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 for 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.