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. I’ll give you 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 a designer 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; ensuring that the table of contents and index are formatted consistently; and doing 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 into my WordPress site. I find errors easily this way as I see the writing on my website with fresh eyes.

Almost 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.

  • Read it aloud.
  • Read it backwards from the end. Errors become glaring.
  • Change the colour of the 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!

Checking proofreading spelling, punctuation and context

Spelling:
  • UK or US English? Do you use 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 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, use 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? Businesslike 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 terms 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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Emailing

Contact me by email to find out my availability for proofreading non-fiction and children’s books.

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 or who are in the western hemisphere. Ask me 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. The rest asked me to send mine.

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

Networking

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

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

New opportunities

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

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

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

Inspiration

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

Endeavour (or 3Ps)

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

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

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

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

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

Marketing success

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

Review of 2022 marketing strategy

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

Children’s book authors

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

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

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

book cover of black poppies

My previous yearly reviews

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

Notes:

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

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

Next year

So to 2023 … Direct marketing to publishers continues.

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

review of year chocolate log

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Contact me by email to check my availability for proofreading non-fiction and children’s books.

CIEP 2022 conference

CIEP conference title design

I travelled to Kents Hill Park in Milton Keynes for the 2022 annual conference of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP).

As a hybrid event (also available to on-line delegates on Zoom) not only could delegates meet in person, but those with access issues as well as our international membership (over 20%) could ‘conference’ too. This brought extra meaning to our theme this year Editing in a diverse world which focused on the diversity aspect of editorial work.

kents hill park
Image credit: Kents Hill Park Training and Conference Centre website

 

The conference page of the CIEP website says:

The CIEP conference is held in September every year. The conference provides a range of interesting, relevant and stimulating workshops and seminars, as well as plenty of opportunities for networking with other delegates.

 

My sixth conference was certainly this. It provided great company with fellow editorial colleagues, learning in the form of continuous professional development (CPD), and laughing … so much laughing!

 

Pre-conference tour

I arrived on the Saturday afternoon to join the pre-conference tour to The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) next to Bletchley Park. According to its website, it is home to the world’s largest collection of working historic computers. A mind-blowing selection from the very first to the very modern … and everything in between. To see Colossus in action was truly impressive.

 

Katherine May – author

The conference began with an impressive first speaker. Katherine May wrote The Electricity of Every Living thing about her experience of finding out she was autistic at the age of 39. She explained how she decides whether to tell people she meets … It depends. It can cause unnecessary angst and stress, which was sad to hear. An inspiring talk about someone adapting their life to cope with being neurodiverse.

 

My conference session choices

I chose which sessions to attend based on my career needs at this present time.

 

The sessions I chose

  • Live Proofreading
  • Creating accessible PDFs: Discoveries, pain points and practical steps
  • Websites that win clients: How to create or update your online home
  • Using referencing tools
  • What to expect when working with educational materials.

 

Live Proofreading

It was interesting to be in the Live Proofreading session to proofread real manuscripts and discuss what should be corrected or queried. We discussed using ‘pre-flight’ tools, or tools we use to clean up text in Microsoft Word (the industry standard) before the real scrutiny of the text begins. Tools such as PerfectIt and macros. One shortcut I’d not come across before – Shift F3 – is a quick fix for capitalising and uncapping letters.

 

Creating accessible PDFs: Discoveries, pain points and practical steps

We learnt of features to let all have equal access to PDFs. Factors to bear in mind were structure and navigation of PDFs, including alt text on images, recording using voice recognition, colour contrast on images and websites, reading order and correct linking of website hyperlinks. The majority of my work is in PDF format. It helps if styles are formatted correctly before the document is converted to a PDF.

 

Websites that win clients: How to create or update your online home

My website (proofnow.co.uk) has been searchable since I built it over five years. I rebranded three years ago to update my branding image. Clients do find me so I know my website works and is seen. I’ve even written a couple of blog posts about how to make sure your website works for you.

However, I felt it was time to modernise it as I direct publishers towards Proofnow, my shop window, to show my availability for proofreading projects.

The session reminded me of the impact my website must make and how I can influence that impact. For example, declutter by reducing word count, use quality images, design call to action (CTA) buttons with branding colours instead of using hyperlinks, and … make best use of space. Tweaking my website will be my first business priority after conference.

 

Using referencing tools

Having carried out proofreading for students in the past, being reminded about referencing tools and software to increase speed in finding errors and inconsistencies was very useful. I was reminded of Word formatting tools and software for reference completeness and correctness.

 

What to expect when working with educational materials

As a former teacher, I was aware of all the elements that make up the material for educational packages for schools and colleges. From student books to pedagogy CPD, not forgetting the cultural considerations of … PARSNIPS. Two of my specialisms are Education and ELT so my second business priority is to investigate opportunities for freelance proofreading in these areas.

 

 

CIEP delegate pack
CIEP delegate pack

Gala dinner and guest speaker

The food at the conference was delicious and in plenty. The gala dinner 3-course meal was exceptional and was rounded off by a speech by Rev Richard Coles of BBC fame. He was entertaining, as you’d expect, and he giggled with glee after telling each anecdote. He preferred not to talk about his first novel Murder Before Evensong with editors in the room.

 

Recorded sessions

Spare time after conference will be spent catching up with recordings of the sessions running concurrently.

That’s the huge benefit of a hybrid conference: all sessions are available after conference has ended! My thanks to all the conference team, the speakers, and especially to Ben Dare and his assistants for handling the visual and audio technology, including relaying the comments and questions from the online delegates to the in-person room. Watching them in action was awesome.

 

My main takeaways

My background for context: my proofreading clients are educational publishers, English Language Teaching (ELT) publishers, children’s book publishers, and self-publishing authors of children’s books. I also proofread non-fiction for adults, such as business books.

This conference has added to my learning and awareness that we should be sensitive in our use of language in areas of diversity.

I chose sessions that will benefit me and my clients at this point in my freelance business. Working with me will give my clients publishing confidence. Being a CIEP member means that I am a safe pair of hands.

Attending the annual conference reminds me that I’m proud to be part of a collaborative community who learns and laughs together. Conversations with edibuddies, both established and new (especially recent career-changers), are always valuable.

 

Next year

Next year we meet in Glasgow – the home of my birth. Tall Tartan hopes to see you there. And, yes, someone did greet me this year with, “It’s Tall Tartan!” So my branding is working.

 

For my previous conference blog posts, follow these links: 2021 (online), no 2020 blog post, 2019 (Birmingham), and my first blog post about the second conference I attended in 2018 in Lancaster: Why SfEP conference is cool

 

Tall Tartan

Here are my hashtags if you haven’t seen them and want to find my content on LinkedIn or Twitter. Simply type them into Search in your favoured social media channel, then follow or save.

#TallTartanTips: My tips on owning and running a freelance business

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Writing a Children’s Book

writing a childfren's book blog post

Are you writing a children’s book? Are you an independent author who hopes to self-publish? Not sure how to go about it? I receive many proofreading requests from first-time authors seeking help. Most of the requests that I receive are from indie authors who have found my website and are seeking help to get their children’s book ready for self-publishing. The most common phrase is, I’ve written a children’s story. I am new to all this. What do I do next?” I thought it would be helpful if I put all the information that I give to clients here, in one place. Indeed some of this advice will answer questions asked by any indie authors, regardless of the audience age. So read on if you write any kind of fiction or are an editor for indie authors.

Proofread or proof-edit?

When you ask for help are you asking for a proofread or a proof-edit of your book? They are slightly different and I explain the difference in my services here. If you’re not really sure what kind of help you want, that’s fine.

Age bands in children’s books

I will ask you which age group you are aiming at, and what kind of story you’ve written. Generally, there are a lot of ways to categorise books. But all published children’s books must be given BIC marketing categories, which have specified age groups based on interest level (not reading level), so publishers will categorise their books into age bands.

Age bands

Children’s fiction and non-fiction are split into these age groups: 0-5 years, 5-7 years, 7-9 years, 9-11 years, 12+ years. Most non-fiction for primary age is for the 5-7, 7-9 and 9-11 ages. The 0-5 age group can be broken down into 0-2 and 3-5 to specify board books or picture books.

Terminology for each type of book

Board books 0-2 Picture books 3-5 Early Readers 5-7 Young Fiction 7-9 Middle Grade 9-12 Teen 12-15 Young Adult (YA) 16+

Genres (types) of children’s books

  • Fiction: fantasy, horror (eg Goosebumps), personal and social issues (by authors like Jacqueline Wilson)
  • Non-fiction: hobbies and interests, reference (for topic research, eg volcanoes).

Use bookshops for ideas

Visit any bookshop and flick through a variety of children’s books. Choose a selection of ages and genres. This will help if you are unsure of where to pitch the vocabulary in your book. Looking at a selection will give you examples of how the writing and illustrations are presented. Also, see how the speech (dialogue) is punctuated, if applicable.

Choosing an illustrator

children's book Have you written a book for younger children? You will need illustrations. Most new clients send me a Word document with the text. It would be useful to know how you visualise your story. The illustrations tell the story as much as the words do. Placement of the illustrations is crucial to the impact of your story. Have you chosen an illustrator? Have you thought about your cover?

If you need help choosing an artist, the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) has a directory (see below). From there you can choose a Partner Member who offers a service, eg illustration, book designer, etc. Perhaps you are going to illustrate your story yourself? Marvellous!

Writing a blurb

Have you written a blurb for your story? A blurb is a synopsis found on the back cover which summarises the story … without giving away the ending. There is a particular skill in keeping the blurb succinct. I can help you. I will offer to proofread your blurb, included as part of the final proofread of your PDF.

How can I help you?

I proofread children’s books using my decades of knowledge teaching reading in the primary classroom. Showing my students how to value books and enjoy well-written stories, I modelled how they could improve their writing by discussing how the stories were written. I continue to share reading time with my tutees as part of our tuition lessons. See the blog post I have written: How I Teach English

What next?

If you are a children’s author, see my Rates page for the packages I provide. I have supported several independent children’s authors to self-publication. They’ve told me they’ve seen my Partner Member profile in the directory of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). Use the link to join.

Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) As mentioned earlier ALLi has a range of helpful resources and guidebooks to support indie authors in the self-publishing process from editing to designing to publication. You want to be proud of the book you’ve written. You need it to be the best it can be. Your editor or proofreader will polish your book or know who to recommend. Good luck! I look forward to seeing your book published.

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Sources

Source for children’s book age bands and categories – credit to Lisa Davis, Children’s Book Editor and Publishing Consultant. Fellow CIEP member.

Recommended resource: ‘Pen to Published Podcast’ by Alexa Whitten (independent book publisher) and Alexa Tewkesbury (author, editor and proofreader).

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CIEP2021 Conference

 

CIEP2021 conference

 

The annual online CIEP conference of 2021, organised by the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, was a great success.

As in 2020 the conference was online again rather than at a venue in real life. This is an advantage for our international members and for those with access issues.

I have been a member of the CIEP for five years. This is the fifth conference I have attended.

There were some delicious highlights which I describe in this blog post.

Headline speakers

The two headline speakers I was most excited about were:

  1. Ian McMillan of The Verb fame on Radio 3. He is an English poet, journalist, playwright, and broadcaster. Known for his strong and distinctive Yorkshire accent, he has a friendly interview style. He spoke about ‘My unedited and unproofread life’, things he has spotted while touring village halls, and, what he thinks about signs on doors …
  2. Benjamin Dreyer, author of Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style. He is copy chief at Random House in New York. A great conversation led by Denise Cowle highlighted his experience and wisdom. And that he can laugh at himself and with others.

Session highlights

I’m a freelance non-fiction proofreader, so conference session highlights for me were:

  • Crystal Shelley’s ‘Authenticity reading: Helping writers craft accurate and respectful representation’; also ‘Conscious and inclusive editing: understanding conscious language and the editorial role’

I was aware of authenticity reading, and conscious and inclusive editing from what other editors have shared online. But when Crystal gave concrete examples in her webinars of what is not acceptable in writing because of issues of sensitivity, I could understand how both fiction and non-fiction writers should show more conscious and inclusive language.

  • John Espirian’s ‘How to be a LinkedIn leader’

I have heard John speak about how to use LinkedIn effectively every year for the past 5 years at various conferences. I knew him as the internet director at the CIEP. Because I prefer LinkedIn as a social media channel, I lap up any advice he gives about how to take full advantage of it. I always learn something new. His book Content DNA is on my bookshelf along with other reference and business books.

  • Jill French’s ‘Using Word styles’

I have recently completed the CIEP course ‘Word for Practical Editing’. Jill presents the screencasts on the course. Her session on Word styles was a good reminder of tips I had retained, and skills that are still new and that I need to practice.

  • Suzanne Collier’s ‘Don’t get left behind: Career development for freelancers’

Suzanne shared excellent advice and resources about how to stay current in the world of publishers and publishing.

Lightning talks

The Lightning talks were great, as always. These are short presentations (5 minutes), on any subject, by any member, which are a pleasure to watch. Sometimes humorous, and always something new is learnt.

Networking

I attended the Speed networking on Sunday evening. This comprised of 15 minutes in Zoom breakout rooms, changing every 15 minutes, for two hours! My experience of attending the weekly Cloud Club West meant that  I could keep my introduction to the required 10 seconds. What a buzz!

This year, the attraction of themed networking in breakout rooms was very tempting. I wondered if I would meet edibuddies who had interests in the same field – educational publishing and marketing your business being two examples.

Quiz

The quiz is always fun and very competitive. The Zoom breakout rooms were invaluable for the quiz teams on Monday evening. I’m not hugely knowledgeable on anything, rather more a ‘jill of all trades’. The most amusing part for me was when members started changing their screen names from their official names to those reflecting quiz questions, or sessions held that day.

Wonder

For the café/bar experience there was the Wonder room. Wonder is an app which replicates real life, where you can meet other delegates and move around freely.

Conversations are activated by bumping your avatar into someone. Video and audio are then opened.

Sessions in Wonder were particularly effective after a webinar had taken place. Then they could be discussed with the speaker. Or a member would tweet on Twitter that they were in Wonder, if anyone was free to join them?

wonder room

Thank you

The chair of CIEP, Hugh Jackson, opened and closed conference with touching and heartfelt words. He spoke about the effects of Covid, our community and collaboration, and what comes next …

A grateful thank you to the #CIEP2021 conference team for another successful event of learning, networking and fun.

To read my blog posts about previous conferences (when the institute was the Society for Editors and Proofreaders) see these links:

SfEP2019 and Why SfEP Conference is Cool in which I write about SfEP2018.

The future

Hopefully I’ll see my fellow edibuddies at the next conference in Milton Keynes for #CIEP2022.

If real life isn’t possible, I’ll be just as pleased to see you all online.

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One Day in My Life as a Proofreader

One Day in my Life as a Proofreader blog

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

Having a business mindset will help structure your daily routine.

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

Morning

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

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

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

Emails

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

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

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

Tasks

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

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

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

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

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

structure of day

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

Social media

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

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

Getting on with the day

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

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

Afternoon

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

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

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

Break time with a cup of tea

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

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

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

Next, cooking the family dinner is a welcome distraction.

Past habits

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

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

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

Being the boss

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

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

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

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

Relaxing in the evening

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

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

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

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

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5 Highlights From 2020

5 highlights from 2020

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

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

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

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

Highlights

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

1. Training

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

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

2. Networking

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

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

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

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

3. Rebranding

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

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

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

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

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

4. Tutoring

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

review of the year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Cold-emailing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

review of the year

Children’s book authors

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

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

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

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

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

Next year

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

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

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

review of the year

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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. They were mainly newsletters I subscibe to. Inevitably, if I include my smartphone, I was prone to checking them far too often. But the important emails got lost too easily.

Scrolling through social media didn’t help my efficiency either.

slow hamster wheel

Cluttered inbox

I starred or flagged some important or urgent emails for easy reference, but my inbox was becoming unmanageable. My professional email, annie@proofnow.co.uk was the fullest.

Then I found, in his chapter Ninja Email Processing, 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 by you immediately, move it into Action. If it isn’t important, move it to Read. If you are waiting for someone else to action, move it 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, especially if I was expecting an email.

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 weaning myself off reading of emails after 8pm … in an attempt to maintain work boundaries. The same goes for checking social media or message channels. (My excuse is that some of my editor 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 it to Action.
  2. Scan the next email. If someone is acknowledging they will action something you have delegated, move it 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 it 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, client-baased, or archive folders. Again, this can get out of hand. My next job is to whittle those down to more efficient labels. So that when I have gone through my burgeoning Read folder, I will move each email to a re-named folder, or delete it.

Graham’s theory is that if you have only three folders 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 it. 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 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.

I look forward to finishing Graham’s book. Guess what? I have signed up for his newsletter. Oh the irony!

There you have it. If you learnt something from this post, head over to my Blog page.

Author background: Graham Allcott

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

Other great chapters in Graham’s book include:

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

strong arm

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Editing Training Part 2

training

Training is one of the hot topics during this Coronavirus pandemic.  You may have more time on your hands than usual. You may be thinking about using that time to do some training, also known as CPD (Continuing Professional Development).

In my original blog post about training (Proofreading Training), I mentioned that my next aim was to apply for the CIEP Proofreading mentoring scheme. In this episode I update you on my progress.

Tall Tartan Talks here … I  see a lot of questions on social media asking about training. If you are confused about the when, which, how and why of proofreading training, this post may help you make up your mind.

Training is vital to reflect that you take the owning of your editing business seriously. Especially if, like me, you have no background in publishing.

So … are you wondering about proofreading training? Or are you a prospective client wondering about my professional qualifications?

Change of path

After three decades as a primary school teacher, I had succumbed to work-related stress and was on sick leave. I was slowly coming to terms with a daunting fact: a life I had known for 30 years was changing. I needed to find a Plan B.

Marking’s my thing, I thought. Why don’t I apply my skills to a new business?

The thought of working from home as a freelancer was in the back of my mind and very tempting.  (Read Business Plan and Training to find out what I did …)

If you are looking at training providers, the CIEP  and the PTC (Publishing Training Centre) offer the most creditable training in proofreading and copyediting.

Courses

So, during the time I have owned my business Proofnow Proofreader (now in my fourth year), I have completed the following CIEP (formerly Society for Editors and Proofreaders) courses and CPD:

  1. Proofreading 3: Progress (2016)
  2. References (2016)
  3. Getting work with Non-publishers (2017)
  4. Educational Publishing Development Day (2018)
  5. Mini conference in Newcastle (May 2019)
  6. Proofreading mentoring scheme (completed May 2020)
  7. Every CIEP annual conference since 2017

These have contributed to my upgrade from Entry Member to Intermediate Member. You can find a list of all the courses the CIEP offers on the Training page of their website.

In addition, you can keep an ongoing record of your formal CPD in the section called Upgrading your membership. There you can add courses as you complete them. The system saves them, so that you can keep returning to add more information. If you are a CIEP member and haven’t explored this benefit, it’s well worth it.

Mini conference in Newcastle

Since I wrote my last blog post about training, I realised that it’s just over a year since I got the train to Newcastle for this mini one-day conference in May 2019. It was very well organised by the NE Editors group. See my blog post about the event here.

Proofreading mentoring

This post brings my training up to date – I have completed the proofreading mentoring scheme as a mentee.

So what is this scheme? The following guidance is taken from the Mentoring page (currently paused) of the CIEP website.

Successful mentees can gain up to 10 points towards upgrading their membership. The number of points gained depends on the mentor’s answers to five questions about the mentee:

  1. Are they literate? (grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation)
  2. Are they businesslike? (prompt, clear, efficient, follow brief, communicate well)
  3. Are they accurate? (spot and deal with editorial errors)
  4. Do they use appropriate mark-up? (BS 5261:2005, plus PDFs or Track Changes if used)
  5. Do they use good judgement? (level of queries, frequency and extent of intervention).

The mentor sends a variety of real jobs they have done for clients. These range in subject area and complexity. You are encouraged and supported in a one-to-one partnership. Communication and questioning are recommended.

I found that carrying out the work, following each specific brief, in a safe environment, is a good way to learn.

My knowledge vastly increased, including how to query. I learnt how different clients would expect you to deal with projects and relationships in different ways.

Of course, my confidence wavered considerably through the six months with highs and lows, as it does on any course. But you don’t learn if it is easy. You don’t learn if you don’t make mistakes. I say that to my primary students all the time, especially when they are upset if they got something wrong. Showing you are learning from your mistakes, by applying the lessons learnt, is one of the key points.

As total commitment is necessary, there was a huge wash of positive relief when the last mentoring feedback was returned.

Why training is vital

I am fortunate that I have been able to invest in my ongoing CPD with the CIEP over the last four years of my freelancing career.

Evidence of CPD on your website and CV gives your prospective clients confidence in your skills; your professionalism, expertise and integrity will be evident. Highlighting these is imperative.

Next training opportunity?

The annual September CIEP conference attracts 3 CPD points towards upgrade. I have written some blog posts on this subject too!

In this year of the pandemic, the September 2020 conference in Milton Keynes is cancelled. However, there are plans to move it online in some form. Check with the CIEP for details.

I know I am not alone in looking forward to the alternative conference. Here’s to #CIEP2020!

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