The Proofreader's Parlour
A blog for editors, proofreaders and writers
This week’s reader question is from a teacher of English language, literature and creative writing. She’s looking for a new direction – something beyond the school environment that will allow her to use her educational experience and existing knowledge base.
Here’s what Noella had to say:
I'm a UK-based secondary-school English teacher of language, literature and creative writing, and am looking to move into editing or publishing.
I feel that I already have some of the skills required but I'm also on a budget and would like to know how someone like me could perhaps sneak into this area of work via a recognized route that isn't too costly.
Essentially, I want a better work/life balance and to feel more in control of my career. Hope you can advise me.
Hi, Noella! Thanks so much for your question.
Given that flexibility is important, I’m inclined to recommend the path of independent editor (freelancer), rather than working in-house. Running your own business will give you control.
Setting up on your own will require a lot of hard graft at the outset (as I’m sure you realize). However, it will provide you with the freedom to choose your own hours, set your own rates, and decide which projects you wish to take on.
The different levels of editing
I think it’s worth summarizing the different levels of editing as this will show you where your current skills might slot in.
There’s more information in the following articles:
What would suit you?
Given that you’re already immersed in teaching creative writing – albeit to a younger audience – you might do well to focus your training on big-picture work because you could utilize an already-developed skill set.
Another route to consider is offering private writing tuition. Many first-time authors want to develop their craft, and if you enhance your existing knowledge base with specialist professional training and professional society membership, you'd have a powerful key selling point not only to local writers but those searching online too.
And if you enjoy working with secondary-school students, there’s nothing to stop you offering private tuition to them too. You’ve already proven yourself within the school sector, but this option would allow you to continue teaching while achieving control and flexibility over your working hours.
I’ve covered the issue of training in previous Q&As so take a look at the following articles for information about high-quality courses that focus on the broader practice of editorial work:
If you do decide to focus on big-picture editing, I’d recommend specialist training. Perhaps you’ll discover nothing new, but that will be a huge confidence booster. And if there are gaps in your skill set, you’ll find out where they are and be able to rectify the problem before you begin working with clients.
Sophie Playle of Liminal Pages is an experienced developmental editor who runs two relevant courses: Introduction to Fiction Editing. Note that the SfEP assumes basic copyediting knowledge for this course.
One of the biggest challenges for any new editorial business owner is getting noticed. Again, I’ve discussed marketing in previous Q&As, so you might like to review the following:
If you were to go down the route of offering creative writing courses for beginners, consider researching local writing groups; and talk to local bookshops to see if you might publicize the courses through them.
How about your local chamber of commerce? Is there support there – perhaps local contacts who are involved in self-publishing? You might collaborate with the chamber to provide a beta course or seminar series that would help you learn what works and what doesn’t. This would enable you to mine your existing teaching skill set while expanding your local network.
And, of course, self-publishers aren’t the only market. Mainstream publishers are a superb client base with whom to build your portfolio once you’ve completed your training because they already understand the value that professional editors bring to the table.
It’s worth bearing in mind, too, that there are fewer specialist developmental editors than copyeditors and proofreaders. Moving in this direction would mean you have less competition once you begin actively marketing your new business.
One thing I can’t advise on is whether my suggestions are ‘too costly’! Price is always relative in any case. My recommendations are based on quality rather than affordability because I see no sense in suggesting training that won’t help you achieve career independence and fitness for purpose.
Your career background will offer you a strong foundation on which to build your editorial business, and if you’re prepared to combine those skills with additional professional development and a commitment to marketing, I believe you could do very well indeed.
Good luck, Noella!
You ask. I'll answer
I'm more than happy to tackle questions, especially from beginners. If there's something you want advice about, drop me a line and I'll post a solution to your problem here. The more focused your question, the more in-depth my answer will be! And if you want me to mask your identity, no problem.
Check the Q&A archive to see whether your question's already been answered
Louise Harnby is a fiction copyeditor and proofreader. She curates The Proofreader's Parlour and is the author of several books on business planning and marketing for editors and proofreaders.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader & Copyeditor, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.
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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'.