Review of 2019

Life as a freelancer has its ups and downs. 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). In this blog post I review how my business has fared in 2019.

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.

Winter

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

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

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

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

Tall Tartan Tells About Tutoring

One of the things I love about running my freelance business is the variety in my portfolio. In the mornings I do proofreading and editing. In the afternoons I tutor primary school pupils.

So, for the SfEP-ers reading this, how does this blog post relate to proofreading and publishing? Well, I have been making plans: it is the start of my new blog series on education and tuition.

It is aimed at educationalists. It is also for freelancers (editing, tutors, etc), and those who are recovering teachers and are thinking of supplementing their income by adding tutoring to their portfolio. You could also be a parent wondering whether their child needs a tutor.

Specialism networking

One of my takeaways from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) mini conference in Newcastle (May 2019) was encouraging networking from Denise Cowle. Going to SfEP local group meetings and events if you feel confident enough, but also meeting editors with your specialism.

There are a variety of specialist niches in the SfEP community (which you can find by going into forum settings and clicking on the ones in which you have an interest).

I must say I do get excited when I meet a proofreader who was a teacher, or with a publishing background, who freelances for educational publishers. We have a lot in common!

In fact, I have connected with former teachers on LinkedIn where we share our experiences.

How to keep up-to-date?

I was a bit doubtful about how to keep up-to-date. Here’s why.

The only access I would have to educational CPD (Continuing Professional Development) networking is if I was in the classroom. On the payroll.

Obviously, to offer tuition effectively, I need to keep up with developments in the world of curriculum changes. I need to match what is being delivered in primary schools.

I realised, after doing some joining-up thinking, that reading blogs about education, written by teachers, would be an efficient way of keeping current. After all, they are sharing examples of best practice.

Education blogs

Researching for this blog it dawned on me that I have read an amazing plethora of blog posts by fellow editors full of suggestions about how to edit and proofread; how to market content; how to write. But I hadn’t actually read any blogs about education. It never occurred to me that there WERE blogs about teaching. Lightbulb moment!

So I investigated Google and found many blog writers – as you do. Teachers 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). But you’ll have to wait until the end to see the links for further reading … See what I did there 😉

How I got into tutoring

So back to the beginning. Three years ago, I developed a heart condition and was on sick leave from the classroom. It was obviously a relief to be away from the increasing mound of paperwork (more planning, deeper marking, and continuous assessment).

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

‘Tutor required for girl in Year 4. Needs boost in Maths.’ He persuaded me that Y4 (8/9 years old) was an age I had much experience with. I should phone the number.

I had mixed feelings. No, actually 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 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 my main aim. I was pleased to be making a difference.

Why blog about tutoring?

So, in this blog series on education and tuition, I want to share some tips from my 30 years in the classroom teaching 7–11 year olds.

Naturally, there is debate regarding tuition. Why tutor children? When should children be tutored, if at all? In theory, the input of the teachers and parents should be enough …

To date I have been tutoring both privately and through an agency for three years. Aware of a variety of reasons for parents wanting a tutor for their child, I simply help where there is a need. Because I can. I have the time and expertise (unlike the parents).

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

So what follows 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.

Why I tutor

At the time of writing, we are approaching the end of another busy academic year for me (July 2019). I have tutored 1-1 for five afternoons a week since last September, with four tutees, ranging in age from six to ten, in their homes. The only days I don’t tutor are Friday and Sunday.

My students all work at a level below average and need a boost in confidence. This is my preferred focus: raising self-esteem.

By cultivating a growth mindset I make progress visible. In reality a lot of us could do with a boost and some positive thinking.

Some favourite phrases I use during tuition to make the experience positive:

  • 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

Specialism for publishers

When you begin training as a proofreader or copy-editor, if you have come from a career outside publishing, it is advised that you offer your former career as a specialism, as a ‘way in’. As is obvious by now, teaching is a specialism I offer to educationaI publishers. I know about ability levels and different learning styles; am open to new pedagogies; and I adapt to whatever the government of the day *throws* at us. My experience with educational materials makes me ideal to proofread them. I have cold-emailed educational publishers over the last year and  been added to the freelance banks of three. Which is good. It will be interesting to receive work.

How to get tuition work

Let me end with the link to my profile with the Tutorful agency. This is how new parents can message me and lessons are arranged on our mutual dashboards. There are, of course, other agencies available.

You can also find the link on the Tuition page of my website.

To finish, the best tuition feedback I have had was from the parents of a 10-year-old boy with ADHD and dyslexia: “I feel so much cleverer when Annie has been.”

 

 

Thank you to Lisa De Caux (SfEP Intermediate Member) for proofreading.

P.S. Here are those UK blogs I mentioned. As I write more about education and learning, teaching and tuition, I will mention specific subject blogs as I write about each one.