WordTips offers lots of tricks, tips and ideas on how to make the most of Microsoft Word. If you're editing or proofreading in Word, this site will have something for you.
The site includes information on all aspects of Word including, but not limited to: Bullets and Numbering, Customizing Word, Fields, Footnotes and Endnotes, Formatting, Headers and Footers, Macros, Master and Subdocuments, Shortcut Keys, Styles, Tables, Templates, and Tools.
There are two versions available:
You can also sign up for a free subscription to WordTips or WordRibbonTips.
With the release of version 2 of PerfectIt, it seemed the ideal time to put some questions to Daniel Heuman, managing director of Intelligent Editing. I've been a PerfectIt user for some years and I'm looking forward to upgrading to the new version.
Visit the Intelligent Editing website for more information about PerfectIt. You might also like the PerfectIt User Forum, where you can ask questions, suggest improvements and download style sheets.
In the meantime, if you're open to complementing your editorial eye with useful ancillary tools, and want to learn a little more from the developer, read on ...
Louise Harnby: For the benefit of those who’ve never used PerfectIt, Daniel, tell us a bit about what it does.
Daniel Heuman: PerfectIt is a consistency checker. Just as you have a spell checker for spelling, and a grammar checker for grammar, PerfectIt checks documents for consistency mistakes. For example, if you hyphenate "copy-editor" in one location in a document, it’s important to make sure that’s consistent throughout. So PerfectIt checks consistency of hyphenation, capitalization, abbreviations, numerals in sentences, list punctuation and many other things.
PerfectIt also helps check points of style. PerfectIt can be customized with house style preferences and used to check those. For example, one editor programmed PerfectIt to check WHO (World Health Organization) style and made that available to all users. Anyone wanting to check WHO style can just load up that stylesheet and PerfectIt will check for over 1600 preferences. From "hyponatraemia" (not "hyponatremia") to "corrigenda" (not "corrigendums"), that’s an invaluable resource to anyone working with the style.
Finally, PerfectIt helps tidy up documents. It checks that abbreviations are defined, that users haven’t left notes to themselves in text (e.g. "NB: insert figure here") and it can create a table of abbreviations (automatically locating all abbreviations and their definitions) in seconds.
LH: I was discussing all things business to a friend of mine who’s a marketing manager. He writes a lot of quite lengthy reports for internal and external use. I suggested PerfectIt to him and his response was: "I don’t see the need for something like that – there’s a spell check on my PC and I’ve got a good eye.” What would you say to him?
DH: I’d probably scream “oh-my-god-you-are-wasting-your-life!” Actually, that’s not true … I’m English, so I’d probably roll my eyes and walk away!
The truth is that there are two reasons why he should be using PerfectIt. The first is speed. How long does it take him to find one inconsistency? He needs to read through his entire text, locate each word that is capitalized and check/remember to capitalize that word throughout. Then he needs to do the same for hyphenation, abbreviations, heading case, and so much more. PerfectIt finds all of that in seconds. He really is wasting his life by doing it the long way.
The second reason for him to switch to PerfectIt is quality. PerfectIt helps users to really take pride in their work. It isn’t possible for the human brain to keep track of consistency once documents pass several thousand words. Some 80% of documents over 1000 words that are published online contain a capitalization inconsistency, and over 60% contain a hyphenation inconsistency (see The Top 10 Consistency Mistakes). Even if we restrict it to spelling, over 20% of documents over 1000 words that are published online contain a spelling inconsistency. There’s nothing a spell checker can do about that last category. The word "adviser" and "advisor" are both correct spellings. But if they appear in the same document, that’s an inconsistency. Some people won’t ever be convinced. But the stats are real. And as soon as they try PerfectIt, they get it.
LH: So PerfectIt’s not just for editors or proofreaders. It feels like you developed it with a much broader audience in mind …
DH: My background is in economics, and I started out as an economic consultant. Most of the tests that PerfectIt carries out are based on real world experience at that time. For example, we’d deliver reports for businesses and government, but at the end of each report we’d have to go through carefully and make sure that bullets were consistently capitalized and punctuated. We’d check that abbreviations were defined in their first instance, and that they were only defined once. So PerfectIt was designed very much for that market, with a focus on consultants, engineers, lawyers, and medical professionals.
It was only when PerfectIt was released that it was adopted by the editing community, translators and technical writers. In terms of overall revenue, the big companies are probably more significant. But in terms of volume, it’s the individual editors who have been most important. I stopped counting sales to members of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders after it reached 100. And the success is similar with other editing societies around the world. But it’s not just about volume. Editors are wonderful customers because they send feedback. Is there any group in the world better at spotting flaws in editing software? You better believe I get a lot emails with examples that PerfectIt has missed. The result is that we’re always improving the product based on the mails we get.
LH: I’ve been pleased to see that you email me and your other customers with updates every now and then. Can you tell us about the driving factors behind these updates? And if f I say to you, “I’d really like it if PerfectIt did X or Y”, might I expect to see my suggestion in future versions?
DH: Yes, we can’t include all suggestions, but we have a place on our user forum where customers can bounce around feedback for future versions. For the first three years, those updates have all been free. And the ones suggested by users include support for multiple style guides, and the system for dealing with tracked changes in documents.
After three years, PerfectIt 2.0 will be the first major version upgrade that users will have to pay for. PerfectIt has a permanent licence (no subscription fee or anything like that), so in order to justify people spending more money on it, we’ve had to load PerfectIt 2 with user requests and lots of other new features. In particular, we’ve added a "Back" button (possibly the most requested feature) and a system for generating reports on errors and on changes made, which is probably the second most requested feature.
LH: And what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced during development?
DH: The constant challenge is to choose between complexity and usability. The more features and tests we add to the product, the more complex it becomes. But what people love about PerfectIt is the ease of use. So we’re constantly trying to balance those two. With any new feature, the first question is: "Can we get the software to do that?" But the second question is: "Will it be easy for the user to understand?"
LH: Does PerfectIt work for customers outside the UK? Some of the North American or Pacific Rim readers may be wondering if they can use it.
DH: PerfectIt is international. It doesn't duplicate the functions of a spelling checker, but it will spot inconsistencies in language. So, for example, it won't correct "realise" or "realize". However, if "realise" and "realize" appear in the same document, that’s a consistency mistake. Whether you’re in Europe, North America or the Pacific Rim, a consistency mistake is still a consistency mistake.
LH: People are often concerned about buying software and then finding out that it doesn’t do what they hoped. Can you try it before you buy it?
DH: There is a free download on the website. Users can try it without giving any credit card details or other personal information. Just download it and run it on a document.
When they try it, most people get what the product is about in seconds. The only suggestion we make is that PerfectIt is intended for longer documents. There’s no point in trying it out on a paragraph of text because that won’t contain many inconsistencies. Try PerfectIt on a document that’s over 1,000 words. Or better yet, try it on a document that’s over 10,000 words. That’ll show you what it can do.
LH: What does the future look like at Intelligent Editing? Do you have any plans for additional software tools or plug-ins?
PerfectIt 2 took an enormous amount of development time and effort, so it might be a while before we start anything new. However, there are a few projects under consideration, so we’ll let you know when we’ve decided.
LH: I often post on this blog about my favourite editorial tools. Aside, of course, from PerfectIt, what are your favourite tools and resources? Anything you like … software, books, online resources and social media.
DH: My favourite free tool for writing and editing is ClipX. It modifies the clipboard so that it shows the last 25 items that were copied, no matter what program they were copied in. After using it, I can’t understand why anyone would choose to work without it.
It’s more for writing than for editing, but I think that Word’s "AutoCorrect" feature is underrated. Why write out the word ‘"necessary" when you can program AutoCorrect to spell the word in full when you type ‘"nry"? You can quickly build yourself up an entire vocabulary and save lots of time typing.
I’m also a really big fan of Jack Lyon’s Editorium macros. Jack has put a lot of thought into the documentation, and the result is a system that helps you to work a lot faster. People don’t believe that faster keystrokes and saving a second or two each time can make a difference. But they really do.
LH: And finally, tell us something that might surprise us!
DH: In my other life, I’m a swing dancer. That’s partner dancing to big band jazz and old-time blues … and nothing at all to do with editing!
The Weekly Review offers links to useful editing, proofreading, freelancing and publishing news articles published online in the past seven days.
Did you know that you can place a direct link on your company intranet (or website) to the Society for Editors and Proofreaders' Directory of Editorial Services? Visit the SfEP's website for easy-to-follow instructions.
This may be a particularly useful tool for you if you are a publisher, editorial project management agency, or other organization that regularly searches for freelance editorial pros. The directory features over 500 members, detailing their experience, training and skills, and is searchable by key word.
My colleague Liz Jones shared a link to a list of time-tracking tools for freelancers. Some are available to download while others are online. The featured tools include Toggl, Klol, Slim Timer, Manic Time, Function Fox, Rescue Time, myHours, Harvest, Track My People, and Fanurio.
Also worth considering is TimeCatcher, a smart phone app that another colleague, Janet MacMillan, alerted me to.
Also of note is Word's Edit Time function, which Alison Lees mentioned in the comments below. For instructions on how to use this in Word 2007, click here; for earlier versions of Word, click here. An important point to make about Edit Time is that Word measures the amount of time you've worked on a particular document according to whether the file is open, meaning you'd need to remember to close the document to get the correct measure.
If you use a particular time-tracking tool in your editorial freelancing work, please share your experiences in the comments to help guide us towards which tool you think might me the most useful.
Dear newbie proofreader,
I’ve told you a lie – I don’t hate the term “freelance proofreader”. “I’m freelance”, “I went freelance in …”, and “since I’ve been freelancing” are phrases I trot out all the time to explain the way I organize my work life.
I'll be frank with you, though – I do sometimes worry that the term “freelance” doesn’t quite cut the mustard. If I’d spent 15 years working as an electrician for an electrical installations company and then decided to go it alone, I’d never have described myself as a "freelance electrician". I’d have told people that I was now running my own electrical business. Does “freelancer” really reflect the level of business acumen required to do my job? And it’s not just my ability to make sound judgements and take the right decisions. It’s bigger than that – it’s that whole sense of business-cultural embeddedness that’s at stake. If I don’t think of myself as a business owner, then am I in danger of not acting like one? And if I don’t act like one, why would anyone else think to treat me as one?
Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs does not consider me a “freelancer”. Rather, I’m a sole trader. I’m the owner of a business that employs exactly one person. I carry out tax self-assessment on an annual basis just as if I was that business-owning electrician I mentioned above. Just like the electrician, I’m hired by a number of different clients to carry out professional services. Just like the electrician, I set my own rates (though perhaps unlike our electrician I may agree to – or decline – an offered fee). Just like the electrician, it’s up to me to decide whether I want to accept a client’s offer of work or decline it. Just like the electrician, I work the hours I choose to work and take holiday leave when I decide to. And just like the electrician, the only person who can fire me is, well, me.
Does a freelancer work in a different way to that of a business owner? This one doesn’t. So what’s the problem with referring to myself as “freelance”? I don’t think there is one as long as I’m clear in my mind about what needs to be done – and being a business owner is more than just a being a proofreader (or an electrician). I take care of my own accounts; I need to acquire a solid understanding of the market in which I am competing and the methods I am going to use to get noticed in order to generate business leads and paid work; I have to do my own financial forecasting; I organize all my training and continued professional development to make sure my skills are up to date; I take responsibility for my tax and national insurance liabilities to ensure legal, healthcare and pension provisions are met; and I manage any personnel problems that arise (such as when I get upset on the rare occasion that someone doesn't pay me). I could say more but I have a work deadline to meet and a child who's complaining of a sore throat, so there isn’t time right now. I hope this gets you thinking, anyway.
So, dear newbie, if in your own head the term “freelance” doesn’t conjure up an image of these many hats, then I’d advise you instead to start thinking of yourself as a business owner first and foremost. To do otherwise may leave you ill-prepared for the myriad functions that you’ll need to perform (and that you may have little experience of) when you start out. You'll be the luckiest editorial freelancer in the world if the work just lands in your lap. It's far more likely that you'll have to work very hard to get yourself established. Become “freelance” by all means, but do your business planning just like any other new business owner.
With best wishes,
Louise Harnby | Proofreader
Contact information: To enable me to deal with your query as quickly and efficiently as possible, please contact the relevant department.
Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader's Parlour. She is also the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers, Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business, and Omnibus: Editorial Business Planning & Marketing Plus.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.
The editorial freelancing directory Find A Proofreader recently published a short proofreading guide that I compiled especially for those who hire editorial services. The article includes an outline of the benefits of hiring a professional proofreader and some tips on what to consider to ensure the person you choose is the best fit for you. Here's an introductory excerpt ...
“Most writing could be better. Not just a little better – significantly better … A little attention to the final details can kick ‘pretty good’ to ‘magnificent’.” (D Bnonn Tennant)
Why should you hire a professional proofreader before you make public your carefully crafted words? The quotation from D Bnonn Tennant above says it all – attention to detail makes a difference.
I assume you’ve written whatever it is that you’ve written because you wanted to communicate an idea to others – perhaps those words aim to entertain (novel, magazine), educate (thesis, monograph, journal article), inform (business report), sell a product (website, marketing brochure), or persuade (job application form, CV). It’s essential those words work for you, that their meaning is understood ...
To read the full guide, click here.
The Weekly Review offers links to useful editing, proofreading, freelancing and publishing news articles published online in the past seven days.
My colleague Erin Brenner (Right Touch Editing) has compiled a fabulous list of online style guides for copy-editors including Harvard Referencing, APA, ASA and Chicago. If you want to see the full batch, visit her Delicious Style Guides stack.
To complement Erin’s stack, here are a few more online style guides that copy-editors may find useful:
If you know of any other free online style guides that you think may be of use to your editorial colleagues, let me know in the comments. I'll add them to this list and perhaps Erin will had them to her Delicious stack, too!
Anna Sharman’s recent guest article on working for academic editing agencies prompted an interesting comment from another colleague to the effect that providing language editing services for non-English speaking researchers didn’t necessarily level the playing field at pre-submission stage. The reason for the imbalance is obvious – researchers in the developing world are much less likely to be able to afford the cost of hiring the services of ESL editors. This leads to a publishing divide between the rich and the poor, where economics rather than academic excellence determines the ability to publish.
So who better to address the issue than Ravi Murugesan, the training coordinator of AuthorAID, a project dedicated to helping academic authors from developing countries to publish their research.
Ravi kindly agreed to an interview with The Proofreader’s Parlour. We hope that this Q&A will draw further attention to the valuable work that AuthorAID does on behalf of the developing world’s community of scholars and the people and organizations who support it.
Louise Harnby: Many thanks for taking the time to do this interview Ravi. First of all, can you tell me a little bit about your own background and how you came to be involved with AuthorAID?
Ravi Murugesan: Thank you, Louise, for your interest in AuthorAID at INASP. My academic background is in engineering. I completed a master’s degree in the US, but I decided I wasn’t meant to be an engineer after working in a semiconductor company for a few months. I became an authors’ editor at the Editage office in Mumbai, and after a couple of years I became the manager of the education business in the same organization. When I saw the job advert for the training coordinator position at AuthorAID, I was fascinated by the role, particularly the part about travelling to developing countries to facilitate workshops on scientific writing. I joined AuthorAID in March 2011.
LH: Can you tell me more about the foundations of the AuthorAID programme, such as where it’s based, who it serves, what its objectives are and how it all started? I understand the idea was first mooted by the editors of the Journal of Public Health Policy back in 2004.
RM: AuthorAID is one of the projects run by the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP), a charity based in Oxford. There are now a number of independent AuthorAID initiatives. At INASP, AuthorAID is part of the Programme for the Enhancement for Research Information, which began in 2002 with the goal of strengthening the research communication cycle in developing countries. In this interview, I talk about just the AuthorAID programme at INASP.
AuthorAID’s mission is to support developing country researchers in publishing their work. We focus on the researchers in INASP’s 22 partner countries, but our website is open to all. We now have 5,000 members on the site, and much of the site’s content is available without registration. But with registration, researchers can join our online mentoring scheme as a mentee or mentor.
We also conduct workshops on research writing in our partner countries, maintain a frequently updated blog and resource library (with hundreds of free e-resources), and offer grants for research communication.
LH: Is the programme for authors in all fields of the academic spectrum, or just the sciences?
RM: Researchers from any field are welcome to register on our website. The workshops we conduct are oriented towards researchers in scientific fields, but we’re looking to improve our offerings for researchers in the humanities and social sciences. A few months back, we were invited by the British Academy to give a talk on mentoring to social science researchers in West Africa at a career development workshop in Ghana.
LH: From a language-editing perspective, how does it work? Let’s say a scholar from Nepal has a research project that they want to write up and submit to an academic journal, but their English-language skills restrict submission and they can’t afford to hire an ESL editor from the developing world. How can they get round the problem of affordability vs quality editing?
RM: They have two options: they can look for a mentor who would be willing to edit their work, or they can contact one of the editing services we have listed on our site. (These companies offer discounts to AuthorAID members.) Some mentors may be more interested in helping with the writing process than editing a paper after it is written. So I would recommend that authors from developing countries look for a mentor when they are about to begin writing a paper.
LH: There may be freelance academic editors reading this who would consider working on manuscripts from AuthorAID members. What should they do if they want to provide language editing services for scholars in the developing world?
RM: We would love to have more academic copy editors join our community as mentors. Because of my own background in this area, I was able to mentor an early-career researcher in Zimbabwe. I helped him develop a hypothesis and write his paper. I also clarified many questions he had about referencing and the peer review process. By being a mentor, I developed a greater appreciation of the effort that a researcher invests in writing a paper.
Even if academic copy editors don’t wish to get involved in the writing process as mentors, they can still provide a valuable service by editing the papers of mentees. You must be aware that a lot of journal editors and peer reviewers consider the language in a paper to be indicative of the quality of the research reported. By presenting a well-written (or well-edited) paper, a researcher has a better chance of getting published.
We recommend that mentees acknowledge their mentors in any published papers, so editorial mentors can request their mentees for such acknowledgement. However, I would advise mentors to think of this as a possible bonus and not a goal as such. AuthorAID mentees often work in resource-poor settings and may face numerous hurdles in the journey to publication. Sometimes, the dedicated effort of a mentor may not be enough for a mentee to get published. But usually both the mentor and mentee learn a lot, and the mentee may be better equipped to publish in the future.
LH: Who are your key partners in the programme, broadly speaking?
RM: We have organized joint workshops with science foundations and networks, such as the International Foundation for Science and the Royal Society of Chemistry. In fact, just a month back we organized two workshops in Kenya with these partners. We are always looking to partner with other organizations that have missions similar to ours.
LH: Do you offer financial help to researchers from lower-income countries, and if so what are the criteria for assessment?
RM: We provide travel and workshop grants, and these are explained in our latest call for applications.
LH: Can you share some examples of people who AuthorAID has helped on their scholarly publishing journey?
RM: A few weeks back, our country coordinator in Ethiopia told me that one of the researchers who attended the workshop I facilitated last November has just published a paper in a journal. I was thrilled and did an interview with her, which has just gone up on the AuthorAID blog.
In April, a scientist who attended the AuthorAID workshop in Zambia won the workshop grant, and she is very motivated to share her knowledge with female researchers in her department.
Every now and then, we do formal impact assessments. When we did this last year for the AuthorAID workshop in Rwanda that was held in 2009, we were pleased to see that there had been a substantial increase in the publications of the participants.
LH: What’s coming up in the future for AuthorAID? Are there any special events or plans in the pipeline that you’d like to share?
RM: The AuthorAID e-learning system has just been launched, and the blog post from last week has more details.
LH: To round off, Ravi, please tell us how to get in touch with AuthorAID.
The following is a summary of the articles related to marketing and getting noticed that have been published on the Proofreader's Parlour to date.
About Louise Harnby
Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader's Parlour. She is the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing and Proofreading Business. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn.
The Weekly Review offers links to useful editing, proofreading, freelancing and publishing news articles published online in the past seven days.
Making your résumé available online was one of the issues discussed at the recent SfEP Norfolk Group meeting on editorial marketing matters.
Here are eight reasons to think about when deciding whether to incorporate this into your promotional strategy.
Additional points to consider
Some of our members raised additional points about online résumés that are worth considering:
My colleague Nick Jones recently took ownership of the online directory Find a Proofreader.
I've plugged it quite a lot recently because I think it's demonstrated very quickly that it can generate leads. After all, if you're using directories as a marketing tool to advertise your services you want those directories to be active.
My entry has been live for less than two weeks and I've had three opportunities to quote for work: one from a marketing and communications agency, one from a business, and one from an independent writer. The nature of my business, working primarily for publisher clients, means I'm already booked up, but it's good to know that if I'd had space in my schedule there would have been leads to pursue.
If you're an editorial freelancer looking to expand your online advertising base, or you're searching for editorial services, click on the logo below for more information.
I’m sometimes asked by independent writers if I can proofread their work and help them with other critical elements of the publishing process. These might include development work, copy-editing, indexing, rewriting, and getting published. I’m solely a proofreader so when I receive requests for help beyond my area of expertise I do my best to point people in the right direction – towards other professionals with the right skills for the job.
Some editorial freelancers are trained to wear a number of hats, but not all. Not every proofreader is also a copy-editor; not every copy-editor is also an indexer; not all development editors provide a publishing consultancy function. These are separate services and need to be treated as such.
Here are a few tips to set you on the right track:
Whichever service you are using, and in whatever genre, take care to do your research carefully. The people with whom you choose to work should be able to demonstrate experience in their field. Read testimonials from past clients; these will reassure you that the provider can do what they claim. Ensure that all parties are clear about what is included in the service. And give yourself plenty of time to find the right person for the right part of the job and at the price that suits your budget – a last-minute rush could lead to disappointment.
My search for an easy way to upload my CV to my LinkedIn profile led me to Box. It's basically a file-sharing tool, though you can add details to the free personal account including your picture, name, company name, website, address, telephone numbers. You have up to 5GB of storage with the free account.
It's up to you to decide how best you want to use Box – as a backup, to enable collaboration, as a mobile work platform, or as a means to upload particular files, such as CVs, that you want to make digitally available, perhaps for marketing purposes.
At the recent Norfolk Group meeting of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, which took place in Norwich on 2 July 2012, the members in attendance jointly agreed to publicize a summary of the discussion that took place on editorial freelancing and marketing. The meeting was extremely productive – we all came away feeling we'd learned something new and wanted to share this with colleagues from within the Society and beyond. We hope the following notes prove as useful to you as they have done to us.
Each member of the group outlined how they got into editorial freelancing, their primary market, and what their preferred tools are for accessing that market. We then shared ideas based on our own experiences or those that we’d heard about second-hand. The following is a summary of the discussion.
Members of the group come from a variety of backgrounds (IT, teaching, publishing, for example) and offer a number of different services (marketing, copy-writing, development editing, copy-editing, proofreading, writing, business consultancy). Most of us in attendance work for mainstream publishers, but businesses, agencies, students and independent authors are also markets that we’ve all had various degrees of experience with.
So what are the tools that we’re using to get noticed, and how are we getting the best out of them?
Are you thinking about your business in the right way?
Two group members highlighted the importance of the approach you take to your business. If you don’t have the correct approach in your head, you’re less likely to be able to take advantage of marketing tools in a way that will generate the best leads. Think about yourself as a business owner first and foremost. Only then should you focus on what services you have to offer.
Thinking about yourself as a business owner makes you acknowledge that proofreading, editing, copy-writing etc. in themselves will not be enough to generate work. As a business owner you need to think about how you will get that work – in other words, your marketing strategy. This is as core to your business as sending out invoices or managing the delivery of completed work. If you don’t take proactive action to sell your business, you’ll be self-unemployed not self-employed. Don’t be shy about marketing your business – this is what companies do and editorial freelancers, as small business owners, shouldn’t feel they have to wait for referrals in order to generate leads.
Websites and email
The consensus was that having a website is crucial for several reasons:
Summaries of experience: CV or promotional leaflet?
During our website/email discussion, and a quick mention of LinkedIn, the issue of placing CVs online came up. Everyone agreed that it made sense to place such a summary online so that potential clients could download something to keep on file. Several points are worth considering:
Is your bank of clients large enough?
We also discussed the importance of ensuring you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Some members have found themselves taking the bulk of their work from a very small number of clients. We all agreed that while it’s good to have repeat work from core suppliers, it’s important of protect yourself from future changes in the market. An example that highlighted this was that of Williams and Wilkins and Lippincott. In the early 1990s these were two separate publishers, both of whom bought in editorial services. The companies have since merged, meaning two work streams are now one. We also recalled the experience of an SfEP colleague who lost a core publisher client when all proofreading work was brought in-house as a result of the recession.
The group talked about sharing contact names and email addresses of relevant publishers in a bid to help each other broaden our client portfolios and future proof ourselves from economic shocks and corporate restructures.
Working with businesses
We talked about how the business market is far harder to penetrate than, say, the publisher market. Publishers understand us – our services were born in that industry. Businesses are different – they often don’t realise what we do, or the differences between the various roles (copy-writing vs copy-editing vs proofreading). The main points were:
Developing good business relationships
Many of us felt it was important to build links with more than one person within an organization that provides a regular supply of work – it’s useful to try to get work with several desk editors in a press or project management agency. That way, when one contact leaves for pastures new, your work stream isn’t threatened.
Most of us stated that we’d never met any of our clients – all communication was done by email or on the phone. However, another member gave us something to think about – he tries to get face-to-face contact whenever possible. He wants to get under the skin of his clients, to make them like him and want to give him work. In that way, he becomes one of their freelancers of choice.
Use your local group
SfEP members – use your local group! The friendships that one develops in these settings can forge business links that are stronger than in the society at large. The Norfolk group is a good example. By the end of this marketing session, not only had we all learned some valuable tips for how to better promote ourselves, but some of us had promised to share publisher contact details to help each other broaden our client portfolios. And we’re not alone – many people in local groups all over the country offer work opportunities and leads to fellow group members in the first instance.
The lesson is: if you’re not a member of your local group, consider joining. If there isn’t a local group that you feel you can travel to, think about setting one up. If you live in an isolated area, consider setting up a virtual group where you communicate with others in a similar situation by email, conference call or Skype.
Directories and other advertising
While we acknowledged that we do know of people who get a steady supply of work from key directories, none of our group members relied on this as a primary marketing tool. Some key points emerged:
Cold contact: letters, emails and phone calls
Those of us who work for publisher clients felt that cold contact was a very effective strategy for targeting this market, particularly because our services are known and understood by the publishing industry. Members agreed that identifying the name and title of the person responsible for hiring editorial freelancers beforehand was important. All of us had generated strong response rates by making cold contact with publishers. Those of us who had used the same strategy with non-publisher clients had found it ineffective.
Are you selling your full skill set?
Some of our members were keen to highlight the importance of making sure you are taking advantage of your full skill set. Are you really just an expert proofreader? If you have an IT or accountancy background, for example, there may be add-on skills that you can offer to prospective clients, particularly in the non-publisher sector. If you were once a marketing manager in a previous working life, you could consider offering marketing consultancy services to local companies. If you’re a blogger you may have writing skills that could be utilized in your freelance business, too.
The point is to be confident and broad-minded. Bring what you know to the table and don’t be shy about selling it. Listen to what people say and if you see an opportunity and think you can add value, even if the skills fall outside your editorial remit, put yourself forward. The more you can offer to a client, the more indispensable you become and the more likely they are to bring you in on future projects.
Using time zones to your advantage
One fascinating idea emerged from one of our members. He suggested targeting overseas clients (west coast United States, Australia and New Zealand for example) where the time difference enables you to offer a fast turnaround because the client is sleeping during your most or all of your working day. You can therefore promise a completion time on an urgent job that local editorial freelancers won’t be able to compete with!
A summary of promotional tools to consider
The following articles offer a few ideas about enhancing your online presence. You never how someone with a work offer might find you.
Come and join us!
Why not join the Norfolk Group of the SfEP? We’re a very friendly and vibrant group of editorial freelancers who get together in Norwich once every couple of months. We share a meal and chat about different aspects of our business. If you’re already an SfEP member or associate but haven’t had the chance to pop along yet, we'd love to meet you. Contact Paul Beverley for more details email@example.com.
If you’re not yet affiliated with the SfEP but want to get a flavour of the Society via our local group, you are also welcome to visit us and see what we do.
For information about the Society more broadly visit the SfEP website. To find out more about local SfEP groups, take a look at the Regional Development section.
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I am an Advanced Professional Member of the UK's national editorial society. Visit the SfEP website for more information.
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