If you’re proofreading onscreen, either with my proofreading stamps or your software’s comment and mark-up tools, it’s worth spending a few minutes to set up the various onscreen elements in an ergonomic fashion as well as familiarizing yourself with basic keyboard shortcuts.
Some aspects of onscreen work are speedier – searching for and implementing global changes, for example – while moving between the various mark-up tools is not as quick as using a hand and pen. There are, however, things you can do to compensate and make your onscreen experience more effective.
1. Make the toolbar work for you
Shift the most-used elements on your toolbar so that they are near to each other and on the side of the screen with which you operate your mouse. These elements might include the typewriter, mark-up tools, text tools, and stamp and save buttons. Use your mouse to click, hold and drag the elements across the toolbar ribbon.
2. Use the stamps palette
Use stamps of proofreading symbols to complement the comment box and mark-up tools in your PDF editor. You can create your own or use the sets I’ve already developed. They’re available free of charge here. If you’re unfamiliar with these, see PDF Editing: Making the Most of the Stamps Tool.
Remember to keep your stamps palette open; it will save you time when selecting each stamp you want to use.
In XChange you can minimize the size of the symbols as they appear in the palette (see the highlight in the screenshot to the left). This enables you to see a greater number of stamps while you are working without having to scroll up and down the palette. In Acrobat, the palette is not as user-friendly, so use a second screen to get the best of the display.
In XChange, number similar stamps sequentially so that they appear in a logical order. This will make it easier to find the stamp you need, particularly if each palette contains a lot of symbols (If you’ve downloaded my XChange stamps simply change the number-name in order to re-sequence them).
It's useful to keep your palettes of different-coloured stamps separate so that the palettes don't become overly cluttered. Again, this will enable you to locate the stamp you need more efficiently.
3. Hook up a second screen
I generally use a laptop, but I hook up my old desktop screen to enable me to use two screens at once when I’m doing onscreen work. This works well on three counts:
4. Utilize basic keyboard shortcuts
These are my preferred keyboard shortcuts when working with PDFs. There are many, many more but I like these because all but one can be managed easily with one hand.
Alt Tab: this is one of my most-used keyboard short cuts and is especially useful if you only have one screen to work on and need to flit between different programs or files.
Ctrl S: save
Ctrl C: copy
Ctrl X: cut
Ctrl V: paste
Ctrl Z: undo
Ctrl A: select all
Ctrl Shift F: opens search window
5. Bookmark key pages
If you refer back to the same key pages time and again and your client hasn’t already bookmarked these (contents, part titles, chapter first page, bibliography, index etc.), it’s easy to do it yourself and will save you time. Use Ctrl B to open the bookmark function in Acrobat, PDF-XChange or PDF-XChange Viewer and name your page.
6. Use a snipping tool to make your own quickie stamps
If you are constantly using a particular combination of mark-up symbols in a piece of work (e.g. you have to change A to Å many times), you can make your own quickie stamp using a snipping tool. Windows supplies this, but if your operating system doesn’t there are plenty of free alternatives online. Pin it to the task bar at the bottom of your screen to access it quickly.
In the case given above, you would use the typewriter to print Å on your PDF, followed by the replace-slash stamp. Use your snipping tool to draw round both marks and save. Then import your new stamp into your palette. Now you only have to make one click, not two, in order to make the margin mark.
To access the stamps files, see the article Free Downloadable Proofreading Stamps. For a more detailed look at using stamps for onscreen work, go to PDF Editing: Making the Most of the Stamps Tool. For installation instructions, click here.
Anything to share?
Do you have any tips to share for more efficient onscreen work, such as favourite keyboard shortcuts or using function keys? Please share them with us in the Comments section below so that we can all improve our onscreen working experience.
There are many reasons to use Dropbox, but my favourite is as an editorial backup tool. Anything in your secure online Dropbox account is available to you wherever you are and on whichever terminal you're using.
I've blogged in the past about the importance of getting into the habit of saving and backing up your onscreen work frequently. When marking up onscreen, I save every change I make.
If I leave my desk I back up the file onto a memory stick. And I make a further full system backup once a month onto a separate hard drive. Overly cautious? Me? Perhaps, but I learned the hard way.
These days I keep any file I'm actively working on in Dropbox so that the recently saved version is always safe and available to me, even if my computer turns to dust.
You get 2GB free which is more than enough for most, and it works for Windows and Mac users.
To sign up for Dropbox, click here.
This Roundup features links related to the financial side of editorial freelancing – what you can earn, what you can save, costs that need to be offset, advertising your rates, considering what and how to charge, and how to handle late payment.
If you know of other money-talk articles that your editorial freelance colleagues would benefit from, particularly those relating to the country in which you live, please let us know in the Comments section.
For those of you who currently use Acrobat, I would strongly suggest you try PDF-XChange Viewer – it’s free and the stamps palette is far more user-friendly.
If you’ve already downloaded my stamps, then my apologies that I didn’t come across this information until now – I know how laborious it is to download the stamps one by one.
There are still benefits, though – now you can transfer your whole stamps palette to a second PC.
And should you buy a new computer you won't have to endure the arduous task of downloading the stamps one by one all over again.
Grammar guru Mignon Fogarty hosts the excellent Grammar Girl website and founded Quick and Dirty Tips.
Says Fogarty on her website, 'Grammar Girl provides short, friendly tips to improve writing. Covering the grammar rules and word choice guidelines that can confound even the best writers, Grammar Girl makes complex grammar questions simple with memory tricks to help you recall and apply those troublesome grammar rules.'
One of my regular publishing clients once gave me some constructive feedback on a proofreading job I’d done for them.
The review was positive overall, but it did highlight the fact that I’d slipped into the habit of marking up in a way that was not the most efficient use of my time or the client's.
Client X puts great emphasis on the value of feeding back information to their editorial freelancers, which helps us to improve the job we do for them. Interestingly, however, they are the only one of my clients who works in such a constructive way. This made me realize that I should be more proactive about seeking feedback from other in-house production staff, because I benefit as much as they do.
Here are a few points to consider.
Ask for feedback
If your clients don’t make a habit of feeding back information on how a job went, take the lead and ask them to.
On the one hand, they may tell you they don’t have any problems with the way you work; on the other, they may use it as an opportunity to suggest how you could improve your service for them. Either way, it’s a win–win for both of you.
Avoiding the habit trap
Feedback can highlight bad habits that you’ve slipped into without even realizing it.
Some years ago two clients asked me to mark up in a certain way in order to prevent their overseas typesetters becoming confused. I worked for these publishers regularly and in a bid to be 'kind' to all typesetters I’d extended this habit to the way I work more generally.
However, Client X asked me to rethink this style in order to save myself time and reduce the number of margin marks I was making.
Of course, I agreed – the customer is always king. More importantly, though, I’d fallen into the habit trap – I’d got so used to working in a particular way that I’d extended two clients’ requirements to all my clients, and in doing so I was wasting time.
Continuing professional development (CPD)
If you think you might have fallen into the habit trap, consider doing a refresher course.
If you’ve been doing the job for a while, it’s easy to fall into particular ways of doing things. Conventions change and client requirements differ. Reacting to this is part of every freelance proofreader’s CPD.
Responding directly to client feedback is critical but additional refresher training may be just the ticket to consolidating what you’ve learned from them.
Even negative feedback is positive
Even if your client has some criticisms of the way you’ve handled a job, see these in a positive light. When you find out what you’re doing wrong, you can ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Getting repeat work
If you make a complete pig’s ear of a job then a client won’t commission you again. But if the feedback concerns less serious issues that can be rectified, chances are that as long as you listen to the feedback, and implement the necessary changes, you’ll hear from them again. Examples might include:
In other words, constructively critical feedback can improve the relationship as long as you carry out your part of the bargain and do what you’ve been asked.
Responding to feedback
Make sure your clients know you’ve taken their feedback on board.
If they’ve gone to the trouble to help you improve your service, the least you can do is thank them. Your thank-you is an acknowledgement that you understand what they want and are prepared to implement their feedback in future jobs.
For the freelance proofreader, the client always knows best – don’t argue with them about their requirements.
By all means clearly explain why you made the particular choices being discussed, then acknowledge their preferences and assure them you’ll follow through.
No client wants to deal with a snarky proofreader and there are plenty more to choose from if you don’t come up to scratch.
Louise Harnby is a fiction line editor, copyeditor and proofreader who specializes in helping self-publishing writers prepare their novels for market.
She is the author of several books on business planning and marketing for editors, and runs online courses from within the Craft Your Editorial Fingerprint series. She is also an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Louise loves books, coffee and craft gin, though not always in that order.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader & Copyeditor, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.
In Proofreading – Does it Pay? I looked at the rates a UK proofreader might realistically expect to earn and I offered some thoughts on working for what might be perceived by some to be “low” rates in order to get experience and build a client portfolio.
Since I wrote that article, Erin Brenner, on Copyediting.com, has posted a very informative piece about rates for the job that US editorial freelancers will find valuable: Tip of the Week: What a Copyeditor Earns.
In this post I’ll focus on some of the hidden savings and costs that are worth taking in to account when thinking about whether a freelance business is financially sustainable; I’ll also address the issue of emotional earnings – the so-called cultural capital (sometimes called human capital) that can be generated from editorial freelancing.
The obvious place to start when considering whether to embark on a freelance editorial career is what you can earn in term in terms of currency per hour.
This will depend on where you live, the types of client you’re targeting, the subjects in which you specialize and the level of expertise required. This is discussed in more detail in Proofreading – Does it Pay? The economic climate will also affect the amount of work going around, just as it does in any industry, anywhere in the world.
Editorial freelancing, however, has important hidden savings attached to it that should be taken into account when comparing it with office-based work.
For those working and living in central London the annual tube travel card would cost between £1168 and £3040. I live in rural Norfolk. Buses run twice a day (not always at work-friendly times) and take an age to get anywhere.
Furthermore, I don’t live in walking distance of a train station. If I worked for an employer in the city, I’d have to commute by car, roughly a twenty-mile round trip, five days a week.
We already own a car so I can’t slam the whole cost on an office job, but the additional wear and tear, parking fees and horrendous UK petrol costs would be considerable.
I, however, am a freelance editor. My trip down the stairs every day is free. I estimate I save around £1500 a year by working from home. When you work out what your freelance proofreading business pays, you should take the avoided commuting costs into account.
I have a child so if I was office-based I'd have to pay for childcare during the holidays. Good quality childcare doesn't come cheap - nor should it - so that's another saving.
If you have a supportive family network local to you, parents or grandparents, perhaps, who are prepared to look after your kids for free, lucky you! For many of us, however, this is not an option.
This may sound trivial but in some workplaces there's a certain dress code to which you will be expected to adhere. Two or three good suits and matching shoes don’t come cheap.
This editorial freelancer, on the other hand, once proofread for four hours in her pyjamas. It’s not something I like to brag about, but I don’t spend a bean on work clothes even when, as usually happens, I do get dressed.
I’m not sure where my US, Canadian, South African, Indian or Australian colleagues bought their lunch before they were freelance, but here in the UK, a lot of us spend huge amounts of money popping out from the office down to the company canteen, or nipping out to Pret a Manger or Marks & Spencer for a freshly made sandwich and a piece of fruit – and at a cost that makes me blush now that I’m digging around in my freelancing fridge every day.
When working out the financial merits of freelancing, it's about not just what you earn but also what you don't spend.
It would be ingenuous not to address some of the hidden costs, too. These need to be offset against the hidden savings and any cultural capital earned.
In the UK we have a wonderful, if struggling, National Health Service that’s free at the point of delivery. Every worker pays national insurance contributions to fund this. If you live outside of the UK, working in an office may give you health insurance entitlements that you would have to pay for yourself when freelancing.
If you’re an employee, your company may have a contributory pension scheme that tops up what you put in. These vary in their generosity, but need to be considered.
There’s no such thing as sick pay in the world of the freelancer. If you don’t work, do you don’t earn – simple as that.
Again, there’s no external financial provision for this when you work for yourself. If you have a child and decide to take time out from doing paid work, that time represents income lost.
Some editorial freelancers take out professional indemnity insurance in order to cover themselves in the event that legal proceedings are taken against them. To my knowledge, this is more of a concern for editors than proofreaders and is more prevalent in the scientific, technical and medical fields.
Earning cultural capital
If the term cultural capital (or human capital) sounds like sociological buzz talk, I won’t apologize, because the concept is something I believe in.
Cultural capital refers to the skills, training, education, information, knowledge and benefits that a person gains in order to better themselves.
There are many ways of earning cultural capital – just a few include enrolling in college, having kids, volunteering, going to work, training, networking, and socializing. Another way is to be a business owner, even if you’re the only employee.
Investing in yourself
When you decide to move from office-based work to building your own editorial freelance business, a hugely important cultural shift occurs.
Every step you take on the journey will be an investment in yourself. Every piece of training or work that you do will be for you and your business. Every stamp you lick, every letter you post, every email you send to a prospective client will be for you. Every new client you acquire (and every rejection you receive) will be another step on your freelance journey, not an employer’s.
At each step, you’ll be earning cultural capital.
Tens of thousands of UK companies have signed up to work with Investors in People. Launched over 20 years ago, Investors in People "is the UK's leading people management standard. It’s a business improvement tool designed to help all kinds of organizations develop performance through their people” (http://www.investorsinpeople.co.uk).
When you decide to set up your own freelance editorial business you’ve become an investor in people without even trying – you’ve invested in you. And in doing so, you’ve earned more cultural capital.
The way you talk about yourself
Office-based “part-timers” (I've been one) typically put in more hours than they're paid for in order to be seen to “keep up”. They don't always get the same breaks as full-time colleagues or have the same degree of influence within a department because they're not always on site.
Freelancing offers another cultural shift on this front: I don't talk about myself a part-timer; rather, I'm a freelancer. I'm not an employee; I'm self-employed. I'm not even just an editor and proofreader – I'm also the owner of a business, the chief accountant, the marketing director, training developer, web manager, coffee maker, and the errand runner. That’s a lot of cultural capital, and I'm really proud of that.
Measuring your cultural capital
Measuring cultural capital in strictly financial terms is impossible. However, I think the things I’ve learned (through self-teaching and training courses), the people I’ve met, the planning I’ve done, the work I’ve completed, the flexibility I’ve embedded in my business model, and the obstacles I’ve overcome have given me new skills and confidence.
I hope to pass on this emotional capital base to my daughter when she’s ready.
And if my business went belly-up in the next twelve months I believe I’d be better placed to pick myself up and re-enter the market because of the cultural capital I’ve earned on my freelance journey.
Freelance colleagues, what do you think? Is it all about the dollars and cents or does emotional capital count, too?
Macros for Writers and Editors, by technical author, publisher, proofreader and editor Paul Beverley, is a free online book with over 400 macros for the writer, editor and proofreader.
One of my personal favourites is CiteCheck, which is excellent if you want to check text citations against a bibliography, particularly when the short-title system is being used. Other popular macros developed by Paul include the well-loved FRedit, a customizable scripted find-and-replace macro, and IStoIZ and IZtoIS (both of which highlight all the words in a file that may need amending to fit client style).
However, this blog post doesn't even begin to scratch the surface. Instead, take a look at the book yourself and decide what will work best for you. There really is something for everyone.
Editors Canada has 1,600 members across the country and six regional chapters. Key features of membership include:
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I write short fiction too. Click on the book above to read my free debut collection.
'Louise uses her expertise to hone a story until it's razor sharp, while still allowing the author’s voice to remain dominant.'
'I wholeheartedly recommend her services ... Just don’t hire her when I need her.'
J B Turner
'Sincere thanks for a beautiful and elegant piece of work. First class.'
'What makes her stand out and shine is her ability to immerse herself in your story.'
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