Tall Tartan Tells How I Teach English

There is a lockdown. Schools have closed for all except the children of keyworkers, with a rota of teachers. Parents are homeschooling their children.

The pupils, who I used to teach face-to-face, have moved over to online tuition. I have been learning how to use Zoom, and how to share resources using screenshare (along with everybody else!).

My feeling now is that the information I share in this post about how to teach English is even more important now, in the current climate. You will become more aware of just how MUCH there is to teaching English – and that’s just up to Year 6 (age 11) level – never mind GCSE or A level (which is not my area of expertise).

To give you some sort of context, in case you haven’t read my blog posts before, I write about my freelance business. I have been proofreading and tutoring  since I left classroom teaching 4 years ago. This is the third post I have written about teaching or tutoring. Here I write about my experiences of tuition generally. And here about how I teach Maths.

For the last four months my time has been spent following the CIEP (Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading) Proofreading Mentoring course, providing primary tuition, and editing a local monthly magazine. So the writing of this post has slipped further down my list each month. Now the Coronavirus pandemic is happening. It’s time to take stock.

So read further to find out how I teach English.

English teaching

When I teach English to primary school children, I could be covering anything up to six areas of skills. They are:

  • reading decoding and comprehension
  • spelling
  • punctuation
  • grammar
  • handwriting
  • writing composition

Reading

The key skill in teaching English is the teaching of reading. Without efficient reading skills, children can’t access other areas of the curriculum.

By the time children leave primary school, they should be able to read and understand what they are reading. There are those children (below average) who can decode (break down) the sounds in words to help them recognise and pronounce them.

More able children can read challenging texts fluently. When I taught in the classroom, it was a pleasure to hear a child read with expression, or have confidence performing with drama. It was equally pleasing to see the progress a child made who was struggling with phonics. Those lightbulb moments are priceless.

It is intriguing to teach more able readers how to infer and deduce (read ‘between the lines’) by increasing their vocabulary, by prompting them to understand what that challenging vocabulary means,  by leading them to dig deeper into the text.

It is encouraging to watch reluctant readers laugh at the stories spun by authors such as David Walliams and Liz Pichon (Tom Gates). They want to read on … But it is also frustrating when they ignore an unfamiliar word, hoping it will just become invisible. I teach them to become inquisitive enough to want to find out why the author chose that word, investigating how that word adds to the story.

SPaG

Three elements of English – Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar – have been turned into a variety of acronyms by the Department for Education over the years: their incarnations have been SPaG, GPS, … These elements were not taught well in the 1980s or 90s, so subsequent teachers didn’t feel confident teaching them at school. Then in the 2010s, Michael Gove introduced intensive assessment of SPaG at the end of Key Stage 2 (Year 6), which resulted in children being taught far more about grammar than they need to know at that age.

Let’s begin with Spelling –

Spelling

I find that children generally fall into two camps: either they can spell, or they can’t. Some children really worry about spelling. Some don’t know what the fuss is about – spelling isn’t important to them. Or there are those who are proud because correct spelling comes easily to them – they learnt the weekly spellings with 10/10.

When tutoring my pupils, I ask them to look at the spelling of a word they have written. Does it look right?

Spelling can be taught in fun ways using games, e.g. Scrabble and wordsearch, to name just two.

Children with dyslexic tendencies are a different discussion. Thankfully, now they get more recognition and help than in the past.

Punctuation

It was so frustrating when, in upper primary, children forgot to use capital letters and full stops to begin and end a sentence. Ironically, they could use more advanced forms of punctuation, but forgot the skills taught in Year 1. By Year 2 (7-year-old) children are taught to add to their knowledge of punctuation by using a question mark or exclamation mark. By Year 5 (9-year-old) children are taught to use a wide range of punctation, including semicolons (an elaborate comma) and colons (introduces further information).

When I wrote their ideas on the whiteboard or Learning Wall during Guided Writing, pupils were keen to point out punctuation errors (deliberate mistakes made by me) but they weren’t as observant in their own writing. Children had to be retaught to punctuate as they wrote, rather than put the punctuation in afterwards.

Which is why writers perhaps can’t see the wood for the trees, and need a trained editor and/or proofreader to find errors.

Grammar

Here are some terms you may not have come across before. They are assessed in the SPaG SATs (Standard Assessment Tests) for Year 6 (aged 11) at the end of Key Stage 2.

Let’s try some … Can you identify the following? What is an adjective, adverb, fronted adverbial, modal verb, conjunction, subordinate clause, relative clause, and finally, active and passive voice? (The answers are below if you are curious.)

adjective: describes the noun

adverb: describes the verb (sometimes end with ‘ly’)

fronted adverbials: an adverb which starts a sentence pausing with a comma, e.g. ‘In the far distance, …’

modal verbs: verbs which show possibility or likelihood

conjunctions: used to be called connectives – links two clauses with ‘and’, ‘but, ‘or’, etc.

subordinate clause: a clause which depends on the main clause to make sense

relative clause: a subordinate clause introduced by a relative pronoun, e.g. who, which, whose

active voice: the subject of the sentence is doing or being, e.g. The cooks burned the apple pie.

passive voice: the subject is being acted on by the object, e.g. The apple pie was burned by the cooks.

However, this is not the place for a debate about which and why grammar rules should be taught to 7 – 11 year olds.

Right, moving straight on to something a little less controversial …

Handwriting

According to the National Curriculum, children should be joining their handwriting from Year 2.

I get much satisfaction from showing children how to form their letters correctly. Tall letters have ascenders (lines going up, e.g. b, d, h, k, l, t) and others have descenders (lines going down, e.g. g, j, p, q, y). Elegant ‘f’ should have both.

Each school usually has their own handwriting policy. Some schools advocate teaching cursive handwriting from EYFS Reception (Early Years Foundation Stage). That’s fine if the child demonstrates good fine motor control with the pencil, but I’m not convinced. Then again, I never taught in an EYFS classroom. (I was too tall to get my legs under the tiddly tables!)

Another tip I offer is to dot the i’s and cross the t’s after the whole word is written, rather than lift the pencil/pen and stop the flow of the word to finish those letters. Try it with the word ‘little’.

Neatly joined handwriting has its place, and does look absolutely exquisite in the right setting. But, the quality of the handwriting should be appropriate to the audience. For a quick visit to the shops with a list just for one’s own viewing, a scribble is sufficient. On the other hand, perfecting the greeting on a card to granny is the opportunity to be proud of slowly-joined, cursive script.

An example of a student handwriting sheet which encourages the use of ascenders and descenders.

Writing composition

There is nothing more thrilling than to have a child show their learning by incorporating features of writing you have taught into an unaided composition.

Whether the genre is myths, legends, historical, comedy or horror, their ability to show understanding of the features of that genre is a mark of their progress and success as writers.

Their skills at writing are enhanced if they are reading a wide variety of genres. If they can also build believable characters, with imaginative speech which moves the story on, and they can talk directly to the reader, their writing becomes a sheer joy to read.

By Year 6, most children can include a wide range of devices in their writing: plot structure; description of setting and characters using vivid adjectives and adverbs, similes and metaphors; action between characters; speech (using the rules of speech punctuation); and punctuation. Even showing contrast of types and lengths of sentences, e.g. ‘long/short/long’ or ‘short/long/short’ for dramatic effect.

The hardest concept for some children to grasp is how to lay out paragraphs. They are taught to start a new idea on a new line with a small indent. Each paragraph should have a new idea. One example of a model to help understanding is to show children fiction authors’ work where paragraphs have been jumbled. The task is to rearrange them so that the meaning of the overall text makes sense.

So, all these elements are taught in a module lasting several weeks over a half term, building up their skills, until the children get a chance to show that they can apply their learning.

At the end of an hour’s composition, the children are given the opportunity to read their work back to themselves. In the classroom, they would whisper aloud. So they can hear it. Hearing it spoken is a tip for the checking of any errors. Editors and proofreaders do it as a proven strategy!

All the best

To finish, you will find some helpful websites below about the teaching of primary English. They will be especially useful if you are homeschooling.

All the best in these strange times.

 

 

Website resources on teaching primary English:

Tall Tartan Tells How I Teach Maths

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again … one of the things I love about my freelance business is the variety. As well as editing, I particularly enjoy teaching primary school pupils. Maths is one of the subjects I am asked to boost in tutoring. Don’t worry, nothing as complicated as BitmoAnnie is doing above!

This blog post follows on from my gemeral blog post  About Tutoring. In this post, I continue to share tips from the 30 years I spent in the classroom teaching 5 – 11 year olds.

Who is this blog post for?

Proofreaders are asked to proofread not only educational reading and writing texts for publishers, but also materials in Maths and Science, the other core subjects. With the latter subjects, the ability to fact-check that answer books are correct, and marking schemes match, is a definite advantage and sought after skill.

This post is also for  ex-teacher freelancers who are considering adding tutoring to their portfolio of jobs. Many of the newbie editing freelancers I have come across are already offering tuition. Indeed, it’s a no-brainer to apply our finely-honed skills to running a freelance tuition business, over which we have sole control.

Maths lesson

Now here I describe how I tutor an hour’s Maths lesson. I enjoy using particular resources, described below, to encourage engagement and learning.

This Maths lesson is aimed at an average 8-year old in Year 4. It is divided into three parts: mental warm-up, written practice and reinforcement, finishing with a fun game to wind up the hour.

Pre-requisites for this lesson:

  • Mental number bonds to 20.
  • Times tables knowledge of x2, x5, x10, x3, x4, x6, x8 (according to the National Curriculum 2014, children should know all times tables by Year 5). Notice I have listed them in the order they are taught from Year 1.
  • Some division tables knowledge of ÷2, ÷5, ÷10, ÷3, ÷4.

Resources for games:

  • Wrap-ups (I’ll come to these in a moment)
  • dice
  • playing cards
  • iPad or Android tablet device

Mental starter (10 minutes)

Use mental maths strategies to add quickly and efficiently. The purpose of this is to settle into a focused frame of mind, and warm up the little grey cells. So, a speedy game of Snap with playing cards for hand/eye agility and coordination is a thrill.

Or throw two dice and add, or multiply, with speed. Extending this, throw three dice and add by finding the largest number first; or find two numbers which make ten; or near doubles.

My favourite starter is the Wrap-up.

Wrap-ups are available as all four operations (+ – x ÷) as well as fractions. The photo shows the times tables version of a Wrap-up.

Each key has a separate times table, with answers mixed up on the back, for self-checking. A string is wound matching the question to the answer, while saying the question out loud. For example, 4 x 3. The child winds the string around, matching the question to the answer.

I vary the vocabulary used to ask the question: 4 lots of 3; 4 sets of 3, 4 groups of 3, 4 times 3, 4 multiplied by 3.

Rotating the string round and round, at the same time as vocalising the question, is known as the VAK approach – visual, auditory, kinaesthetic. The child uses the strategy they feel best suits their learning. It is especially appropriate for children who can’t keep still as they learn. (One of my tutee clients has ADHD.) Wrap-ups are available from this website.

Main session (30 minutes)

Written short multiplication method: carry out multiplication calculations using the following as an example, 854 x 4.

Vocabulary

It is vital to use the correct vocabulary when describing a strategy. Children tend to use the word ‘sum’ to describe any operation involving numbers! ‘Sum’ describes addition only – it means ‘total’. The answer to a multiplication question is the ‘product’. So, we could re-write the above question as: “What is the product of 854 and 4?” (This extends the question level to Year 5, as the word ‘and’ confuses the concept; a common error is for children to read the question as addition.)

Method

On squared paper, set out the 3-digit number, 854, (with one digit in one square) in the column values HTU, drawing two horizontal lines underneath as the place to write the answer. It astonishes children that the = sign means the same as those longer lines in a written strategy.

It’s hard to describe the method here, but I’ll have a go. Set out x4 underneath with the 4 in the Units or Ones column. Multiply 4 by the 4 Ones, making 16. Write 6 Ones in the space for the Ones answer, and ‘carry’ the 1 Ten into the Tens column. Multiply 4 by the 5 Tens. This equals 20, then add on the carried Ten to make 21 Tens. One Ten stays in the Tens column, and ‘carry’ the 20 Tens into the next column as 2 Hundreds. Multiply 4 by the 8 Hundreds to make 32 Hundreds, then add the carried 2 to make 34 Hundreds. The completed answer is 3,416.

Linking the calculation to a real-life problem gives the answer more context:  “If four people each made £854 in one month, how much was earned altogether?”

Mastery

If children can explain how they got their answer using the correct terminology, then it shows they have a secure concept of the method.

A common error is to forget to add on the carried digits, so I reinforce this aspect repeatedly. More able mathematicians can check the answer by using the inverse operation, division. Skills can be extended by multiplying ThHTU by a single digit.

One of the most common parental comments is that methods have changed since they were at school. So they feel it’s hard for them to help their children. Ask your child’s teacher for clarification. Some schools produce a handy leaflet for parents with how the Maths methods are taught.

Lesson plenary (10 minutes)

My pupils love using a Maths app on my Android tablet to round up the session and relax. These include Card Match, Solitaire (which I knew as Patience when I was young), and Countdown. They often beat me, too.

Why I tutor … part 2

Having been a classroom teacher, with many conflicting demands on time, you find that, simply, there are not enough hours in the day to spend quality 1-1 time with each child. Improving reading skills is probably the highest priority.

I find doing private tuition much more rewarding: I can choose the resources I want to use; planning for one child takes so much less time than for a class; children feel more relaxed to ask questions when there are just two of you. If you’re thinking about tutoring … what are you waiting for?

Feedback

Finally … positive feedback … makes it all worth it. Here is a comment from the parents of a 6 year old boy: “Annie is a fun, calm, creative and experienced tutor who immediately put my son at ease. He looks forward to her lessons and loves her ideas and games. We would definitely recommend her.” Chuffed!

Read on to the end to find links to Primary Maths websites I have found useful for resources. Let me know if you are a tutor and share resources you find useful.

 

 

 Kindly proofread by Lisa de Caux, SfEP Intermediate Level Member, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk

 

Useful Primary Maths website resources:

  • https://www.ncetm.org.uk/resources/51240 – this podcast is one of a number of excellent resources from the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Maths (NCETM) which supports Maths across all school and college phases.
  • https://whiterosemaths.com/ – This month White Rose Maths are running #Barvember. This to encourage everyone to use the bar model. They believe that the Bar Model is a useful tool for helping children visualise and then solve maths problems. Even some of the most complex problems can be seen much easier when represented visually.

Teacher bloggers

  • www.mrspteach.com/ – primary teacher and Deputy Head, Jo Payne. Pearson Teaching Awards winner for use of IT.
  • www.teachertoolkit.co.uk/blog – known as Ross Morrison McGill, the most followed secondary teacher on social media and top UK blogger of 2018.

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: this is the start of my new blog series on education, teaching, learning, and tuition.

It is aimed at educationalists. It is also for freelancers (editors, tutors, etc), and those who are recovering teachers and are thinking of 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 Denise Cowle encouraging networking. 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 education 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 with current strategies in primary education. 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, so that I can back up what is being taught in the classroom.

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. They are written by fellow editors full of suggestions about how to edit and proofread, how to market content, and 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 Mr Google and found many blog writers. 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 and more planning, deeper marking, and continuous assessment).

But. I did miss the interaction with the children. After a year of training in proofreading (online) 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, to be truthful, 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 can describe 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, I’m told. 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 bloggers.

Tall Tartan Tells Why SfEP Conference is Cool

By this time of year (May), many SfEP folks will have enthusiastically booked an early bird ticket to the SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) conference. Or be in a dilemma wondering whether or not to book for September’s annual networking event.

I am in the former camp.

If you are not feeling brave enough. Or wondering if you can afford to spend such a lot of money (it’s all relative), then read on.

Booking

If you have booked already, then it seems a very long time until September. When you psyched yourself up in March to book your place, it feels very unreal and way off in the future.

Rest assured, the wait will be worth it: there is popular opinion that it is one of the most valuable CPD (Continuing Professional Development) events you will attend. As well as being superb for networking.

Previous conferences

Here are my highlights from the first two conferences I attended.

#SfEP2017

I was told about my first conference by a local member when I joined the SfEP in January 2017. I booked my place at Wyboston Lakes, Bedford. He pointed out the advantage that it was only an hour away from where I live (near Stansted Airport). I must admit that I was up for trying anything – it felt like a big adventure. It helped that I knew fellow local members were going as well.

Some highlights were:

  • Eating meals in the canteen was an experience – I’ll never forget the sound of 120 delegates all eating and chatting together. If you are a freelancer who lives alone quietly, the change in environment may be something which either excites or frightens you. On the upside, there is always someone to talk to. Or you can get away to quieter parts of the campus to collect your thoughts in between the learning parts.
  • Saturday evening quiz – hilarious!
  • John Espirian and Louise Harnby’s double act on Content Marketing.
  • Accountability Groups with Denise Cowle
  • The Lightning Talks (each speaker has 5 minutes to entertain the audience).
  • Guerrilla Marketing workshop.*
  • Sunday evening Gala Dinner – very special.

*I was flattered to be asked by the Editing Matters editor, Hazel Reid, to do a write-up about the Guerrilla Marketing workshop for the Conference report. When I contacted the presenters (Tracey Cowell and Jackie Mace) afterwards to do a fact check, I discovered they were both in my local Herts & Essex SfEP group. In addition, they were both in educational publishing – which where I was heading to find proofreading work. Result!

#SfEP2018

My second conference, held in Lancaster, was an adventure. My local group members, Anna Nolan, Howard Walwyn and I really enjoyed the camaraderie of travelling together to the opposite end of the country.

Highlights were:

  • Keynote Speakers, e.g. Lynne Murphy (#Lynneguist).
  • The Lightning Talks (see a pattern here?).
  • John Espirian’s Guide to LinkedIn (don’t be a LinkedIn Loser).
  • Paul Beverley’s Beginner Macros.
  • Learning how to copy-edit non-fiction with Erin Brenner and Laura Poole.
  • Stephen Pigney, academic, reminisced about his first year as a freelancer (we joined SfEP at the same time).

#SfEP2019 

This year, the conference takes place at Aston University in Birmingham from 14th to 16th September, with the theme ‘In the beginning was the word’.

When early bird bookings opened in March this year, there was a huge rush of excitement on social media and general optimism about something good happening.

Hesitating?

If you are in two minds about attending, please read the variety of conference blogs. You might find some if you search in the SfEP Forums. They will help you reflect as to whether it is your kind of thing. You will certainly laugh and learn lots. I still refer to my notes from both conferences.

One event I hadn’t had the encourage to attend was the Speed Networking, held on the Saturday afternoon at the same time as the pre-conference tour. Well this year, I am determined to put that right!

Value for money

The cost of conference needs to be weighed up with the value gained.  Fair enough, if you haven’t had many proofreading or editing jobs in the last year, you will need to pay the bills first. So conference won’t be your highest priority. The price being asked to pay for accommodation, meals, and speakers … is reasonable. Then, on top, there are the transport costs of getting there.

However, think of it as investing in your career. The benefits far outweigh any disadvantages: valuable learning experiences and upgrade points. The value of networking is certainly not to be under estimated. In fact, conference might be the only time in the year that some members meet each other IRL as they live in far-flung parts of the UK/world.

History

Another reason I am looking forward to this event is that I feel an affinity for Birmingham. My mother lived there for the first 30 years of her life. (So I am not entirely Scottish, only half!). She worked for the BBC at Pebblemill (as it was in the early 6os): one of her jobs was to type scripts for Radio 4’s ‘The Archers’. (If you’re a fan.)

Why I take time away from my desk

I appreciate the fact that I can take time away from my desk:

  • My children have grown up so I no longer need childcare. (At the time of writing, my sons are 25 and 18.)
  • I am no longer tied to the classroom, and can arrange my tutoring time to suit me.
  • My husband is addicted to long distance cycling so is away a LOT. In fact, when he checked about a trip and found I was going to be away this particular weekend, he couldn’t hide his glee!

Well, it will be lovely to meet up again with trusted colleagues and make new #edibuddies.

See you there!

 

 

 

08/05/2019

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

 

Tall Tartan Tells Episode 5 – Training

Want to be a proofreader? Wondering about proofreading training? Are you a possible client wondering about my professional qualifications?

In this episode I go into more detail about my ongoing training to develop my proofreading business. If you haven’t read the other blogs in this series, find them on my website – https://proofnow.co.uk/blog-tall-tartan-tells/.

If you are confused about what proofreading training to do (and training is VITAL to show your professionalism) this blog may help you make up your mind. Especially, if like me, you have no background in publishing.

Learning something new

After three decades as a Primary School teacher, I had succumbed to work-related stress and was on sick leave for five months. Then I had to come to terms with a dawning and daunting fact: a life I had known for 30 years was coming to an end. I was desperate to find a Plan B.

The medication for my newly discovered heart problem (atrial fibrillation) was taking time to embed, and I looked for something to take my mind off my worries. I saw an advert in a magazine for a proofreading course and thought – marking’s my thing, why don’t I try it?

Chapterhouse Publishing

*It* was the Chapterhouse Correspondence Course in Proofreading and Copy-editing. I was eager to change direction. I pottered through the course while ‘lunching with ladies’, enjoying my recovery. It took me six months to undertake each section of the four modules. I was happy with what I learnt in the proofreading basics: the 2005 BSI proof correction marks, shorter and longer exercises to practise using the symbols. The exercises are all done on hard copy with red and blue pen! However, copy-editing confused me.

What was my grade? I was just below the threshold for a pass.

This all happened before my business and website was a twinkle in my eye. But the thought was in the back of my mind. I registered as unemployed, and as detailed in Episode 2, subsequently applied for the New Enterprise Allowance.

My Business Plan was as follows:

  1. Become a member of the SfEP.
  2. Start training…
  3. (and so on)

Of course, if I had known then what I know now … NOW I am aware that the SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) and the PTC (Publishing Training Centre) offer the most creditable training in proofreading and copy-editing.

Courses

So, during the time I have owned my business Proofnow Proofreader (now in my third year), I have ticked off the following SfEP courses:

  • Proofreading Progress
  • References
  • Getting work with Non-publishers
  • Educational Publishing Development Day

There follows a brief summary and my take on each course. These have contributed to my upgrade from Entry Member to Intermediate. For all the SfEP courses, you are appointed a tutor and given login details to a forum for students within the course section, to ask questions within a safe environment.

Here is the link to the Training page of the SfEP website.

Proofreading Progress (Was P2 now P3)

By 2016, as I had already got the basics in proofreading knowledge, I headed towards the online course ‘Proofreading Progress’. (Then P2. Now the final of three.) I learnt LOADS more, got confused many times, then thankfully reached surprising clarity and confidence. Grade: Pass!

I was now able to add my qualification to my website with pride.

References Course

My main motivation for doing this particular course was that up, until now, I had worked solely with students, proofreading theses and dissertations. I could justify charging more for services if I could offer more skills. As with all the SfEP courses, I found out that there was much more to references than I imagined.

It is an online self-assessment course which means that you learn the facts, take the test at the end of each exercise, check the answers, and move to the next exercise. The concepts covered include the systems of author-date, short-title, and number systems. A useful tip I picked up was to use the software Edifix.

Finally, you print the certificate to confirm completion of the course. It was the hardest course I have ever done. I didn’t enjoy the experience at all. But I learnt a massive amount about a huge variety of references. I completed the course by October 2017. My notes will be referred to when I need them.

Getting work with Non-publishers

By February 2018, I wanted to take on a course run as a workshop, to enable networking and discussion with fellow students. I headed to London, to the De Vere West One (DVWO) building, and met eight proofreaders/editors/project managers doing the course – all SfEP members. Some of whom had been working for educational publishers. But who wanted other opportunites. Eagerly (ironically), I took their contact details as this was one of the routes I was looking for …

During the day’s workshop we learnt about considering other fields outside publishing, e.g. businesses, large charities, government; how to market ourselves; and how to approach potential clients.  The workshop made us think ‘outside the box’. (But is no longer available.)

Educational Publishing Development Day

When I saw this advertised, I couldn’t resist – education – it was right up my street! It was booked months in advance, such was its popularity and the calibre of speakers. Again, I headed up to DVWO in Regents Street. And found myself in a large room with upwards of 80 delegates. But I recognised some faces, thank goodness, and it was lovely to reconnect with members from around the UK.  (Organised by Anya Hastwell – SfEP Professional Development director.)

Two speakers who stood out were:

  • Sophie O’Rourke – Managing Director at emc design. She covered what freelancers need to know about the current requirements of educational publishers.
  • Astrid deRidder – Head of Global Custom Publishing at Macmillan Education [international/ELT focus]. Very entertaining and knowledgeable about making educational textbooks relevant to international and particular cultures.

Live tweeting

I had come across the concept of live tweeting at the end of the SfEP 2018 Conference. I just thought, naively, that some folks couldn’t put their phone down, ignoring the speaker. Au contraire. It turns out I am old-fashioned. Some folks like to make notes by live tweeting. I just don’t get it … I had pen and paper. Credit to Caroline Orr of Durham – she was especially skilled at it. I found out when I checked my phone afterwards, on the way to the tube station, and saw her continuous streaming of a well summarised speech.

Technology

Anyway, back to Education. As someone who has used textbooks in the Primary classroom for decades, I find the development of e-learning materials most interesting. For at least the last 10 years, starting with the installation of interactive whiteboards and projectors, and each teacher being given a laptop, the developing complexity of technology has been exciting. Coupled with the changing National Curriculums from the government of the day has led to startling, but inevitable changes in the way teaching and learning happens in the classroom.

E-learning

The arrival in schools of banks of iPads added a new layer of excitement when used as a resource in subjects like ICT (Information and Communication Technology). Though now I think it’s just called Computing (Primary Curriculum 2018). The devices made Guided Reading group sessions very popular, using the Pearson scheme called Bug Club.

My favourite new technology is augmented reality, e.g. pictures in books being brought to life by an app. I think. I first saw this in practice in an EYFS (Reception) class of 4-5 year olds. It really got their attention!

Next course? Mentoring

I have been fortunate that I have been able to invest in my ongoing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) with the SfEP over the last three years. What’s the expression? You have to ‘speculate to accumulate’. The importance of training was expressed well in the most recent SfEP Editing Matters.

My hope is to save enough over the next few months to take part in the mentoring scheme as a mentee. Plus attend the SfEP 2019 Conference. Booking is nearly open! We’ll all be asking questions. How about a blog about my last two conferences? Alright, if you insist.

 

 

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

Tall Tartan Tells Episode 4 – To Business

13/02/2019

The Business Side of the Business

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 3 – Website and Social Media

04/01/2019

Building a website and social media

This episode describes the stage with my new proofreading business when I proclaimed my arrival! Building a website, social media and content marketing are skills I used to announce to the world my services as a proofreader.

In previous episodes, here (1) and here (2), I detailed my voyage towards becoming a freelance offering proofreading services after decades as a Primary school teacher. In this blog, I describe how I decided on my marketing strategy.

As a newbie freelance business owner, I know some folks who cringe at the thought of putting any personal details ‘out there’, on the interweb. But, in my opinion, how else are you going to advertise your services or get business unless you are a presence on-line?

A website is essential: you need a ‘shop window’ to display your business”. These were the words of my Business Mentor at my local Job Centre when they helped me set up as a self-employed proofreader two years ago. So the process of choosing a website domain, a host, and designing my website, plus researching the content marketing world of social media has been a steep learning curve. This is what I did.

Build a website

By January 2017, my NEA (New Enterprise Allowance) Business Plan (with People Plus) had been approved, and I was told to go and build a website. The only domain name which was available and that I liked the sound of was Proofnow. So that was the easy part. Proofnow Proofreader was born!

“How do I build a website?” I was heard to ponder. I asked around. Two years later, this is a question I hear asked many times in freelance forums. My only experience had been editing my class page on the school website where I taught.

“I hear Godaddy are good,” was one response back then. (If I had known then what I know now … isn’t foresight a wonderful thing?) Fair enough, the building of each page was fairly straightforward: I added Services, Pricing and About pages, with a few photographs for variety. I could add a couple of testimonials after six months.

But, although I was pleased with the look of the site on the desktop of the PC, and on the screen of my Android tablet, it looked dreadful on my mobile.

By December 2017, I knew I wasn’t going to renew with Godaddy. So I did some fairly intense research on who would host my website next.

WordPress

John Espirian gives ‘relentlessly helpful’ advice as well as offering discounts on his website for subscribing to his emails. One such offer is with Siteground for hosting, amongst others, WordPress. This option was the cheapest. It may well still be. I’m sure experts will be able to confirm this. (Other website hosts/providers are available.)

I copied everything over from the soon-to-be-expired website, probably using old-fashioned techniques, and not how a designer would do it … But, after a couple of phone calls to Siteground customer service, who were very supportive, I was up and active with my new host. Phew!

Next, I won a website audit with Ahmed Khalifa (a Digital Marketing and WordPress expert). Receiving a friendly critique with excellent tips; followed by more research with other website gurus, including Dave Smyth  and James Devonshire (Freelance Heroes), gave me the courage to tweak the theme and wording even more.

I am now even  happier with my website and proud of what I have achieved so far. It is easy to manage, and looks great on a mobile! I mention this because statistics show that mobile devices are used more for browsing websites than any other. Folks want to look up a linked site spontaneously and even instantaneously. So, it is essential that your website works, and looks good. Anywhere. On any device.

Basic website tips

  • easy to read, clear font
  • your headshot and/or logo
  • your services – what you can do for your client
  • how does a new client get in touch with you?
  • Say less of what ‘I’ can do (me me me), but what ‘you’, the client, needs. How can you (the freelance) can solve their (client) problem? *1
  • match the branding on your website with that on your social media sites where you will publish and market your website. In other words: same headshot, same banner, same headline/tagline for consistent marketing.*2
  • Designing your brand is made easier by choosing prepared designs from a free app. *3

*1  This method of your ‘About me’ page not actually being ‘About me’ (ironically) has been repeated by many on social media. It has been a revelation in tweaking how my website is worded. I can’t find the various links at the moment, but if someone can post them that would be appreciated.

*2  Advice from John Espirian and other content marketing gurus.

*3  Canva, recommended by Louise Harnby, is a design programme for those who have basic technical skills. I found it really useful when ensuring consistency in the design for my banners for marketing my website and social media profile pages (covered next). To my mind, this represents ‘joined-up thinking’.

Everything I tried with my website was using trial and error, with the undo button at hand. Also with sheer surprise if something worked first time!

Content marketing

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, …? What a minefield of social media! So, what kind of content marketer are you? I know some folks who steer well clear. I know some folks who do it ALL, spread themselves EVERYWHERE. Is that a good idea? Does it work? Does it GET you work?

Facebook

I have had a personal Facebook page for 10 years: I use it to stay in touch with friends and family, as well as previous and new colleagues met through networking. The first thing I did on Facebook when I started my business was to advertise Proofnow Proofreader as a business Facebook page because that was the medium I understood.

LinkedIn

Then I met fellow SfEP-er John Espirian, and learnt A LOT more about how to use LinkedIn. For example, build a profile page using specific criteria as he describes here. He recommends liking and commenting on the posts of others to engage in conversation. This raises the visibility of your profile. To some, LinkedIn is seen as the conference side of social media, where important leads can be followed, and serious business connections are made. Work may even follow from said connections. This is my favourite way to share with colleagues as it feels more business-like. Here is my LinkedIn page. Judge for yourself. Why don’t you try personalising your invite to connect? Then I will understand how we can help each other.

Twitter

To some Twitter is viewed as the cocktail party of social media. On Twitter, retweeting (sharing) your own posts improves engagement. I am least confident with the use of Twitter. But, because a lot of SfEP-ers are on Twitter, and because I suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out!), here is my Twitter page …

The main advice I have gleaned over the last two years is from content marketers such as Andrew & Pete of Atomic Creative Content Marketing, and MANY others. They say: do what works for you. If you can cover all (and it’s not recommended – unless you have more than 24 hours in your day), fair enough.

I need to do one of them well. Do it with purpose. Do it with meaningful content. But, in my opinion, colleagues have their own preferences when it comes to social media, so sharing your content needs to cover all bases.

Shout it out!

When I was teaching, and was so frustrated that I felt like shouting at the class or an individual, it was generally much more effective to whisper “When I say … I mean it.” Pause. You could have heard a pin drop with the silence and anticipation. I hope that my whisperings of marketing are making a difference. Perhaps I should be shouting. I am certainly anticipating that doing all I can to market my business will result in getting my name out there, which should result in getting the work in.

Family trait

For those familiar with where I grew up – Glasgow in the 1980s – there was a marketing campaign called ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’. My dad, as an employee of Glasgow District Council and its Industrial Development Officer took Glasgow around the UK to exhibitions, promoting its good points. (I know.)

When I married Tom, my artist husband, in the late 80s, my father asked him to which galleries he had touted his work. “I don’t really work that way,” was my husband’s reply. Dad took it upon himself to go around many galleries in Glasgow (at the time we lived nearby in Ayrshire) to promote his son-in-law’s art. I like to think that I have inherited my father’s skills in marketing. He would be proud.

Help, support, share

Having discovered a VAST array of tips in content marketing, I am still, not by any stretch, an expert. Everything I have learnt has been absorbed so much by osmosis. Much like a lot of newbie freelances I suspect.

Networking

These guides from the highly experienced SfEP members (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) support newbie editors; connections on LinkedIn; Freelance Heroes Facebook page is another gem for tips from website and marketing gurus, plus many other specialist freelances, where you may also find that others are interested in your services. I have found myself giving tips about LinkedIn to my local networking ladies, Winning Women in Chelmsford.

In summary, whatever medium you use, the algorithms love it if you like a post, comment and share what other small businesses are doing. It can’t help but raise your profile and those of others.

Business cards

Networking IRL (in real life) with local groups is a great way to get out and about while promoting your business. It is incredibly useful if you can offer business cards or leaflets which act as a reminder of who you are and the business services you are offering.

Moo.com was recommended to me as a business card provider. Their website is user-friendly, with professional-looking products. I’m on my n-th set of 50 cards and they are always complimented.

There is some debate as to whether off-line marketing (on paper) still serves a purpose. But I’m old-fashioned enough to market myself in as many ways as possible. All my social media links are on my cards (again, an area for debate is how much detail to put on them). Nevertheless, I am proud to say I give out my cards to all and sundry!

Paperwork

In my next blog, I recall answering my first query from a student. (Just trying to get a sample out of them, while they check if you’re available, when they haven’t actually written their thesis yet.).

Taking tiny steps as I adapted templates to compose my contracts, T&Cs, create invoices for payments and feedback forms.

As a freelance sole trader, you find that you have to be in charge of EVERY facet of your business: admin, IT, marketing, finance, … and that dreaded tax return.

I wish you a healthy and happy 2019!

 

 

 

Thank you to Lisa de Caux Intermediate SfEP Member for proofreading.

Tall Tartan Tells Episode 2 – Business Plan and Training

 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 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.

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 How I Started

Hello – and welcome to my first blog post 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