Welcome to my second blog. In Episode 1, I told you a bit about myself and how I became a freelance proofreader. This blog gives a bit more detail about my first goals: my business plan, training in proofreading, and how I got here.
‘Here’ is actually the dining room of our Victorian terraced house, near Stansted Airport, which doubles as my office. Annoyingly, we have no extra room for a dedicated office, which means that, before dinner, I have to shift laptop and papers from the dining table to the sideboard, so we can eat a meal together.
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 down there, chatting away to the three clucking girls when stretching his legs. If you like birds, the theme develops, so … keep reading.
How did I get here?
How did I get here to this point in my freelancing voyage? I remember that a fellow member of the SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) mentioned on one of the forums a while ago how they much they disliked the word ‘journey’ to describe how the process of going freelance had gone for them. I can’t remember who or why, but it stuck with me. The word ‘voyage’ was much preferred as it sounded more adventurous.
So I have magpie-ed it (a term from my teaching days: shiny words borrowed from others to use in one’s own writing). ‘Voyage’ describes the ups and downs of the last two years in my boat (business) called Proofnow Proofreader. Or, to put it another way, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’.
Teaching – a previous life
As a former Primary classroom practitioner, 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 this: 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 current 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 beginning, middle and end posters stretched across the classroom. A growing story and a sense of achievement took shape, with – and here I come to the essence – ideas magpie-ed by the children. A few children felt secure when they knew that they could borrow ideas if all they had was 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.
When I left teaching, I applied for the New Enterprise Allowance 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 take-aways:
- 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 a freelance. Planning and preparation are essential.
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 copy-editing, 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. So 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 take on a regular job, 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, I will describe the process of choosing and designing my website and researching the content marketing world of social media specialists.
Happy new beginnings!
Proofread by Lisa de Caux, SfEP Intermediate Level Member, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk