Tall Tartan Tells Episode 4

Episode 4   13/02/2019

This fourth episode details the business of preparing for proofreading jobs, and the administrative and accounting side of my proofreading business.

In previous episodes, TTT1, TTT2, and TTT3, I detailed my voyage towards becoming a freelance providing proofreading services after decades as a primary school teacher.

Paperwork

Who admits that they actually like paperwork?!

Me!

One of my strengths, I have found through the years, is that I am efficient at paperwork and recording. One of my roles in our household is handling the finances. So I was keen to start things properly as a business owner, and have legally binding templates in place. Three of the following I found on this page of the SfEP website or recommended on forums:

  • T&Cs (Terms and Conditions);
  • invoices;
  • feedback form to prompt a testimonial from a happy client;
  • a recording system for paid invoices.

If you read this blog all the way to the end, you will find the link to free resource templates on my website, which you are welcome to tweak.

You soon discover, as a freelance, that you wear many *hats*. Well, my job as a teacher was very similar – time had to be managed efficiently to fit it all in. One of the many *hats* you wear as a freelance sole trader is that of business admin.

Once I had built a basic form of my website, I registered as self-employed for self-assessment with HMRC, then prepared the documents. Now I was ready for my first client … eek!

Where to find freelance jobs?

I see this question asked many times on Facebook freelance group pages and on the SfEP forums. “Where do you find opportunities for paid work?”

I signed up for Find a Proofreader. This was the directory I preferred to use to register my services. There is a wide selection of directories out there. There are also strong views about the poor rates offered. They are good to start with for experience. But that’s not for now.

Initially, I targeted students, as education is my specialism. I followed the advice of Nick Jones (owner of FAP), from his session at the SfEP 2017 Conference, to make my profile as relevant as possible. Sadly, I have never been quick enough to land a proofreading job with this site. Your application has to be very quick off the mark – as soon as a query is sent out!

Universities are another source of work from students. I googled many universities and, in some cases, found the relevant proofreading guidelines page with their policy. I could, therefore, gauge the advice students were being offered.

My first proofreading job

I confess I didn’t know much about marketing when I first started my business. So, imagine my joy, three months after I had applied to be on the Register of Proofreaders at a major university in East Anglia, to receive a query from a student.

Once I had seen a sample, we agreed a rate per 1,000 words and the deadline for the return of the dissertation. She agreed to my T&Cs. And I conscientiously got on with the job with fervour.

I finished the job in good time. When I returned her checked writing, I attached a copy of my invoice. I was lucky that she was a prompt payer; also that she was happy to give me a good testimonial about my thorough approach. An excellent first job. Phew!

Since then I have done proofreading for about 10 students, checking for errors and inconsistencies in spelling, punctuation, grammar and context.

Working for students

Of course there are issues around proofreading for students … How much of the writing do you change?

One non-English speaking student wasn’t happy with my proofreading when I sent the proofed dissertation chapter. He pointed out the *errors* I had *missed*. After enquiring, it transpired that he wanted his English to be improved. I recommended that he look for an editor with the permission of his supervisor.

As a result of the misunderstanding on his part, I tweaked the wording on the website page for student clients. To make my terms absolutely clear. I emphasised my role: to indicate errors only. With the permission of the supervisor. The SfEP have excellent guidelines on this area called Proofreading Theses and Dissertations’.

Payments, deposits and late payments

A question many people ask is “Will I earn enough to pay the bills?” The answer: It depends … Probably not to begin with, as, on average, it can take up to two years to grow your business to something sustainable. In fact, many people have a part-time job alongside editing or proofreading. I go out every afternoon to tutor Primary children – the change of scene does me good. Two other members of my family also have a *portfolio* of jobs: my husband, for example, has a gardening business to pay the bills alongside his other vocation of art. His week is a mixture of both.

How much you charge is another debate. A popular guide from the SfEP is ‘Pricing your Project’.

Bank transfer is the usual preference as a payment method by clients. Some freelances prefer, depending on circumstances, Paypal or Stripe, amongst others. Again I have observed many views on this subject amongst Freelance Heroes on Facebook (link in TTT3).

A tip I have picked up from fellow SfEP-ers is to charge a deposit if the project is large, or going to be split over a few weeks. For one student client, I have charged 50%. But it depends on the freelance and client. For example, that student wanted to send me module 1 to proofread immediately, then, a month later, module 2. She was happy. I was happy.

A huge and growing problem which freelances experience is those clients who pay late or, worse, not at all. A solution offered on the Freelance Heroes Facebook page is to include a clause on your invoice explaining the Late Payment Fees. (See my invoice template.)

I have got used to spreadsheets. I record the invoice number next to the client name, the amount paid and when. This way my accounts are accurate and up-to-date for tax purposes.

Creative paperwork – no not that kind!

When you are busy being creative with the images and banner (maybe even a logo?) on your company branding for your website and social media, here’s another tip. Remember to carry it through onto your business templates. It continues your personality and makes it consistent. (Again, I can’t take credit for this one either. Thanks, John Espirian.)

My to-do list …

Now (two years later) I have evolved with my business. More SfEP training and a wide range of networking has encouraged me to psych myself up to try a variety of marketing strategies. ‘Imposter syndrome’ has a lot to answer for.

  • Cold email local businesses, such as Chambers of Commerce, to advertise my availability.
  • Advertise myself to more educational publishers to proofread Primary textbooks, now that I feel competent enough.
  • Provide proofreading specialisms to publishers of children’s fiction and non-fiction. I have discovered that this really excites me!

Therefore, my next job is to add to my spreadsheet of publishers to contact.

This involves listing the publisher/packager name, project manager/editor contact email, date of my introductory email sent, date of reply (if any). I am pleased to say that, out of the first 15 publishers I emailed, I had a positive reply from two! So have a 13% success rate. Which I’m told is good!

But it does mean investing a huge amount of emotional energy, which most of the time isn’t rewarded. But so worth it for the 10%. Learn to develop patience, persistence and perseverance. Or, put another way, ‘a dropped pebble starts ripples’.

Find free resources for newbie editors on my website. It can be very daunting starting your own business. If you want to ask questions or to share experiences, I’m here.

 

 

 

 

Proofread by Lisa De Caux, SfEP Intermediate Level Member, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk

Credit: My resources are tweaked from the resources available on the website for the Society of Editors and Proofreaders.

Tall Tartan Tells Episode 2

Tall Tartan Tells

Episode 2      03/12/2018

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 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, which doubles as my office. Annoyingly, we have no extra room for a dedicated office, so, 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.

Business plan

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.

 

Proofreading training

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

Tall Tartan Tells Episode 1

Tall Tartan Tells

Episode 1      06/11/2018

Hello – and welcome to my first blog as a freelancer. I know, it was a surprise to me too!

I have been in business as a self-employed proofreader for 22 months (yep, almost two years!). Up until now I have always smiled silently when my fellow networkers at the SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) folks would say, “How about writing a blog, then? You’d be really good at it.” (You know who you are, Howard Walwyn.) My reply was always, “Och no, I don’t think so! I check the writing of others, not write myself.”

Why now?

But over the last few months, I have had a slow burning change of mind and heart: by reading a variety of blogs recounting the wide range of experiences at the latest SfEP Annual Conference, held in Lancaster in September; by reading the blogs written by new SfEP-ers about their experiences of feeling the same terror of revealing their inner thoughts. These have all encouraged me that it is necessary to consider plunging into the world of blogging. So, with my SfEP parachute for support, here we go …

Fears

However, there were decisions to be made, IF I decided to go ahead:

  • If I organised myself enough to commit to blogging once a month, once regular deadlines were met – planning needed.
  • If I could find enough topics to write about – turns out there’s plenty of advice out there.
  • If it meant it would lead to more business as a proofreader by promoting my website through my blog – known as increasing SEO, apparently …

Research

So I set about doing research into the skills of and theory behind being ‘a blogger’. Following certain gurus on social media, ‘bookmarking’ marketing advice offered on their excellent websites such as Jammy DigitalJohn Espirian, and Louise Harnby, and a few more I could mention, I’ve done a LOT of reading. And persuaded myself to ‘bite the bullet’.

Biting bullets

There has been much ‘biting of bullets’ over the last two years …

  • when I found the courage to leave full-time Primary teaching after three decades, giving up the main family income;
  • when my local Job Centre helped me write a New Enterprise Allowance Business Plan;
  • when I joined the SfEP and completed two proofreading courses;
  • when I built my website, ordered my business cards and invested an inheritance in my new company;
  • when I started networking with local freelancers IRL (In Real Life) as well as on the SfEP forums and in local groups;
  • when I answered my first proofreading job query, sent out my first contract to my first student client, and then invoiced, on completion of my proofreading of her dissertation;
  • when I carried out my first private tutoring job with a Primary pupil after not teaching for 18 months.

All nerve-wracking stuff. All to be developed in detail in my ‘How I got to this point’ blogs to follow.

Name for my blog – describe me?

So –  to choose the name for my blog. As SfEP colleagues who attended the last two Annual Conferences will know, I stand out, because I am 6 feet tall. I can be spotted across a crowded room. Helen Stevens, a fellow lofty SfEP-er, and a huge support to all, commented to me at Conference, “It’s good to talk to someone taller than me!”.

I am also proud to have held onto my lilting Scottish accent: I spent my first 23 years living in Paisley, in the West of Scotland. I consider myself Scottish. Having said that, the last 30 years of my life have been spent in the pretty countryside of Essex, in East Anglia, immortalised in my husband’s oil paintings. I could succumb to the accent of Estuary Essex … nah.

A family conference (about much more important matters) finished with me uttering, “So I’ve thought of a name for my blog. What do you think …?”.

What followed was a flowing of ideas, several changes of direction, discussion and debate. You know that feeling when you wish you’d never started something.  Anyway, the name ‘Tall Tartan Tells’ was born. (We thought that ‘Tall Tales’ might … not give the professional image I was after.)

The future

I look forward to sharing my experiences as a new business owner and proofreader with you, while giving useful tips along the way about what I’ve learnt. I’m sure, if you’re a newbie freelancer, you will be having the same doubts, fears and excitements. Why not share them?

Have some flowers. My pleasure.

 

 

Proofread by Lisa De Caux, SfEP Intermediate Level Member, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk