Why I Tutor

Why I Tutor blog post

One of the things I love about my business days is the variety: proofreading, editing, and tutoring primary school pupils.

Tall Tartan Talks here … How does this blog post on tutoring relate to proofreading and publishing? Well, this is the beginning of my blog series about my specialism – education, teaching and learning – and how educational publishers and children’s book publishers can benefit from my expertise.

In this post I explore:

  • Why my tuition lessons are valuable.
  • How I got into tutoring
  • Specialism networking
  • Appeal to publishers with a specialism
  • How I keep my specialism updated
  • Education blogs
  • Why tuition is in demand

 

It is aimed at:

  • Educators and those in educational publishing.
  • Freelancers (editors, tutors, etc).
  • Recovering teachers who are considering adding tutoring to their portfolio.
  • Lastly, you could be a parent/carer wondering whether their child needs a tutor.

 

Why my tuition lessons are valuable

 

While freelancing I have tutored individual pupils ranging in age from seven to 11, for up to five afternoons a week, in their homes. During and after Covid hit, I went online using Zoom.

My students all work at a level below average and need a boost in confidence. This is my preferred focus – my Unique Selling Point (USP) being that I am skilled at raising self-esteem.

By cultivating a growth mindset, I enable a child to make visible progress.

Let’s face it, couldn’t we all do with a boost, praise, and some positive thinking?

 

My favourite phrases that I use during tuition lessons to make the experience positive for the child include:

  • IMPOSSIBLE becomes I’M POSSIBLE
  • Don’t stop until you’re proud
  • Make progress with every mistake. Mistakes mean I learn better
  • FAIL = First Attempt In Learning
  • Don’t quit = Do It

do it

 

How I got into tutoring

Back to the beginning. When I was teaching, I developed a heart condition which led to sick leave away from the classroom.

Obviously it was a relief to be away from the increasing mound of paperwork (more and more demands on planning, deeper marking, and continuous assessment).

But I did miss the interaction with the children. After a year of online training in proofreading and setting up my business website, I was shown an advert my husband had seen in the window of the local newsagents:

‘Tutor required for girl in Year 4. Needs boost in Maths.’

He persuaded me that Year 4 (8/9 years old) was an age I had much experience with so I should phone the number.

I had mixed feelings … No, to be truthful, I was terrified. I had been out of the classroom for about a year. Even after the six-week summer break, many colleagues share how nervous they are to go back into the classroom – will I remember how to teach?! Anyway, I met her family and prepared the first lesson. To say I was nervous is an understatement.

I shouldn’t have worried – the hour of tuition flew by. She had fun. I had fun. She learnt. I learnt. We talked about her strengths and weaknesses in Maths, and that, over the next few weeks, she would tell me what she had done in school that she wanted to practise. I would reinforce concepts sent as homework by the school. Her self-esteem and confidence grew quickly which, frankly, was a delight. I was pleased to be making a difference.

 

Use your specialism

 

Specialism networking

One of my takeaways from a Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) conference was the encouragement of networking. Going to CIEP local group meetings and events, if you feel confident enough, but also meeting editors with your specialism.

Education and English Language Teaching (ELT) are two of the special interest groups in the CIEP online forum community.

I must say I do get excited when I meet a proofreader who was a teacher or who freelances for educational publishers, as we have education in common.

 

 

Appeal to clients with a specialism

My teaching experience is a specialism I offer to educationaI publishers. I can describe ability levels and different learning styles; I am open to new pedagogies; and I adapt to the government policy of the day. My experience with educational materials makes me ideal to proofread them.

Also, I love children’s books, both fiction and non-fiction, and have proven my expertise to publishers and self-publishers. See my children’s book publishers page.

 

Updating my specialism

I was a bit doubtful about how to keep up to date with current strategies in primary education. Here’s why. The only access I would have to Continuing Professional Development (CPD) about current educational practice is if I was still in the classroom and employed by a school.

To offer effective and modern tuition practices, I need to keep up with developments in the world of curriculum changes. I need to match what is being delivered in primary schools, so that I can reinforce what is being taught in the classroom. I realised, after doing some joining-up thinking, that reading blogs about education, written by teachers, would be an efficient way of keeping current. They are, after all, sharing examples of best practice.

 

Education blogs

While researching for this blog post it dawned on me that I have read a plethora of blog posts written by fellow editors with suggestions on how to edit and proofread, helpful tips on spelling, punctuation and grammar, and how to write. But, I hadn’t actually read any blogs about education. Lightbulb moment!

lightbulb picture showing why I tutor

I investigated Google and found many blogs about education. Teachers and teacher trainers have written about education, teaching and learning, assessment, and resources. But, most importantly to me, how teachers are coping with trends in education and demands from the Department for Education, and the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED). See links at the end for further reading …

 

Why tuition is in demand

As well as demonstrating my specialism, the other reason I have written about tuition is that there is debate around it. When should children be tutored, if at all? In theory, the input of the teachers and parents should be enough …

When I was a class teacher at parents’ evenings, it became more common for parents to ask, “Does my child need a tutor?”

In my experience, here are the most common tuition requests from parents:

  • To boost those children who are struggling to keep up in the classroom; those who are below average, perhaps with special educational needs, e.g. dyslexia, ADHD, etc.
  • To support parents who are too busy to help.
  • To support parents who complain that methods have changed since they were at school. For example, they don’t understand the homework (Maths methods, grammar rules …)
  • To support with the 11+ or Common Entrance Exams.

 

 

To finish, let me answer the question I asked at the beginning – Why do I tutor?The feedback from my tutees and their carers is why. The best feedback I received was from the parents of a 10-year-old boy with ADHD and dyslexia:

“I feel so much cleverer when Annie has been.”

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Thank you to Lisa De Caux  for proofreading (former SfEP Intermediate Member, now CIEP Professional Member).

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

 

Education blog posts

See the links to the other posts in my series on education and teaching:

How I Teach Maths

How I Teach English

How Do You Learn?

Children’s Well-being and Mindfulness

Philosophy for Children

 

Here are those UK blogs I mentioned written by education experts:

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. In previous episodes (Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3 and Episode 4) I detailed my voyage towards becoming a freelance providing proofreading services after decades as a primary school teacher.

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

The course 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.

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 (now CIEP).
  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 some of the most reputable training in proofreading and copy-editing.

Courses

So, during the time I have owned my business Proofnow Proofreader (at this point in my third year), I have ticked off the following 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 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 website.

Proofreading 2: Progress (Was P2 now P3)

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 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. 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 the training building in London and met eight proofreaders/editors/project managers doing the course – all fellow members. Some of whom had been working for educational publishers. But who wanted out and onto other opportunites. Eagerly, I took their contact details as this was one of the routes into publishing 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’. (This course 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 the training building 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 – then the 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.

Technology

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 of the National Curriculums from the government of the day has led to startling 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!

Mentoring and being mentored

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? Speculate to accumulate.

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.

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Proofread by Lisa de Caux, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk

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 (Episode 1, Episode 2, and Episode 3) 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 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 FAP), 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; and 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 and with the permission of the supervisor. The SfEP have an excellent guide 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.

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 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.

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 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.

 

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Proofread by Lisa de Caux,  https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk

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

 

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, Episode 1 and Episode 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. 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. That was the easy part. Proofnow Proofreader was born!

“How do I build a website?” I was heard to ponder. I asked around. My only experience had been editing my class page on the school website where I taught.

Godaddy was recommended. 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

I found Siteground for hosting website companies like WordPress.

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). I received a friendly critique with excellent tips, followed by more research with other website gurus 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.

*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). 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 freelancer John Espirian (former member of the SfEP, now the CIEP) 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 freelancers 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 who 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.

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. Tell clients you are available.

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 (Industrial Development Officer) took Glasgow around the UK to exhibitions, promoting its good points.

When I married Tom, my artist husband, in the late 80s, my father asked him to which galleries he had touted his work. My husband was reluctant. Dad took it upon himself to go around many galleries in Glasgow 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 freelancers I suspect.

Networking

Networking (either in real life or online) with other freelancers means you pick up valuable advice; connections on LinkedIn; online support groups are another gem for tips from many specialist freelancers.

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.

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 like 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!

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. But there IS lots of support out there.

I wish you a healthy and happy 2019!

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Thank you to Lisa de Caux for proofreading.

Episode 2 – Business Plan and Training

training goals

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

‘Here’ is actually the dining room of our Victorian-terraced house near Stansted Airport in Essex which doubles as my office.

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 there, chatting away to the three clucking girls when stretching his legs. If you like birds, the theme develops … keep reading.

How did I get here to this point in my freelancing journey?

Teaching – my previous life

As a former primary teacher, 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 that, 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 relevant 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 posters with beginning, middle and end parts stretched across the classroom.

A growing story and a sense of achievement took shape, with ideas magpie-ed by the children. They were allowed to ‘borrow shiny ideas’ to help one another. A few children felt secure when they knew that they could share ideas if they were faced with 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.

Writing a business plan

When I left teaching, I applied for the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) 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 takeaways:

  • 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 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 copyediting, 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. 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 change his regular job to ensure a more consistent income, 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 post, I will describe the process of choosing and designing my website and researching the content marketing world of social media.

Happy new beginnings!

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Proofread by Lisa de Caux, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk

Episode 1 – How I Started

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

blogging proofreader

The year is 2018. 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), now the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), folk would say, “How about writing a blog, then? You’d be really good at it.” 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 was needed.
  • If I could find enough topics to write about – turns out there’s plenty of advice out there about how to find subjects to write about.
  • If it meant it would lead to more business as a proofreader by promoting my website through my blog …

Research

I set about doing research into the skills of, and theory behind, being ‘a blogger’. Following certain content marketing gurus on social media, bookmarking advice offered by more experienced bloggers who happen to be fellow editors and proofreaders. 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 some inheritance in my new company.
  • when I started networking with local freelancers IRL (In Real Life), 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 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, 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, Scotland. I consider myself Scottish. Having said that, the last 30 years of my life have been spent in the pretty countryside of north Essex, in East Anglia, immortalised in my husband’s oil paintings.

A family conference (on 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 name changed after a few blogs to Tall Tartan Talks.)

The future

So I have started blogging, and I look forward to sharing my experiences as a new business owner, proofreader and tutor, 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 that I had. Why not share your experiences?

Have some flowers. My pleasure.

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