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 from 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’; 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 – again, opening my pinned Excel Invoices spreadsheet to enter the details promptly. Go so far as prepare 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.

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 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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4 Tools for Writing and Editing Efficiency

4 Tools for Writing and Editing Efficiency blog post

Whether you are writing or editing, your productivity is aided immensely by using tools which will assist your efficiency.

Tall Tartan Talks here … I describe four software tools I use to make writing and editing quicker.

The tools will also save using the mouse and lower your risk of Repetitive Strain Syndrome (RSI).

Productivity tools

The tools I use are:

  • TextExpander
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • PerfectIt
  • Macros

 

There are more, of course, but four are described here for brevity.

 

TextExpander

TextExpander is ‘Customisable and shareable snippets of text that allow you to fly through repetitive tasks quickly by expanding the things you type regularly’ (textexpander.com). I pay for this software, but there are other free phrase expander apps.

The software has access to your keyboard. When a pre-chosen snippet is typed, it writes the message in full, thereby saving much time and effort. You choose your opening code.

I have a range of phrases listed, from those needed in general situations, like typing my email address, to using a phrase repeatedly in the comments of certain proofreading projects, eg ‘Insert comma’ (snippet: zic). Another favourite snippet to insert is my mobile number (snippet: z0). All my snippets begin with ‘z’ as it’s rarely used as an initial letter in my writing.

Another example is when an indie client emails to ask if I am available to proofread their book. I have a snippet that produces an email with Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) such as deadline, genre, word count, and request for a sample (even though these points are all listed on my Contact me page as requirements when emailing).

Phrase expanders are also useful for when a diplomatic email is needed. Save the preferred wording and reduce the thinking angst, increasing efficiency.

I have saved particular snippets in specific project files in TextExpander; I keep my snippets software open when I am using them for a job, rather than trying to remember them all!

 

4 Tools for Writing and Editing Efficiency blog post

 

Keyboard shortcuts

In Microsoft Word in PC Windows there are many keyboard shortcuts.

Some well-known ones are:

  • Ctrl S: Save
  • Ctrl X: Cut
  • Ctrl C: Copy
  • Ctrl V: Paste
  • Ctrl Z: Undo

These shortcuts work across many programmes, not just in Microsoft Word. Ctrl Z has helped me out of trouble on numerous occasions in numerous places!

 

PerfectIt

PerfectIt is proofreading software for professionals, purchased from Intelligent Editing. An Add-on in Microsoft Word, when activated and launched, it finds inconsistencies in style preferences. All style choices can be checked or specific checks selected. It gives a summary of possible errors at the end of the check.

It now includes a link to the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), which, if you edit in US English, many editors working internationally have found invaluable.

PerfectIt is not free, but there is a discount if you are a member of the CIEP (ciep.uk). Find discounts in the Members’ area. It is worth the price for the convenience of speed and efficiency.

 

Macros

Another option for efficiency is to use macros instead of / as well as PerfectIt.

Macros are freely available from Paul Beverley’s website: www.wordmacrotools.com

A macro is some coding that you tell Microsoft Word what you want to check. Paul has made 1,000s of macros over the years all for public use. I use a couple; my favourite one is DocAlyse which finds inconsistencies in styles (in the same way as PerfectIt).

Some editors even customise their mouse by linking keyboard shortcuts and macros to mouse buttons.

 

Being more efficient

Most of my proofreading is done on PDFs as the publishing workflow of the publisher or indie author nears the end. But, for efficiency’s sake, I will convert a PDF to Word and save my copy just to be able to run PerfectIt and my favourite macros to speed up finding inconsistencies.

If you’re writing or editing, what tools do *you* use to be more efficient and productive? Remember to experiment with different software options for efficiency to find what speeds up tasks for you.

The idea is to be more efficient, letting the software do the ‘grunt’ work – the routine editing tasks – so that we editors, the trained experts, have more time to make specific editorial decisions. That is, prioritising the human side of editing.

4 Tools for Writing and Editing Efficiency blog post
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What is Proofreading?

What is proofreading blog post

I am often asked the following questions:

What is proofreading?

What does a proofreader do?

Are you a proofreader or copyeditor? Or do you do both? What is the difference?

Tall Tartan Talks here … This blog post answers those questions.

Do I need proofreading or copyediting?

Proofreading is checking for errors in writing. See below for tips for proofreading your own writing materials.

The tips are aimed at freelancers and authors. Indeed, for anyone who writes. You might even be a teacher who writes reports … (I speak as a recovering teacher.)

 

proofreading

 

Publishing workflow

I will start with the traditional publishing process. How do copyeditors and proofreaders fit into this workflow?

If you are a self-publishing author, the procedure is a little different and less complicated, with fewer people involved.

In traditional publishing this process is as follows:

  • Planning. An author will have planned a concept for a book which will get commissioned by a publisher. This could be fiction or non-fiction. The publisher will have questions: Who is the intended audience? When is it needed by? How will it be published?
  • First draft. There will be a rough, unfinished first draft. The important thing is to get all the ideas included. The finer details and polishing come later.
  • Development. Editorial input means some details may be cut and/or moved around to fit the concept and make a structure for the book. It may also be adapted for clearer expression.
  • Final draft. The book will be in a much more finished state, although there will be more editorial work to do.
  • Copyediting. This stage is preparing the manuscript for publication and tailoring it to the needs of the audience. The copyeditor will ensure consistency of style, readability, and accuracy. They improve the flow and tone of the text.
  • Design. Either an editor or typesetter will prepare the layout of the document by cutting and fitting the text using software like Indesign.
  • Proofreading. Proofreading gives text the final polish. A proofreader will carry out an objective check to ensure there are no glaring errors. The manuscript should be as error-free as possible.
  • Publication. The book is finally sent out into the world in print and/or electronic format. Editors may still be involved by implementing any changes to future editions.

Source: Poster featured in Editorial Excellence, the bimonthly newsletter of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), available to non-members.

Recently, developments in self-publishing mean that an author has more choice about publishing their book without the need for a traditional publisher. It has become easier to self-publish. This doesn’t mean, though, that an editor or proofreader isn’t needed …

Editorial roles

What is copyediting?

What does a copyeditor do? Copyediting is dealing with the raw text: formatting the book to prepare it for publication. The headings, paragraphs, and any tables and figures will be formatted for the designer; spelling patterns applied (UK, US, or other English); grammar and punctuation styles applied; cross-referencing of text and images; and checking the text for accuracy and sense to ensure consistency of style.

The publisher may provide a style sheet or house guide.

The manuscript will be sent to the typesetter who will format the book for printing as a paper publication, then, further perhaps, use software to format the manuscript for digital publication, e.g. on e-reader, such as Kindle.

What is proofreading?

What does a proofreader do? Proofreading is working on the final manuscript just before it is published. It could involve checking all page elements and styles have been correctly and consistently applied; checking hyperlinks work; that the table of contents and index are formatted consistently; plus a final sweep for errors, including inconsistencies in spelling, punctuation grammar and sense.

Catching errors at proofreading stage, even tiny ones, is cause for a happy dance. Imagine finding an italic full stop when it should be roman (upright). In summary, a proofreader will find anything that trips up the reader.

Non-fiction has different elements to fiction. Editors and proofreaders may specialise in one or the other. Punctuating character dialogue is a major feature of fiction.

Further, each genre of fiction, e.g. romance, science fiction, thriller, will have specific elements which the editor or proofreader will check have been included.

Proofreading tips

Here are tips for proofreading your own writing before you click Send or Publish. Consistency is key.

Errors creep in when you edit your text and when you’ve changed your mind about the order of words in a sentence. I should know – it has happened to me more times than I care to say, especially when writing a blog post …

When I write a blog post I write it first in a Word document. After a couple of days away, I come back to it afresh, and copy and paste it in to my WordPress site. I find errors easily this way as I see the writing on my website with fresh eyes.

Everything I learned about proofreading I learned from the highly regarded CIEP (see the website link above). I trained extensively to give validity to my freelance business.

Tips:

  • Read it aloud.
  • Read it backwards from the end. Errors become glaring.
  • Change the colour background of the text. (The default colour white isn’t always helpful.)
  • Change the font to a serif font.
  • Check each sentence for full stops, etc. It’s surprising how often they get forgotten as you edit your words.
  • Don’t try to proofread everything at once. Read for errors, then read for sense. Do a pass for each element you are checking, e.g. headings, page numbers.
  • Use the ratio 20:20:20 for general eye health – after 20 minutes of work, look away from the screen for 20 seconds, to a distance of 20 metres (e.g. looking out of the window). Your eye muscles will thank you.
  • Leave it alone for a couple of days then read it again with fresh eyes.
  • Know when to stop tweaking your writing. Stop now!

Specific tips about proofreading spelling, punctuation and context

Spelling:
  • UK or US English? ise or ize, e.g. realise or realize?
  • Use a dictionary to remove any doubt. Apps like Grammarly might not recognise the wrong word if spelt correctly, e.g. selling/spelling.
  • Are names are consistently spelt correctly? Check spelling of place names, if appropriate.

Punctuation:
  • UK or US punctuation?
  • Double or single quote marks
  • Oxford (serial) comma, i.e. comma before ‘and’ in a list.
  • Ellipsis = 3 dots (…) Do insert a space after. Or even insert a space either side ( … ). No need for a full stop if it’s at the end of a sentence. Whatever style you choose, do it consistently rather than mix up the number of dots.
  • One exclamation mark (!) is fine for dramatic purposes. Use sparingly. Two at the end of a sentence is too much.

Context with the bigger picture:
  • Is the style consistent: formal or informal? Business-like or chatty? Be yourself, show personality, be rich in content, and readable in blog posts. Stay in style.
  • Have you ensured clarity, correctness and convention? Only use jargon if your audience understands it, or you have explained what it means.
  • Is the text sound in the case of accessibility, inclusivity and legality?

Clarifying misconceptions

Editors and proofreaders don’t just find typos. We do much more than that.

I haven’t even covered the use of grammar here; that is a topic for another day.

We are not ‘grammar police’ or ‘grammar pedants’. Your writing is your voice; editors and proofreaders polish your voice. We make suggestions to improve your writing, but, in the end, it’s your choice.

We are an understanding and sympathetic bunch; we collaborate, not compete. If I can’t help, I’ll know someone who can. You need to feel confident that your writing is ready for publication.

Also, although I describe myself as an editor in my marketing, my only editing role is voluntary (for my local, 32-page parish magazine). I have done basic copyediting training, but it’s not my main interest. I much prefer to proofread texts; I have much more training and experience in that area.

I know copyeditors who won’t consider proofreading because they prefer to copyedit and clarify the text, especially in traditional publishing.

Sprinkling publishing confidence

A fellow networker said he saw me in the role of fairy godmother. I thought it suited me. So, next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with your writing and need a sprinkling of publishing confidence, come to me for my proofreading services.

Bitmo Fairy for proofreading
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Further sources of the information found in this post: CIEP Fact sheets

 

If interested, the networking group of freelancers where I shared these tips is called Drive the Partnership Network. We meet on Zoom every Thursday morning from 10 to 11am. The international group meets on the last Tuesday of the month, from 4pm to 5pm, for those who prefer the later time. Ask to find out more.

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. Half 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 to 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 at 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. If you are an editor or proofreader, you might prefer the word ‘publishing’ to ‘business’.

Review of 2022 marketing strategy

If the above image doesn’t open a new page, use this link.

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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More website features you should check (Part 2)

More website features 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.

Checking more features

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 up 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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6 Website features you should check

6 Website features you should check Part 1 blog

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; that 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 can’t reach you. Or fellow colleagues. They will give up and try someone else.

It is personal choice if you 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 is the worst, in my opinion, as a way to communicate in 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 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 see a face to put 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!

laptop website

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 7am; in summer it starts at 6am. 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 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.

9:00am: 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.

9:30am: 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.

structure of day

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

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

structure of day

1:00pm: 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.

2:00pm: 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 take a brisk walk in the opposite direction, propelled by my walking poles, 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 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-aged child on Zoom.

5:00pm: 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.

The past

When I was teaching primary children full-time (I Ieft the classroom in 2016), I left home at 7:30am 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 3.15pm.

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 the children of others.

Being my own 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, website, 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.

Evening

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. Maybe a book. As I have 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.

structure of day

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 5 areas. Well, more really, but 5 is a multiple 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.
  • 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.

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 the year.

review of the year

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. 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 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. 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.

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.

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.

review of the year

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