Life as a freelancer has its ups and downs. In this blog post I review how my business has fared in 2019, with both successes and lessons learnt.
A thick skin needs to be developed to cope with the downs. But the ups are ever so rewarding and uplifting. Many of my freelance colleagues will agree with those sentiments. I have certainly honed the ‘3Ps’ (patience, perseverance and persistence).
My year has been busy, particularly with primary tutoring, but I’m pleased to report that the proofreading side of the business perked up. Those who have been at it a lot longer say it can be a slow burn, taking up to three years to get established and known as a freelancer. I agree. My business has grown.
A proofreading job in January with an unsatisfactory client did not start the year well. A lack of communication meant I was left feeling humiliated. Lessons were learnt on both sides, so best forgotten.
For the first four months of 2019, the proofreading jobs were very few and far between, and a lot of freelancers shared their worries on social media about paying bills.
I have found it is good to have a wee part-time job to take away some of the stress of the unreliability of the freelance income. Fortunately, the tuition I offered increased to five afternoons a week. My Friday became a Saturday (my day off) to fit in with my husband’s weekend cycling schedule.
Being fully booked with primary tuition meant that my income wasn’t so much of an issue, but I was doing all I could to could to market myself as an available proofreader. Sending cold emails, writing blog posts, and sharing on social media continued though to Easter. I was even asked to do a proofreading test for an educational publisher! But no work has come of it yet – something to chase up in January 2020.
By April, I had a proofreading request from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). A director found me on their list of available Intermediate Members. If you are an Entry-Level Member it’s worth trying to gain points by training and experience to upgrade to IM. Then you qualify to appear in their internal list of IMs, appearing visible for work opportunities.
They wanted a proofreader to check some new proofreading exercises which will be part of a resource bank. I thought this was a brilliant opportunity! The role involved *test-driving* the exercises and feeding back on the time taken and their effectiveness. The job continued, interspersed with voluntary editing until the end of August.
August used to be when I went on holiday. As an ex-teacher there are more months available now. So I made myself available for jobs in the summer.
In August, I got a surprise email from a local business. It appears that it is advantageous to have a ‘Google My Business’ profile. The client had googled ‘proofreaders in Essex’. My name popped up. I was away on a short break for my wedding anniversary. So, having a sneaky peek of my emails while he wasn’t looking, I offered to refer the prospective client to other IM proofreaders. No, he said, he could wait. There was no rush. Wow, I thought, this job sounds hopeful.
He explained that his company writes on-line courses for health and safety qualifications. They asked if they could email a course to be proofread as a trial. So I established Terms and Conditions … We would see how we got on liaising. Then there might be future courses to proofread.
A flexible client
The trial job was proofreading a course on which consisted of 8 modules with roughly 20 PDF slides in each module. Some with few words, some heavily worded. I created a Style Sheet, then set up a Query Sheet for any questions I had.
The promised return in one week was achieved. I invoiced and asked for a feedback testimonial to put on my website. This job continued to be special as the invoice was paid the same day it was presented – plus their feedback was gracious! I am still basking in the afterglow of that positive working experience.
When I shared on Twitter that I had a queue of two clients – the first time I have had to organise a schedule – another client appeared.
I shared that I had appreciated the fact that the August client had been prepared to wait until I had finished a regular monthly editing job I do. A children’s author saw my post and booked me in for a proofreading job in September. Getting yourself out there *does* put you into the eyeline of prospective clients –if you’re in the right place at the right time.
The September client, a dyslexia expert, is a published author with Jessica Kingsley Publishers. She wanted my teaching expertise to proofread her book about teaching punctuation to Key Stage 2 and 3 (aged 8 to 13). She uses a lot of humour to help make the learning easier and fun.
Again, this was a super project to work on as both of us were communicative and collaborative. The best kind of client relationship.
Networking and CPD in 2019
I got out and about to the following events:
- May: SfEP mini conference in Newcastle (see blog post here)
- September: SfEP Annual Conference in Birmingham (see blog post here)
- November: Cambridge Social Media Day (see my summary on my profile page on LinkedIn by searching #CSMDay2019). How to be more savvy with your content marketing on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
- Meetings of my local Herts & Essex SfEP group through the year have provided opportunities for mutual support and fruitful discussion. For me the meetings have been sacrosanct – timetabled in my work diary and essential for my well-being.
Sharing experience and wisdom
It appears that, by this stage in my freelancing career, I have become someone who is respected as established and supportive to newbie freelancers. Thank you to the folks, especially former teachers, who have shared their appreciation of my blog posts this year with positive responses.
New year plan
Going into 2020, I have successfully applied to be mentored through the SfEP proofreading mentoring scheme. I am really looking forward to working with my mentor through into next year.
Meanwhile, I want to update my branding, so have bought Louise Harnby‘s ‘Branding Lite’ course. I bought her ‘Blogging Lite’ course last spring to help me plan how I was going to write blog posts for the year ahead and beyond. Look at me now … happy blogging anniversary to me!
So, I have a winter of studying ahead. Can’t wait.
Finally, I wish you and yours blessings, peace and joy for the new year ahead.
Kindly proofread by SfEP Intermediate Member Lisa de Caux.