2018 has almost come to an end, and I thought that this would be a good moment to reflect on what I have achieved during my first year as a full-time, professional editor and look ahead to 2019. I have to say, I’m quite satisfied! I registered my company, created my website, learned how to run a business, joined Editors Canada and SENSE, took my first course towards obtaining my editing certificate, became a stakeholder in Peerwith, worked with dozens of kind and talented clients, met many amazing “edibuddies” online through various social media platforms, and, not unimportantly, managed to make enough money to have a fun and comfortable life. I hereby want to thank all the clients who chose to work with me and all the editors who have given me their time and advice.
In the new year, I am planning to complete my training, attend my first editing conference, and expand my client base to include think tanks and governmental institutions. I am now also a Permanent Resident of Canada and am going to explore what opportunities this might bring in 2019, beginning with a two-week trip to Toronto in the second half of January 2019 (where I’m planning to meet up with plenty of edibuddies!).
Here are five tips I have for new editors, based on my experience during my first year as a professional editor:
1. Join a professional association
My membership of professional associations no doubt made me look more professional, but for me the main benefit was that it provided me with (information about) many useful resources in terms of training (courses, webinars, books), business (contract templates, how to set rates), and networking (conferences, mailing lists, Facebook groups). These associations also usually have a directory where you can list yourself as a freelancer, so potential clients can find you. They also offer discounts on conferences, office supplies, and online subscriptions, and different editors’ associations offer discounts to each other’s members. There are usually different ranks for members, assigned according to experience, training, or exams, and one can move up the ranks over the years.
2. Hang out with other editors on social media
This was one of the biggest revelations of 2018: there are very active, very social, very fun groups on Facebook where editors hang out, get to know one another, share jokes, and ask questions about how to run a business, how to set rates, what kind of training to get, how to deal with tricky or difficult situations, and much more. These groups are closed and well moderated and really saved me on more than one occasion when I was unsure about the right intervention in a text I was editing. I suggest to start by joining the (public) Editors’ Association of Earth Facebook group and find the closed groups that you’d like to join in their “About” section. These groups have been invaluable to me; a true goldmine in terms of learning more about editing but also really good place for the occasionally lonely freelancer to meet likeminded souls and enjoy everyone’s incredible wit (I found myself snorting in public way too often while browsing these groups). Of course, Twitter and Instagram are good places to meet other editors as well; look for the hashtags #editing, #copyediting, and #amediting to begin.
3. Invest in professional development
Buy and read books on editing. Invest in subscriptions to style guides and dictionaries such as the Chicago Manual of Style or Merriam-Webster. Buy webinars and invest in editing courses. Even if you think you already know a lot, I was surprised by the width of and depth involved in the editing process. After completing my first course, taken towards obtaining my professional standards editing certificate, I collected many resources, checklists, exercises, and notes that I keep on returning to as I edit. I learned not only about grammar and punctuation, but also about how to query effectively, when to change something and when to preserve the author’s voice, what to fact-check and what to leave alone, and how to correctly ensure consistency in visuals, among many other things. While I learned a lot by just doing it, looking things up as they came along, or asking my edibuddies for advice, formal training is invaluable to attaining a comprehensive understanding of every aspect of the editing process, finding the right resources to consult, and identifying your strengths and weaknesses so you can work on the latter. Also: lots of grammar quizzes! And who doesn’t love these?
4. Keep track of your hours and adjust your rates accordingly
In order to set my rates, I kept track of how long it took me to edit a text, and then calculated what I would need to charge per word to make my desired hourly rate. In the course of the year, I found out that, as I learned more about editing, the process was taking me longer than expected and I was not making enough per hour, and thus I adjusted my rates accordingly. I am planning to increase them once more in the second half of 2019, since I have invested substantially in training and other professional development, and are thus able to offer higher quality to my clients, which should be reflected in how much I make. It is very easy to undercharge as a freelancer, but keep in mind that you don’t get paid holidays or sick leave, nor a pension. All this should be accounted for and reflected in your hourly rate. If you want to receive some coaching in this regard, I highly recommend Edit Boost, run by Malini Devadas.
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Be clear with your clients about what you will and will not do, and always draw up a contract outlining these terms for bigger projects. Before you begin an edit, look at a sample of the work and see how long it takes you to edit a few hundred words. If during the process you find that it is taking much longer than expected, be open about that and see if the terms of the contract can be adjusted. Whenever you make a bigger decision in terms of style, always consult your client first. Keep a style sheet and share it with your client on a regular basis, so they can keep track of the decisions you made and intervene if they disagree with something. Also, send regular updates to your client and make sure to always respond promptly during business hours, even if just to acknowledge receipt of the document. Be flexible and open to suggestions; editing is not about rigidity but about helping someone to communicate their ideas in the best, clearest way possible!
I hope these tips help other new editors and I wish you all a happy and productive 2019!