It’s that time of year again.
My annual membership of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) is due.
I have to admit it’s a time I dread. Being an independent consultant means that I have to account for every penny and no matter how diligent I am, I never manage to put money aside for my memberships. There are always other bills to pay, and memberships always get forgotten.
Last year, when I attended the annual conference and AGM, I was one of those who voted for an increase in membership fees, and I will admit to having to think long and hard about it. No one likes increasing their fees, and that includes societies, but every now and then you have to take stock and see what everyone is getting for their money. This is one of the reasons I increase my fees, and this year will be no exception. I increase my fees because the cost of living is rising, but so is my experience and value to my clients. I undertake regular training, keep up to date, hone my abilities and work hard for my clients – to undervalue myself would be wrong.
And the SfEP are no different. The costs are rising, but so is the value of being a member of the society. I’m proud to be a Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders.
- The SfEP has a wonderful online forum. This, to me, is invaluable. Being in a remote part of the country, it can be difficult to find the time and money to get to networking opportunities outside of the Highlands, and the forum is a fantastic resource. Most other societies I’ve joined in the past relied on email lists, and still do. These, while being a good resource, mean that conversations are stilted (especially with daily digests of posts), quite often cliques build up and there are snarky comments and bitching. This, to my knowledge, has never happened on the SfEP forum. Instead, it’s a safe place where newbies and seasoned professionals come together for mutual support, to get questions answered, and just to talk. If you have a query you can be damn sure that there’s someone there to help – the members come from all subject specialisms and if no one can help, they usually know where to go outside of the Society. The forums allow us all to talk without boundaries – including our overseas members.
- The local meetings are great for networking. Although I can’t make it to my ‘local’ meetings very often (due to them being 5 hours away – the joys of remote living!) I know from the ones I have attended that they are friendly, informative and a great way to network and talk face-to-face. Newbies shouldn’t be scared about attending as they’re the same friendly faces that often appear at conference.
- The conference is second to none. I was extremely apprehensive before my first conference, but as it was ‘local’ to me I felt it was a great way to break myself in (ok, it was in York, which meant I could go home for a week on either side of going to conference). It turned out to be the best conference I’d ever been to (and I’d been to a few), and is now a regular feature of my autumn. Mixing workshops and seminars with extremely friendly editorial types over a weekend is something I now look forward to. This in itself is worth the membership fee.
- Being a member proves that I’m serious about my job. I’m a Professional Member, which means that I’ve had to prove that I’m good at what I do. I have trained to a high standard. Clients can be secure that they are hiring a trained professional, not someone who was good at English at school and can ‘edit’ your document as a hobby.
- I’m in the directory. Another great benefit for me is that I am in the SfEP directory. This is a great place for clients to find the editor or proofreader who will best fit their job specifications. If you need a professional, bookmark the site – there’s no need to trawl the internet, this should be your ‘go to’ place when you need editorial help in the UK.
- The society has great training courses. Their classroom-based workshops are great, but I’m happy that there are more courses delivered online, allowing me to learn at home. I’m about to apply to do another one, just as a way of brushing up and refreshing my skills. I think training is an important part of my professional development, which is why I am constantly learning.
- The society has member benefits. Whether you use them or not, there are member benefits that range from discounts on books and stationery to discounts off courses and legal advice.
- The society is a comfort blanket. It’s good to know as a freelancer that I’m not alone. There is always someone there to talk to, whether it’s the lovely office staff, the directors or the members on the forum. When you are a member of the SfEP you are never alone.
- I’ve made some wonderful friends. Despite how brilliant all the other points are, the best thing about the SfEP is that I’ve made some real friends. My favourite part of the year is finding my way around the conference and seeking out my editorial pals. There’s nothing quite like spotting a friendly face and heading off to the bar for a catch up. Without the Society I would never have met all the wonderful people I’m proud to call friends. Ok it’s cheesy, but it’s true. That first conference in York, I thought I’d sit in a corner as usual, watch what was going on, eventually figure out where the cliques were and see who was approachable. Instead I slotted in, was welcomed with open arms and ended up feeling like I’d found the best group of people in the world.
So, in the next few days I’m going to scrape together my membership dues (and the money for my next online course) and I’ll be happy to do so. I’ll be secure in the knowledge that for another year I’ll be part of a community that takes itself seriously, and promotes professionalism, but is welcoming, knowledgeable and approachable. It’s a society that I’m proud to be a member of.