Groups with Denise Cowle
  • The Lightning Talks (each speaker has 5 minutes to entertain the audience).
  • Guerrilla Marketing workshop.*
  • Sunday evening Gala Dinner – very special.

*I was flattered to be asked by the Editing Matters editor, Hazel Reid, to do a write-up about the Guerrilla Marketing workshop for the Conference report. When I contacted the presenters (Tracey Cowell and Jackie Mace) afterwards to do a fact check, I discovered they were both in my local Herts & Essex SfEP group. In addition, they were both in educational publishing – which where I was heading to find proofreading work. Result!

#SfEP2018

My second conference, held in Lancaster, was an adventure. My local group members, Anna Nolan, Howard Walwyn and I really enjoyed the camaraderie of travelling together to the opposite end of the country.

Highlights were:

  • Keynote Speakers, e.g. Lynne Murphy (#Lynneguist).
  • The Lightning Talks (see a pattern here?).
  • John Espirian’s Guide to LinkedIn (don’t be a LinkedIn Loser).
  • Paul Beverley’s Beginner Macros.
  • Learning how to copy-edit non-fiction with Erin Brenner and Laura Poole.
  • Stephen Pigney, academic, reminisced about his first year as a freelancer (we joined SfEP at the same time).

#SfEP2019 

This year, the conference takes place at Aston University in Birmingham from 14th to 16th September, with the theme ‘In the beginning was the word’.

When early bird bookings opened in March this year, there was a huge rush of excitement on social media and general optimism about something good happening.

Hesitating?

If you are in two minds about attending, please read the variety of conference blogs. You might find some if you search in the SfEP Forums. They will help you reflect as to whether it is your kind of thing. You will certainly laugh and learn lots. I still refer to my notes from both conferences.

One event I hadn’t had the encourage to attend was the Speed Networking, held on the Saturday afternoon at the same time as the pre-conference tour. This year, I am determined to put that right!

Value for money

The cost of conference needs to be weighed up with the value gained.  Fair enough, if you haven’t had many proofreading or editing jobs in the last year, you will need to pay the bills first. Conference won’t be your highest priority. The price being asked to pay for accommodation, meals, and speakers … is reasonable. Then, on top, there are the transport costs of getting there.

However, think of it as investing in your career. The benefits far outweigh any disadvantages: valuable learning experiences and upgrade points. The value of networking is certainly not to be under estimated. In fact, conference might be the only time in the year that some members meet each other IRL as they live in far-flung parts of the UK/world.

History

Another reason I am looking forward to this event is that I feel an affinity for Birmingham. My mother lived there for the first 30 years of her life. (So I am not entirely Scottish, only half). She worked for the BBC at Pebblemill (where it was in the early 60s).

Why I take time away from my desk

I appreciate the fact that I can take time away from my desk:

  • My children have grown up so I no longer need childcare. (At the time of writing, my sons are 25 and 18.)
  • I am no longer tied to the classroom and can arrange my tutoring time to suit me.
  • My husband is addicted to long distance cycling so is away a LOT. In fact, when he checked about a trip and found I was going to be away this particular weekend, he couldn’t hide his glee!

Well, it will be lovely to meet up again with trusted colleagues and make new #edibuddies.

See you there!

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Proofread by Lisa de Caux, SfEP Intermediate Level Member, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk