A note from Louise: In 2013, I published my first book – an introductory editorial business-planning guide entitled Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers. I wanted to provide readers with a real-world view of what it’s like to enter the world of editorial freelancing.
Three of my colleagues were kind enough to act as case studies, sharing insights into their experiences of building an editorial business: Johanna Robinson, Mary McCauley and Grace Wilson. At the time of publication, all three were relatively new to the field (their start-ups were under two years old). Each of them created vibrant, successful editorial businesses, working with a range of clients across the UK and Ireland. Their candid accounts illustrated the challenges of editorial freelancing – but also suggested how the path to success could be achieved through determination, skills acquisition, strategic planning and targeted marketing.
So here we are in 2015. My colleagues left behind their new-starter status a long time ago. They’re now established editorial business owners who are not only working for paying clients but also helping less experienced colleagues navigate their way through the world of editorial freelancing via training programmes and conference presentations.
It’s therefore with great pleasure that I hand now you over to Johanna Robinson of Ascribe Editing. Below, Johanna tells us what’s changed and what’s stayed the same; how her business has developed; what she’s learned; and what her plans are for the future …
In 2013, I appeared in Louise’s book as a case study. I thought it would be useful to people starting out as editorial freelancers, particularly from non-publishing backgrounds, if I provided an update on how business is going, two years down the line from that case study.
Some things have changed: I now have a desk in my office rather than in the bedroom; both children are now at school, rather than just one; I’ve had a couple of days off – real days off – recently.
Some things haven’t changed: the online HMRC and Business Link courses I talked about are still on my to-do list; my husband still works away for five days at a time; I still work regularly past midnight.
In 2014, I upgraded to the SfEP’s Ordinary level of membership (now Professional Member), using points from past courses and references from two publisher clients. I hope to be able to upgrade to Advanced Professional Membership within the next year – I should be able to achieve this with another training course under my belt, which will probably be an SfEP distance-learning module.
Over the past year I have worked around 22–25 hours a week, sometimes as few as 8 (on a week off) and sometimes as many as 45 (long books, tight deadlines). I’m currently averaging around 30.
My clients are book publishers, magazine publishers, outsourced publisher/project management companies, self-publishers (fiction and non-fiction), one "non-departmental public body of the Government", and a design agency. I don’t work for many students these days, usually because of timescales.
I have also met, over the last two years, so many people full of great ideas, inspiration, dedication, and ambition: people who have set up their own businesses – not only independent small presses/publishers, but also innovative start-ups that need material proofread. Many of these jobs are regular ones that pop up in between large tomes of shipping law (shipping/maritime has, surprisingly, become one of my “things”), and I love working on them.
Where have my clients come from since Louise’s book?
Traditional publishers: I still do a small amount for the publisher I started with, mentioned in Louise’s book. A combination of publishers and project management companies came as referrals from colleagues, and another from the SfEP's Directory of Editorial Services. I generally work on a couple of books a month for these clients.
Self-publishers (books and magazines): These have come via various channels: some from the SfEP’s Directory of Editorial Services; some are original PeoplePerHour clients; and others are referrals from those PeoplePerHour clients.
Businesses and organisations (including law firms and design agencies): These have come via the SfEP, colleague referrals, and contacts from my lawyer days. My aim is to build up this sector of my work, and I am currently creating a new “sister” website that will focus on proofreading for businesses.
So what are my plans?
First, to concentrate on earning more rather than working more. I have recently analysed my work so that I have accurate hourly rates, and from this data I will decide which clients to keep and which to move on from.
I haven’t decided whether to move into copy-editing. Some of my work creeps over the line, but I’m yet to step across it fully, and may not for some time.
I also plan to concentrate on marketing, to take another SfEP course, to read more books (for pleasure), attend more SfEP local-group meetings (usually not possible because of childcare responsibilities), and contribute more to the SfEP forums.
What have I found invaluable over the last two years?
My colleagues: Online friends at the end of an email at any time of day or night, all over the world. The editing world is a big one and a small one at the same time. I have a number of good friends whom I haven’t met, but whose support I have been immensely lucky to have benefitted from. I estimate that 70% of my current work originated from the generosity of colleagues.
Time recording software: I record all the work I do other than ad hoc emails and admin; it’s a hang-over from my lawyer days, but it’s invaluable.
Johanna Robinson is a professional freelance proofreader, trained by the Publishing Training Centre, London. She offers a friendly, flexible and professional proofreading service to publishers, businesses, organizations and individuals. She is a Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Contact her via email at Johanna@ascribe-editing.co.uk, on Twitter at @AscribeEditing, by telephone (direct or text message) on 07773 601 859, or through her website: Ascribe Editing.
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Author Member of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). I abide by its Code of Standards in regard to my status as an independent writer.
Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). I'm a signatory to its code of practice as a professional editor.
Featured in The Book Designer's Carnival of the Indies: Joel Friedlander's collection of 'outstanding articles recently posted to blogs'.
Winner of the Judith Butcher Award 2017 in respect of 'highly visible contributions to the SfEP and its membership'.