Conference Capers

Society for Editors and Proofreaders conference pack

Last week I came out of hiding and headed down to Edinburgh for the SfEP Scottish Regional Mini-conference organised by the Edinburgh, Glasgow and North/East Scotland groups of the SfEP.

Meetings like this are few and far between so for me it’s imperative that the whole thing is an enjoyable experience; there’s nothing worse than a few days away knowing you’ve left a pile of work behind (or worse still, taken it with you). So I cleared my work schedule and enjoyed the six-hour drive to Stirling, where I was staying for a few days, as my daughter and I sang along to our favourite tunes.

On the morning of the conference I gathered together my directions and notebooks, and headed for the train at stupid o’clock (the train was at 8 a.m. … I usually drag myself out of bed at that time). For once I was full of confidence as I know the area and didn’t have to navigate the car around unknown motorway exits while trying to remember directions. I love taking the train – I get to do some people watching and catch up on reading instead of spending my time swearing at road signs.

Outside the venue, 25 Nicolson Square, Edinburgh

Isn’t it pretty? This was the view from the venue – look, blue skies!

I was actually in plenty of time for the arrival coffee and networking (I usually manage to get to places with little time to spare if I’m being completely honest) and was pleased to see some familiar faces. I love meeting new people, but there’s nothing like catching sight of a friend to put you at ease. I talked complete and utter rubbish to a few people, then it was time to sit down and start the conference.

After our Chair, Sabine Citron, welcomed us all we started the day with a wonderful talk from Prof. Geoff Pullum. As Professor of General Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, Geoff certainly knows his way around words (and apparently a Hammond organ – eat your heart of Prof. Brian Cox!) and this was the presentation I’d been most looking forward to. He didn’t disappoint. I think I’m a fairly rogue editor (and writer) as I prefer to use language as it has developed, rather than stick solidly to old-fashioned usage (unless, of course, the client wants to stick by the ‘rules’), and this talk was wonderful and full of energy. We were told that authorities do not suffice when it comes to grammar usage, and that most ‘rules’ were made up (yes, made up) in the C19th or earlier. As long as the writing makes sense, go ahead and split your infinitives, use the singular ‘they’ and be as passive as you like. And you can start a sentence with and, but and however. The overall theme from this humorous and refreshing talk was that unless you want to sound pompous, go ahead and be less formal – as an editor, over-correcting your author does no one any favours.

Next up was Jane Moody, Professional Development Director, talking about professional development and upgrading your SfEP membership. For me, moving to be a Professional Member was an obvious step, and not at all difficult, however Jane showed that for me to move to Advanced Professional membership will be equally as pain free. I’ll be looking at the upgrade procedure sooner rather than later now. Stephen Cashmore, Training Director, was due to talk about training, but unfortunately the internet crapped out, so we headed for an early coffee break instead.

Ashley Craig, from the North/East Scotland group, gave us a demonstration of commercial super-macros for editing, which was fascinating. I don’t use many macros, although I probably should, and her talk on Editorium and Wordsnsync EditTools was informative and very interesting. The user interfaces looked pretty good (I do like a nice check box) and I might be tempted to give them a trial (although finding the time to play with them might be difficult).

Lunchtime was another chance to catch up, and as we sat outside in the sunshine it made me realise just how much I miss editorial human interaction. Although I do have a tendency to talk complete and utter crap when faced with a bit of ‘networking’. Lunch with friends is a much better way of looking at it.

City of Edinburgh Methodist Church Garden

We sat in the garden at lunchtime, selfies were taken, I looked like a potato with blue hair, so here’s the lovely garden view instead.

Which moves me onto Laura Poole’s talk on authentic networking.  She had us all think about elevator speeches and why we network (it leads to conversations, which lead to relationships, which lead to opportunities). I did chuckle when she told us to ditch the words ‘only’ and ‘just’. They rank highly among ‘Oh, it was nothing’ in my professional phrasebook of ‘things to say when talking about what you do’. After our final coffee break, she gave the final presentation on taking charge of your freelance life. She spoke about dealing with the ‘feast or famine’ aspect of freelancing (how to break the cycle and how to say ‘no’ with conviction), and went into business practices such as client communication, paying attention, raising your rates and task management. Laura’s enthusiasm and drive were really infectious, and I really don’t know how she does it. I’m glad I finally got to meet her at last, as I missed her at the conference last September, but she now has one of my shiny new business cards (sorry, Laura) so she won’t forget the daft blue-haired editor she spoke with on her first trip to Scotland.

When the conference was over, after our Vice-Chair, Lucy Metzger, closed up shop, I dashed off with a friend to Waverley station to bag a seat on the last train before rush-hour madness descended. Sorry to all those I never managed to talk to, I’ll get you in September. There’s nothing quite like a bit of a get-together with friends (otherwise known as professional networking with editorial colleagues) to put a spring in your step. I felt thoroughly energised.

So, what did I take away from the conference?

  • Correct grammar isn’t necessarily something rigid that has been concocted 200 years ago, but is fluid and changing.
  • Professional development is easier than you think.
  • Super-macros are something that can help a professional to tackle their job more effectively.
  • Authentic networking means being yourself, and knowing yourself and your self-worth.
  • Taking charge of your professional life means saying no, as well as yes.
  • Editorial get-togethers are fantastic.

SfEP conference pack and editor's notebook

I’m now looking forward to September and the annual SfEP conference. Until then I have work to do and calendar spaces to fill, so if you know of someone who needs editorial help, contact me and we can have a chat.

Stop The Race To The Bottom, Value Your Writing Services

Business people Running Towards Finish Line --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

I need an editor … you’ll be rewarded

I need an editor … you’ll get great exposure

I need an editor … fast

I need an editor … I don’t mind paying

I need an editor … willing to pay

I need an editor … for free

 

If you need an editor … I’ll do it cheap

If you need an editor … I need the money

If you need an editor … I need a job

If you need an editor … I need the experience

If you need an editor … I’m not a great fit but …

 

All of these comments were taken from Twitter within the last six months. And they all appeared more than once, by different people, at different times and from different countries.

The potential ‘clients’ actually needed video editors, developmental editors, copy editors, proofreaders, copywriters and writing coaches. But hey, an editor is an editor on social media.

writing and editorial professsional despairing

Social media is great, don’t get me wrong, I love it, but it does seem to facilitate a race to the bottom. Everywhere you turn there are ‘experts’ who will tell you what you want to hear, potential clients who are in desperate need of help and professionals who are trying to keep their businesses afloat.

It may be controversial (or perhaps it isn’t) but sometimes, as professionals, we don’t really help ourselves. You can see it clearly from the comments above. Creative shaming is something I wrote about last year, but there has to come a time when creative professionals decide what is important in their working lives and start to help themselves.

 

Stop the race to the bottom, value your services.

To stop this awful race to the bottom, and to make it less acceptable to pay creatives a pittance (or even nothing, because, hell, exposure is great), we all need to value our services.

Writing and editing are valuable skills:

If everyone could do it there would be no typos, bad grammar or just plain awful prose in the world.

If our skills weren’t valuable there would be no need for editorial professionals or professional writers.

writing services

 

Writing and editing – the hidden talent.

Businesses rely on conveying a message, and that message should be concise, clear and articulate. The creatives behind business communication are often well hidden, but professional writers, editors and proofreaders can make the business more attractive to clients. And that skill has value.

Authors rely on crafting a great story, and that story should be a pleasure to read. The creatives that help behind the scenes are often well hidden, but editorial professionals can make a good story into a great story. And that skill has value.

 

Embrace your skills.

We must get out of the mindset that ours skills are of little value, and embrace our knowledge for what it is – hard graft that comes through years of experience and training. We may enjoy what we do, but our skills have value to others.

Creatives help to make the world a brighter place, and help businesses grow and flourish, so they should be treated as professionals and paid well for their expertise. And that needs to start with the creative professionals themselves. We need to value our skills and help others to value them too.

I’m lucky, I have great clients who value my services. But that may be because I know my value, understand the value of great training and help potential clients to understand what they really need. I refuse to do something just because a client thinks they need it: if they don’t need a service I won’t do it. I also refuse to join in a race to the bottom, even if it means missing out on work.

 

Learn to say no.

If you are a professional creative you are skilful, confident and competent. You are also engaged in an activity as a paid occupation. It is your job.

It can be really difficult to say no when someone needs help, but you have to take on work that pays you enough to settle your bills and buy the odd bottle of Prosecco. If your business has you taking on low-paid work (and let’s admit it, we have all done it), you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it. If you can’t pay your bills it isn’t. If you’re taking on low-paid work because you need a filler you are going to kick yourself when you have to say no to a decent commission, because your time is being monopolised by the job that has you working for below minimum wage.

Freelancer learning to say no

 

Fight back.

So, it’s time to fight back. Just because you can help doesn’t mean you have to help.

Your professional expertise has cost you:

              Time – you didn’t become a competent professional creative overnight.

              and

              Money  – for training and equipment.

 

Even if you are starting out, you have the skills and training. If this is your job, it is your livelihood.

 

Have the answers ready.

It can be daunting to take that leap and decide that from now on you will only work for a decent wage. It’s scary – you may never work again, you have bills to pay, you need to eat. Yes, but it’s a vicious cycle; once you start accepting low-paid work, or you work for ‘exposure’, your mindset follows and you start to believe that you are only worth that minimum wage or that you need the ‘exposure’.

So take a stand. Know your worth. Here are the answers:

 

I need an editor … you’ll be rewarded  (Great, thanks, my rates are …)

I need an editor … you’ll get great exposure (Great, thanks, my rates are …)

I need an editor … fast   (Great, thanks, my rush rates are …)

I need an editor … I don’t mind paying  (Great, thanks, my rates are …)

I need an editor … willing to pay (Great, thanks, my rates are …)

I need an editor … for free  (Great, thanks, but I don’t work for free. My rates are …)

 

And here is what you should say:

If you need an editor … I’ll do it cheap    my rates are …

If you need an editor … I need the money    my rates are …

If you need an editor … I need a job     I have some flexibility in my schedule, my rates are …

If you need an editor … I need the experience    my rates are …

If you need an editor … I’m not a great fit but    I would love to expand into this area, my rates are …

 

 

Bullet Journals Arent Too Shabby

Pink journal, notebook

How do you organise your working notes?

Do you use Word docs, notepads or lots of pieces of paper? Or perhaps you use desk planners, whiteboards, wall calendars, big diaries, little diaries or the calendar on your phone or computer. There’s also the floor, the wall, the dog and anything you can stick Post-it notes to, or attack with a sharpie.

Keeping track can be a bloody nightmare.

Personally I’ve always wanted one of those clear stand-up walls that you see in those CSI type programmes – what the hell do you even call them? I Googled ‘clear stand-up perspex board for writing on like CSI’ and it came up with nothing. Nada. So I extended my search to include anywhere in the world and Google came up with instructions on how to actually make one! Yaas! It also had a link to the ACTUAL company that makes the real deal, the ones you see in the crime series … but it’s in America … and I seriously can’t afford one of those beauties.

markerboard Numbers

I will never understand the numbers, but would love a markerboard.

I just don’t have the room (or the cash), or believe me, I’d have one!

Anyway, I digress. Keeping track can be a pain.

I know some of my colleagues use online trackers, or excel spreadsheets.

Some use Toggl for tracking time, but I have a spreadsheet I’ve set up that works just as well. I just open the timesheet for the job I’m working on and with one click I start tracking my billable hours and I can see how long I’ve worked on a certain part of the project at a glance.

But what I’m talking about is the time-tracking that shows you what jobs you have lined up, where you are with each job and what you need to do each day, week or month.

Some people use Trello or Evernote and they look pretty good, if you like everything on the computer. But I spend ALL DAY on the computer. Honestly, some days I can be staring at a screen from 9 am–10 pm, not always working (no-one can work for that length of time) but always plugged in.

I need something physical, that I can carry with me, that I can touch.

And that’s where my newest fad comes in.

Everyone has heard of them by now, so it will come as no surprise to you that I have made myself a bullet journal.

image

My journal, at the beginning, when I had a week off.

If you haven’t heard of them, basically a bullet journal is a notebook that you customise with months, weeks and days, a bit like a traditional diary. But you put in the details that are most useful to you. I’ve got a section to see at a glance what work I have lined up, there’s a page or two for useful websites (you know, the ones you write down on the nearest envelope, which is promptly lost when you need it), and for writing ideas.

I know, I know … you’re probably thinking what I thought – duh, it’s just a diary with room for notes. But actually, the way you customise that blank notebook makes it useful to YOU. It’s yours to do with what you will, and you can customise it to get the most out of it.

It’s a stupidly simple idea. Someone just had to put a name to it to give us the newest productivity fad. That person was Ryder Carroll, and you can check out the system on his website.

Strangely enough though, it works and although I’ve only had mine since mid-January, it’s something I’m finding incredible useful. There are pros and cons though:

Pros of a bullet journal

  • Forget reaching for your laptop, your journal is right there beside you so you can quickly pick it up and see where you are, add notes, or just admire the colour (I picked a cheerful cerise for mine).
  • It unplugs you, even for a little while. It grounds you in the real world.
  • No more searching for bits of paper/envelopes/bills that you’ve written on. Everything can be put in your journal.
  • It’s more personal than a computer app. Pick a nice journal that appeals to you and set it out in a way that works for you. Use colour, or just a ballpoint. Use tape, stickers, ribbon bookmarks, doodle in it, write randomly in it, just make it yours.
  • Everything is all in one place. This, for me, is the most important. Instead of hunting for notes, to-do lists, my calendar, important things that I need to remember and work incoming and due dates, it’s all there in one little book. It organises my tired little mind.

Cons of a bullet journal

  • If you are hooked up to your phone you may have everything you need right there (it’s just not as pretty or tactile).
  • Forget about all the pretty bullet journal images you see on Pinterest. Seriously. Unless you are supremely arty, have a few days to play with it, or like to use lots of stickers and washi tape, you are never going to get it looking as nice as those YouTubers do.
  • You need to take time at the beginning to set out your journal and write bits in there. In our times of instant gratification this could get you annoyed (I dashed mine out and you can tell. It’s not pretty).
  • You start getting journal envy when you see all the lovely variations out there. If you’re a perfectionist you might want to throw it away and start again, to make it pretty, or more useful.
  • Unlike a computerised to-do list, once it’s written down it’s there. If you aren’t careful it can become a messy blob of coloured pen.

Whether you have a bullet journal or not, the most important thing is to be able to keep track of your work and your time. I just like the fact that it’s a notebook. I like notebooks.

I’m forever grateful to my colleagues for showing me this new shiny way of keeping up with my world, and for this Buzzfeed article for breaking it down for me.

Now that you’ve heard how useful they can be, why not watch the video by the master, and let Ryder show you how to make one:

Have you jumped on the bullet journal fad? Do you find it better than all the computerised bits and bobs or do you find it hard to pull away from the technology?