As weird as 2020 was, I have a few highlights from the year.
Review of 2020
Tall Tartan Talks here … As I mentioned last year in my review of 2019, life as a freelancer has its ups and downs. This year has been, for some people, an extreme of that precarious situation.
Luckily, my freelance work life is mainly online. So I count myself blessed that I haven’t been affected too much.
I want to tell you about highlights in 5 areas. Well, more really, but 5 is a multiple of 2020, so it sounded better.
- Proofreading jobs
This year has been for me principally a year of learning and adding to my Continuous Professional Development (CPD) with the CIEP (Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading).
- In December last year I began the proofreading mentoring scheme. By May I had completed it. It was a unique opportunity to have experience of a wide range of real jobs with guidance and virtual hand holding from a highly experienced Advanced Professional CIEP member. I wrote about it in the blog post Editing Training Part 2.
- A group of us formed an informal Accountability Group. Consisting of other CIEP members, it prompted me to achieve many CPD goals.
- Attended the CIEP online conference in November. A huge highlight!
- Completed the CIEP Copyediting 1: Introduction course.
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.
This time last year, I aimed to research how I wanted the branding on my website and social media profiles to appear. I considered branding, my brand identity, values and colours. The process is described in My Branding Process blog post. I am particularly proud of this 2020 highlight.
I tweaked my website; made sure the Contact form worked; added an Upload file widget so that potential clients can add a sample to their query of what they want me to proofread.
I subtly changed the titles of my blog posts. Originally tagged #TallTartanTells, this was changed to #TallTartanTalks.
After a blog post review by Jammy Digital, I removed the ‘Tall Tartan Talks’ from the URLs of the blog posts to be clearer and to the point, with key words added to make the posts relevant for more effective SEO. The #TTT hashtags continue to be used for illustration and content branding purposes.
To help with tips for general efficiency, I wrote this blog post about managing emails after I read a book on productivity. Clearing your emails once a day by ensuring you have an inbox-zero situation can clear the head and prevent worry.
Sadly, I am not as strict with myself as I was when I wrote that blog post. Workload weight means that I tend to have a clear out once a week these days … It has become a Friday job.
After such a busy couple of years of tutoring during 2018–19, I was worn out by the beginning of this year.
By March, tuition had moved online using Zoom and interactive teaching software. Boy, that was a challenge! How to get the work to parents? How to ensure interactive learning?
More than half a year on, the online tuition routines are well established: work is emailed before the lesson, a variety of resources are enjoyed, and pupils can even share their screens.
The main highlight? Not travelling to their homes. Mmm, 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 …
In July, one of my pupils left Year 6, aged 11, thereby finishing primary school. So the 2 sessions of tuition per week I had done with them for 2 years became available.
The main reason I became freelance was to be in control of my work/life balance. Consequently, I took the decision not to fill those spaces with more pupils because I was losing that balance. Saying no to work is never easy, but preserving mental health is a priority.
Instead, I did more editing and proofreading CPD using the extra time I had gained.
5. Proofreading jobs
With my updated training skills and new branding, I was ready to offer my further proofreading skills to educational publishers and publishers of children’s books.
The last time I cold-emailed publishers (about 18 months ago) I invested a tremendous amount of emotional energy in the process. I thought about it far too much – not good.
This time I was wiser. I bought the Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2020. I made a list of websites, contact names and email addresses. Once I had researched a publisher, certain that they published what I was interested in proofreading, the cold emailing began.
I found TextExpander very useful for giving me shortcuts for repeated phrases, so that they were much quicker to type, e.g. my email address, phrases like proofreader available, etc. … Even a whole email was saved in my snippets so that it appeared when a simple shortcut //query was typed!
My CV was updated with my new branding, training, and most recent experience. It was attached with each short email acting as a covering letter.
However, it is important to bear in mind that the return reply rate is statistically low – a minimum of 1 in 10. This time I put emotion and desperation to one side to become business-like and pragmatic.
Once the batch of emails was sent for the day, I put them to the back of my mind, and got on with other jobs.
I am grateful to have received a couple of positive replies from publishers responding that they would add me to their books.
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 proofreading/proof-editing job I enjoyed was a series of 9 stories for young children. They featured the adventures of the same small character and friend. I suggested tips for consistency across the series. The author asked for advice on self-publishing. They weren’t the first to enquire.
So, I searched the hive mind that is the CIEP forums and found some gems of advice to pass on. I really hope the author publishes next year. Fingers crossed!
Perhaps I should add self-publishing advice for authors to my list of aims for next year …
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.