Patience is my friend: Beginning as a freelance editor and proofreader
Editing and proofreading is not an easy business to break into. After deciding that this industry was for me, I needed to figure out the best way to involve myself in the community and to immerse myself into this already crowded world.
I thought that my teaching career would set me on the right path, and indeed, it has helped. 17 years of helping international students with their English has enabled me to have a heightened awareness of errors, both grammatically and lexically. But is this enough? I think the answer is no. The search for training ensued.
I thoroughly recommend the Publishing Training Centre and the London School of Publishing – two superb companies that offer training to the novice (like me) and the already-established. I’m also continuing training with the College of Media and Publishing, who also offer super training courses. All three of these have excellent tutors and give great feedback.
When getting into this industry, it’s also very much worth joining societies; the Society for Editors and Proofreaders is an invaluable source of information, training and networking. I also joined the Society of Young Publishers. However, the one place where I’ve felt instantly at home is with Byte the Book and I’ve attended two of their congregations already, with more planned. The London Book Fair is certainly worth going to, and although I wasn’t in the right headspace last year, I’m going this year armed with business cards and a new outlook.
Business cards and an online presence is also essential. I recently set up my website, www.peterjfullagar.co.uk and also have a dedicated page on Facebook. I also use my Twitter account for staying in touch with the industry. There are many useful groups on Facebook, including the ELT Freelancers page – English Language Teaching for those that don’t know. Obviously, there are many, many more pages for editors and proofreaders, novices and experts. I haven’t really mentioned LinkedIn here; I do have a profile, but as yet, I haven’t found it too useful (so far) in helping me get off the ground.
I talked earlier about training, but of course university education can also be important. I have a BA (Hons) in English with sociology as well as an MA in English language and literature. These helped to expand my literature awareness, become familiar with different styles and it was also a pleasure to be connected to literature. Through my teaching career, I also have a DELTA and a PGCE.
This is the tricky bit. As a new freelancer, there is very little in the way of a portfolio that one can present to prospective employers. Using my experience in teaching, I have written to big ELT publishers, asking to be put on their database of freelancers, and this has garnered quite a few replies. However, I need to follow this up with further contact to remind them that I am still here.
There are, of course, various sites where freelancers can bid on projects. These tend to be on the lower end of the money scale, but could be a good place to start. I have profiles on Upwork and Freelancer. There are a few bites, but nothing substantial yet.
Maybe a friend or an ex-colleague needs, or knows someone who needs, your services? There’s always that avenue. For me, there are again a couple of possibilities, but these have yet to materialise.
What seems to have worked for me is volunteering. I started volunteering with a small publisher called Aurora Metro and did some office work using InDesign on drama scripts. This led to me being asked to work on the Virginia Woolf project; a statue campaign and a book to coincide with it. I didn’t realise that I would actually have a book coming out in June 2018 with my name emblazoned on it. It has been thoroughly enjoyable, and through this, I will be doing some academic talks on the book, as well as being featured in the video for the crowdfunder for the statue.
You never know where this path will take you.
Raising a virtual glass to all those brand new editors, proofreaders and writers out there. We can do it! Stay determined and it will happen. Just have patience.