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.

My 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

Episode 5   04/03/2019

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

Episode 4   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 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