In Response To 2016

old books on a shelf

This year may very well be a make or break year for me.

Like all self-respecting freelances (or whatever we may call ourselves) I have a business plan. It’s a pretty loose plan if I’m honest, but it’s still there sitting in my work documents folder, silently brooding.

I look at it, tweak it, ruminate over it. Business plans are a map to our professional future, if we stick to them.


But no matter how much we stick to them, sometimes it just isn’t enough.


I never lie to myself, but I am often overly optimistic, and 2016 was a dire year no matter how I look at it. It’s not through lack of trying, but figures simply don’t lie. Last year was punctuated by a lot of what I call work avalanches – work is provisionally booked in, then it slides sometimes by a week, or two, or more. This year a fair few projects slid so far they didn’t materialise at all, or were put off by months. Leaving me with huge gaps that simply were not filled. And that means lack of income.

This last year I would have been better off getting a part-time job in our local Tesco. Seriously.

Now normally I try to keep upbeat when writing, but after the year from hell this post is a realistic one. It’s all about a promise to myself and I hope it may spur a few of you on to make promises to yourselves.

 padlocks, promise

This year I promise to:


  1. Market myself more. I hate marketing, everyone hates marketing. But it has to be done.
  2. Not be self-deprecating. I provide a valuable service and I will no longer say ‘it was nothing’. I have trained hard to be able to do what I can do and not everyone can do it.
  3. Be more assertive. I know I can be a pushover but I must work hard not to be.
  4. Do more of what I like and less of what I don’t. There are things I love doing, mainly copy-editing, writing and interior book design, which I will market more than my indexing.
  5. Concentrate on earning a decent living. I’ll be honest in that I don’t know how I’ll do it, but it has to be done.


I realised last month that I have been in the book business for thirty years. THIRTY YEARS! I started my librarianship degree in 1987. I have worked in archives, art libraries, and a marine laboratory library, and have been a university librarian and I’m still a genealogist. I copy-edit, proofread, index, write and design. What I do is valuable and the time has come to acknowledge that.

It’s tough when you look back on a bad year, and realise how bad it was. But, if anything, it must spur you on to make the next year better. I am lucky in that I have a wonderful support network of freelance colleagues – they are incredibly supportive and are there to give me a swift kick up the bum if I need it. So although 2016 was the year we would all like to forget, I know that 2017 will be better.

I will make it better by:


  1. Taking on some more professional development that will enhance what I already offer my clients.
  2. Continuing with my creative writing once I’ve finished my Advanced Creative Writing course. It’s true that the more you write for yourself, and the more you study writing, the more empathy you have with other writers. Sharing your creations is scary.
  3. Sticking by the promises I’ve just made to myself.


I’m positive for the year ahead, and have already adjusted my business plan for 2017.

If you are an author or publisher looking for someone to copy-edit for you, drop me a line and say hello.

If you are a freelance tell us in the comments below how are YOU going to make this year better if last year was a dud?


Let’s make 2017 great!

10 Comments on “In Response To 2016

  1. A brave piece – thanks for sharing. I felt much the same way at the end of 2016, and my solution was to diversify. Rather than focusing all my energies on fiction editing, I did a lot more writing for magazines, and this helped to make 2016 my best year yet. If things are a bit quiet on one side of my business, there’s always something else to do. Of course, the problem is that sometimes there can be _too_ much! That’s why improved scheduling is on my list of resolutions for this year.

    Anyway, I hope things improve in 2017 for you!

    • And there’s the nub … Diversity or concentrate on one thing? I’ve decided to concentrate on historical subjects but I do proofread for companies, and write too.
      It’ll all come together, but this year I shall be focusing on marketing – just so clients know I exist 😂

      Not brave at all btw … I just speak my mind (even if I shouldn’t really!)

  2. Great thoughtful piece. I didn’t know you did book design, so there’s a thing. I am giving it up temporarily in order to focus on editing, proofreading, and indexing, so I will keep in mind to refer to you when the odd design request shows up.

    My 2016 was actually better than 2015, but The sliding schedule thing was definitely an issue. I think that problem will continue. Yes, please keep up your own writing and do let us know how wondrous you are. Just keeping up a regular blog here is a major accomplishment and should build visibility. I still struggle with it.

    Best vibes for 2017!

    • Blog writing is hard, but you know that already. It was the TABI newsletter and ezine that got me disciplined enough to carry on when I passed the baton.
      Book design is something I’ve lately offered, but just basic stuff for now … Novels and the like.
      Here’s hoping your 2017 is fabulous xx

  3. My goodness, Sara — I knew you had (as we say across the pond) “mad skillz,” but I had no idea just *how many*! Your plan for the year ahead sounds both practical and productive. I do hope 2017 will be your “make it big” year. If I hear of anyone in need of your services (“mad skillz”) I won’t hesitate to send them your way. All my best to you!

  4. I spent most of 2016 on maternity leave, good for me and my little one but not for earnings! I made the decision to start working again at a loss (due to childcare costs) in the hope it’ll pay off in the long run in terms of building up contacts and experience. Slightly depressing though!

    • Urgh! I’d honestly reconsider working at a loss. In the end its not good for anyone, and it is SO difficult to start charging real prices again. You’ll get resentful of the clients getting a cheap job (so your heart won’t be in it and your work won’t be its best), and the clients who want something for nothing can be just as, if not more, demanding as clients who value your work.
      Before you make any hasty decisions I recommend you listen to Lorrie Hartshorn’s podcast… Right from the beginning. I generally dislike podcasts but Lorrie will definitely help you. Honestly, no bullshit here 😄
      Good luck and don’t undervalue your services – life is stressful enough with a little one without stressing yourself out xx
      Lorrie’s podcast -

  5. Good for you for looking 2016 “in the face” and accepting the reality! That takes courage.
    I think #2 of your promises is an important key to successful marketing–believing in yourself and that the services you offer are valuable to potential clients. It’s hard to sell something you don’t believe in.

    Although, I work full time for a nonprofit, I have to do some marketing to get internal clients. Working for an organization where the majority of staff have post-grad degrees is a difficult place to market editing. Many don’t think they need to be edited. I had to first believe that what I do adds value to their work before I could convince them of that fact.

    All the best in 2017!

    • So true Patty!
      Highly educated writers need to realise that what we do also takes skill and training. Writing and editing is our specialism, just as they have theirs.
      Here’s to a wonderful 2017!

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