5 Highlights From 2020

 

2020 highlights

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

Review of 2020

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.

  1. Training
  2. Networking
  3. Rebranding
  4. Tutoring
  5. Proofreading jobs

1. Training

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.

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. 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.

4. Tutoring

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

phew

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. Mmmm, 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 about VAK learning.

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 becaue 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 in my own time.

5. Proofreading jobs

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’ 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. So 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.

it is what it is

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”.

The proofreading/proofediting job I enjoyed the most 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 aross 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 …

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.

2021

 

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?

I am #Tall Tartan Talks … and I have started reading 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. Inevitably, if I include my smartphone, I was prone to checking them far too often. Always scrolling through social media. Just like you.

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. My personal gmail account wasn’t much better.

Then, I found Ninja Email Processing, the chapter 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 immediately, move into Action. If it isn’t important, move to Read. If you are waiting for someone else to action, move 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.

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 three times a day: first thing in the morning, or 9am (or whenever your business day starts); and 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. You may also want to check emails at lunchtime. Me … I am slowly restricting my addiction of reading of emails after 8pm … The same goes for checking social media or Slack. (My excuse is that some of my 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 to Action.
  2. Scan the next email. If someone is acknowledging they will action something you have delegated, move 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 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 or archive folders. Again, this can get out of hand. My next job is to whittle those down to more efficient descriptors. So that when I have gone through my burgeoning Read file, I will move each email to a re-named folder. Or delete it.

Graham’s theory is that if you have only three files 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, delete. 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 will feel you have more control over those incoming emails.

Information overload

Information overload is a threat to our prductivity, 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.

There you have it. If you learnt something from this post, find my other blog posts about my freelancing business here.

I look forward to finishing the book. Guess what – I have signed up for his newsletter.

Background: Graham Allcott

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

Other chapters in Graham’s book include:

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

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 here, I mentioned that my next aim was to apply for the CIEP Proofreading mentoring scheme. In this episode I update you on my progress.

I am #TallTartanTalks … and 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 Episode 2 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 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. Here is the link to the Training page of the CIEP website.

In addition, you can keep an ongoing record of your formal CPD in the section called Upgrade 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 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!

 

Review of 2019

grateful proofreader

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).

Slow burn

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.

Winter review

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.

Spring review

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 to fit in with my husband’s cycling schedule.

Marketing review

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.

IM available

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 job! The role involved *test-driving* the exercises and feedbacking back on the time taken and their effectiveness. The job continued, interspersed with voluntary editing until the end of August.

Summer review

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 the summer.

review

 

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. So getting yourself out there *does* put you into the eyeline of prospective clients – if you’re in the right place at the right time.

review

Perfect job

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:

  1. May: SfEP mini conference in Newcastle (see blog post here)
  2. September: SfEP Annual Conference in Birmingham (see blog post here)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Branding

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, and peace and joy for the new year ahead.

 

 

 

Kindly proofread by SfEP Intermediate Member Lisa de Caux.