One Day in My Life as a Proofreader

one day in my life

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 you with your daily routine or structure of the day.

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, 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 and leaves the house early.

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’), switch on my laptop, and start drafting emails.

Emails

I find that early morning routine 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 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 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: When Tom has cycled off to work, I have usually done two sets of the Pomodoro timing technique. I have 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.

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 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.
  3. I ask them to send the document for me to 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, so not always a good way to judge.)
  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 going to take a few days, I send an invoice for the deposit for them to secure that slot.

Afternoon

structure of day

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, 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 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. I like the Evernote app.

The past

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

By 6:00pm I left school with a trolley-box 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 the children of other people.

Being my own boss

When you own your 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, IT, 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 some of the above each day.

If chores get too overwhelming, break down each element of your big task 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. I grew up listening to it. 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. 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. This is a legacy of having to do those hours when I was a teacher. Not any more. 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 and 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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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?

Tall Tartan Talks here … I have discovered 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, at most, three times a day.

  • First thing in the morning, or 9am (or whenever your business day starts).
  • Second around 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.
  • Third, 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, then 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 here.

I look forward to finishing Graham’s 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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How I Teach English

Teach EnglishThere is a lockdown. Schools have closed for all except the children of keyworkers, with a rota of teachers. Parents are home-schooling their children, teaching English, among other subjects .

The pupils who I used to teach face-to-face have moved over to online tuition. I have been learning how to use Zoom, and how to share resources using screenshare.

I am #TallTartanTalks (was #TallTartanTells) … and my feeling now is that the information I share in this post about how to teach English is just as important now in the current climate. You will become more aware of just how MUCH there is to teaching English – and that’s just up to Year 6 (age 11) level – never mind GCSE or A level (which is not my area of expertise).

My background

To give you some sort of context, in case you haven’t read my blog posts before, I write about my freelance business. I have been proofreading and tutoring  since I left classroom teaching in 2016. This is the third post I have written about teaching and tutoring: I write about my experiences of tuition generally; and about how I teach Maths.

For the last four months my time has been spent following the CIEP (Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading) proofreading mentoring course, providing primary tuition, and editing a local monthly charity magazine. Now the coronavirus pandemic is happening. It’s time to take stock.

So read further to find out how I teach English.

English teaching

When I teach English to primary school children, I could be covering anything up to six areas of skills. They are:

  • reading decoding and comprehension
  • spelling
  • punctuation
  • grammar
  • handwriting
  • writing composition

Reading

The key skill in teaching English is the teaching of reading. Without efficient reading skills, children find it more difficult to access other areas of the curriculum.

By the time children leave primary school, they should be able to read and understand what they are reading. There are those children (below average) who can decode (break down) the sounds in words to help them recognise and pronounce them.

More able children can read challenging texts fluently. When I taught in the classroom, it was a pleasure to hear a child read with expression, or have confidence performing with drama. It was equally pleasing to see the progress a child made who was struggling with phonics. Those lightbulb moments are priceless.

Infer and deduce

It is intriguing to teach more able readers how to infer and deduce (read ‘between the lines’) by increasing their vocabulary, by prompting them to understand what that challenging vocabulary means,  by leading them to dig deeper into the text.

It is encouraging to watch reluctant readers laugh at the stories spun by authors such as David Walliams and Liz Pichon (Tom Gates). They want to read on … But it is also frustrating when they ignore an unfamiliar word, hoping it will just become invisible. I teach them to become inquisitive enough to want to find out why the author chose that word, investigating how that word adds to the story.

SPaG

Three elements of English – Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar – have been turned into a variety of acronyms by the Department for Education over the years: their incarnations have been SPaG, GPS, … In the 2010s, Michael Gove introduced intensive assessment of SPaG at the end of Key Stage 2 (Year 6), which resulted in children being taught far more about grammar than they need to know at that age.

Let’s begin with Spelling –

Spelling

I find that children generally fall into two camps: either they can spell, or they can’t. Some children really worry about spelling. Some don’t know what the fuss is about – spelling isn’t important to them. Or there are those who are proud because correct spelling comes easily to them – they learnt the weekly spellings with 10/10.

When tutoring my pupils, I ask them to look at the spelling of a word they have written. Does it look right? Does it match spelling patterns they know?

Spelling can be taught in fun ways using games, e.g. Scrabble, wordsearch, to name just two. ZType is a fun typing app which reinforced spelling. Try it!

Children with dyslexic tendencies are a different discussion. Thankfully now they get more recognition and help than in the past.

Punctuation

It was so frustrating when, in upper primary, children forgot to use capital letters and full stops to begin and end a sentence. Ironically, they could use more advanced forms of punctuation, but forgot the skills taught in Year 1. By Year 2 (age 7) children are taught to add to their knowledge of punctuation by using a question mark or exclamation mark. By Year 5 (age 9) children are taught to use a wide range of punctation, including semicolons (an elaborate comma) and colons (introduces further information).

When I wrote their ideas on the whiteboard or Learning Wall during Guided Writing, pupils were keen to point out punctuation errors (deliberate mistakes made by me) but they weren’t as observant in their own writing. Children had to be retaught to punctuate as they wrote, rather than put the punctuation in afterwards.

Which is why writers perhaps can’t see the wood for the trees and need a trained editor and/or proofreader to find errors.

Grammar

Here are some terms you may not have come across before. They are assessed in the SPaG SATs (Standard Assessment Tests) for Year 6 (age 11) at the end of Key Stage 2.

Let’s try some … Can you identify the following? What is an adjective, adverb, fronted adverbial, modal verb, conjunction, subordinate clause, relative clause, and finally, active and passive voice? (The answers are below if you are curious.)

adjective: describes the noun

adverb: describes the verb (sometimes end with ‘ly’)

fronted adverbials: an adverb which starts a sentence pausing with a comma, e.g. ‘In the far distance, …’

modal verbs: verbs which show possibility or likelihood

conjunctions: used to be called connectives – links two clauses with ‘and’, ‘but, ‘or’, etc.

subordinate clause: a clause which depends on the main clause to make sense

relative clause: a subordinate clause introduced by a relative pronoun, e.g. who, which, whose

active voice: the subject of the sentence is doing or being, e.g. The cooks burned the apple pie.

passive voice: the subject is being acted on by the object, e.g. The apple pie was burned by the cooks.

However, this is not the place for a debate about which and why grammar rules should be taught to 7 – 11 year olds.

Right, moving straight on to something a little less controversial …

Handwriting

According to the National Curriculum, children should be joining their handwriting from Year 2.

I get much satisfaction from showing children how to form their letters correctly. Tall letters have ascenders (lines going up, e.g. b, d, h, k, l, t) and others have descenders (lines going down, e.g. g, j, p, q, y). Elegant ‘f’ should have both.

Each school usually has their own handwriting policy. Some schools advocate teaching cursive handwriting from EYFS Reception (Early Years Foundation Stage). That’s fine if the child demonstrates good fine motor control with the pencil, but I’m not convinced. Then again, I never taught in an EYFS classroom. (I was too tall to get my legs under the tiddly tables!)

Another tip I offer is to dot the i’s and cross the t’s after the whole word is written, rather than lift the pencil/pen and stop the flow of the word to finish those letters. Try it with the word ‘little’. Oh, and remember that those l’s are ascenders, so will be taller than those standard i’s and e’s.

Neatly joined handwriting has its place and does look absolutely exquisite in the right setting. But the quality of the handwriting should be appropriate to the audience. For a quick visit to the shops with a list just for one’s own viewing, a scribble is sufficient. On the other hand, perfecting the greeting on a card to granny is the opportunity to be proud of neatly joined, cursive script.

handwriting paper

An example of a student handwriting sheet which encourages the use of ascenders and descenders.

Writing composition

There is nothing more thrilling than to have a child show their learning by incorporating features of writing you have taught into an unaided composition.

Whether the genre is myths, legends, historical, comedy or horror, their ability to show understanding of the features of that genre is a mark of their progress and success as writers.

Their skills at writing are enhanced if they are reading a wide variety of genres. If they can also build believable characters, with imaginative speech which moves the story on, and they can talk directly to the reader, their writing becomes a sheer joy to read.

By Year 6, most children can include a wide range of devices in their writing: plot structure; description of setting and characters using vivid adjectives and adverbs, similes and metaphors; action between characters; speech (using the rules of speech punctuation); and punctuation. Even showing contrast of types and lengths of sentences, e.g. ‘long/short/long’ or ‘short/long/short’ for dramatic effect.

The hardest concept for some children to grasp is how to lay out paragraphs. They are taught to start a new idea on a new line with a small indent. Each paragraph should have a new idea. One example of a model to help understanding is to show children fiction authors’ work where paragraphs have been jumbled. The task is to rearrange them so that the meaning of the overall text makes sense.

So, all these elements are taught in a module lasting several weeks over a half term, building up their skills, until the children get a chance to show that they can apply their learning.

At the end of an hour’s composition, the children are given the opportunity to read their work back to themselves. In the classroom, they would whisper aloud. So they can hear it. Hearing it spoken is a tip for the checking of any errors. Editors and proofreaders do it as a proven strategy!

All the best

To finish, you will find some helpful websites below about the teaching of primary English. They will be especially useful if you are home-schooling.

 

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Website resources on teaching primary English:

Tall Tartan Tells Episode 5 – Training

training

Want to be a proofreader? Wondering about proofreading training? Are you a possible client wondering about my professional qualifications?

In this episode I go into more detail about my ongoing training to develop my proofreading business. If you haven’t read the other blogs in this series, find them on my website – https://proofnow.co.uk/blog-tall-tartan-tells/.

If you are confused about what proofreading training to do (and training is VITAL to show your professionalism) this blog may help you make up your mind. Especially, if like me, you have no background in publishing.

Learning something new

After three decades as a Primary School teacher, I had succumbed to work-related stress and was on sick leave for five months. Then I had to come to terms with a dawning and daunting fact: a life I had known for 30 years was coming to an end. I was desperate to find a Plan B.

The medication for my newly discovered heart problem (atrial fibrillation) was taking time to embed, and I looked for something to take my mind off my worries. I saw an advert in a magazine for a proofreading course and thought – marking’s my thing, why don’t I try it?

Chapterhouse Publishing

*It* was the Chapterhouse Correspondence Course in Proofreading and Copy-editing. I was eager to change direction. I pottered through the course while ‘lunching with ladies’, enjoying my recovery. It took me six months to undertake each section of the four modules. I was happy with what I learnt in the proofreading basics: the 2005 BSI proof correction marks, shorter and longer exercises to practise using the symbols. The exercises are all done on hard copy with red and blue pen! However, copy-editing confused me.

What was my grade? I was just below the threshold for a pass.

This all happened before my business and website was a twinkle in my eye. But the thought was in the back of my mind. I registered as unemployed, and as detailed in Episode 2, subsequently applied for the New Enterprise Allowance.

My Business Plan was as follows:

  1. Become a member of the SfEP.
  2. Start training…
  3. (and so on)

Of course, if I had known then what I know now … NOW I am aware that the SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) and the PTC (Publishing Training Centre) offer the most creditable training in proofreading and copy-editing.

Courses

So, during the time I have owned my business Proofnow Proofreader (now in my third year), I have ticked off the following SfEP courses:

  • Proofreading Progress
  • References
  • Getting work with Non-publishers
  • Educational Publishing Development Day

There follows a brief summary and my take on each course. These have contributed to my upgrade from Entry Member to Intermediate. For all the SfEP courses, you are appointed a tutor and given login details to a forum for students within the course section, to ask questions within a safe environment.

Here is the link to the Training page of the SfEP website.

Proofreading Progress (Was P2 now P3)

By 2016, as I had already got the basics in proofreading knowledge, I headed towards the online course ‘Proofreading Progress’. (Then P2. Now the final of three.) I learnt LOADS more, got confused many times, then thankfully reached surprising clarity and confidence. Grade: Pass!

I was now able to add my qualification to my website with pride.

References Course

My main motivation for doing this particular course was that up, until now, I had worked solely with students, proofreading theses and dissertations. I could justify charging more for services if I could offer more skills. As with all the SfEP courses, I found out that there was much more to references than I imagined.

It is an online self-assessment course which means that you learn the facts, take the test at the end of each exercise, check the answers, and move to the next exercise. The concepts covered include the systems of author-date, short-title, and number systems. A useful tip I picked up was to use the software Edifix.

Finally, you print the certificate to confirm completion of the course. It was the hardest course I have ever done. I didn’t enjoy the experience at all. But I learnt a massive amount about a huge variety of references. I completed the course by October 2017. My notes will be referred to when I need them.

Getting work with Non-publishers

By February 2018, I wanted to take on a course run as a workshop, to enable networking and discussion with fellow students. I headed to London, to the De Vere West One (DVWO) building, and met eight proofreaders/editors/project managers doing the course – all SfEP members. Some of whom had been working for educational publishers. But who wanted other opportunites. Eagerly (ironically), I took their contact details as this was one of the routes I was looking for …

During the day’s workshop we learnt about considering other fields outside publishing, e.g. businesses, large charities, government; how to market ourselves; and how to approach potential clients.  The workshop made us think ‘outside the box’. (But is no longer available.)

Educational Publishing Development Day

When I saw this advertised, I couldn’t resist – education – it was right up my street! It was booked months in advance, such was its popularity and the calibre of speakers. Again, I headed up to DVWO in Regents Street. And found myself in a large room with upwards of 80 delegates. But I recognised some faces, thank goodness, and it was lovely to reconnect with members from around the UK.  (Organised by Anya Hastwell – SfEP Professional Development director.)

Two speakers who stood out were:

  • Sophie O’Rourke – Managing Director at emc design. She covered what freelancers need to know about the current requirements of educational publishers.
  • Astrid deRidder – Head of Global Custom Publishing at Macmillan Education [international/ELT focus]. Very entertaining and knowledgeable about making educational textbooks relevant to international and particular cultures.

Live tweeting

I had come across the concept of live tweeting at the end of the SfEP 2018 Conference. I just thought, naively, that some folks couldn’t put their phone down, ignoring the speaker. Au contraire. It turns out I am old-fashioned. Some folks like to make notes by live tweeting. I just don’t get it … I had pen and paper. Credit to Caroline Orr of Durham – she was especially skilled at it. I found out when I checked my phone afterwards, on the way to the tube station, and saw her continuous streaming of a well summarised speech.

Technology

Anyway, back to Education. As someone who has used textbooks in the Primary classroom for decades, I find the development of e-learning materials most interesting. For at least the last 10 years, starting with the installation of interactive whiteboards and projectors, and each teacher being given a laptop, the developing complexity of technology has been exciting. Coupled with the changing National Curriculums from the government of the day has led to startling, but inevitable changes in the way teaching and learning happens in the classroom.

E-learning

The arrival in schools of banks of iPads added a new layer of excitement when used as a resource in subjects like ICT (Information and Communication Technology). Though now I think it’s just called Computing (Primary Curriculum 2018). The devices made Guided Reading group sessions very popular, using the Pearson scheme called Bug Club.

My favourite new technology is augmented reality, e.g. pictures in books being brought to life by an app. I think. I first saw this in practice in an EYFS (Reception) class of 4-5 year olds. It really got their attention!

Next course? Mentoring

I have been fortunate that I have been able to invest in my ongoing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) with the SfEP over the last three years. What’s the expression? You have to ‘speculate to accumulate’. The importance of training was expressed well in the most recent SfEP Editing Matters.

My hope is to save enough over the next few months to take part in the mentoring scheme as a mentee. Plus attend the SfEP 2019 Conference. Booking is nearly open! We’ll all be asking questions. How about a blog about my last two conferences? Alright, if you insist.

 

 

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

Tall Tartan Tells Episode 4 – To Business

business

This fourth episode details the business of preparing for proofreading jobs, and the administrative and accounting side of my proofreading business.

In previous episodes, TTT1, TTT2, and TTT3, I detailed my voyage towards becoming a freelance providing proofreading services after decades as a primary school teacher.

Paperwork

Who admits that they actually like paperwork?!

Me!

One of my strengths, I have found through the years, is that I am efficient at paperwork and recording. One of my roles in our household is handling the finances. So I was keen to start things properly as a business owner, and have legally binding templates in place. Three of the following I found on this page of the SfEP website or recommended on forums:

  • Ts&Cs (Terms and Conditions)
  • invoices
  • feedback form to prompt a testimonial from a happy client
  • a recording system for paid invoices.

If you read this blog all the way to the end, you will find the link to free resource templates on my website, which you are welcome to tweak.

You soon discover, as a freelance, that you wear many *hats*. My job as a teacher was very similar – time had to be managed efficiently to fit it all in. One of the many *hats* you wear as a freelance sole-trader is that of business admin.

Once I had built a basic form of my website, I registered as self-employed for self-assessment with HMRC, then prepared the documents. Now I was ready for my first client … eek!

Where to find freelance jobs?

I see this question asked many times on Facebook freelance group pages and on the SfEP forums. “Where do you find opportunities for paid work?”

I signed up for Find a Proofreader. This was the directory I preferred to use to register my services. There is a wide selection of directories out there. There are also strong views about the poor rates offered. They are good to start with for experience. But that topic is not for now.

Initially, I targeted students, as education is my specialism. I followed the advice of Nick Jones (owner of F-A-P), from his session at the SfEP 2017 Conference, to make my profile as relevant as possible. Sadly, I have never been quick enough to land a proofreading job with this site. Your application has to be very quick off the mark – as soon as a query is sent out!

Universities are another source of work from students. I googled many universities and, in some cases, found the relevant proofreading guidelines page with their policy. I could, therefore, gauge the advice students were being offered.

My first proofreading job

I confess I didn’t know much about marketing when I first started my business. So, imagine my joy, three months after I had applied to be on the Register of Proofreaders at a major university in East Anglia, to receive a query from a student.

Once I had seen a sample, we agreed a rate per 1,000 words and the deadline for the return of the dissertation. She agreed to my T&Cs. I conscientiously got on with the job with fervour.

I finished the job in good time. When I returned her checked writing, I attached a copy of my invoice. I was lucky that she was a prompt payer; also that she was happy to give me a good testimonial about my thorough approach. An excellent first job. Phew!

Since then I have done proofreading for about 10 students, checking for errors and inconsistencies in spelling, punctuation, grammar and context.

Working with students

Of course there are issues around proofreading for students … How much of the writing do you change?

One non-English speaking student wasn’t happy with my proofreading when I sent the proofed dissertation chapter. He pointed out the *errors* I had *missed*. After enquiring, it transpired that he wanted his English to be improved. I recommended that he look for an editor with the permission of his supervisor.

As a result of the misunderstanding on his part, I tweaked the wording on the website page for student clients. To make my terms absolutely clear. I emphasised my role: to indicate errors only. With the permission of the supervisor. The SfEP have excellent guidelines on this area called Proofreading Theses and Dissertations’.

Payments, deposits and late payments

A question many people ask is “Will I earn enough to pay the bills?” The answer: It depends … Probably not to begin with, as, on average, it can take up to two years to grow your business to something sustainable. In fact, many people have a part-time job alongside editing or proofreading. I go out every afternoon to tutor Primary children – the change of scene does me good. Two other members of my family also have a *portfolio* of jobs: my husband, for example, has a gardening business to pay the bills alongside his other vocation of art. His week is a mixture of both.

How much you charge is another debate. A popular guide from the SfEP is ‘Pricing your Project’.

Bank transfer is the usual preference as a payment method by clients. Some freelances prefer, depending on circumstances, Paypal or Stripe, amongst others. Again I have observed many views on this subject amongst Freelance Heroes on Facebook (link in TTT3).

A tip I have picked up from fellow SfEP-ers is to charge a deposit if the project is large, or going to be split over a few weeks. For one student client, I have charged 50%. But it depends on the freelancer and client. For example, that student wanted to send me module 1 to proofread immediately, then, a month later, module 2. She was happy. I was happy.

A huge and growing problem which freelances experience is those clients who pay late or, worse, not at all. A solution offered on the Freelance Heroes Facebook page is to include a clause on your invoice explaining the Late Payment Fees. (See my invoice template.)

I have got used to spreadsheets. I record the invoice number next to the client name, the amount paid and when. This way my accounts are accurate and up-to-date for tax purposes.

Creative paperwork – no, not that kind!

When you are busy being creative with the images and banner (maybe even a logo?) on your company branding for your website and social media, here’s another tip. Remember to carry it through onto your business templates. It continues your personality and makes it consistent. (Again, I can’t take credit for this one either. Thanks, John Espirian.)

My to-do list …

Now (two years later) I have evolved with my business. More SfEP training and a wide range of networking has encouraged me to psych myself up to try a variety of marketing strategies. ‘Imposter syndrome’ has a lot to answer for.

  • Cold email local businesses, such as Chambers of Commerce, to advertise my availability.
  • Advertise myself to more educational publishers to proofread Primary textbooks, now that I feel competent enough.
  • Provide proofreading specialisms to publishers of children’s fiction and non-fiction. I have discovered that this really excites me!

Therefore, my next job is to add to my spreadsheet of publishers to contact.

This involves listing the publisher/packager name, project manager/editor contact email, date of my introductory email sent, date of reply (if any). I am pleased to say that, out of the first 15 publishers I emailed, I had a positive reply from two! So have a 13% success rate. Which I’m told is good!

But it does mean investing a huge amount of emotional energy, which most of the time isn’t rewarded. But so worth it for the 10%. Learn to develop patience, persistence and perseverance. Or, put another way, ‘a dropped pebble starts ripples’.

Find free resources for editors on my website. It can be very daunting starting your own business. If you want to ask questions or to share experiences, I’m here.

 

 

 

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

Credit: My resources are tweaked from the resources available on the website for the Society of Editors and Proofreaders.

Tall Tartan Tells Episode 3 – Website and Social Media

marketing

This episode describes the stage with my new proofreading business when I proclaimed my arrival! Building a website, social media and content marketing are skills I used to announce to the world my services as a proofreader.

In previous episodes, here (1) and here (2), I detailed my voyage towards becoming a freelance offering proofreading services after decades as a Primary school teacher. In this blog, I describe how I decided on my marketing strategy.

As a newbie freelance business owner, I know some folks who cringe at the thought of putting any personal details ‘out there’, on the interweb. But, in my opinion, how else are you going to advertise your services or get business unless you are a presence on-line?

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 two years ago. So the process of choosing a website domain, a host, and designing my website, plus researching the content marketing world of social media has been a steep learning curve. This 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 to go 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?” I was heard to ponder. I asked around. Two years later, this is a question I hear asked many times in freelance forums. My only experience had been editing my class page on the school website where I taught.

“I hear Godaddy are good,” was one response back then. (If I had known then what I know now … isn’t foresight a wonderful thing?) Fair enough, the building of each page was fairly straightforward: I added Services, Pricing and About pages, with a few photographs for variety. I could add a couple of testimonials after six months.

But, although I was pleased with the look of the site on the desktop of the PC, and on the screen of my Android tablet, it looked dreadful on my mobile.

By December 2017, I knew I wasn’t going to renew with Godaddy. So I did some fairly intense research on who would host my website next.

WordPress

John Espirian gives ‘relentlessly helpful’ advice as well as offering discounts on his website for subscribing to his emails. One such offer is with Siteground for hosting, amongst others, WordPress. This option was the cheapest. It may well still be. I’m sure experts will be able to confirm this. (Other website hosts/providers are available.)

I copied everything over from the soon-to-be-expired website, probably using old-fashioned techniques, and not how a designer would do it … But, after a couple of phone calls to Siteground customer service, who were very supportive, I was up and active with my new host. Phew!

Next, I won a website audit with Ahmed Khalifa (a Digital Marketing and WordPress expert). Receiving a friendly critique with excellent tips; followed by more research with other website gurus, including Dave Smyth  and James Devonshire (Freelance Heroes), gave me the courage to tweak the theme and wording even more.

I am now even  happier with my website and proud of what I have achieved so far. It is easy to manage, and looks great on a mobile! I mention this because statistics show that mobile devices are used more for browsing websites than any other. Folks want to look up a linked site spontaneously and even instantaneously. So, it is essential that your website works, and looks good. Anywhere. On any device.

Basic website tips

  • easy to read, clear font
  • your headshot and/or logo
  • your services – what you can do for your client
  • how does a new client get in touch with you?
  • Say less of what ‘I’ can do (me, me, me), but what ‘you’, the client, needs. How can you (the freelance) can solve their (client) problem? *1
  • 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.*2
  • Designing your brand is made easier by choosing prepared designs from a free app. *3

*1  This method of your ‘About me’ page not actually being ‘About me’ (ironically) has been repeated by many on social media. It has been a revelation in tweaking how my website is worded. I can’t find the various links at the moment, but if someone can post them that would be appreciated.

*2  Advice from John Espirian and other content marketing gurus.

*3  Canva, recommended by Louise Harnby, is a design programme for those who have basic technical skills. I found it really useful when ensuring consistency in the design for my banners for marketing my website and social media profile pages (covered next). To my mind, this represents ‘joined-up thinking’.

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

Content marketing

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, …? What a minefield of social media! So, what kind of content marketer are you? I know some folks who steer well clear. I know some folks who do it ALL, spread themselves EVERYWHERE. Is that a good idea? Does it work? Does it GET you work?

Facebook

I have had a personal Facebook page for 10 years: I use it to stay in touch with friends and family, as well as previous and new colleagues met through networking. The first thing I did on Facebook when I started my business was to advertise Proofnow Proofreader as a business Facebook page because that was the medium I understood.

LinkedIn

Then I met fellow SfEP-er John Espirian and learnt A LOT more about how to use LinkedIn. For example, build a profile page using specific criteria as he describes here. He recommends liking and commenting on the posts of others to engage in conversation. This raises the visibility of your profile. To some, LinkedIn is seen as the conference side of social media, where important leads can be followed, and serious business connections are made. Work may even follow from said connections. This is my favourite way to share with colleagues as it feels more business-like. 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.

Twitter

To some Twitter is viewed as the cocktail party of social media. On Twitter, retweeting (sharing) your own posts improves engagement. I am least confident with the use of Twitter. But, because a lot of SfEP-ers are on Twitter, and because I suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out!), here is my Twitter page …

The main advice I have gleaned over the last two years is from content marketers such as Andrew & Pete of Atomic Creative Content Marketing, and MANY others. They say: do what works for you. If you can cover all (and it’s not recommended – unless you have more than 24 hours in your day), fair enough.

I need to do one of them well. Do it with purpose. Do it with meaningful content. But, in my opinion, colleagues have their own preferences when it comes to social media, so sharing your content needs to cover all bases.

Shout it out!

When I was teaching, and was so frustrated that I felt like shouting at the class or an individual, it was generally much more effective to whisper “When I say … I mean it.” Pause. You could have heard a pin drop with the silence and anticipation. I hope that my whisperings of marketing are making a difference. Perhaps I should be shouting. I am certainly anticipating that doing all I can to market my business will result in getting my name out there, which should result in getting the work in.

Family trait

For those familiar with where I grew up – Glasgow in the 1980s – there was a marketing campaign called ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’. My dad, as an employee of Glasgow District Council and its Industrial Development Officer took Glasgow around the UK to exhibitions, promoting its good points. (I know.)

When I married Tom, my artist husband, in the late 80s, my father asked him to which galleries he had touted his work. “I don’t really work that way,” was my husband’s reply. Dad took it upon himself to go around many galleries in Glasgow (at the time we lived nearby in Ayrshire) to promote his son-in-law’s art. I like to think that I have inherited my father’s skills in marketing. He would be proud.

Help, support, share

Having discovered a VAST array of tips in content marketing, I am still, not by any stretch, an expert. Everything I have learnt has been absorbed so much by osmosis. Much like a lot of newbie freelances I suspect.

Networking

These guides from the highly experienced SfEP members (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) support newbie editors; connections on LinkedIn; Freelance Heroes Facebook page is another gem for tips from website and marketing gurus, plus many other specialist freelances, where you may also find that others are interested in your services.

In summary, whatever medium you use, the algorithms love it if you like a post, comment and share what other small businesses are doing. It can’t help but raise your profile and those of others.

Business cards

Networking IRL (in real life) with local groups is a great way to get out and about while promoting your business. It is incredibly useful if you can offer business cards or leaflets which act as a reminder of who you are and the business services you are offering.

Moo.com was recommended to me as a business card provider. Their website is user-friendly, with professional-looking products. I’m on my n-th set of 50 cards and they are always complimented.

There is some debate as to whether off-line marketing (on paper) still serves a purpose. But I’m old-fashioned enough to market myself in as many ways as possible. All my social media links are on my cards (again, an area for debate is how much detail to put on them). Nevertheless, I am proud to say I give out my cards to all and sundry!

Paperwork

In my next blog, I recall answering my first query from a student. (Just trying to get a sample out of them, while they check if you’re available, when they haven’t actually written their thesis yet.).

Taking tiny steps as I adapted templates to compose my contracts, T&Cs, create invoices for payments and feedback forms.

As a freelance sole trader, you find that you have to be in charge of EVERY facet of your business: admin, IT, marketing, finance, … and that dreaded tax return.

I wish you a healthy and happy 2019!

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Thank you to Lisa de Caux (Intermediate SfEP Member) for proofreading.

Tall Tartan Tells Episode 2 – Business Plan and Training

training goals

Welcome to my second blog. In Episode 1, I told you a bit about myself and how I became a freelance proofreader. This blog gives a bit more detail about my first goals: my business plan, training in proofreading, and how I got here.

‘Here’ is actually the dining room of our Victorian terraced house, near Stansted Airport, which doubles as my office. Annoyingly, we have no extra room for a dedicated office, which means that, before dinner, I have to shift laptop and papers from the dining table to the sideboard, so we can eat a meal together.

Meanwhile, my husband has the luxury of his studio space (at the bottom of our 100-foot-long garden) to paint. His studio is next to the chicken coop, so he has company down there, chatting away to the three clucking girls when stretching his legs. If you like birds, the theme develops, so … keep reading.

How did I get here?

How did I get here to this point in my freelancing voyage? I remember that a fellow member of the SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) mentioned on one of the forums a while ago how they much they disliked the word ‘journey’ to describe how the process of going freelance had gone for them. I can’t remember who or why, but it stuck with me. The word ‘voyage’ was much preferred as it sounded more adventurous.

So I have magpie-ed it (a term from my teaching days: shiny words borrowed from others to use in one’s own writing). ‘Voyage’ describes the ups and downs of the last two years in my boat (business) called Proofnow Proofreader. Or, to put it another way, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’.

Teaching – a previous life

As a former Primary classroom practitioner, I was trained in the Primary ‘Talk for Writing’ project initiated by the poet, Pie Corbett. He was asked by the government of the day to raise standards in Literacy.

His theory was this: in shared writing sessions with the class, as ideas are being discussed and written on large poster paper, children are encouraged to write their own version simultaneously. The children get swept along with the enthusiasm of the teacher and the drama of the story, in whichever genre was current for the age of the child, at that stage in the term (e.g. fantasy). A buzzing atmosphere would ensue.

Over a week of Literacy lessons, a hanging washing line of beginning, middle and end posters stretched across the classroom. A growing story and a sense of achievement took shape, with – and here I come to the essence – ideas magpie-ed by the children. A few children felt secure when they knew that they could borrow ideas if all they had was a blank page in front of them. Don’t we all need that reassurance? Evidence suggests that their independent writing would grow from practising together.

Business plan

When I left teaching, I applied for the New Enterprise Allowance with the Job Centre. My Business Mentor helped me complete a Business Plan. Compiling the 20-page Business Plan took me a month of research and exploring strengths and weaknesses of the business I had in mind.

These were my learning take-aways:

  • Googling ‘proofreading’ and finding The SfEP at the top of Google!
  • Second on Google’s list was Louise Harnby and the treasures of her amazing website for editors and authors!
  • Doing a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). Finding proofreaders and businesses who I first thought of as competitors, but later discovered how supportive and encouraging they are.
  • What was my marketing strategy going to involve? Was I going to have a website? Was I going to do social media? The answer was a resounding YES. EVERYTHING.
  • Describing the goals and objectives of my business over the short term (0-1 year), medium term (2-3 years), and long term (4-5 years).
  • Describing the trends in my chosen market (students, academic, businesses and educational publishers).
  • Predicted expenditure on equipment and training: how much was I going to spend? Predicted income from proofreading and tutoring: how much was I going to charge?

If you are deciding at this point whether to strike out on your own or not, the business tools from the Princes Trust are recommended by others setting up as a freelance. Planning and preparation are essential.

Proofreading training

I have read so many jewels of advice about how important training is. Preferably from a respected organisation such as the SfEP or PTC (Publishing Training Centre). By January 2017, I had registered with the SfEP, and because it was vital that I train first, by May of that year I had completed my final SfEP Proofreading Course. Also important was learning how to use the BSI symbols (British Standard Institution marks).

There is much discussion as to whether the symbols are valid these days as businesses and non-publishers are unaware of them and have no need of them. But, I felt, knowledge of their use added professionalism in case I got an opportunity to work in publishing – education in my case. They are like learning a new language, but I was happy to add them to my skillset.

For those considering or currently doing the Proofreading Courses, other skills you will learn are: proofreading against copy; proofreading blind; proofreading tables and references; and proof-editing vs proofreading in Word. You will find that proofreading is SO much more than you first thought.

You may prefer copy-editing, which is also offered by the SfEP. Have a look at the wide range of courses offered – both core skills and editorial.

Ready, steady, go! 

The courses consolidated my knowledge and confidence. I was ready to take on work as a proofreader. My newly hatched website was designed and updated with my qualification. Now I could build experience. So my next goal was looking for work in proofreading.

I was both excited and terrified about the possibilities, and of what the future would hold. Luckily, I have a supportive husband who would take on a regular job, while I struck out with my fledgling business, Proofnow Proofreader.

Initially I would focus my marketing efforts on students. Well it made sense, with education being my specialism. I also started tutoring Primary children in the afternoons to help pay the bills.

In my next blog, I will describe the process of choosing and designing my website and researching the content marketing world of social media specialists.

Happy new beginnings!

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

Tall Tartan Tells Episode 1 – How I Started

Hello – and welcome to my first blog post as a freelancer. I know, it was a surprise to me too!

surprise

I have been in business as a self-employed proofreader for 22 months (yep, almost two years!). Up until now I have always smiled silently when my fellow networkers at the SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) folks would say, “How about writing a blog, then? You’d be really good at it.” (You know who you are, Howard Walwyn.) My reply was always, “Och no, I don’t think so! I check the writing of others, not write myself.”

Why now?

But over the last few months, I have had a slow burning change of mind and heart: by reading a variety of blogs recounting the wide range of experiences at the latest SfEP Annual Conference, held in Lancaster in September; by reading the blogs written by new SfEP-ers about their experiences of feeling the same terror of revealing their inner thoughts. These have all encouraged me that it is necessary to consider plunging into the world of blogging. So, with my SfEP parachute for support, here we go …

Fears

However, there were decisions to be made IF I decided to go ahead:

  • If I organised myself enough to commit to blogging once a month, once regular deadlines were met – planning needed.
  • If I could find enough topics to write about – turns out there’s plenty of advice out there.
  • If it meant it would lead to more business as a proofreader by promoting my website through my blog – known as increasing SEO, apparently …

Research

So I set about doing research into the skills of and theory behind being ‘a blogger’. Following certain gurus on social media, ‘bookmarking’ marketing advice offered on their excellent websites such as Jammy DigitalJohn Espirian, and Louise Harnby, and a few more I could mention, I’ve done a LOT of reading. And persuaded myself to ‘bite the bullet’.

Biting bullets

There has been much ‘biting of bullets’ over the last two years …

  • when I found the courage to leave full-time Primary teaching after three decades, giving up the main family income;
  • when my local Job Centre helped me write a New Enterprise Allowance Business Plan;
  • when I joined the SfEP and completed two proofreading courses;
  • when I built my website, ordered my business cards and invested an inheritance in my new company;
  • when I started networking with local freelancers IRL (In Real Life) as well as on the SfEP forums and in local groups;
  • when I answered my first proofreading job query, sent out my first contract to my first student client, and then invoiced, on completion of my proofreading of her dissertation;
  • when I carried out my first private tutoring job with a Primary pupil after not teaching for 18 months.

All nerve-wracking stuff. All to be developed in detail in my ‘How I got to this point’ blogs to follow.

Name for my blog – describe me?

So –  to choose the name for my blog. As SfEP colleagues who attended the last two Annual Conferences will know, I stand out, because I am 6 feet tall. I can be spotted across a crowded room. Helen Stevens, a fellow lofty SfEP-er, and a huge support to all, commented to me at Conference, “It’s good to talk to someone taller than me!”.

I am also proud to have held onto my lilting Scottish accent: I spent my first 23 years living in Paisley, in the West of Scotland. I consider myself Scottish. Having said that, the last 30 years of my life have been spent in the pretty countryside of Essex, in East Anglia, immortalised in my husband’s oil paintings. I could succumb to the accent of Estuary Essex … nah.

A family conference (about much more important matters) finished with me uttering, “So I’ve thought of a name for my blog. What do you think …?”.

What followed was a flowing of ideas, several changes of direction, discussion and debate. You know that feeling when you wish you’d never started something.  Anyway, the name ‘Tall Tartan Tells’ was born. (We thought that ‘Tall Tales’ might … not give the professional image I was after.)

The future

So I have started … I look forward to sharing my experiences as a new business owner and proofreader with you, while giving useful tips along the way about what I’ve learnt. I’m sure, if you’re a newbie freelancer, you will be having the same doubts, fears and excitements. Why not share them?

Have some flowers. My pleasure.

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